Q: Dennis, we’re first-time buyers looking at loft condos. After looking at several properties, we got our list down to two gems. Would you mind taking a look and seeing if you spot anything that stands out on them?

Here they are:

Condo #1, for $335,000.

Condo #2, for $275,000.

We’re going to revisit them and begin picking over them with a fine-tooth comb, but we would love an extra set of eyes. Thanks.

—Cortez and Val

A: I’m so happy to have been asked! I look at tons of homes all the time, but never get a chance to do a head-to-head match like this. Here are my thoughts:

  • I like the kitchen layout on property #2, which we’ll call Armitage, much more. It feels a little more like a family or entertainment kitchen, open as it is to the dining area and with the fireplace nearby in that L-shaped space. The L provides some good separation; lofts can sometimes feel too uncut.
  • I also prefer Armitage’s authentic timber and the loft-like ceilings. Racine has painted concrete ceilings; that’s not a bad thing, but if you can get the real old-fashioned loft ceiling, way better.
  • Armitage has indoor parking included in the price. That’s always going to feel better than outdoor gated parking. That’s true even if you don’t have a car: you’ll get no use whatsoever out of outdoor parking, but you can secure bikes better in an indoor space, and you’ll have it available for guests.
  • Racine’s River West location is fun and has a Blue Line stop a short walk in one direction and Eckert Park in the other. But I’m going to give Armitage the win on location.The dining and attractions of Logan Square and Wicker Park are both within reach. So are both the park and the neighborhood called Humboldt Park, not to mention a stretch of Humboldt Boulevard.
  • The exterior of the Racine building appeals to my eye more, both because it has some fine old terra cotta trim and because it doesn’t have the balconies. On Armitage, they look like a gigantic insect is wrapping the building in its tentacles. I know a balcony is a good thing to have, and these are done well—I just don’t like the way they mask a nice old industrial building.
  • The lower monthly assessment on Racine—$222, versus $316 on Armitage—is good, although that difference is more than made up by the fact that Armitage, at $100 more a month, has indoor parking.
  • And to top it all off, the asking price-per-square-foot is way better on Armitage: $229 versus $260 for Racine. (Others in Racine have been selling in the $230s and $240s.

I guess you can see that I prefer Armitage. I hope my advice helps, but I won’t be offended if you guys opt for Racine anyway. I know how personal these decisions are.

(This question and answer are adapted from an e-mail exchange I had with these buyers last week. They later made an offer on the Armitage property, and it was accepted.)