The lure of loft living is attracting residents to a variety of urban areas, especially in the downtowns being revived across the country. Freeing themselves from monthly rent or the burdens of yard work, or simply the desire to be part of the urban scene are some of the reasons people are choosing loft living. However, buying a loft is not a venture that should be entered into lightly; there are a number of vital issues that require a buyer's complete attention, several of which a prospective buyer might need to call in help from experts.
Find a real estate agent who is experienced in the buying and selling of lofts. Agents who have only had experience buying and selling single family homes, or even condos, may not be aware of all the ramifications of buying a loft. Interview agents, asking detailed questions about their sales experience and about their knowledge on such subjects as insuring lofts, interior construction regulations, building codes and neighborhood zoning laws.
Decide whether you want to purchase a loft that is basically a shell; that is, a bare space in which it will be up to you to determine the floor plan, where the walls, if any, will be constructed and the layout of the rooms. If a loft is merely a shell, it is up to the buyer to build the kitchen and bathroom from scratch. If you decide to buy a shell, it is important to bring in professionals who can help you estimate the kinds of costs you will encounter as you finish the property.
Decide what areas of town in which you would be interested in living. Keep in mind that lofts in true industrial areas may be miles away from any retail or service outlets such as grocery stores or post offices. On the other hand, such areas often offer more loft space for your money than in more developed areas. If you choose to live in a highly desirable area, be aware that prices will be steeper; however, you can generally count on an easier resale for these lofts than on more remotely located ones.
Draw up a detailed comparison chart of the loft properties you view. Include such items as the square footage, estimated utility costs, parking availability, cabinet and closet space, storage space outside the loft itself, lighting, quality of cabinetry and floor finishes, room layout, electrical outlets, condition of windows (and window treatments, if any), outdoor amenities such as decks or rooftop gardens and other items that are of particular importance to your life style.
Find out the specifics of your responsibilities as a loft owner. For example, if your loft is part of a condominium or co-op, you will want to know the amount of home owners association dues, along with the services provided and what amenities are offered. Usually, provided services include trash pickup, snow removal, cleaning services for the common areas, including windows; cable and Internet connections are sometimes included. If you are buying a single isolated loft located, for example, above a business, you will need a contract that clearly spells out specifics about such items as owner responsibilities, utility sharing and what kind of changes you can make to the property.
- Everything You Need to Know Before Buying a Co-op, Condo,or Townhouse; Ken Roth; AMACOM 2006.
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