The Flip Side of Gentrification

We live in a converted storefront. One that sat empty, without a store for 40+ years. One whose windows were spray painted over, in a neighborhood with an incredibly high crime rate. A bounty of drug deals and prostitutes at the next corner. Hell, that’s what it was like even when we moved into our loft apartment a block north, 10 years ago.

Then gentrification rolled in. People bought up houses at a great rate. The flipping started, the young people moved in, and conversions turned neighborhood warehouses into fancy lofts. Four years ago, we got on the bandwagon and bought into our neighborhood just as the tables were turning. As we started working on our home, the neighborhood continued chugging on. Cafés, restaurants, brunch spots, and huge video game companies moved in. We have hip bars, fantastic food spots, good nightlife, easy subway access, close green space and an authentic neighborhood feel. Not to mention our property values have skyrocketed. It was rocking our socks off.

Then we came home to find for sale signs up on the front of TWO commercial buildings beside our house.

10693665_1550683841822208_697277039_nYep you heard right. In one week, both neighboring buildings to the south of us decided to list. That makes almost 80 feet of prime street frontage up for sale at the same time. Both of which are touting “Development Potential” on the listings. If this was a block or two away, I would probably think “oh that will be good for property values”. But it’s not a few blocks away. It’s in my backyard.

You know our fab ivy wall in the backyard? Well that’s one of the properties for sale. That actual wall. In our backyard. For Sale. “Development Potential”. Uh Oh.

Gentrification isn’t feeling so good when we’re on the other end. When there is a good chance a condo could end up 6″ from your house, ruining your private urban courtyard of a backyard. Our quiet serene escape…

So what do we do? We can’t afford to buy the properties. We’re at the mercy of the new buyers.

We’re hoping a small scale developer buys them. Someone who wants to build some high-end row houses. Or convert the existing buildings into lofts. Artist studios, or a brewery (seriously the building next door would be perfect for a brewery!) What we’re hoping doesn’t happen is a big condo building. Overlooking our yard. A construction pit at our foundation…

So send us your good vibes, and we will keep you posted. Oh and hey, do any of you want to be my neighbor?

Adventures in Trespassing – Guest Post by Allyson Scott

Today I bring you something a little bit different.

Last fall, friend and photographer Allyson Scott shared a beautiful photo essay touching on real estate and gentrification with an incredible human element. I loved the post so much I asked if I could share it here with you. This post originally appeared on her blog.

You may already recognize Allyson’s name, Ali is the photographer behind the beautiful shots of Odin as a puppy. Allyson lives with her wife, real estate agent extraordinaire Jody, and a family full of beautiful animals in the neighbourhood of Leaside in Toronto.

You can check out more of Allyson’s photographs on her website , license her images for commercial use here, and follow her blog here.

Enjoy! – Kristen

Adventures in Trespassing

by Allyson Scott

House under construction in Leaside (c) Allyson Scott
House under construction in Leaside (c) Allyson Scott

Out for a dog walk one October afternoon, I came upon this house in the process of being demolished. We (sadly) pass a multitude of construction sites in our neighbourhood on any given day, but this one was unusual because the bungalow facade still stood. My sentimental brain began creating a narrative for this place – how many families were raised within those walls, how many kids played on that front lawn, and how many hands opened that gorgeous front door that now stood sentry over nothing. I felt the need to record the loss of yet another original Leaside bungalow, and hustled home to grab my camera.

The left side of the house had a high wooden fence separating it from a strip mall parking lot, and the front of the site was tightly surrounded by tall metal fencing through which my camera lens barely fit. The best view was from the parking lot, and I was happy to discover a few plastic chairs (like the one above) available for borrowing. It was a challenge, however, to balance the chair on the hilly ground and then try to balance myself on top of it. The view was worth risking a broken limb, however:

Partially demolished bungalow in Leaside
Partially demolished bungalow in Leaside

I was too excited by the array of photo ops to care about the fact that I was about to sidestep a law or two getting closer. It’s a busy street, with people passing on foot and workers milling about on another construction site across the street, plus I feared the neighbour may see me and call the police. Little did I know that less than 24 hours later I’d be inside that neighbour’s home, enjoying a tour and full verbal history of this house and our community!

House under construction
House under construction

The visual possibilities taunted me from my wobbly vantage point, but I caught sight of one very small, shorter section of fence at the back of the house which looked potentially scalable. I hopped down and walked back around the front, hoping no one was watching me. It goes against my nature to not get permission before shooting, but in this case there was no one to ask. I just tried to look nonchalant with my big camera, lens bag, and a few furtive glances over my shoulder.

From the neighbour’s driveway I checked out the low fence, and realized that any attempt to leap the chain link would likely result in ripped pants, skin, or both. Thinking that the plastic chair I’d just stood on could be the solution, I did another circuit of the house to go back and grab it…..and watched a woman with dogs pass me on the sidewalk, turn up the driveway, and knock on the door of the house I had hoped not to disturb. One minute later and I would have been standing in the middle of their driveway holding a chair, my intentions only too obvious. I have a real knack for getting caught when I attempt to do things I know I’m not supposed to. I rarely got away with anything as a kid.

