Buying a loft apartment
Why not stick to the traditional property market? Why not set your sights on purchasing a comfortable, attractive purpose-built house, which would require little or no work? Why bother purchasing a space which was never designed for living in? These are all valid questions but there are several good reasons why buying a loft apartment might suit you.
One of the main reasons is the desire for originality. Many potential buyers have become disillusioned with paying increasingly high prices for a proportionately small and unoriginal living space. A purchaser contemplating buying a loft apartment faces no such problems. Although the individual designs of loft apartments will vary, generally speaking they are likely to be unlike anything you have seen before.
Usually open-plan in nature (which will appeal to the growing trend towards open-plan living), the apartments often strike an original balance between an open, airy and spacious atmosphere and more private areas of peace and quiet. Such a balance is almost impossible to create in a conventional house.
Originality can also be the driving force behind purchasing an unconverted office or factory space with the aim of creating a highly individual home. This can, of course, be a more daunting process than purchasing something which has already been converted. After all, it is difficult enough deciding whether to be brave and purchase an old house which requires drastic renovations and structural alterations, let alone a space which was never designed for living in!
Office and factory spaces can initially appear soulless, with little character - almost like a giant shoebox. However, this simply means that you have endless scope to make a real statement when planning your unique home. If you have imagination and want somewhere that you can truly call your own, then there really is no better alternative.
This would also be a great opportunity for anyone looking for a challenge in life! It may seem daunting but when it comes to converting buildings for residential use, former office or factory spaces are among the easier options to renovate. Somewhat surprisingly, old houses can be more difficult to renovate, due to the potential for hidden problems with pipes and electrical wiring, which are not always immediately obvious to the naked eye. Most former industrial spaces avoid such problems since the pipes and wiring are often on the actual surfaces of the wall. This makes them easy to remove and equally easy to replace.
Whether you decide to purchase a conversion or a space from which to build your own home, the location is often a bonus. In many cities, such spaces are located away from any main roads and more often than not are near green areas or even canals. Some converted spaces actually back onto several different gardens at once, giving them a great view! The apartments can therefore seem like peaceful escapes from the reality of everyday city life. In addition, converted office or factory spaces often have large, sometimes even wall-to-wall windows, flooding your home with natural light.
Who should buy a loft apartment?
There are no rules as to who should or should not consider purchasing a loft apartment. Agents such as Urban Spaces pride themselves on encouraging buyers to go for something that truly reflect their personality and style.
However, many families with children choose to purchase a loft apartment, due to the large amount of space and potential available. The only downside is the general lack of gardens available with such a property.
Where to find a loft apartment
Loft apartments can be found in much of the country. However, there are some places which have a concentration of old warehouses just waiting to be converted into living spaces. Many of the following locations have suffered from a decline in local industry, leading to the abandonment of warehouses:
- West Yorkshire/South Lancashire - especially Bradford, Halifax and Burnley
- Northamptonshire - especially Corby and Northampton
- Derwent Valley - especially Matlock and Belper
- East End of London - especially between Spitalfields and Stratford
How to find a loft apartment
Whether you plan to buy a converted loft apartment or want to find an industrial building to convert, you should first research areas suitable to you. Then, consult estate agents in those areas. In order to get a general idea of what you are after, the internet can be a great resource for inspiration. The following websites may help:
Make sure you arrange plenty of viewings of potential apartments, as character and atmosphere can differ from place to place.
Financing a loft apartment conversion
If you are buying an apartment which has already been converted there should be no problem in obtaining a mortgage on it. The problems arise when you are buying a property to convert. Unfortunately, very few mainstream lenders are willing to deal with properties which are classed as non-standard, such as empty warehouses. This is primarily because of the risk that the buyer may at some point default on the mortgage, leaving an unfinished property which cannot easily be made ready for sale. In fact, there are only three lenders who actually specialise in lending for the renovation of non-standard properties.
The Norwich and Peterborough Building Society: This building society offers a "brown" mortgage, which is specifically designed for those who wish to convert a property into a residential living space. Simply put, this "brown" mortgage allows you to borrow up to 95% of the property's projected value once all the work has been done.
Generally speaking, the money for the continued renovations is released in a series of payments which coincide with the completion of each stage of work. A valuation will need to be done at various stages in order for the funds to be released (bear in mind that this will cost about £50 each time but it can be added to the mortgage if you wish).
The Norwich and Peterborough Building Society may be a good option for those who are buying a non-standard space for renovation for the first time as they provide detailed guidance and advice on each stage of the process. They give guidelines on how to get the work done, including a standard three-stage model of conversion work which you will probably have to adhere to.
The Ecology Building Society: This building society is based in Yorkshire and is unique in the fact that it provides mortgages purely on properties which give an ecological payback. This includes dilapidated properties which need renovation as well as non-standard properties, such as warehouses and factory spaces, which have the potential to be converted into unique living spaces.
The building society will be able to lend you up to 90% of the purchase price of the property plus up to 90% of the renovation costs. The actual lending process is similar to that of the Norwich and Peterborough Building Society, in that it lends funds upfront based on the value of an unimproved property and then releases further money following the completion of different phases of the renovation work.
Where the Ecology Building Society differs from the Norwich and Peterborough Building Society, however, is its perspective on these phases. It does not follow the rigid, fixed three-stage model, instead choosing to ensure simply that the property has increased in value before they release further funding.
Buildstore: If you feel that the Ecology and the Norwich and Peterborough Building Societies do not quite meet your needs, this company could help. They offer a wide range of services for home renovators, and their Accelerator mortgage could be the one for you.
Rather than releasing funds in arrears as each phase of work is finished, the money required for each stage of work is released prior to the start date of the work. This means that you will have cash in hand to pay for materials and labour upfront. This type of mortgage may be ideal for you if you have minimal capital. The Accelerator mortgage will also lend up to 95% of the initial property price value, as well as 95% of the renovation costs.
As ever, it's worth checking out all three options to see which will suit you best.
There are certainly many advantages to purchasing a loft apartment. However, there are problems which go hand in hand with such a purchase, particularly if the conversion is attempted from scratch. Such large and empty spaces can often come with inherent problems like pervasive damp, rotting materials and structural inadequacies. Obviously such problems should show up on a survey of the property. You should also be careful not to go over your budget, with projects of this nature, money can run away from you if you do not plan carefully.