Spring Blooms Fresh Beginnings on Symington Avenue

offered at $799,000

I’m not sure how long you’ve been looking to buy downtown Toronto real estate, but I’m sure you’ve realized it’s pretty rare to view a property like this – which offers the trifecta of affordability, opportunity, and possibility – and doesn’t require 6 sledgehammers, a dumpster bin and a construction crew to arrive the day after closing.


So have you been having discussions with your family about how many downtown houses in this price point need renovations?

This property aside, for those who are reconciling that they may have to renovate their purchase before moving in, there may be some unexpected benefits. Like getting the chance to sleep with your wife in her childhood bedroom. I think it would be fun to relive the 1990s in her teal-blue time capsule that’s hoarding a lava lamp, a ghetto blaster, an extensive collection of beanie babies (note, convince wife to sell on eBay to fund renovation) and a disturbing number of Lance Bass TigerBeat pinups collaged to the walls (at least Leonard DiCaprio & Jared Leto were cool) which – uhoh – happens to be located directly next door to your snoring in-law’s bedroom because they suggested you to live cope temporarily for the next eight to ten months while you renovate upgrade upcycle on a shoe-string budget.

Really. Good luck with that.

Is it possible you can get divorced before you’ve even moved into the matrimonial home? (Just google Nicolas Cage).

Welcome to 417 Symington Avenue.

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Forgive the wry sense of humour, but when you’re a realtor who has been navigating the Toronto real estate market for 28 years, and it’s been successively firing on every cylinder 24/7/365 – for 25 years – you’ve literally seen it all (incidentally said couple stayed in his parent’s knotty-pine-paneled basement laying supine – each with a broken spring coil digging in their back – on a tatty 70s colonial-style Hide-A-Bed for 4 months facing the floor-to-ceiling feature wall of VHS movies which, she noticed, were organized by title rather than genre. It. Just. Didn’t. Make. Sense.

It’s a pretty rare opportunity to find a downtown house at the lower end of the price spectrum where you can move in immediately. Because most of the housing stock in the central core dates from the 1850s thru the 1930s, a lot of its components are reaching an age where it’s no longer withstanding the four seasons assaults of our extreme Canadian temperatures. the test of time. There can also be problems specific to their locations, like the not infrequent discovery that many houses originally constructed were built on top of former ravines that were improperly filled with loose soil. You’ll find examples of this on Shaw Street both north and south of Bloor, along with several examples peppered throughout the Humewood/Cedarvale and Oakwood/Vaughan neighbourhoods north of St Clair west of Bathurst. Other times a property’s decline is a reflection of poor maintenance, improper repairs, or renovations executed without proper building permits. Face it, 100 years of DIY’s by a succession of inexperienced or financially-limited homeowners can wreak havoc on a house. During my 28 years as a realtor, I’ve seen a lot of basement joists cut so a drain or heating duct could be installed, extensions that are sinking due to a lack of proper footings, and clay sewage pipes and foundation walls failing because trees were planted near their locations. In fact, I recently saw a property where the main floor been extended twice – and rather poorly, because the floor level of the first extension required you to take a step up to cross it, and then one had to take a step down into the more recent extension. That its second floor was half the size of the current first floor indicated it was once a tiny 2storey cottage. It was so piecemeal and poorly maintained it made more economic sense to tear the whole thing down to build a new house on the lot rather than attempt to salvage the unsalvageable. Buyers should also be aware that the original standards of construction, as well as the quality of materials used, can be different depending on when they were built (stacked stone foundations are common in Victorian houses which tend to leak like a sieve, double courses of brick are typical of Edwardian foundations through till around 1935 when concrete block became the standard) and who they were built for. Was the house built for the working class, the merchant class, or a wealthy person? And keep in mind that the neighbourhoods themselves can have their own lifecycles, like Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood which had been a wealthy enclave since the 1880s until the construction of the Gardiner Expressway in 1955 required 170 residences to be demolished, severing its connection to Lake Ontario’s waterfront and cultural institutions like the Palais Royale. This fueled the exodus of property owners mourning the loss of their community, and entire streets like Jameson and Tyndall were blockbusted and rezoned for mid-density rental apartments. As the neighbourhood shifted under the pressures of expansion, many of the remaining mansions dating from the 1880s were split up into rooming houses, and it entered a new lifecycle that is again under flux

