Insider’s Guide To Buying Historic Lofts in Downtown LA

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My recent sale of a historic loft in Downtown Los Angeles bubbled up one overwhelming commonality: People of all ages want to now live in the heart of the City.

With nearly 200 visitors to the series of open houses, it was easy to see how the concept of urban living appealed to so many. People from all corners of LA County from the Pacific Palisades to Long Beach came to see what DTLA address would be like. The plethora of amazing restaurants, the walkability, the culture drew young professionals, expecting parents, empty nesters, famous artists and investors alike.

I lived in the heart of DTLA for eight years and absolutely fell in love with the community and the excitement of the city. I get it, but the Downtown we know today has a lot of challenges when it comes to owning a piece of it.

Let this guide be your primer for all things real estate related to DTLA.

Your Real Estate Options

There are two flavors of real estate to own in Downtown LA; new construction and historic conversions (the technical term is called adaptive reuse). The new construction buildings like Metropolis, EVO, Eleven and Luma stem primarily in South Park (the area south of Olympic and west of Broadway roughly). Perla on 4th and Spring is currently the one new construction condo project in the Historic Core (where most of the historic lofts lie).

New construction condos are nice, lots of amenities like pools and parking but it comes with a price and a loss of the charm that the historic lofts have. Pricing for new construction condos are in the $1,000 Price per square foot (PPSF) range. For this article, I will focus on the preference so many shared with me, the historic options.

A Major Cost Savings on Historic

Historic lofts have all the charm of marble and stone lobbies, Beaux Arts and Art Deco exteriors, 15 foot ceilings, exposed ducts and exposed brick. While some have amenities like pools. gyms and spas, the reality is, residents rarely use these. I know, in eight years at a historic building, I was in the pool three times.

Not only do the Historic Lofts have a lower PPSF, many in the under $800 range, some of the developers have harnessed the benefits of a state wide preservation incentive called the Mills Act. The Mills Act offers significant property tax reductions for developers and owners. The goal is to preserve our historic architecture rather than tear down and build new.

The savings is significant. For example. A $725,000 loft would generally have a $8,0000+ property tax bill annually. The 50-70% reduction in property taxes via The Mills Act, that drops to well below $4,000 annually. That savings would offset the monthly HOA you would have by a large amount.

If you love the historic aesthetic, look for a Mills Act building, for the best savings. Here is the list of all of the Pre-1950 Buildings in Downtown LA and which have The Mills Act active:

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Parking isn’t a given at all of the historic buildings. Remember, most of these were built before the mass adoption of cars. The Ford Model T, the first mass production vehicle, didn’t reach 500,000 annual units until 1916. Many buildings do not have underground parking, those that do will often charge extra for it. Parking runs $175-$250 monthly.

Less parking is the trend. Perla, the new construction project on 4th and Spring offers only one spot per unit, regardless of the size of the unit. The fact is, many Downtown residents have given up their cars because everything they need is walkable and there is always Uber.

Available Inventory

There is turnover in Downtown LA, not a ton, but there is. If you are serious, my advice is to be Pre-Approved (not Pre-Qualified) and keep a close eye on what is coming up. The unit you want will sell in 30 days. To help you get a jump start, I have used a Compass tool called Collections to highlight all of the active listings of Historic Lofts. This will update weekly. If you want alerts of a custom setting on price or square footage, just shoot me an email.

DTLA Historic Browser Link


Buying any property can be challenging, buying in Downtown has some unique challenges. Will the view be sacrificed eventually, what is nearby, how is the building maintained, who did the conversion? All of these things can not be learned by viewing Zillow or browsing online.

There are few things I enjoy talking about more than historic architecture. If you have questions, I have answers. Just reach out.


Michael Robleto

REALTOR®-Compass Real Estate


Michael Robleto is a Pasadena and Downtown LA focused REALTOR®. Home buying and home selling is extremely challenging in Pasadena and LA. Michael uses and analytical and data driven approach help solve for the many problems that arise in real estate sales. His client accolades of insight, integrity and hard work support the fact that he is not your average agent. 

Michael leverages his personal passion for historic architecture to provide his clients the unknown insight on the pros and cons of older homes.  Michael, a California native, grew up in an older Bungalow home and has spent 23 years in Southern California admiring the unique architecture of the region.  He often writes on homeownership strategy, historic residential architecture and related topics which can be found on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram under the common profile name of his blog; BungalowAgent or at 

Michael is a committee member and frequent volunteer for the preservation efforts of Pasadena Heritage as well as a supporter of the Five Acres center for children.