With the high price of gas, the desire of aging baby boomers to downsize and the revitalization of many urban areas around the country, there is great interest in lofts and condos. These two living spaces offer convenience and amenities that don't exist in a single family home. But what is a loft condo, and what makes it different from a plain, old condo?
Identifying a Condo
All lofts are condos, but not all condos are lofts. They share many characteristics. Condos are individually owned living spaces located in a building or complex that has shared spaces. These shared, or common, areas include hallways, elevators, lobbies, garages, exterior landscaping and amenities.
Common Spaces and HOAs
While each owner takes care of her own individual unit, common areas are the responsibility of all the owners in the building. A homeowner's association (HOA) made up of an elected president and board oversees the maintenance of all common areas. They also set the HOA dues paid by every owner in the building and enforce the set of rules, or covenants, for the building. The individual owners agree to follow the covenants and pay their dues when they purchase the condo.
A loft differs from a traditional condo in a couple of ways. A typical loft is a remodel of a building originally built for another purpose, such as a warehouse or industrial facility. The remodel breaks the building up into living units, many with their own unique floor plan that best uses the existing layout of the structure. The units maximize the distinguishing features of the building, such as high ceilings, open space, bare brick walls, concrete or wood floors and exposed beams and ductwork. This is combined with the use of sleek, modern fixtures for the kitchen, bath and finishing details. The result is a mixture of rough and refined--a distinctly urban feel.
Additional Loft Characteristics
Given the type of building that houses a loft conversion, lofts are usually found in urban or transitional locations. They are often the first steps in the regentrification or repurposing of an urban neighborhood. Some loft buildings are actually recent construction built to mimic the loft style. Lofts may have amenities such as roof decks and city views and offer a slice of city life unlike any other living space.
Traditional condos are usually converted apartments, hotel suites or new construction. Overall, they have a more finished feel and floor plans similar to a single family home. They can be found in both urban and suburban areas in predominantly residential neighborhoods. Many condo buildings offer amenities beyond the standard loft fare, such as pools, exercise rooms, lobbies, meeting spaces and even theaters and guest suites. Condos offer the feel of a traditional home without the maintenance.
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