9 Min to Read

What is a Loft Apartment in NYC?

Jackie Maroney

Jackie Maroney

If you've ever wondered about living in a loft, you're not alone. Find out what a loft apartment exactly is and who is the space right for? Learn about New York City loft laws and what makes lofts so special in shaping the city.
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One of the most famous types of apartments synonymous with New York is the loft.

It is usually the location of choice for most NYC-based characters featured in books, movies, and tv shows.

Its airy layout and industrial design make this a trendy and laid-back favorite - much like New York City itself.

The idea of lofts was created by artists who would inhabit vacant industrial buildings.

These empty buildings would soon become home to multiple families.

What Is a Loft Apartment?

A loft apartment is a residential apartment that was once used for manufacturing, commercial, or warehouse use.

Most of these types of apartments were converted from warehouses and factories.

They are airy and provide lots of open space with columns, brick walls, and large windows.

According to New York City’s Loft Law, there are a unit or a building must meet a few requirements to be considered a loft.

Some of these requirements include that each unit is:

  • Not located in a cellar/basement
  • At least 400 square feet
  • Not in an Industrial Business Zone except for: Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and parts of Brooklyn and Long Island City.

What Do Loft Apartments Look Like?

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A loft apartment is located inside a multi-family building that was converted from an industrial building to a residential one.

Speaking architecturally, a loft is an upper story space with an open layout.

The building the apartment is in will once have been used for storage in business or industrially.

Lofts Have Wide Open Spaces

Lofts are known for their wide, open space without many walls.

A loft’s living room can measure more than 30 feet in depth and more than 50 feet.

This open space is perfect for those living with more than one person, especially if a few of you are working from home.

Loft Apartments Alway Have High Ceilings

High ceilings are a characteristic of lofts, starting at 10 feet tall or more.

These tall ceilings provide more decorating options as there are fewer restrictions and can make space feel even larger.

You Can Expect Oversized Windows in Lofts

Most lofts are characterized by large windows to let in as much sunlight as possible.

Since most of the industrial buildings were erect before electric lights were made, the windows were designed to let in plenty of light.

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Other Unique Features of Lofts

Typically lofts will feature characteristics that not often seen in traditional residential spaces.

Such characteristics are usually the exposure of components normally sealed such as brick, beams, pipes, floors, ceilings, and even insulation.

Some loft units even have vaulted ceilings, which is highly unusual especially in urban settings.

These components may or may not be aesthetically pleasing depending on the tastes of the individual considering a loft.

The History of Lofts in New York City

In the 1940s in New York City, many manufacturers fled the buildings and remained empty until the1960’s.

There were plenty of vacant manufacturing buildings in NYC by the 1960s and ’70s.

At this point, artists started to inhabit these buildings as the spaces were perfect for an artist's needs, such as plenty of natural light, high ceilings, and open spaces to fit and store large canvases and sculptures.

It was also an opportunity to benefit from low rent from landlords who were keen to make any money on these spaces no one wanted.

The NYC fire department soon caught wind that tenants were illegally inhabiting these buildings, as these areas were not zoned for residential purposes.

The cast-iron facade and lack of doors made these lofts unsafe to live in, especially if there was a fire.

Moreover, it was illegal to house these artists as the buildings were not up to code for residential use.

The artists fought against eviction and a joint living-working condition known as the loft was born.

How Lofts Bring on Gentrification

Because artists flocked to areas with cheap industrial lofts, they brought on change to the neighborhoods they inhabited, bringing new life, energy, and businesses to rundown areas.

As rent prices slowly start climbing up in these areas, the buzz eventually brings real estate developers who want to pounce on the next "it" neighborhoods.

Eventually, many of the very artists who made the neighborhoods popular get priced out of same area and must move on to other areas.

Where Can You Find Lofts In NYC?

SoHo and Tribeca are NYC neighborhoods popular for offering lofts.

These are the most well-known areas that provide lofts, but there are other loft-bearing neighborhoods scattered among the city.

Loft buildings typically exist near waterfronts of which many were once zoned for industrial use.

However, you can find many industrial zoned areas inland as well.

Not only that but some residential neighborhoods occasionally have converted loft buildings randomly situated. Some examples of this can be found in Crown Heights and Clinton Hill.

