NYC Guide: Prewar vs. Postwar Apartments

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March 5, 2020

If you are apartment hunting in New York City, you might have come across the terms “prewar building” and “postwar building.” So what are the differences and why does it matter? 

First, What War?

If the terms “prewar’ and “postwar” in regards to NYC buildings is a new concept for you, you may be wondering “what war is it referring to?” Well, the war refers to World War II. 

Condos vs. Apartments

An apartment in NYC refers to a separated space or residence within a building. This means it’s a space where you will have neighbors that share the same building. A condo is essentially a particular form of an apartment. 

The main difference between the two is the type of ownership. Basically, an apartment is when the building is owned by one landlord that rents out the unit spaces to others. However, a condo is an apartment space that is individually owned and the building can be made up of apartments owned by different individuals. So someone who lives in a condo owns their home, while those in an apartment rents. 

Most prewar residential buildings in New York City are either co-ops (where residents own shares in the building vs. owning the apartment), or are used as rental buildings. It is rare to find a condo in a prewar building.

Prewar vs. Postwar Architecture

pre war buildings in queens ny

Many could think the only difference between a prewar building and postwar building is the time period they were built in. However, each time period also has its own distinct architectural style.

Defining postwar and prewar apartments can be largely determined by their vastly different architectural features. If you’re deciding on what type of apartment to get, we are here to give you a better understanding of their unique characteristics as well as their pros and cons!

Prewar Buildings

A prewar building is one built before the Second World War. While the exact years are slightly debated, it includes apartments built in the early 20th century and usually refers to buildings built between 1900 to 1939. 

What Does Prewar Mean in NYC?

Prewar apartments in NYC can be defined by their signature features. Most of these apartments are different from one another. Compared to newer spaces, they are built very well and have solid wood construction. They can be categorized as having unique layouts, high ceilings that are usually at least nine feet or higher, sunken living rooms, hand-finished plaster walls, wood floors, ornamentation on the ceilings and walls, beamed ceilings, and can even have built-in bookshelves.


One of the biggest pros to a prewar apartment is its unique character. This is because they are not your typical cookie-cutter home, but each one has its own charm with more elaborate architectural designs within it.

This suits those who prefer detailed designs instead of a more modern, clean look. Another is that these prewar apartments tend to have larger bedrooms and can offer a space with more bedrooms. This can be good for families looking for a comfortable living space.


As charming and aesthetic as a prewar apartment can be, there are a few downsides to living in one. One is that their kitchen and bathrooms tend to be smaller. They also usually don’t have central air conditioning, but rather have air conditioning units for a room and older radiators that can be loud.

Another con is that while they may have unique layouts, they can be inefficient or harder to work with. Lastly, they are also harder to renovate and require more work, sometimes even additional permits.

Where Can You Find Prewar Buildings in NYC?

pre war apartments for sale nyc

Prewar apartments can usually be found in specific areas and neighborhoods in New York. Some of these neighborhoods include Queens, the Upper East Side and Upper West Side in Manhattan, the Bronx, and neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

Postwar Buildings

A postwar apartment is one that was built after World War II, but before the 1990s. Compared to prewar buildings, these apartments tend to look similar to each other and have more of a “cookie cutter” type of look.

However, they tend to have variation in terms of style and design depending on the decade it was built in. This is due to architectural trends changing from the 1950s to 1990s.

What Does Postwar Mean in NYC?

Postwar apartments in NYC are those built after WWII and tend to have a more modern construction. However, their styles tend to vary depending on which decade and area it was built in. For instance, those built in the earlier post war years can be made of red or white brick and have parquet floors, which are floorings made of smaller sections of wood in a repeating pattern, compared to the plank flooring found in prewar buildings.

These apartments have a predictable layout, low ceilings that are around eight feet, large windows, and offer more functional amenities. A good example would be this condo located at CitySpire in Midtown, New York.


One of the biggest pros to a postwar apartment in comparison to a prewar apartment, is that it is usually more affordable. Postwar apartments also have newer appliances and have a more modern feel to it. They also offer more functionality with central air conditioning and larger closets and storage spaces.

Postwar apartments are also usually located in a building that contains amenities such as a pool, gym, rooftop deck, and other services. Lastly, they can be easily renovated and changed to suit the needs of the owner. 


Compared to prewar buildings and apartments, postwar apartments aren’t as charming or have their own unique character. The housing during this period was more functional focused rather than on appearance or design.

For instance, those postwar buildings created in the 1950s and 60s tend to be made of white or red bricks and many buildings of this time tend to be predictable and similar to one another. This can be a pro or con depending on your own taste preferences. 

Where Can You Find Postwar Buildings in NYC?

Postwar apartments, just like prewar buildings, can be found in specific areas. One would be in Midtown, New York where CitySpire is located. Another is the Worldwide Plaza complex on the West Side. Postwar buildings can also be found on the Upper East Side in Manhattan.

Now that you know the difference between a prewar and postwar apartment in New York City, which one do you prefer?

Find your next prewar or postwar apartment on Localize.City right now.

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