While there can be any number of reasons why a house may have withstood the test of time and doesn’t require an immediate infusion of capital to remedy failing components, there’s a strong possibility the dwelling may have been owned by one owner or family for decades. Once upon a time, if you survived a plague, a famine, a depression, or a world war or two, you saved madly for a down payment, bought a roof over your head and you lived there indefinitely within your means, potentially still paralyzed by the trauma of scarcity. For the most part, the idea of a Buyer ‘climbing the property ladder’ simply didn’t exist until the 1970s and later. There was no “Let’s just get a secured line of credit on the equity gain we’ve made and install that Ikea kitchen we covet so we can enjoy it before we cash out and upgrade to a better house.” It wasn’t until the arrival of easy credit, and credit cards, in the 1980s when consumers became free-spending, comfortably incurring debt to satisfy a desire, and even leveraging debt to make a profit. Earlier generations – who had survived amidst times of scarcity – considered this both foolish and frivolous. Just as money was meant to be saved, anything that provided utility and function – and still worked even if slightly damaged – did not have to look appealing or work perfectly. For all those previous generations who never felt their income was disposable, a rational reason still hasn’t been offered explaining why a kitchen must be pretty, let alone photo-ready with “duo-tone cabinets, a wine fridge, and waterfall counters”. For many, including the privileged, a kitchen was – and still is – a utilitarian space that functions as a place to prepare food, indulge the occasional (or frequent) coffee klatch, and perhaps get into the tipple on a Friday night and play cards. These are the people who wonder why wine needs its own fridge. So when you encounter a house for sale today that is devoid of such trappings, this very well may be the reason, keeping in mind opportunities like this are evaporating with every sale like it.

It was the rise of consumer culture through the 1980s when the powerful reach and influence of the media commodified the shelter industry. The practicality and essential function of shelter – as in a place we stay warm and dry – became subjugated by a new emerging culture of domesticity rooted in desire and focused on display. That’s when the term conspicuous consumption got introduced, which was the intellectual’s word for describing ‘self-absorbed show off’. This coincided with the term Yuppie being coined, used as a derogatory title for young upwardly mobile people who were considered arrogant and obnoxious. I clearly remember reading a best seller called The Preppy Handbook that derided these Yuppies. It cracked me up, mostly because it mocked me. Yes, it’s time I confess to being ‘one of those’, who, incidentally, dedicated my education to the shifts which have reshaped the urban housing landscape.

The experts say the fixtures and finishes we buy for our houses are how people measure our status and self-worth. And whatever products we display are considered objects of self-expression. While the paint colours – right down to which of the 2000 shades of white we choose – signals the sophistication of our taste-making. This doesn’t surprise me, even though the minutiae of such a decision prompts me to just close my eyes and randomly point.

As we’ve succumbed to the 24-hour loop of HGTV houseporn product placement where the beautiful host with the blue white teeth reminds us after every ‘Reveal’ that our Home Is A Symbol Of Ourselves and that by collecting all these shiny brands the Karens of the world will know ‘We’ve Made It!’. I’ve been witnessing this long enough, and been victim to its trappings, that I worry we’re losing sight of what’s important. This is why we need to look and learn from earlier generations. For them, home is defined by the collective sharing of moments, experiences, or secrets; the display of photos and mementos; and the recounting of memories with others who have crossed their threshold and imprinted their energy, whether that be bad or good.

These are the roots of the idiom ‘If these four walls could talk.’ And it’s time to listen.

