Buyers are paying big money for lofts, but are they the right fit for you? Read on to find out...
We could be talking about boiled eggs, water, or even your chest, but today we’re talking about lofts, and how some buyers prefer their lofts soft while others prefer them hard.
The term loft gets thrown around far too often in Toronto: It seems like the only prerequisites for a condo to be called a loft are a door, a roof, and (hopefully) four walls. Lofts are so popular that the mere use of the word will bring in more interest and more money, so buyers have to be savvy enough to know whether what they’re looking at is the real deal. Perhaps a loft is something different to everybody, but for me, it’s either a conversion from an old non-residential space, or a new-build condo that was made to look like a conversion. Each style has its pros and cons, and each has its fans and opponents.
A building that was converted from an industrial or commercial space, such as an old warehouse or a 100-year-old factory, is a true hard loft. Picture a space with exposed brick walls, timber beams spanning 14-foot ceilings, and majestic windows. On Queen Street West, Candy Factory is home to some of the most beautiful examples in the city, with more brick and beams than almost any loft in Toronto.
These buildings typically have more original character and always come with more history. Some of the best hard lofts in the city tell a story, such as Toy Factory in Liberty Village, which Irwin Toys constructed in the early 1900s. One thing to look out for if you’re considering a hard loft is that developers sometimes keep the historic windows, which can mean out-dated, inefficient thermal nightmares. (Just ask the residents at The Wrigley Lofts on Carlaw Avenue what their heating bills are like.)
A soft loft is a building that was purposefully constructed as housing, but has been made to mimic a hard loft by having similar features like open-concept spaces, high ceilings, large windows, and some of that raw, industrial feel. The explosion of soft lofts began in the early 2000s when the city of Toronto was running out of old buildings to convert to residential condominiums. So developers began constructing lofts anew and marketing them as a more liveable version, with a clean, polished look.
Soft lofts often have a little more warmth than those converted from commercial space, and since they’re built new, they often have better finishes. A building constructed from scratch can take advantage of advances in plumbing, heating, electrical, and any other system that one erected 100 years ago might lack. East Lofts on Princess Street is a newer example of a soft loft, but the building next door, Abbey Lane Lofts, is one of the most striking soft-loft buildings in the city, as you’d swear the units were indeed hard lofts. It’s tough to get your hands on one, too—there are only 29 units in the building.
Then there are the lofts that are both hard and soft at the same time. This usually occurs where a developer converts an existing structure into lofts but also adds several new floors to the top. The Toy Factory features an original four-storey warehouse converted into hard lofts, with an additional three storeys of soft lofts. The lesser-known Robert Watson Lofts on Sorauren Avenue, near Roncesvalles, also features a combination of the two, as there is an original building fronting on Sorauren and a new red-brick soft loft behind it that looks like a shinier version of the first.
The most passionate loft enthusiasts will think that a true hard loft is the only way to go, and anything else is an imposter. I tend to agree from an aesthetic standpoint, but when it comes to things like sound-proofing, weather resistance, and wear-and-tear, hard lofts often fall far behind. Nevertheless, buyers are still paying big money for lofts, both hard and soft, and with all the cookie-cutter units flooding the market, I see lofts holding their value over the long run.
David Fleming is a Realtor with Bosley Real Estate in Toronto, and author of the best known real estate website in the city: www.torontorealtyblog.com. A constant thorn in the side of condominium developers, David’s sarcastic, opinionated, outlandish thoughts can be read daily, although for some people, that’s far too often.