With lofts that are architecturally stunning with a layout that's completely open to interpretation, there are so many great reasons why the loft market in Toronto is not only strong but also burgeoning.
Lofts attract fun and interesting people of all kinds looking for fun space whose layout they can control. Be they creative types, successful young urban professionals, or retirees looking to downsize and move into the downtown core from the suburbs, all loft owners are looking for something different from the norm.
By opening yourself to the loft market, you expose yourself to Toronto's rich industrial history and a unique living environment that is not duplicated anywhere. You'll see why people love their lofts.
Lofts usually feature lot of space and light.
Dee's Loft by AJ Photography
"Did You Want a Hard or Soft Loft?" "...What?"
So you think that all lofts are completely open, not private, high lights, high beams, big windows smack-dab in the middle of industrial areas. Who wants to live in a box? The keys to living in and loving your loft is the residual infrastructure and classic architecture and the design of the individual space.
Because Toronto expanded significantly over the previous century, back in the day, everything that happened in Toronto occurred in the downtown core. Families lived, went to church, worked, and played all in downtown Toronto. This means that everything had to be either walking distance or available by mass transit. Because of this, residential areas were placed close to now former industrial areas (look at the King and Niagara area, where the Toronto abattoirs employed those residents in the Garrison Creek neighbourhood).
As Toronto has expanded over the past 100 years, the industrial and commercial zones were pushed out of the downtown core. This left almost all of the large and unique commercial buildings empty and available. Because it is no longer feasible to perform large-scale industrial work in downtown Toronto, this leaves a lot of interesting-looking buildings available for conversion into housing.
Take a look at the Carlaw area of Toronto. Here, there's a handful of larger post-industrial buildings that were begging to be turned into lofts. Around them, thanks to the hybrid of residential and commercial zoning, newer modern-designed lofts popped up in the surrounding area. Carlaw gives you the best example of "hard" and "soft" lofts. Here's the difference between the two.
Originally factory space transformed to home and workspace.
Jonas' Nina's loft by Jonas Merian
Hard lofts are what people typically think of when they hear "loft." Built inside old commercial buildings, they have been converted from an industrial facility into an unconventional living space. Because of the age and location of the buildings, there are not many hard lofts left. This loft sector has an open layout and is much less segregated (internally planned with drywall and fittings) than a new condominium. Hard lofts are also blessed with high ceilings in the 12 foot to 18 foot range that would not be available in newly constructed habitats. The traditional look of these units includes large windows, exposed original brick and ductwork, and polished concrete floors.
The good news: hard lofts are the cheaper option when buying a loft. The market on hard lofts gives a lower price point on the hard loft option.
The bad news: they have less space than the soft loft option. In order to maximize the number of units in a fixed space, these lofts are typically smaller. You'll be able to find hard lofts in the $3,000,000–$500,000 range for 500–800 square feet.
A space like this can become a hard loft.
The Loft by SnaPsi
Soft lofts take the look of the hard loft and adopt the look and feel into the new construction. Newly developed condominiums will build soft lofts with the hard loft philosophy in mind. All of these details are incorporated into the new building. In these units, you'll see slightly higher ceilings, exposed ductwork, and a "loft-style" approach.
With a new inventory of soft lofts making it into the loft market, this gives soft lofts a higher abundance than from the hard or conversion loft market. However, the soft loft market requires the design points learned from the hard loft market to build toward the finished product. Because the building can be pre-designed to accommodate space, soft lofts give you more space. But because of the modern fixtures and design, you're going to pay more for soft lofts. Expect soft lofts to be in the 900+ square foot range with price tags over $800,000 relative to the space.
No matter which loft you pick, you're going to get a strong sense of character. Every building has its own story and feel. Charles, 68, loves his loft because of the feeling he gets inside and out.
I moved here from Mississauga to be closer to my grandchildren and love this place. My father used to work in a factory like this, so this gives me a small look back at his world. The barbecue garden lets me cook outside in the summer, and I don't need to shovel a flake of snow. Our concierge is available 24/7 and helps me a lot. I just love it here.
"Am I a 'Loft Person?' And Who Are 'Loft People,' Anyway?"
Look at the people buying lofts and you'll notice that the idea of a "typical loft person" doesn't exist. People are buying lofts for myriad reasons.
Young professionals who work in the downtown core want to live close to the downtown and enjoy short commutes to the office, downtown recreation in the evening, and an easy return home at night. They're also looking for something different: more open space, higher ceilings. They are looking for more character from the building they live in as well as close proximity to the amenities to make their lives easy.
Kyle, 27, has everything he needs right nearby.
At my loft, there's a supermarket in the ground floor. It's one elevator ride away. Beside that there is a barber, and a vet that I take my cat to, and a basketball court where we play pick-up every Sunday. There's no reason for a car when I can get everything I need at home. If it wasn't for school, I would never leave.