Because there’s a pink bathroom upstairs and it’s screaming “Vintage is cool!” And there’s a new roof on the garage – which is also an amazing workshop – and the Sellers want you to be dry.


Calling All Urban Hipsteaders!

So did your heart skip a beat when you read the MLS listing and it said “Let’s Do Coffee At Balzac’s Powerhouse After Our Spin To Organic Garage & Halo Brewery Ok, Lover?”

I thought it was pretty good.

The truth is this house not only offers more space than most, but it’s also extremely well-situated. It’s east of The Junction, west of The New Dupont, next door to Davenport Village & Earlscourt Park is just up the street. You totally have to check it out.

And what would any urban locale be without amazing eateries and entertainment close to home? 417 Symington Avenue is well-located to a number of excellent choices. Just up the road is Lourdes Coffee, which is a fun and funky space in which to consume your cuppa. There is lots of original artwork on the walls to peruse – which only makes the experience more enriching! You can have an in-the-city countryside experience at the Farmhouse Tavern, which is reminiscent of a rural Ontario farmhouse, both in ambience and in menu offerings. It’s super laid back and they rotate the menu based on the harvest seasons. Grab-and-go bodega Mattachioni features divine thin-crust pizzas and yummy paninis. It’s also a great, convenient place to pick up high-quality grocery staples, like produce, milk, meat, cheese and eggs. And when we’re all inoculated, head to Lucia and savour handmade pasta in their intimate dining room. And don’t miss Love Chix. I adore their tagline, “Toronto’s best chicken joint”.

Running errands is a breeze, with Shoppers Drug Mart, Rexall, the Beer Store, the LCBO, Freshco and Food Basics all within walking distance. You can stroll over to Osler’s Seafood Warehouse to pick up fresh fish or Astro Meats for your meat order. Need to greenify your home? Head to the boutique plant store The Urban Gardner.

Looking for leisure activities? Take in a live show at the  Aluna Theatre. Have you ever tried rock climbing? Change up your fitness routine with a visit to Boulderz Climbing Centre. Also nearby is the Toronto Public Library Perth Dupont branch, where there is a great reading collection, as well as all kinds of programming for all ages.

There is nothing more balancing than taking a stroll through a park, or getting your blood pumping with outdoor sports and leisure! Bocci ball, anyone? There are numerous parks within walking distance of Symington Avenue, including extensive Earlscourt Park which has space and activities galore – from skating and swimming to baseball and tennis!. There is also a large off-leash, fenced-in dog park. And adjacent to the park is the Joseph J. Piccininni Community Centre with gyms, a fitness studio, an indoor sports field, an indoor pool and loads of community programming. Davenport Village Park is also nearby and has lots of room to run and play, along with a great playground.

For any homeowner, it is a wise move to purchase a property in proximity to good schools. Even if you don’t currently have school-age children, it’s one of those supremely sought-after ‘must haves’ that will boost value if ever the time comes to sell. The schools near 417 Symington Avenue. are reputable indeed. The Carleton Village Junior and Senior Public School are also known as the Carlton Village Wellness and Sports Academy. This school boasts some impressive facilities, including an indoor swimming pool, family literacy centre, music room and fitness centre (which is open to parents too). They have French Immersion and JK-Grade 8. High school is a little further away, but still walkable at Oakwood Collegiate.

If you’re someone who loves to get out on a weekend afternoon and explore the city, you know that access to transit is essential; it can, quite literally, alter the shape of your day. Plus, as any Toronto commuter knows, the fewer minutes spent walking to a transit stop equals more minutes spent in bed, with or without your loved ones! The TTC is very easily accessible in this community, with stops for these bus routes just a quick walk away: 168 Symington (North-South), 26 Dupont (East-West), and 127 Davenport (East-West). Even one of the city’s main streetcar lines is also completely walkable, just a short jaunt away on St. Clair Avenue West! Ready to ride?


