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Loft Apartments: What is a Loft + Pros & Cons

May 13, 2022

Looking for a place to call home comes with a wide variety of options, from apartments to townhouses and everything in between. If you haven’t already, put trend-setting lofts on your must-see list for your next home search.

Lofts are all the rage right now with every home decor show featuring how versatile and expansive they are.

But what is a loft, and are they the right home for you? Here’s what to know before you sign your next lease on a loft.

What is a Loft?

Traditionally, lofts are former industrial buildings turned modern apartments. They often feature high ceilings with exposed pipes, beams, and brick walls.

A true loft was a building created for an industrial purpose. However, newer complexes are also mimicking the look and feel of lofts to meet the rental demand.

Much like a studio or efficiency apartment, lofts are usually designed as a singular, open space without internal walls. Of course, bathrooms are an exception. No one wants to live without a private bathroom area.

Lofts are also enormous. They have plenty of room to spare in comparison to their pint-sized counterparts.

Some property managers and complexes will also create more dimension in their lofts by building out bedrooms to offer more privacy. This is ideal if you want to live with roommates or have a family.

You might even find vertical staircases that go to multiple, open areas in the loft. Those may serve as bedrooms or living rooms.

Lofts are perfect for renters who love unique charm, urban living, and expansive space. Depending on the layout of the loft apartment, you can usually house more roommates in these expansive spaces.

You can sometimes find lofts outside of cities. However, they’re more common in former industrial areas in urban cores.

Pros and Cons of Renting a Loft

Before signing a lease on a spacious new loft apartment, make sure you understand the pros and cons of lofts.

Pro #1: They’re Usually Spacious with an Open Concept and High Ceilings

If you’re tired of cramming everything into a small, urban apartment, you’ll love loft living. Lofts are usually spacious with an open concept that offers plenty of flexibility to decorate and create separate areas for work and play. The high ceilings also make lofts feel larger than life.

Apartments aren’t usually known for their open-concept lifestyle. That makes lofts a desirable choice for many.

You can grow into your loft space, add roommates, or keep it all to yourself. You can also give your kids more room to play.

Pro #2: Modern/Industrial-Style is Very Trendy

If you’ve spent any time watching home decor and real estate flipping shows, you’ll know modern and industrial styles are hot right now. Get in on the trend and create the look you love in your own loft.

The rustic style of lofts turns exposed brick and beams into the aesthetic. Add your own industrial touches or rely on modern, minimalistic touches to enhance the charm of your loft apartment.

Pro #3: Make the Space Whatever You Want it to be

Apartments are usually well-defined areas with nonexistent flex space. Lofts make it easy to map out the space however you like across its large, open space.

You can even create individual living areas with furniture set-up, rugs, and curtains or partitions to create more privacy and space.

Con #1: Lack of Traditional Storage Space

Despite all that space, lofts don’t always offer traditional storage space like closets and rows of kitchen cabinets. You might need wardrobes, trunks, or custom-built closets to create the storage you need.

That can be a pro if you want specific storage. However, it’ll also increase the expense of living in a loft.

Con #2: Lack of Amenities

When you live in a loft apartment, communal space for desirable amenities is often nonexistent. It’s usually challenging to build out fitness rooms, club rooms, storage areas, and roof decks in a loft where everything needs to be converted and repurposed.

Although it’s not impossible to find modern amenities in loft buildings, they’re usually considerably more expensive than a traditional apartment complex down the street.

Con #3: Utility Bills Can Be More Expensive

Older industrial buildings turned loft may ooze with rustic charm. However, they often come with outdated utilities.

You can brainstorm some improvements to make a loft more energy-efficient. Those could include asking about better appliances or reinforcing the windows. However, landlords and property managers aren’t eager to make these changes when tenants are the ones paying for the utilities.

There also isn’t much you can do about old pipes and outdated vent work. The high ceilings in industrial buildings also make lofts less energy-efficient. They can quickly drive up your utility bills.

In addition to looking over the space and any available amenities, ask the landlord about typical utility costs. Factor those into the cost of your monthly loft expenses.

