An inside look at Chicago real estate

The High Life: What it’s Like to Live in a Loft

Kay Severinsen By
Kay Severinsen
   · Buying, Home Ownership

LoftYou probably already know that loft dwellers are cooler than the rest of us. They have great parties, artwork they bought somewhere far away, and the most interesting friends in the world.

Those attributes may just come with the exposed-brick-and-ductwork territory. But what else should you know if you are thinking of buying into the halls of the hip?

It’s not unusual for buyers to say they’re thinking of buying a loft, then finding out more about them and deciding that loft living is not really their first choice. Others have never considered a loft, but find that its open floor plan and abundance of windows make it the perfect solution.

Here are some things to consider as you start your real estate search:

  • While a converted building might have more than one of the same loft, you’re unlikely to find exactly that loft anywhere else. By definition, loft homes are developed in buildings that may have been factories, warehouses or stores. Each loft development will be customized for that building. If you’re tired of the standard floor plan of most three-flats, you might like the airy openness of a loft. Construction usually takes advantage of the original structure, which is why exposed brick interior walls, visible ductwork and high ceilings are typical. 
  • As a home style, lofts tend to be very open, with few interior walls. It is likely that a bedroom’s walls will not go all the way up to the ceiling. The top of the walls is sometimes wide enough to accommodate plants or decorations. 
  • Some lofts have an open, second-level space, such as above the kitchen or bathroom, accessible by staircase or ladder. 
  • Lofts can be noisy. If possible, find out what insulating materials have been used between floors, if any. Not all upstairs neighbors are professional tap dancers, but it can sometimes seem that way. 
  • Lofts can be difficult to heat. Because hot air rises, 14-foot ceilings allow heat to settle above the actual living space (however, the same law of physics means that a loft should be cooler in the summer).
  • A typical one bedroom, one-bath loft is a great solution for singles, especially those who don’t have many overnight guests. But because the bedroom(s) are not enclosed at the ceiling level, there is not a lot of privacy. Most bathrooms do have ceilings, however. 
  • Units are likely to have newer appliances and kitchens that are open to eating and living areas. They make great party spaces. 
  • Many old factories saved energy costs by using lots of natural light – which is now being passed on to you through large, sunny windows with great city views.
  • Using factories and other former business buildings, lofts may be in or near urban spaces, making them close to transportation or nightlife. But some of those former factories were off the beaten path, and if they are developed as lofts, they might be in emerging or transitional areas. You might be able to find a really good deal in an area that is still being “discovered.”
  • Some Chicagoans might consider lofts to be an urban, or even a north side phenomenon, but you can find converted loft spaces all over the metropolitan area, even in the suburbs.

Not many online home search tools let you select “loft” as a property type, but Dreamtown.com, has a whole section devoted to lofts. You can also use the “rubber band” tool to select the area in which you want to search. Your Realtor® can also help you find the right lofts to visit.

But if you need the perfect specimen of textile art, sold only by a one-legged whistler on a goat path in the Grecian isles, you’re on your own.

 

 

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