August 2011 Home Of The Month – Gerrard & Jones


When my stylin’ single male buyer in the banking industry contacted me to make his first purchase, he indicated he was pretty open to most any type of dwelling and location in the city centre. His main housing criteria included proximity to public transportation, good resale potential, and a place to park his vintage car. Oh, and price point that wouldn’t bury him in debt.

I’ve long held the opinion that unless your price point is under 440k, you have zero inclination to do property maintenance, and you’re more lifestyle driven than concerned with return on investment, you should bypass the condominium market and get your foot in the front door of the downtown freehold housing market.

The reason?

Freehold housing is of limited supply and scarcity downtown relative to condominium property, and is more likely to increase in value higher and faster because of it. Simply put, they’re not building many more houses in the city while the numbers of condominiums being developed is exponentially greater. If you can leverage yourself into the freehold housing market, you’re protecting yourself from the real possibility of being financially shut out in the future as prices rise.

For those of you who follow the dynamics of the urban real estate market, you know that the east side offers more value than the west. This is a historical truth for most cities that have developed as centres of industry and production. With the City of Toronto being a port destination for goods and materials, all those smoke stacks located beside Lake Ontario blew their noxious fumes east for over one hundred years. As a result, the east side of city centres were devalued for the gritty soot, toxic fumes and offensive reek of pollution. In South Riverdale, a number of people and properties suffered for serious lead emissions spewing from the smelter of The Canada Metal Company through the late 1960s onward. In the 1980s and 1990s, a significant number of properties located south of Queen Street east of Broadview had all their soil removed and replaced. The smelter was reduced in size though the firm still maintains operations in the area.

While pollution is still an urban reality, a contemporary city like Toronto has a lot less industry downtown with its economy centred predominantly on the trade of information, services and cultural amenities. This means less smoke blows east, allowing formerly disadvantaged neighbourhoods like Riverside and Leslieville to revitalize and sky-rocket in value. In fact, it may not be long until they’re on par with west side markets. For the financially astute, if not by necessity, it is now a case of micro-searching the marketplace for properties located in the still somewhat undiscovered gaps between hot neighbourhoods. These make for potentially lucrative entry-level housing opportunities.

Case in point is the neighbourhood of Gerrard and Jones. This pocket of former working class housing is situated next to Riverdale on the west and Leslieville to the south. As these two neighbourhoods continue their price escalation at warp speed, pockets like Gerrard and Jones provide a solid future upside. You only have to see the recent arrival of Starbucks on the north-east corner, as well as two organic food venues….Great Burger Kitchen ( at 1056 Gerrard East and coffee guru James Feistner’s second Grinder Coffee Bar located at 1021 Gerrard East to know hip ‘n cool is arriving full steam. And with once-tatty Gerrard Square (aka “Squaresville”) now redesigned and home to new major retailers like Staples Business Depot and Winners, plus a close-at-hand liquor store, this location is totally bankable.

This modest two+ bedroom semi-detached dwelling (top photo) had all the right qualities for purchase by my buyer. Located on a dead end street across from a school field, the quiet location is actually steps from Gerrard East and Jones Streets and all the up-and-coming amenities, along with easy access to downtown via the streetcar west or the bus north to nearby Donlands subway station. Although the property has been upgraded a tad on the ‘do-it-yourself’ side of the home renovation equation, most major building components are in good nick, it has an open concept layout which means future renovations won’t entail ‘a total gut’ of plaster, lathe and oodles of dust, and it has laneway access to a dilapidated garage which can be repaired from the ‘inside out’ without building approvals.

Sold by a ‘whitepainter’, the label accorded the first tier of ‘gentry’ who are financially limited on the extent of upgrades they can do (giving them the propensity to paint everything white – see the original hardwood floors above), this house is a great candidate for the next-step elevation. Replacing the kitchen cabinetry and appliances, plus the painted floors in the entertainment area, are easy ways to increase the value of this property which already has an amazing garden, a charming spacious front foyer and an appropriate amount of recessed lighting.

The photo above is the open concept bedroom at the top of the landing connecting to an oversized ‘dressing room’ overlooking the garden at the back of the house. A second bedroom and renovated washroom are located at the front of the house. I think the placement of the bed at the top of the open concept landing may have dissuaded buyers from offering on the $469,900 list price, for it didn’t read like a spacious two bedroom and den house. I think this ultimately serves as an opportunity for my buyer, whom I hope follows my recommendation to add a pair of frosted french doors on the back ‘dressing room’ so it becomes a private second bedroom, locate the master bedroom to the room at the front of the house, and turn the open concept room at the top of the landing (shown here) into a swish media room slash home office. Doing these little changes will improve the space plan, the flow, and place it squarely on target as a great condo alternative or future young family property.

At $466,000, this property was a clear winner!

If you, or someone you love, is seeking a Home like this please know I welcome guiding buyers with their real estate needs. With a Canadian Social History Degree that includes a forte in Toronto’s 42 village neighbourhoods – from The Beach to Kingsway, Downtown to Uptown -, an Urban Studies degree that addresses the revitalization of inner city neighbourhoods, plus a graduate degree in Environmental Studies which explores the Psychology of Housing and Home, please know my passion is my work.

It would be my pleasure to assist buyers keen to find their perfect home.

~ Steven

Buy Of The Month

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