Popular Neighborhoods to Find Loft Apartments
Borough Neighborhood
Bronx Port Morris
Hunts Point
Brooklyn DUMBO
East Williamsburg
Greenpoint
Navy Yard
Red Hook
Sunset Park
Manhattan Chelsea
Flatiron District
Meatpacking District
Tribeca
SoHo
West Village
Queens Long Island City
Astoria
Ridgewood

What Is a Hard Loft vs. Soft Loft?

The difference between a hard and soft loft has to do with the original building itself.

If it was originally an industrial building, then it is considered a hard loft. A soft loft imitates the look of a hard loft.

Hard lofts are apartments that were once industrial buildings.

They usually offer high ceilings, exposed pipes, beams, and brick walls. However, they lack amenities.

A soft loft is an imitation loft built to copy the hard loft effect.

Soft lofts can be found in new buildings and properties made for housing.

Soft lofts will usually hide pipes and ducts with drywall and replace concrete floors with hardwood.

Differences Between Lofts and Traditional Apartments

There is a substantial difference when it comes to NYC lofts and apartments.

Lofts are apartments that used to be old warehouses. They have few amenities but may offer perks such as a roof deck or garden.

A traditional apartment is broken down into rooms, with walls separating each room. Most apartments usually come with a kitchen, main living area, bedroom, etc.

What Are the Advantages of Lofts

Besides being trendy and modern, lofts in NYC provide multiple pros.

Loft Residers Typically Have More Space

While in quarantine, you may have found yourself suddenly wishing for a larger living space.

With ceiling heights ranging from 10’ to 15’ feet tall, lofts provide plenty of room to move around freely.

The expansive space can be easily divided into individual “rooms” or a home office.

Lofts Provide Tons of Natural Light

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Lofts usually come with large windows; some being floor to ceiling.

Larger windows provide ample amounts of natural light, which have a slew of health benefits.

Flexibility in Your Home Layout

Traditional apartments are normally fixed with defined spaces or rooms such as a kitchen, living room, etc.

With a loft, the options are endless as you can design it to be whatever you want.

This is especially perfect for those who work remotely as they can create separate working and living quarters.

The multiple plumbing risers throughout the space allow you to take your pick when choosing where to place your bathroom or kitchen.

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The Cons of Living in a Loft

Though lofts have their benefits, there are a few things to consider before deciding on a loft.

Closet Space is Rare in a Loft

Unlike an apartment, most lofts do not provide any storage options. You will need to create your own storage space such as closets and cabinets.

Sometimes this is already built out by the landlord or developer but more often than you'll be looking at one or no closets in the loft space.

Amenities Are Not Typical in Loft Building

Traditional apartments may have amenities such as gyms or dog parks, but lofts usually have few to no extras included.

Loft amenities may be hard to come by, but they can be found. However, they can be more expensive than a traditional apartment.

Expect To Pay Higher Utilities in a Loft

Lofts boast charm and style, however, the utilities are often outdated. This can lead to overpayment due to inefficiency.

You can bring this up with your landlord, but most landlords resist updates when tenants are the ones footing the utility bill.

Though heigh ceilings have their benefits, they can also drive up your energy consumption.

Tall ceilings can mean that it takes longer to cool or heat a space due to heat rising. Ceiling fans are a great way to counteract this issue as they keep the air circulating.

Also, depending on how good your loft's conversion was there may be little to no insulation.

If your landlord invested a lot in making the space very livable, you probably won't have an insulation problem.

However, if your landlord did very little you may find yourself freezing during the winters and sweltering in the summers.

Who Is a Loft Apartment Right For?

Lofts are perfect for those looking for a large open layout plan with industrial touches.

Tenants who want the full New York experience without sacrificing space will enjoy the ability to move freely.

Artists enjoy lofts as it provides them plenty of room to create their art while also giving them a place to stay.

Similarly, lofts are also great for those recently deciding to work from home.

You will have enough room to designate a home office and can even separate it from your bedroom with room dividers.

A Large Apartment Is Important to You

With a loft comes a lot of benefits, but there are also sacrifices to be made.

If space for you is a top priority, then a loft is a perfect option.

However, if you are looking for accommodations such as a swimming pool, gym, on-site laundry room, etc., then a loft might not be the best bet for you.

Making a list of what you are looking for in a living space will help you when deciding, especially when outweighing the pros and cons.

How Much Is a Loft Apartment?

Due to limited inventory, lofts are often expensive.

When looking at options for lofts in Manhattan, expect studios to start at over $2,000 a month if renting.

