April 2016 – Home of the Month – The Annex

Annex / South Annex / Seaton Village

Welcome to urbaneer.com's April 2016 Home of the Month. This feature provides a snapshot of what urbaneer.com's Buyers have recently purchased in the City of Toronto.

If you saw our recent Tales From The Real Estate Trenches post called A Real Time Tale On The Struggle To Buy Toronto Real Estate In Spring, you're up to date on how one young family have dedicated every free moment over the past ten weeks to buy their first home to no avail, so imagine what it must be like to try purchase a piece of Toronto real estate when you're don't even live in the Canada. This month we share the story of a family who relocated from the United States, starting their search remotely nearly twelve months prior to their arrival date.

Our Buyers, an engaging couple with two young daughters, were returning to Toronto after 8 years in the States. Their new positions at the University of Toronto required them to be mostly downtown, with some time spent on the west campus in Mississauga, about 33 kilometres west of Toronto. Coming from a mid-century modern dwell located in a bucolic American university town, our Buyers sought an urbane family-friendly location which would be less auto-reliant than their last place. But as lovers of architecture, they also hoped they might find a city residence which offered some architectural merit. Having strategically climbed the property ladder with some intelligent past purchases, our Buyers had sufficient capital to consider Triple AAA locations running west of Yonge along the Bloor line subway including The Annex, Palmerston/Little Italy, Roncesvalles Village, and High Park / Bloor West Village.

Now it's not that Toronto doesn't have some great architecture, but given most of the housing stock in the original City Of Toronto dates from the 1850s to the 1930s, and is situated on fairly narrow urban lots, we ultimately don't have a lot of unique housing options when you're trying to be in proximity to urban life and public transit. When you consider Toronto expanded because of influxes of working class immigrants from around the world (Toronto is renown as The City Of Neighbourhoods), and the housing built to accommodate them was modest (most working class houses are built of wood while merchant class dwellings are solid brick), now that 100 years have passed a lot of it has been modified in most every which way ( and not always in a good way. Here's a post explaining this called Why Are So Many Downtown Houses Being Renovated?). If you're an architectural purist, you have to reconcile that it's rare to find a gem. And even when you do, unless it's been carefully maintained with pride of ownership the cost to restore and elevate that gem can be prohibitively expensive, not to mention very time consuming.

This was the case with the first property our Buyers considered near High Park on their first Search Visit last June, six months after first contacting me. There was no question this mid-century modern bungalow perched on a ravine with two lower levels, overlooking Grenadier Pond, had the magic. An estate sale, the dwelling needed a heckofalot of restoration and, well, sad to say the $1,698,000 list price was really 'land value'. I've intentionally avoided driving by since it sold, as I fear a new monster home may be going up where it once stood. But after garnering $2,110,000 in a bidding war, it became apparent – at that price – the economic life of this house was essentially obsolete. Our Buyers were captivated by the property (who wouldn't be?) but even they were sufficiently well-informed – and realistic – to know this was going to sell over budget.



At the other architectural extreme – and during another search visit – our Buyers became fascinated with a renovated factory loft located near Dundas and Bathurst in Kensignton Market. Dating from 1899, it was around 3000 square feet, of which about 40% was partially below grade. The place had been a show-stopper back in 2001 when it was first renovated and expanded, but over the years the building components had aged, and there was a hint of dampness in the exposed brick walls that concerned us. When we left the property after our first viewing, our Buyers asked if the area had vermin. While I cautiously admitted that it was a real possibility, a big rat scurried across the drive. I recall my face turning a thousand shades of red. Ask and ye shall receive! Listed at $1,500,000, the property was ready for a $300,000 tune up, including reconfiguring the layout and entrance. While we reached out to the original architects who designed the renovation (the ever-so-fantastic Levitt Goodman Architects) and made inquiries with the City on changing the front facade and installing a gate, we submitted a conditional Offer that allowed some time to reconcile the design. However, during negotiations, someone else swooped in with a cash bid for $1,431,000. Gone!



By this time our Buyers – who had seen around a dozen properties in person during three visits – were sufficiently informed on the dynamics of the market. Fortunately, having lived in Toronto some years earlier they knew the neighbourhoods quite well, which made it easier to identify potential contenders. As we worked together – refining size, condition, and location (including making the decision to buy as central as possible) – our Buyer shared that her favourite neighbourhood – and the one she dreamed of – was The Annex.

Fortunately – and serendipitously – just as our Buyers returned to Toronto to continue their search, a detached merchant class dwelling in The Annex that had initially been on the market at $1,888,000, and then reduced to $1,759,000, remained available after 30 days on the market. With 3000 square feet, the 5bed 4bath detached residence with ground floor family room – which had been added during a  substantial renovation in the early 1990s- also had a 2bed lower level income suite generating $1600/month. Viewing it just as negotiations with another Buyer stagnated, our Buyers secured the property for a squeak below list price, reconciling that while the purchase price was originally higher than budgeted, the attractive income supplement helped offset the mortgage making it in line with other less expensive homes with no rental component.

Here's some snaps of the property from the original MLS Listing. Unfortunately the expansive third floor with vaulted ceilings, skylights and ensuite were not featured on MLS, but is quite spectacular:


*Images courtesy of Toronto MLS


While this dwelling did have some aging building components, for the most part it's in good condition. Our Buyers will, over time, modify the property to suit but for now repainting, refinishing the wood floors, and replacing some of the appliances has them comfortable as they begin this new chapter in our lives!

A special thanks and congratulations to our Buyers!

Serving first, second and multi-time buyers, young families, down-scaling Zoomers, renovators and those building their investment property portfolios, our mandate is to help our clients strategically secure the best real estate on offer, while ensuring their purchase best serves their practical needs and their dream of 'Home'. We identify a property's best qualities, features and insouciant charm in the context of the future target market while meeting your own wishes, wants and desires. And although searching for the right property can be an intense and sometimes lengthy process it is, without fail, rewarding both to our clients and the urbaneer team.

If you, or someone you love, has specific real estate needs, wishes and desires, and would enjoy the personalized service of Top Producing boutique Toronto real estate outfit who subscribe to a pressure-free approach – and a specialty in unique urban homes – please know we're here to help at urbaneer.com.


~ Steven and the urbaneer team
earn your trust, then your business

Like what you've read? if you're house-hunting – or just curious to see where values are landing in the City of Toronto, here's Toronto’s Best Houses and Condos of 2015 by Urbaneer which showcases 12 properties our clients purchased this past year! Want to learn more? Consider signing up in the box below to receive our FREE monthly newsletter on housing, culture and design in the City of Toronto. We simply love Toronto real estate!

** Did you also know Steve leads a Student Mentorship and Internship Program for Canadians being educated in the field of housing? Consider visiting our sister site called Houseporn.ca

Buy Of The Month

Previous Post
Floral Artistry at Willem and Jools in Roncesvalles Village
Next Post
Five New Condo Projects Redefining The Corktown Neighbourhood