Is loft living for you? My husband and I moved into a loft in downtown Birmingham a few years ago. It was a dream of ours for years and we were given a great opportunity to make it happen. It was everything we dreamed it would be – close to all the action, able to see friends walking down the street from our 3rd floor windows, having parties in the spacious front room, bike share, ball park, and green spaces all nearby. It was wonderful. Now before I get into the meat of the post, ask yourself a few questions:
Why do I want to live in a loft? Is it the thrill or convenience of being downtown, in the heart of a growing city? Is it because I’ve dreamed of it ever since I saw Tom Hanks’ loft in Big? Is it for other reasons? Really ask yourself that question and write it out. Then say it to someone not in your household. Is it a good, legitimate, reason? Now for the real questions to ask yourself when looking at potential lofts or living spaces downtown:
- What is the parking situation? Does it have reserved parking? A garage? Is the parking lot secure? How many spots do you get with your place? Is that negotiable or can you get additional spaces if needed? Is it street parking? (Warning: street parking downtown is the worst, if you didn’t already know. If you do have to street park, please hope you leave before the Meter Maids come start coming ‘round). But really try for reserved or garage parking.
- Is there an elevator? I know that may seem like a crazy question, but not all buildings downtown have one and if you’re on the 3rd floor of a building, those steps can get old after a year or two. Most buildings do have an elevator, but you want to double check for moving purposes. Many historic buildings downtown have restrictions on the elevators regarding moving in and out. Check that before you decide!
- Are there condo or building association fees on top of your monthly rent or mortgage? Many places charge monthly building fees in addition your regular mortgage or rent, so be sure to ask about any additional monthly fees for living in a multi-tenant building.
- Will there be people living above you? You will likely have people living around you, either above, below, or next to, in most multi-tenant situations. Being the old, ornery person I am, I no longer want someone living above me and driving me batty with heels on hardwoods, heavy walking, or critters. That’s just me; I’ve lived in enough apartments in my life to figure out what is and isn’t a deal breaker for me. Listening to people clomp around above me is one of them. Just like in some apartments, you will likely hear your neighbors – either their televisions, dogs barking, or a myriad of other sounds. Remember, you paid for that!
- How do guests, service, or delivery people get to you and your new space? Will it require giving someone a code or can you buzz them in remotely? If you’re having a party, how will your hundreds of guests get into your building? If you live in a secure building, you likely don’t want to prop the downstairs front door open for a few hours to let your friends in (and your neighbors may not like that) so ask about that.
- Can you afford to fix the building? If you decide to buy a space in a multi-tenant building and there is an issue with the building itself, all the owners may have to chip in to repair the common problem. This is the situation at our current building. The entire front facade of the building needed to be replaced, so all the owners had to help pay for the repair work. It’s been nearly nine months and many dollars for the owners, but it’s nearly done.
- What is the pet policy? Make sure you check that if you have critters and see if there is a place for them to potty nearby. You will have to take dogs out on the leash every time and you will have to pick up after them. Also, keep that in mind if you are allergic to certain kinds of animals. If pets are allowed and living in the building, their dander and fur will likely be in the common areas from where their owners take them out for walks.
- What happens if you get locked out? Is there an access code to get into your building? What if you forget the code or they change it and you haven’t received the new code yet? Is there another way in? Is there a physical lock somewhere you can use?
- Is there rooftop access? This was a big one for us because we love to grill out. In our current building there is no rooftop access. Not a huge deal, but the longer we’ve been there, the more we realized how much we missed it. Some buildings downtown do have rooftop access or grills nearby, so check on that. Also, rooftops are perfect for watching the fireworks, sunsets, and airplanes downtown.
- Can I afford it? With the downtown boom in Birmingham, many lofts are increasing in rent or purchase price. That means that in many cases you may end up paying more than your current living situation. Some buildings include cable, internet, or water, and some don’t include anything. Ask about all those extras before you decide because they can make or break your budget.
Do you still want to move into a loft? None of these are necessarily reasons not to move into a loft downtown, but they are definitely things to think about. Some may be deal breakers for you, some may not. I will say that we have loved loft living, but we do miss birds, trees, grass, and grilling out so we decided that we’re leaving the loft style. Maybe we’ll give it another try one day, but for now this is what works for us. 🙂