Purchasing a loft is an expensive investment that can payout in the long run.

If buying a loft interests you, then prepare to save at least $8,000,000 as your starting point if purchasing in New York City.

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How Can You Find a Loft in Your Area?

Lofts are hard to find, which is why you need to know where to look. The limited amount of lofts in New York make them a hot commodity.

Location

If buying or renting a loft in New York interests you, look for popular industrial areas such as the Meatpacking District or even Long Island City.

Look for areas close to rivers such as the East and Hudson rivers.

Warehouses and factories were usually made near waterways for the convenience of transportation.

Search Online

Begin your search online to find what you are looking for.

Keep in mind that web listings might try and sell a large studio as a loft.

Do your research and ask questions about the originality of the building, while looking for qualities such as large windows, tall ceilings, and a high square footage.

Hire a Real Estate Agent

An experienced agent can help you prevent any headaches down the road.

They will navigate you through HOA documents along with other important facts and statistics.

Those new to buying homes will appreciate real estate agents for their knowledge and expertise.

Can You Buy, Rent, Work, etc. In a Loft?

What can you do with a loft in New York City? The beauty of a loft is that it is versatile and can e used in a multitude of ways. You can buy or rent lofts, and can also convert part of your living space into a work office.

If converting your loft into a business, you may qualify for certain tax deductions.

How Big Are Lofts?

The square footage of of a New York City loft can range from approximately 1,400-2,400 square feet in size.

When looking for lofts outside Manhattan, the sizes will be smaller.

This is because they are most likely In areas where developers worry about overpricing. Selling a smaller size apartment is less of a commitment.

Can You Claim Your Loft on Your Taxes?

There is a way to lessen the expenses of owning or renting a loft, and this is through taxes.

If you have been working from and have a dedicated hone office, then you may be able to claim the expense on your taxes.

Homeowners and renters alike can both benefit from the home office deduction.

However, you will need to use part of the loft exclusively for business in order to receive the tax benefit. In order to qualify for a deduction on your taxes; you will need to meet a few requirements.

For example, if you dedicate a singular room as an office, then this will count as a tax write-off.

If you convert a communal room that the whole family uses such as the living room or dining room, then it may not qualify.

There are exceptions to this rule, however.

The loophole is that you can utilize any space to store inventory and have it be tax deductible; even if using for personal purposes.

Conclusion on Lofts in New York City

A loft is the quintessential place to live in New York City.

It is usually located in a bustling urban city, which lends itself to the appeal factor.

However, it does come with a price tag and lacks privacy.

Quarantining may have you rearranging your priorities when it comes to living.

For example, maybe you realize that the low ceilings in your apartment suddenly make you claustrophobic.

Living in a small apartment may make you crave space sometimes.

This can be especially beneficial if you end you or one of of your loved ones end up in a heated argument.

Lofts are best for one or a few people, as well as budding artists and creative types.

If you can exchange a lack of amenities in lieu of wide, open space, then a loft may be a perfect fit.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a loft apartment?

A loft apartment is a residential apartment that was once used for manufacturing, commercial, or warehouse use.

What neighborhoods in NYC have lofts?

SoHo and Tribeca are NYC neighborhoods popular for offering lofts.

Do I need a permit to do a loft conversion?

Although most loft conversions do not require a planning permit, check with your local council or planning officer to confirm.

Do lofts have windows?

Yes. Typically, lofts have large windows, high ceilings, exposed brick, and columns.

What is the difference between an hard loft and a soft loft?

The difference between a hard and soft loft has to do with the original building itself. If it was originally an industrial building, then it is considered a hard loft. A soft loft imitates the look of a hard loft.

What is the difference between a loft and a traditional apartment?

Lofts are apartments that used to be old warehouses. They have few amenities but may offer perks such as a roof deck or garden. A traditional apartment is broken down into rooms, with walls separating each room. Most apartments usually come with a kitchen, main living area, and bedrooms.

If I want to rent or buy a loft in NYC, which locations should I look?

If buying or renting a loft in New York interests you, look for popular industrial areas such as the Meatpacking District or even Long Island City. Look for areas close to rivers such as the East and Hudson rivers. Warehouses and factories were usually made near waterways for convenience of transportation.

How big are lofts in NYC?

The square footage of of a New York City loft can range from approximately 1,400-2,400 square feet in size.