HARD or SOFT: Why are lofts more popular than ever?

By: BRIAN C. MAYER

HARD or SOFT: Why are lofts more popular than ever?

Tags: Lofts, Hard Lofts, Soft Lofts, Toronto Lofts, Toronto real estate, condos, toronto condos

I realize it is not the newest or most original topic to write about but with their recent surge in demand, mainly due to the lack of housing and larger spaces in the city, lofts have become increasingly more popular.

Some would argue that lofts are not conventional looking; they are more and more expensive to buy, the high ceilings make heating and cooling a pain and why have everything exposed and seem unfinished?

If you google 'what is a loft'? or lôft and läft, you will get a description as follows: a room or space directly under the roof of a house or other building, which may be used for accommodations or storage. Now let me be clear, this is not the type of loft I am talking about here. 

The definition of a loft apartment can vary, depending on the city/region that you are in but here in Toronto the term loft pretty much describes a big adaptable open concept living space, with high ceilings and large windows often converted for residential use.

So why are they so popular right now?

Square Footage!
With the cost of houses shooting through the roof in the city, lofts are numero uno on a buyer’s list as an alternative to buying a freehold house. More people work from home nowadays and lofts are perfect as a live/work space. I know many professional photographers, graphic artists, architects and filmmakers and those high ceilings and all that natural light make it the perfect creative and work environment.

Unconventional. 
The character of space in a loft is very different to that of an ordinary room. Roof lights admit more natural light than windows. Also you get a rather different view of the world from a loft than from a standard 2 storey home. In Toronto, where many older converted buildings are similar in height, the roofscape can be a much more interesting and intriguing thing to look at than walls and or a neighbour's windows.

Hard vs Soft.
What is the difference between a 'hard' loft and a 'soft' loft? You would think with them being so popular in Toronto’s real estate market right now that most people would know the difference.  Well, many don’t.  I still get asked often by buyers so in getting an education with lofts, the first step is to be able to differentiate between 'hard' and 'soft' lofts.

Once popular for their versatility and affordability amongst artistic and bohemian types, a ‘hard’ loft, is often a converted building from an industrial or commercial space. Some of my favourites would be the Printing Factory in Leslieville built in 1912 and the Tip Top Lofts on Lakeshore built in the 1920s, once former headquarters of Tip Top Tailors Ltd., a Canadian menswear retailer.  The Broadview Lofts on Broadview and Eastern Ave., originally erected in 1914 as the Toronto warehouse of the Rexall pharmacy is by far my favourite.



In my opinion, ‘hard’ lofts are the real deal as far this discussion goes. Not only do you get character, but heritage and history too, with an aesthetic that traditionally showcases everything from exposed brick walls to massive windows to brilliant timber beams to uncovered electrical, plumbing, and ductwork. The ceilings in these buildings are also much higher and gives the unit an overpowering sense of space, thus the term “loft.”

PROS: 
Hard lofts generally have more square footage. You get character, heritage and history. Most have higher ceilings and larger windows then newer-built lofts.

CONS:
Hard lofts don’t offer much in the way of amenities.  Balconies are a rarity and older construction can mean they aren’t the most energy efficient buildings.

Here's my personal favourite authentic 'hard' lofts in Toronto:


However, these days most lofts aren’t being converted, but rather, constructed. This would be called a 'soft' loft. ‘Soft’ lofts have become so common in Toronto that you’re finding more and more blogs and articles like this one explaining the difference between the two.

In the case of a ‘soft’ loft, the buildings are new, purposely constructed for housing, and although they tend to mimic the ‘hard’ loft appearance, they are just that: softer.

Instead of concrete floors, they may have broadloom or hardwood. As an example, in a ‘soft’ loft, you’ll typically observe that standard drywall encases pipes and ducts, as well as hardwood or broadloom floors replacing concrete, and so forth. While big windows and an open concept layout are still paramount, ‘soft’ loft units are distinctly built in a more traditional condo style. Not just via the material they utilize either, but their facilities too.

One of my favourite 'soft’ lofts in the city would be The Madison Avenue Lofts at 380 Macpherson Ave. Built in 2009, it is located in Toronto’s historic Casa Loma neighbourhood. Madison Avenue Lofts offers residents easy access to Yorkville and the Annex, and is just minutes from the Dupont subway station.



PROS: 
Soft lofts are generally more affordable. Newer buildings mean fewer structural problems and better efficiency. Most soft lofts have balconies and plenty of building amenities. 

CONS:
Generally ‘soft’ lofts are smaller units and have less square footage. You don’t get the character, heritage and authenticity of a hard loft. Soft lofts often try to mimic hard lofts having the same historical value.

Here's my personal favourite newer 'soft' lofts in Toronto:

In the end, if I had to choose I think a ‘hard’ loft would be the way to go. Hands down! Besides character and authenticity, you’ve got a property that, in my opinion, will only continue to appreciate in value. As more and more condos go up in the city, demand will keep on growing for something unique and genuine. ‘Hard’ lofts just cannot be duplicated.

Curious about lofts and the great benefits they offer? Any questions about my post 'HARD or SOFT: Why are lofts more popular then ever?' I want to hear from you so leave your thoughts in the comment section below. 

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