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Loft living is a quintessential NYC way of life.  Unique to the NYC, classic industrial and artist’s lofts have one major characteristic:  Space.  NYC apartments are typically cramped places with halting proportions, low ceilings and no closet space.  NYC lofts are the opposite: cut from old industrial buildings, they tend to be spacious, open and architecturally pleasing, offering large windows, historic detailing and sweeping high ceilings.

Live/Work Loft Definition

In NYC, a Live/Work loft is a residential unit situated in a commercial building, which meets the following criteria:

  • Three or more units in the building have been put to residential use during any consecutive 12 month period from January 1, 2008 through December 31, 2009;
  • Some portion of the building has been occupied for either manufacturing, warehousing, or commercial purposes; and
  • The building either lacks a residential certificate of occupancy or an application for Loft Law protection was filed prior to March 11, 2014.

Historically, NYC lofts were considered bohemian and sexy, even romantic.  In the 1970s, most of NYC loft residents were artists and craftsmen attracted to former factory and warehouse loft buildings by cheap rents, large spaces and load-bearing floors. Historic loft buildings had only basic plumbing, unreliable heating and questionable sanitation.  They were not zoned for residential use and did not conform to fire and safety codes.

Today, NYC lofts are still sexy and romantic but certainly not bohemian.  Occupied by a second or third generation of tenants and zoned for residential use, they are no longer cheap but also do not present any existential hardships.  

The best unique industrial and artist’s lofts are located in SoHo and TriBeCa.

Unique SoHo Lofts

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SoHo means South of Houston Street. It contains the area between Houston and Canal Street, west of 6th Avenue. A large part of is in the Cast Iron Historic District and boasts the greatest collection of cast-iron oft buildings in the world. In the second half of the 19th Century, cast iron was used as a decorative front over older industrial buildings to attract commercial tenants. Ornamental cast iron molds could be prefabricated in foundries, which made them a cheaper alternative to brick and allowed for rapid building construction. The pliable character of iron was conducive to the manufacture of intricate designs and ornamental window frames, often modeled after classical French and Italian architecture.

As the NYC economy and manufacture declined, the newly vacant commercial lofts began to attract artists seeking cheap rent and large work spaces. In blatant zoning violation, the new residential tenants took over abandoned factories and warehouses and converted them into illegal live/work lofts. The first zoning laws, which permitted live/work for artists, were passed in 1971.
Today, SoHo consists of roughly 500 buildings, many of which retain their historic industrial character and cast iron architecture, which makes them one of the most unique lofts not only in NYC but in the entire world.

 Unique TriBeCa Lofts

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TriBeCa is an acronym of its geographical location – TRIangle BElow CAnal Street, situated North of Soho. Originally home to well-maintained 19th Century brick and wood homes, still present on Harrison and Greenwich Streets, during the industrial revolution TriBeCa accommodated numerous factories and warehouse buildings. TriBeca factory and warehouse lofts were built with cast iron and limestone facades in classical Italian style.
Much like Soho, since the 1970s, Tribeca industrial lofts have become very desirable due to their vast space and historic style.

How to Beat the NYC Real Estate Market

1.Get pre-approved for mortgage to finance your unique NYC loft
This is a very simple step, which can nevertheless make or break the deal. Competing with international all-cash real estate investors doesn’t have to work against you if, and here is the trick, you can make a no-mortgage contingency offer. So if you already know you will be approved for mortgage, come in strong and offer no-mortgage contingency. For all intents and purposes, this is as good as an all cash offer. While NYC artist’s and industrial lofts present unique challenges, a good NYC real estate broker will help you get a pre-qualification letter within 48 hours and guide you to getting a conditional approval before you sign a contract of sale.

2. Retain a good Real Estate Broker specializing in NYC lofts
NYC real estate buyers do not pay a broker fee. But here is a caveat: if you contact the seller’s agent directly, you do not get to have your own real estate broker. Why is that bad? As an exclusive buyer’s broker, I can personally attest to the fact that there are many legal maneuvers, negotiation tactics and other leverage points that are only possible in exclusive representation. Most broadly, unlike the seller’s broker, an exclusive buyer’s broker has a fiduciary duty to look out exclusively for your best interests.

Many first time NYC real estate buyers believe that they will somehow get a better deal if they work directly with the seller’s broker. This could not be farther from the truth. Consumer advocates caution against Dual Agency, where one real estate represents both the buyer and the seller, due to an inherent conflict of interest, which, logically speaking, cannot be denied. So get your own broker, it’s free.

3. Make the Right Offer on your dream NYC loft home
The key to success in buying your dream NYC loft home is to stand out from the crowd. Do not let your offer fall in the slush pile. Stand out. The best NYC real estate brokers will make sure their clients see the best NYC lofts soon as soon as they come on the market, even before the Open House. If you so much as think you like a particular loft, make an offer right away. This is where your conditional mortgage approval or at least pre-qualification comes in. Be ready.
And not to worry, there will be a million and one ways to get out of the contract during attorney review. But an early offer can eliminate bidding wars and diminish the seller’s selection pool. So be a large fish in a small pound. That’s one of the best ways to beat the NYC real estate market.

4. Consult NYC real estate Attorney with expertise in NYC lofts and townhouses for sale
The NYC real estate market is very dynamic. Generally, you will have up to 5 business days to sign the contract. Be prepared. Have a good NYC real estate attorney on standby. The difference between a good NYC real estate attorney and a random one may be that of closing the deal or not.

5. Submit an application to the condo or co-op Board
The best NYC real estate brokers will provide you with drafts of effective reference letters, balance your financial statement, help you fill out the application, liaison between you and your mortgage banker and, if necessary, real estate attorney, produce a professionally typed and bound application and, should you be applying for a NYC co-op, coach you for the co-op Board interview. Most importantly, they should be at your back and call during this process. Anything less is unacceptable.

6. Pass the Co-op Board Interview
While the new construction luxury lofts in NYC are generally condos, many classic industrial artist’s lofts are still owned by co-ops, which means you will have to pass a personal co-op Board interview. If you are represented by a good NYC real estate broker, this step will be simply a formality. But NYC co-op Boards can, and sometimes do, reject applicants for any or no reason so it’s important to retain a good real estate broker who will guide you through this process. Pets, work at home, complicated finances and other situations may require special finessing. So work with a pro.
The best NYC Real Estate Broker will work for you 100%, 100% of the time. An exclusive buyer’s broker will provide an unbiased real estate market research and analysis, negotiate the deal and keep your options open.