A Sun-Splashed Semi-Detached Residence Built In 1900

Don’t  you love a vintage home that balances original character with smart upgrades? I do! And given the best qualities of any home can be found in its quirks, I think it’s important to balance the new by respecting the scale and proportions of the original architecture. For example, my heart goes thumpety-thump when one crosses the threshold into a classic front hall. The act of hanging up your coat on one of the collections of mounted hooks – and taking a seat on a bench to remove your shoes – is a ritual of domestic life that remains consistent for the duration of time you live there. This is a hall where one can enjoy that rhythm of daily life, where the natural flow of the hallway guides you to the heart of the home.

The formal living room is inviting and bright, bathed in light from an expansive front window that offers views of the front yard and beyond. The proportions of this room – in fact, all of the principal rooms – are generous. The take-away is there’s lots of square footage here, currently home to an oversized L-shaped sectional and entertainment unit which is perfect for family movie night or entertaining guests. Given this dwelling was once three units, one of the unique features of this home is its two large closets tucked on opposite walls that frame the opening between the living and dining rooms. Whether you converted this back into multi-units or used the entire house for your laughing barking brood, it’s perfect exactly the way it is. These closets will be your salvation when you have unexpected guests,as all the kids’ toys can be tidied and stashed in under 2 minutes! The dining room, with its gleaming floors, can accommodate a long farmhouse table or a generous round pedestal table – there’s lots of room for flexibility here! As a lover of natural light, I appreciate the light streaming in from, not one, but two bright windows!

The eat-in kitchen is perfect for informal meals, with plenty of space to cook, eat, and mingle! I love the funky floor tiles and the pop of colour they provide, but it’s inevitable you’ll tailor this kitchen to reflect your personal tastes. Who could resist? Though I give a standing ovation and five gold stars for that chalkboard wall – I’ve long enjoyed having one in my own homes. They’re perfect for planning meals and leaving messages for others. I bet you’re already thinking about how you’d make this kitchen your own, right? Are you perhaps considering replacing the kitchen table with a freestanding island to maximize counter space? Why not? So many options!

For those considering the potential of an income supplement – or a suite for your Mom or another family member – the main floor 3-piece washroom is an instant bonus, though no household ever would turn down a main floor shower room. And there’s no shortage of benefit of having a mudroom – an essential space for keeping wet dirty boots and canine paws from mucking up the rest of the house! Plus, don’t miss the large closet to accommodate all of your seasonal wear! As an organization freak, dedicated spaces for controlling clutter make me swoon!

Ascending to the second floor the three bright family-sized bedrooms each featuring ample storage and warm blonde floors underfoot. The sun-splashed Master bedroom, in particular, is well-proportioned, reminding me of an English bed and breakfast. It boasts a full closet plus contemporary built-ins that are ready to accommodate any size wardrobe! The bedrooms share a superb vintage 4-piece bathroom which makes me smile and a hall linen closet. And although a former kitchen was completely removed, it’s feasible this upper level could become a self-contained suite but check with the City so you’re fully informed of the requirements to make it legal.

Significantly increasing the amount of living space, the recently refreshed lower level is fully finished. Currently utilized as an open recreation room, this space could easily be delineated into separate zones to suit any myriad of needs. And given this level has an upgraded three-piece washroom and a separate entrance, this floor, too, holds the potential to become a suite for, a moody teen perhaps? Yes, please!

Finally, this home has plenty of parking! Pull up right next to the back door and carry those eight bags of groceries directly into the kitchen! The detached garage is also a premium feature, and could alternately be used as a workshop or a satellite Work From Home office! In fact, due to the fact that the majority of Canadians are now working from home, using an outbuilding as a workspace is a fast-growing trend!

So tell me, does living well within your walls and roaming free in a low-density neighbourhood figure high on your wish-list? This charming affordable home – ready as-is but with tremendous opportunity and infinite possibilities – may be the ideal domicile for you!

Could this gorgeous residence be the one for you? Interested in booking a safe, private tour of the home? Contact James Ormston!