What's the Difference Between a Hard Loft and a Soft Loft?

Hard Lofts

A hard loft is a loft that features a rugged industrial build often seen in traditional lofts.

In a hard loft, you might find steel beams, exposed brick and pipes, high ceilings, and large industrial windows. These features are common among warehouses and other industrial buildings.

As hard lofts are generally restored warehouses and old buildings, they retain these features when they are converted to apartments. You'll find hard lofts in areas that were previously industrial hotbeds. Expect tons of brick and historically blue-collar neighborhoods.

Soft Lofts

A soft loft is a loft that is designed to mimic the appeal of lofts.

While soft lofts contain some of the same elements that hard lofts have (exposed brick, high ceilings, and large windows), they lack the rugged industrial appeal of hard lofts, which is a result of construction.

While hard lofts are renovated industrial warehouses, soft lofts are renovated residential buildings. These modern upgrades generally include a raised platform inside the apartment, creating the experience of another separate room. Elevated platforms are less common in hard lofts, as they diminish the historic character.

Some compare the difference between hard and soft lofts to the difference between a _real _loft and a copycat.

In short, if you are looking for the authentic industrial vibe in your loft, go for a hard loft. If you love the industrial look, but prefer more of a modern touch, a soft loft is your best bet.

What’s the Difference Between a Studio Apartment and a Loft?

A studio is an apartment unit with just two rooms. One room combines a bedroom, living room, dining room, and kitchen. The other room is your bathroom.

It's important to note that studio apartments differ from one-bedroom apartments. Although they technically have one bedroom, it's not considered a separate bedroom.

It's easy to see why people confuse studio apartments and lofts, as both lofts and studios have open floor plans. In both unit types, only the bathroom and closets feature doors.

The biggest differences between lofts and studios are square-footage, price, and kitchen additions. Lofts are much larger than studios. Moreover, many lofts have higher ceilings, which make them look even larger.

Studios are generally much smaller apartment units. Although larger studios do exist, they are very much in the minority.

As a result of their size differences, lofts and studios tend to have significantly different price points. A larger loft will be much more expensive than a smaller studio apartment.

When it comes to kitchen areas, lofts are much more likely to include a full-sized kitchen within the unit. Studios rarely include a full-sized kitchen. Kitchenettes are much more common in studios, as they take up much less space.

In short, if you’re looking to save on rent and don’t mind a smaller unit, opt for a studio. If you want more space and don’t mind a higher price point, seek out a loft!

What's the Difference Between a Loft and a Traditional Apartment?

Still confused about what a loft apartment is? First, let’s determine out how they differ from traditional options.

Traditional apartments come standard as a studio, one, or multi-bedroom apartment. They have a kitchen, living area, and possibly a dining space.

Because lofts were converted from old warehouses and industrial buildings, amenities are often scarce. You might find some unique touches like a courtyard gathering area or roofdeck for tenants. However, amenities are usually difficult to provide in a building dedicated to loft living.

Is a Loft Apartment Right for Me?

Lofts are ideal for anyone looking for expansive, unique space with rustic touches. They’re also perfect for urban dwellers looking to escape small, studio apartments.

However, if you love tons of amenities from pools to gyms and want well-defined spaces and a cozy refuge, lofts aren’t for you.

Now that you know more about what a loft is, it’s time to start apartment hunting. Don’t forget that Apartment List can help you find the perfect loft or apartment for your next search in your dream neighborhood. Good luck!

How to Find Cheap Loft Apartments

Lofts are becoming increasingly popular in cities across the country. As a result, those searching for their dream loft must deal with serious competition and higher rent rates.

Here are some tips to help you find a loft apartment in your budget.

  • Look for Move-In Specials: Landlords and property managers look to incentivize potential tenants by advertising move-in specials. These units may be rented with free or reduced fees and rent. It's an easy way to save.
  • Rent with Roommates: Renting with roommates allows you to split rent, effectively reducing your rent by at least 50% if you spit it evenly. More roommates equals more savings, so don't be afraid to rent a larger loft with multiple bedrooms.
  • Think about Living Outside of the City: Choose a loft outside of the popular metro area to save big on rent. With this strategy you'll avoid the higher cost of living in a competitive market.

