I get a lot of inquiries from a variety of people through TrueLofts.ca ranging from excited first time buyers to more cold and calculated investors looking for the best return on their investment. One of the first questions I’m asked is, “What’s the difference between a hard and a soft loft?” And if that isn’t the first question, the first comment is usually, “I’m interested in buying a hard loft.”
This has left me wondering if my site has a bit of a bias towards hard lofts. If it does, I certainly didn’t make a conscious decision to discriminate against soft lofts.
Before getting into any specifics though, I should point out that all lofts are technically condominiums. I think it’s important to get that out of the way from the start. When I write about lofts vs. condos, I’m really just referring to the aesthetic of the building and suites. Most people are relieved to learn this, as condo ownership generally offers a more convenient lifestyle than freehold ownership (houses).
A hard loft is a condo that was converted from an existing structure, usually a factory or warehouse – hence the names: Candy Factory, Merchandise Lofts, Irwin Toy Factory, Chocolate Factory Etc.
They tend to offer larger spaces, lots of natural light with warehouse style windows and ceilings much higher than the average 8″. Soft lofts offer some or all of these features as well, but hard lofts usually take it a step further with features such as wooden beams and real exposed brick (not veneered).
While I am personally infatuated with ‘most’ of Toronto’s hard lofts, it’s worth noting that there are certainly some lemons out there that I try to steer my clients away from (surprisingly, some that are in high demand). So don’t be swept off your feet and let your eyes glaze over when you hear about any hard loft — be sure to do your due diligence!
- Apart from the obvious, such as their uniqueness and character, one of the main perks I find is that hard lofts are not – and never will be – over saturated in the market. Developers can build on parking lots and demolish building to put up as many new condos as they want, but there are only so many factories and warehouses that qualify as convertible residential lofts (the majority in Toronto are now finished). The low supply gives them more allure (whether deserved or not, it’s just human nature) making them much better at holding their value and easier to sell in a slow market.
Another strong ‘pro’ in my mind is that many lofts are zoned as historical properties. This further increasing their desirability and creates an interest in their history.
- They are more expensive than more traditional condos or even soft lofts. How much more? It really depends on the neighbourhood and the quality of the buildings you’re comparing.
Another con to some people is that the majority of hard lofts do not include many (if any) amenities, such as gyms, concierge, pools etc. However, this ‘con’ can be offset with lower maintenance fees, as a result of the fewer amenities.
And finally, a notable strike again hard lofts is that the majority do not come with balconies (although most have at least a large terrace shared among residents).
As you’ve probably guessed by now, these are loft style condos that are ‘not’ conversion buildings. They were built solely as condos.
- Soft lofts are generally around the same price per square foot as traditional condos. They are certainly a more affordable alternative to hard lofts.
They also tend to be no more than 5 years old, meaning that the risk of there being any structural problems is extremely low.
As well, many soft lofts are virtually indistinguishable from hard lofts, with identical or very similar features. The one exception would be that the majority of soft lofts ‘do’ in fact have balconies.
- Some people consider soft lofts as having a certain stigma. They can be referred to as fake or as trying to ‘copy’ hard lofts. Personally, I feel there are certainly a handful of soft loft developments that are gimmicky and done by developers just trying to cash in on the emerging loft market. However, there are also a variety of truly stunning soft lofts that have been created tastefully.
We hope this article has been helpful! Our parting thought would be that there are hard and soft lofts available to meet just about any budget. Do concessions sometimes need to be made? Yes. If you want a 1200 square foot hard loft in King west with a doorman and a balcony for $450,000, you might have some trouble with that. However we find that when our clients weigh all of their needs and prioritize them, it becomes easier to narrow in on the best lofts available to suit your lifestyle.
If you’d like any assistance in weighing your options and coming up with a short list of the best lofts to consider, feel free to contact us – we’d be happy to help!
Robert Van Rhijn