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

A virtually staged view of a classic six, 490 West End Ave., #10C, which is on the market for $2,150,000.

Stephen P Wald Real Estate Associates

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Keep hearing the term “classic six,” but don’t know what it means?

It’s simple, really. A classic six is a six-room apartment in a prewar building with old-school features such as large rooms, high ceilings, wood floors, and solid-core doors. They’re mostly found on the Upper East and Upper West sides of Manhattan.

In this week’s Buy Curious, Marcy Pedas Sigler of Compass tells you more about this New York City listing term, plus describes the benefits and drawbacks of buying one.


[An earlier version of this post was previously published in October 2014. We are presenting it with updated information for August 2019.]


The question:

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 with a six rooms, generally including the kitchen and bedrooms, and excluding the bathrooms, pantries and entrance galleries,” Sigler says.

A classic six has a living room, a 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 classic eight has a room for a second maid.

Pro Tip:

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What are classic sixes like?

They're known for classic prewar features, such as oak floors, thick walls, solid-core doors, generous room proportions, and the ultimate status symbol: a working wood-burning fireplace.

Where should you look for them?

“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,” Sigler says. 

But even developers of new construction are incorporating this kind of detail into their projects.

“In recent years, developers of new condos like 520 Park Ave. in Lenox Hill and 220 Central Park South in Midtown have co-opted the ‘classic’ layout, combining those old-school embellishments with modern extras like garages, gyms, pools  and screening rooms,” Sigler says. “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!).”

How many classic sixes are for sale at the moment?

About 35 prewar co-ops are currently for sale in Manhattan with an average asking price of $3.2 million, according to Compass’s in-house database, Sigler says.

As for post-war condos and co-ops, there are 64 active listings with an average asking price of $3.5 million.

For comparison’s sake, the median sales price of a Manhattan two bedroom co-op, according to Compass’s Manhattan Market Report for the second quarter of 2019 was $1,226,500. For condos, it was $2,100,000. 

“Sales prices, however, tend to be lower than asking prices in general,” Sigler says.

Why would someone want to buy a classic six?

According to Sigler, pros of purchasing a classic six include high ceilings of at least nine feet, she says, as well as charming prewar details such as moldings and cornices.

Some people also like the fact that classic sixes have defined living areas. “The apartment is divided into three zones—public (living room, dining room, library), private (bedrooms), and servants’ quarters (including the kitchen),” Sigler says, noting that hallways help to separate the spaces.

Why wouldn’t someone want to buy one?

Some people prefer more flexible layouts. “The lack of an open layout could be a downside if you have small children that you want to keep an eye on,” Sigler says.

Finally, while a maid’s room might have been all the rage back in the day, it’s now more likely to be a closet-sized bedroom that someone will be annoyed at getting stuck with. The space can often work well as an office or a guest room, Sigler points out.

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.