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- Today’s "penthouse" is no longer just the traditionally-defined top-floor apartment of a residential building.
- Today, real estate brokers call apartments penthouses if they possess certain sought-after features that include unique layouts, ample outdoor space, high ceilings, and fantastic views — even if they’re not on the top floor.
- Other surprising features that can snag an apartment penthouse status include additional luxury amenities other units don’t have and more square footage than the actual top-floor unit.
Traditionally, a penthouse is known as the top-floor apartment of a residential building. Today, however, there are several surprising features that can make real estate agents call an apartment a penthouse — even if it’s not on the top floor.
"… The term penthouse has evolved a little bit from the traditional sense of the top-floor apartment — which is the penthouse — to more of a marketing term in general to help achieve sometimes higher sales figures and a distinction from other units in the building," Steve Gold, a luxury real estate agent at Corcoran and star of Bravo’s "Million Dollar Listing New York," previously told Business Insider.
If a unit has more square footage than the top-floor unit, a unique layout, or luxury amenities not found in other units, for example, there’s a good chance it’ll be dubbed a penthouse if it’s toward the top of the building. And sometimes these units are more attractive than the true penthouse.
"Contrary to popular belief, sometimes the top penthouse isn’t the best penthouse in the building," Gold said. "There could be ones in the building with larger terraces or more unobstructed views, depending on the property."
Alex Lavrenov, a broker at Warburg Realty, told Business Insider he thinks the term "penthouse" should only apply to top-floor units. It’s an exclusive label comparable to "a Fifth Avenue address," he said.
Here are seven features that can make real estate brokers call an apartment a penthouse, even if it’s not on the top floor.
1. A location on a floor where the building begins to "set back," or begins to have terraces
"So if you have a building that has the shape of a wedding cake, you have many ‘penthouse apartments’ there, which is great if you’re a developer and you have five penthouses versus only one to sell," Gold said.
2. A unique layout from other units in the building
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At 432 Park Avenue, New York City’s tallest residential building, floors 91 through 96 are all referred to as penthouses because they have different layouts than the rest of the building and some are full floors, a representative for the developer told Business Insider.
3. More square footage than the top-floor penthouse
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At the NOMA at 50 W. 30th St., one of Gold’s listings at Corcoran, the top-floor unit is called "Penthouse 2," while the unit below was labelled "Penthouse 1" because it actually has more square footage overall and a different layout, as well as ample outdoor space and direct elevator access, Gold said.
- An $82 million penthouse in NYC’s tallest residential building finally sold after 2 years on the market — but only after it was split in half and got a $21 million price chop
- Wealthy people are decking out their homes with underground basketball courts and $500,000 panic rooms, but there’s a hidden danger in the trend of customization
- A luxury real-estate broker and ‘Million Dollar Listing’ star says a penthouse isn’t what you think it is anymore
Source: Business Insider