Lofts: How Many Real Bedrooms?

Lofts: How Many Real Bedrooms? Tribeca Loft Photo: Tony Sargent

How many true bedrooms does a Loft really have?  Am I the only one who’s been noticing that in the last few years the definition of a “bedroom” has been stretched to include internal rooms with no windows, when it comes to real estate marketing materials for loft spaces?  Whether I’ve been searching for 2 Bedrooms or 3, I keep finding the descriptions for both including rooms without any windows or with ‘lot-line’ windows, which perhaps are open currently but could be bricked in later, should a neighboring building expand.

As brokers and NYC residents we all understand that how someone utilizes a home space, especially loft buildings which were originally designed for manufacturing not living is different than perhaps how the Department Of Buildings and zoning law codes things.  When you look at new construction, have you noticed how internal rooms, even if they are 15’x15′ and obviously tied to a bathroom are called “Home Office” or “Study” or “Den”?  That’s because (and I’m paraphrasing here – if you need to check true zoning code have your attorney do it, because I am not the expert) building codes have come to define bedrooms to a) be a certain size b) have two means of egress (door & window) and c) ventilation (window).

Many loft buildings were built approximately on 20’x100′ lots.  Over the years if the building to the East or West of them were lower, at some point windows were opened onto the side walls, which gave these residential lofts more light and views.  Of course what followed were walls which created sleeping spaces that were not relegated to the front or back of the loft providing for much needed usable space for residents.

The issue is this: from a Department of Buildings standpoint, those side windows don’t really count because they are “lot-line” – meaning they exist on the party wall between your favorite loft building and the neighboring building.  Should your neighbors decide to build up and be given permission to do so, you will be required to brick in the side windows that are affected, thus returning that space to darkness and only one means of egress, if it is a sleeping area.

We have all seen multiple ways in which NYC residents are making use of closets as nurseries or home offices, internal walled off areas as bedrooms, and plenty of lot-line windows create the ‘3rd Bedroom’ in traditional non-square lofts.

My question is this:  How many buyers starting their search really understand all this stuff?  To buy a Loft space it is important to be aware of lot-line windows and what the impact may be if a neighboring building goes up after you buy(the wire in the glass in old lofts is usually the giveaway although if the space is adequately sprinklered new non-wired glass may pass Fire Code muster)?

It used to be that brokers were a little more upfront about the bedroom count, by perhaps not ‘under-selling’ the potential usable sleeping areas, but making a note on the floor plan at least that included “Den or Home Office/Study” in the picture so that buyers were aware that they are not truly Bedrooms as defined in building code.  Lately however re-sale floor plans tend to skip that moniker and show ‘Master Bedroom’ or “Bedroom” much of the time.

Having had a buyer go through this process recently, negotiate and then find out the “3-Bedroom” property was actually filed as a “1-Bedroom” made them nervous enough to want to re-negotiate the price.  Unfortunately the seller was not so inclined and other buyers were not so judicious in their application or concern about the differentials between “common-use” and Department of Buildings definition, so the need to be accurate in marketing is once again given a bit of a side line.

If you have any questions about Loft Apartments or lot line windows, let me know and I’ll give you an introduction to them as well as refer you to an attorney who can give you specific and qualified answers. – Tony Sargent

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