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What's a 'classic six' apartment, and why are they apparently so desirable?

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Confused by this ubiquitous listing term, and curious about why a six-room apartment has such an appeal? In this week’s Buy CuriousStribling & Associates agent Marcy Pedas Sigler explains what the phrase means, plus the benefits and drawbacks of buying one.

THE WISH LIST:

I’ve been looking at apartment listings, and I keep running into the phrase, “classic six” (and “classic five,” “classic seven,” and so on). What exactly does that mean, and why is it desirable? Will I pay more to live in one? Where are they located?

THE REALITY:

This term refers to a prewar apartment ("classic") with a certain number of rooms ("six"), generally including the kitchen and bedrooms and excluding the bathrooms, pantries and entrance galleries. A "classic six" has a living room, formal dining room with a window, a separate kitchen, two full bedrooms and a maid's room that's usually located off the kitchen with its own full bathroom or half-bath. (A "classic five" lacks the maid's room, while a "classic seven" has an extra bedroom, and the rare surviving "classic eight" has a room for a second maid.)

Beyond the dictionary definition, the phrase is shorthand for a place with features like oak floors, thick walls, solid-core doors, generous room proportions and the ultimate status symbol: a working wood-burning fireplace. You'll often find "classic" apartments in co-op buildings that date back to the 1920s through 1940, primarily on the Upper East Side and Upper West Side. 

In recent years, developers of new condos like 135 East 79th Street200 East 79th Street and 1110 Park Avenue have co-opted the "classic" layout, combining those old-school embellishments with modern extras like garages, gyms, pools and screening rooms. So, if you're enamored of the prewar style, you don't have to confine your search to decades-old buildings (or pass a co-op board!). 

When it comes to apartments that are described as "classic sixes," about 35 prewar co-ops are currently on the market, with an average asking price of about $2.3 million, and 13 post-war condos and co-ops are for sale, asking about $2.59 million on average, according to StreetEasy. For comparison’s sake, the median sales price of a Manhattan two-bedroom co-op was $1.185 million and condo was $1.8 million in the third quarter, according to appraisal firm Miller Samuel. (Sales prices, however, tend to be lower than asking prices in general.)

PROS:

  • High ceilings of at least nine feet
  • Defined living areas, where the apartment is divided into three zones—public (living room, dining room, library), private (bedrooms), and servant’s quarters (including the kitchen). Hallways also help separate spaces. 
  • Original details like moldings and cornices

CONS:

  • Lack of an open layout (which could be a downside if you have small children that you want to keep an eye on)
  • A maid's room that may have been all the rage back in the day, but now is more likely to be a closet-sized bedroom that someone will get stuck with. (However, the space can often work well as an office or guest room.)

Ready to live in a “classic” apartment?

Upper East Side two-bedroom/two-bathroom co-op, $2,150,000At 1065 Lexington Avenue between East 75th and East 76th Streets, this prewar “classic six” offers high ceilings, hardwood floors and moldings, with in-unit laundry, a semi-private elevator and a renovated kitchen.

Upper West Side three-bedroom/three-bathroom co-op, $3,200,000This renovated “classic six” at 180 Riverside Drive between West 90th and West 91st Streets has central A/C, a washer/dryer, high ceilings, and pre-war details such as original hardwood floors. The full-service building has a children’s playroom, a bike room and storage units for each apartment.  

Upper East Side three-bedroom/3.5-bathroom co-op, $2,295,000: At 201 East 62nd Street between Second and Third Avenues, this post-war “classic six” has in-unit laundry, custom closets and an entry foyer. 

Upper East Side two-bedroom/three-bathroom co-op, $3,750,000This pre-war two-bedroom at 10 Gracie Square between FDR Drive and East End Avenue has a private elevator landing, a living room with a fireplace, views of the East River, and an eat-in kitchen.

Upper East Side three-bedroom/two-and-a-half bathroom co-op, $2,500,000This post-war “classic six” at 181 East 73rd Street between Third and Lexington Avenues has traditional details like high ceilings and crown moldings, as well as modern touches such as through-the-wall A/C’s and surround sound. The building has a doorman, a live-in super, a garage and a bike room.

Upper West Side three-bedroom, two-bathroom co-op, $6,500,000This pet-friendly pre-war “classic eight” at 75 Central Park West between West 67th and 68th Streets is in a building with a doorman, a concierge, a live-in super, a bike room, a playroom and storage bins.

Related:

How to buy a NYC apartment

'Manhattan Classic' author explores the allure of prewars--and shows you how to add old-school glamor to your home

Buying, renovating or refinancing next year? 5 mortgage trends to watch in 2014 (sponsored)

Buy Curious: prewar, post-war or new construction, which is right for you?

7 questions to ask about the building before you buy an apartment there (sponsored)


Buy Curious is a weekly column in which NYC real estate brokers help buyers develop a realistic search strategy. Want some advice on your search? Send us your wish list.  

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