In the concrete jungle of New York, residents love green spaces. While some tenants live near beautiful parks or the water, other New York residents are surrounded by skyscrapers and the noise of the city. There’s no better amenity for these tenants than a balcony or patio, as they provide much-needed outdoor space in a bustling city. Although the average renter won’t know the difference between balconies and terraces, each amenity has unique advantages and disadvantages. Telling the difference between balconies and terraces can be tricky, as some real estate agents use the terms interchangeably. Yet balconies and terraces have distinct key features that can make or break apartment living. Although these are outdoor spaces, they differ in size, construction and privacy.
What is a balcony?
The New York government website defines a balcony as “an external floor projecting and supported by a structure without additional independent supports. The balconies are built as elements of open-air outdoor common spaces. Balcony and patio fencing has been installed regularly in residential buildings and includes open screen style fencing or weather resistant fencing such as windows or solid walls. Balconies in New York are often surrounded by a railing, a small wall or a fence and are characterized by their private and enclosed space. Many New Yorkers furnish their balconies with comfortable chairs, planters or use them to store their bicycles. Whatever its function, a balcony can be a great addition to any apartment.
While some balconies are large enough for a table and chairs, others are small and included with the apartment to maximize views. These small balconies, called “Juliet balconies” (named after the popular Shakespeare play), are not even tall enough to stand on. Juliet balconies are often framed by a large window or doorway and bring sunlight and fresh air into the space. Most balconies are small in size, making them the perfect spot for a morning cup of coffee or a romantic dinner for two. A balcony may not be the best fit for a tenant who wants to host a big party due to its small size.
What is a terrace?
A ‘terrace’ is a general term for outdoor space and includes all roof terraces, courtyards and open spaces above other apartments. The word is derived from the Latin word for terra, which means “Earth”. Terraces in many cities are often on the ground floor (and some terraces on the ground floor in New York), but many urban apartments have roof terraces – green spaces at the top of a building, often furnished with barbecues, seating and gardening spaces.
Terraces can be private but need not be. Some units will have shared outdoor space or will have a roof terrace shared between the entire building. Some buildings, however, will have private rooftop terraces that are only accessible from one unit, and that unit is often the penthouse and comes with premium rent. Floor plans can always help you determine how accessible the patio is and whether it is a private space. Most often, on the listing, it will be specified whether or not the terrace is shared between several accommodations.
Balconies vs terraces
Although balconies and terraces add value to an apartment, they each have specific attributes that make them more or less appealing to tenants. In his article for the New York Timeswrites Sarah Kershaw, “a terrace open to the sky and occupying the recess of a building, [is] is worth more than a balcony, which is usually smaller and projects outward from the facade. In a city where towering buildings can limit the view of blue skies, having a terrace without a roof overhead can be a valuable commodity. Terraces often offer the best unobstructed views. Conversely, bad weather can render a terrace unusable, while a balcony, often covered with a roof or other unit, can be a relaxing place to watch the rain or snow from the comfort of a blanket and a chair.
In terms of furnishing, balconies can also be a challenge. Many rooftop terraces that are shared spaces are already furnished, while a private balcony requires decoration from residents. Moving into a space with a balcony may require tenants to purchase an outdoor set of table and chairs, planters, or other furniture to make the space more useful.
Terraces can often have dining/kitchen areas, community gardens or even a swimming pool. In the shared terrace spaces, it is also possible to create a community within the residential building. Some buildings offer events such as barbecues, concerts or rooftop readings. Residents can enjoy communing with neighbors or friends after a long day or hosting friends and family for a party.
Where terraces are shared, balconies are often private spaces. For New Yorkers who spend their entire days in public (at the office, on the train, or in a restaurant), having a private balcony to relax on can be a big plus. The space can also serve as storage, even for residents who don’t want to spend hours sitting on their balcony. Many New Yorkers use their balconies to store bicycles, furniture, or out-of-season items.
Disadvantages of a balcony or terrace
For all the privacy, fresh air, and city views, balconies and terraces can also have drawbacks. Maintenance (especially in winter), safety and noise are all elements to take into account before renting an apartment with a balcony or terrace.
Unlike sunny Los Angeles, New York enjoys four well-balanced seasons. Terraces and balconies can be very useful in the warmer months, but in winter you may need to invest in outdoor heaters or choose not to use the outdoor space at all. In many older buildings, having a private balcony or patio may require additional winterizing protocols to prevent snow and cold from entering the apartment.
Decks and balconies can also create safety issues for young children or pets. In Kershaw’s article, she refers to a senior vice president who has a patio in his Upper West Side apartment but “hasn’t used it in 30 years since his twins were there in a park and dropped a toy on the street. She was terrified that they might fall or someone might be hurt by something they dropped. Parents of young children aren’t the only ones to worry – pet owners also see patios and balconies as a liability. Although dogs and cats are both prone to falls from heights, cats are more likely to be injured or die on balconies and patios. Falling from a height is one of the most common causes of death in urban cats. Experts even came up with a name for the problem – “High Rise Syndrome”. The Schwarzman Animal Medical Center writes on its website, “High rise syndrome refers to the common set of injuries that cats can sustain when falling from a high place.” The medical center also notes that cats living in apartments with balconies or terraces are most at risk. Many pet owners who have balconies or patios choose to create “catios” for their furry friends or take additional steps to “pet shield” their balconies to ensure the safety of their cat or pet. their dog.
Especially for balconies and terraces that overlook busy streets, noise can also be an issue. New York is known to be always under construction, and the sound of jackhammers and drills can seep into an otherwise quiet morning. Many residential buildings are above bars, restaurants, or shops, and late-night patrons or loud music can beam into the space. In buildings with many balconies, noisy tenants may also be above or below your unit, and sound may travel much more easily through your balcony doors.
NYC listings with balconies and terraces
Apartments from a variety of price points and locations have balconies and terraces. Check out some of these current listings that feature these valuable pieces of equipment.
- This unit, located on West 79th Street, features a balcony and rooftop terrace. The balcony is a private outdoor space, while the roof terrace is a shared amenity among the residents of the building. This balcony is large enough to accommodate guests or planters.
- At 15 Central Park West, residents enjoy a Juliette balcony off the formal living room. Although the Juliet balcony is a great way to let in more light and expand the space, it’s not big enough to store furniture or plants. This unit on the edge of Central Park also features a communal rooftop terrace along with many other luxury amenities.
- Located at 168 East 100th Street, this one-bedroom apartment features a private balcony and a shared rooftop terrace. This apartment is a great example of a unit at a slightly lower price while still benefiting from private and shared outdoor space.
- This studio apartment on East 56th Street is a great example of a private terrace – and one downstairs! Although this terrace does not have a panoramic view of the city, it is a great place to host parties and is completely private for the unit.
- At 212 East 10th Street, these ground-floor residents enjoy a large private terrace, while upstairs neighbors are limited to smaller balconies. In the listing photos you can see how much extra space is gained by having a private deck rather than a fenced balcony.
What is better?
Ultimately, the decision between a terrace and a balcony is a personal one – for a small family or a couple, a private balcony might get more use, but for a New York socialite who likes to entertain, a terrace would make more sense. Either way, a patio or balcony will increase the value of any apartment and provide a great respite from busy New York City.