Barker Block Loft window by Ricardo Diaz
Middle-aged people more settled in their lives, but still creative and artistic, find a lot of joy in their lofts. Artists and photographers looking to display their work also look to lofts for rent or purchase. Loft purchasers also include students looking for a close proximity to Ryerson of U of T who want interesting living spaces with a minimal commute. Don't be surprised to see young families looking to lofts for the same reason, considering distance to public schools a key aspect of their home.
One of the largest growing segments of loft owners are retired clients looking to downsize. Former owners of large homes in the suburbs are looking for the convenience of the "condo lifestyle." No more snow shovelling or lawn mowing! Downsizing to a smaller place can be hard to swallow after spending your life in a larger home. But the loft market offers a happy medium. Lofts provide the convenience of the condo lifestyle but a larger space to make downsizing an easier pill to swallow.
The Chin Loft living room by coco+kelley
Where Are the Hot Lofts?
One of the key things to remember about lofts in Toronto is their closeness to the downtown. Just ask Maria, 31.
Everything is walkable for me. I can get to work in 20 minutes if I'm walking. I cycle in the summer and if I need to get out of town for the holidays or to a friend's cottage, the DVP is right there. So convenient.
Here are some of the hotter areas of Toronto to consider when looking for your loft:
- Carlaw: This area provides a definitive hub for several neighbourhoods, with Corktown, Riverside, and Leaside all available within minutes. This area is a mix of hard and newer soft lofts, providing decent access to the downtown as well as access to the Lake Shore and DVP. This area is great for families. Look at Wrigley lofts for a great example.
- Wellington/Spadina: Here several historic buildings provide larger, more executive-styled floor plans. Typically, only two units per floor are found in this area, giving it a slightly higher profile. The best examples here are the The Worx Lofts and the address-specific 468 Wellington Lofts.
- High Park: This is another area with hard loft conversion buildings surrounded by new soft lofts. The proximity to High Park and local schools makes this area perfect for young families. The lofts at 437 Roncesvalles are charming and definitely worth a look. Also check out the 332 High Park lofts for close proximity to the park.
- Downtown Core: Lofts such as the Merchandise Lofts, Broadview Lofts, Distillery District lofts, and Candy Factory lofts provide great access to amenities, history, and character. Many of the lofts retain the original brick and beam of the old buildings, marrying a new urban décor to a traditional look.
The Chin Loft by coco+kelley
If you're not in a rush to move, you can also find a lot of soft lofts under construction. Look into the following:
- The Ninety: Building upward from Queen and Broadview, The Ninety offers immediate access to the DVP and Lake Shore. Units range in size from 483 to 775 square feet for one bedroom to 1,250 square foot penthouses.
- Union Lofts: Nestled at Perth and Wallace avenues, these modern lofts start in the $300,000 range and provide direct access to The Junction as well as close proximity to the Bloor-Danforth subway line.
- IT Lofts: Viva Italia! In the heart of Little Italy, the IT Lofts provide comfort at an affordable price, ranging from $344,000 to $1.1 million.
- Flatiron Lofts: The look and feel of the Flatiron Building, but with a modern look and a great location. Dundas and Carlaw is the site of these innovative and spacious soft lofts.
- 277 Davenport: Luxury living in the heart of Toronto. This 10 unit building with a contemporary twist lies just steps from Yorkville and Annex. The suites are top notch with prices exceeding $2.3 million
- The Carlaw: Also in the Dundas and Carlaw area, the Carlaw is an exciting loft property designed by Streetcar. Perfect for first-time property owners.
- The Carnaby: This is another Streetcar property. Enjoy the new Parkdale with fantastic music venues and trendy restaurants just steps away. Twenty-four hour access to the streetcar gives you access to the city quickly.
Some of the 277 Davenport Road lofts are still available for sale.
Is the Loft Market Hard or Soft?
Since the resale condo market went up, will we see the same warmth extend to the loft market? Relativity speaking, yes.
Because Toronto is a popular living destination for Canadians old and new, as well as the hard boundaries provided by the Greenbelt, there is only so much real estate to handle the influx. With over 100,000 new immigrants coming to Toronto every year and the rental market in the downtown core hovering around 1 per cent availability, there is large demand for new residences. The condo and loft market has responded.
Few rental properties have been constructed, meaning that there is a strong reliance on older, established apartment buildings. With little return on investment, there is little incentive to repair existing rental property and renovate. This makes the condo rental market the place to look for decent properties. This market, too, is saturated.
This spills into the purchase side. Because investors now have an interest in buying investment units, they are able to rent them easily for a good rental price. Most to all current construction projects are pre-sold for this reason. The demand is there and units are selling.
The loft market is tied directly to this trend, but it's small and thus drives up demand. In an average sample of 1,500–1,700 units, fewer than 140 would be considered "lofts." Of those units, only 25 would be in the hard loft category. Because of these numbers, no matter what happens in the condo market, the loft market is fairly insulated from a supply-and-demand perspective.
This past year saw a record number of new construction units completed with around 10 per cent considered new or soft lofts. As the supply increases, the demand for lofts also increases relative to the condo market pace.