LAS VEGAS–Lofts aren’t just for starving artists or savvy Wall Street businessmen living in SoHo anymore. In fact, many builders are shifting their designs in the loft-style direction because they believe the emergence of the Gen X buyer is where the new-home market is heading.

The mainstreaming of lofts was evident here this week at the International Builders Show, where this year’s “New American Home” is a single-family loft. The loft influence also showed up in Genesis’ modular home on display at the tradeshow. That home featured a “great room,” which is one large living, dining and entertaining space in place of a traditional living room.

Lofts are truly hot, according to Blaine Kirchert, a developer from Lilydale, Minn. He was one of several builders and developers who said as much. Many of them came to the show specifically to find out about the designs.

What makes a loft a loft depends somewhat on the buyer’s point of view. A traditional loft usually consists of a large space in an old warehouse with an open-floor plan and exposed brick and ducts. But newer lofts come in all shapes and sizes like the single-family home on display at the Builders Show.

Unlike the first lofts that attracted artists who had little income, newer lofts and loft-style homes come at a higher price. Newly built multi-level lofts in San Francisco start around $600,000 and the 5,180-square-foot loft-style home in Las Vegas prices around $1.8 million.

The Gen X buyer is one reason lofts are gaining popularity. But the loft-influence on single-family home designs may just be the result of changing lifestyles. An open-floor plan like the great room enables families to change the space as often as needed. Fixed walls are limiting and more difficult to change.

Condos come in loft-style designs, too, according to Long Barnes, an agent with Urban Domain in Chicago.

Barnes’ firm specializes in lofts and started a lead-generation service for agents interested in the niche market. Urban Domain is a partnership of real estate agents with RE/MAX Exclusive Properties. The sales team educates agents new to the niche on the different types of lofts so they’ll understand how to work with buyers and sellers.

The company currently operates only in Chicago, but Barnes said it hopes to expand into such other loft markets as Boston and San Francisco.


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