When's the Best Time to Rent a Loft Apartment?

If you're looking to get the most out of your apartment rental, it's essential to know the best times to rent an apartment .

The best time to look for a loft apartment depends seasonality in apartment renting. Trends show that the best time to move into a new apartment is in December or January if you're looking for lower rent prices and less competition.

If you prefer to browse a larger selection of loft apartments and don't mind competing with other prospects, then start your search in early spring.

How to Find a Loft Apartment

Finding a loft apartment is a simple, yet time-consuming process. As long as you follow the steps listed below, you'll have no problem finding the loft of your dreams. Here's what you need to know about finding a loft apartment.

Determine Your Budget

Budgeting for an apartment can be challenging because many costs have to be estimated, from the cost of utilities to purchasing furnishings for your loft.

That said, it's possible to build a relatively accurate budget. Start building your budget by following the general rule of apartment renting:

  • You should earn at least three times the monthly rent before taxes to comfortably afford a unit.

Take your monthly pre-tax earnings and divide that number by three to get an idea of the upper limit of your rent budget line item.

Or you could take the easy route and use our rent calculator. Up to you.

Set Your Apartment Priorities

Apartment hunting can be overwhelming because there are so many options available, which is why it's crucial to narrow down your options by determining your loft preferences.

You can choose which apartment amenities are most important to you prior to your search.

With a list of your preferences in hand, you can narrow down your housing options to find a loft that suits you best.

Consider Your Commute Time

Unless you're a member of the growing class of remote workers, you'll need to consider your commute time when choosing a loft.

Commute times will vary significantly depending on your mode of transportation and location.

For example, the average commute time in New York is 41.5 minutes, whereas the average commute time in San Francisco is a low 26.9 minutes.

You can use Google Maps to get an estimate of how long it takes to get from your place to your job via different modes of transportation.

Prepare for Apartment Tours

Once you've narrowed down your list of apartments to your top options, you can begin to tour lofts.

Though it's fun to check out these units and imagine yourself in the space, it's important to keep an eye out for any flaws in the unit and ask your landlord relevant questions.

If you're not sure what questions to ask your landlord when touring an apartment, don't worry. Start with the basics:

  • How much is rent?
  • What is parking like? (ie. Is off-street parking included?)
  • What amenities are included in this loft apartment?
  • Is this loft pet-friendly?
  • How are maintenance requests handled?

While there are many more important questions to ask, these are the most fundamental.

How to Apply for a Loft Apartment

When completing an apartment application, you'll be expected to to provide the following:

  • Identification (drivers license, passport, state-issued ID, etc.)
  • Financial Statements for Proof of Income
  • Consent to Background and Credit Checks

Alongside these items, you'll need to turn in a completed rental application, which may include information related to your current employment, housing history, and character references.

Be sure to set aside $30-$50, as many apartments require applicants to pay an application fee.

Protect Yourself from Rental Scams

Rental scams are common. In fact, 43.1% of renters have encountered a rental listing that they believed was fraudulent, according to a recent Apartment List study on rental scams.

Unfortunately, the prevalence of rental fraud makes it difficult to avoid, unless you remain diligent.

It's worth putting your guard up early on, as one in three renters who have fallen prey to rental scams have lost over $1,000.

That said, avoiding rental scams generally only requires apartment hunters to:

  • Avoid listings that are too good to be true.
  • Do your due diligence before handing over any money.
  • Never use cash or a money wiring service.
  • Don't sign anything unless you're absolutely sure of the validity of the agreement.

If you follow these simple rules, you’re sure to avoid the financial pitfalls of rental scams.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a loft apartment look like?

Lofts are former industrial buildings turned into modern apartments. They are spacious and often feature high ceilings with exposed pipes, beams, and brick walls.

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Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
Davina Ward is a contributing author at Apartment List and freelance writer specializing in real estate and digital marketing. She received her B. Read More
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