Back in front of the house again, disappointed, I noticed the bicycle lock looping around the gate didn’t look properly secured. The two ends were sitting loosely in the lock chamber, but were not fastened. I dared to pull on them, and voila–I was in!

House being demolished
House being demolished
Salvage materials at construction site (c) Allyson Scott
Salvage materials at construction site (c) Allyson Scott
House partially demolished
House partially demolished

The bones of this house would be very similar to ours, which is also a pre-war bungalow. I think we are the last people in Leaside to have purchased one to live in as-is, appreciating the charm and beauty of what is already there. We fell in love with the leaded-glass windows, the gumwood trim, the variety of rooms with endless possible applications, the wood-burning fireplaces, and the huge blank slate of a back yard with 100-year old trees towering above. What is it with my generation wanting everything bigger, (subjectively) better, and newer? Sometimes houses are so neglected that starting over is the only option, it’s true, but we’ve seen lovely homes torn down and gutted even when renovations have recently been done. Worst of all, it seems as though next to nothing is ever salvaged – it’s all just destroyed and carted off to a landfill.

As the bungalows disappear, so does the opportunity to find a “starter home” in the neighbourhood for less than a million dollars. Every smaller home seems to be sold to professional builders, who stand to make hundreds of thousands of dollars on each flip like this:

Leaside flip
Leaside flip
Leaside flip
Leaside flip

I poked around the construction site as much as I dared, afraid to tread too far across the partially demolished floors. The light was fading quickly and clouds were rolling in, so I had to call it a day. On my way out, I looked in a plastic tray filled with an assortment of mildewed mail, and took note of the names. Perhaps I could figure out more of the story.

As I rounded the side of the house, I realized the visitor was still talking to the neighbour on the porch. Seriously? Someone arrives at the exact moment I’m trying to find a way in, and is still standing in full view of my only exit?! I waited a few minutes, hiding out of sight behind the port-a-potty, but it became clear the conversation was not going to end anytime soon. I finally decided to just march out with confidence, and wrapped the bicycle lock up the way I’d found it.

That night, I was able to discover the former owner of this property was Dr. Gordon Nikiforuk, a successful dentist who had been the Dean of the dental school at U of T in the 1970s. I also had the name of the new property owner, but it meant nothing to me until I returned the next day. In the bright light of morning, I hoped I could still gain entry via the gate, and it was exciting to find the lock just as I’d left it. I quickly opened the gate, and explored the area again in new light, with everything wet from the night’s rain:

Partially demolished bungalow
Partially demolished bungalow
Partially demolished bungalow
Partially demolished bungalow
Fireplace in partially demolished home
Fireplace in partially demolished home

I was so focused on what I was doing that the noise didn’t register for some time. I gradually became aware of the rumble of machinery and unmistakable sound of destruction on a grand scale. While I was photographing this quiet site, demolition had begun on the bungalow across the street.

Standing on the sidewalk with my mouth hanging open, I was soon joined by the elderly neighbour I’d been trying to avoid the day before. His name is Peter, and it turns out he couldn’t have cared less about my picture-taking. He’s an incredibly friendly character who shares a lot of my feelings about the changes in our neighbourhood, and struck up a long conversation with me.

Peter watching house demolition
Peter watching house demolition

We talked about the loss of bungalows in the area, and how sad some of the changes were. Peter told me Dr. Nikiforuk and his wife had lived next door since the 1950s but had moved to a seniors’ residence two years ago. The builder working on the demolition of their house approached Peter one day and said, “We’re going to need to knock down your garage, but don’t worry–we’ll build you a nice new one.” Peter replied in no uncertain terms, “I don’t think so. I’m perfectly happy with the one I’ve got, and we’ve put a lot of money into it.”

In another conversation, the builder told Peter (note “told”, not “asked”) that they would need to use his hydro for some of the work they would be doing. They wanted to review his hydro bills for the last year, and then offered to pay whatever the difference was between that total and the total in the coming year. “Seems to me that the decent thing to do would be to just pay the whole bill, don’t you think? And they say they’ll need to use my driveway as well.” It makes me want to make a few extra passes by the area in the next few months to ensure no one is taking advantage of Peter and Trudy, although Peter seems pretty capable of standing up for himself.

“Want to see my garage?”

Peter talking outside his garage
Peter talking outside his garage

I could see why he doesn’t want it torn down; his lovely little garage, decorated on the outside with large butterflies, is a tidy space with designated spots for all his tools, and enough room to park his SUV. That’s more than I can say about mine.

This led to a tour of his garden, some advice on how to add the best deck for the least amount of money, a recommendation for a same-day shed builder, and the name of a woman who weeds gardens for an hourly fee. I imagine Peter could help with pretty much any question you could throw his way! He was also anxious to point out to me the posts that showed how big the new house will be: 65 feet long by his estimate. It just so happens that the new owner is a member of the Lea family, as in Leaside itself. A great-great-grandson (or thereabouts) of the founder, who also happens to be a lawyer. I’m doubly glad no workers showed up on site while I was in there.

“Why don’t you come on in?”

Peter's workshop
Peter’s workshop
Peter's pantry
Peter’s pantry

He showed me his basement workshop, which would make my wife drool with envy. Everything he needs to make everything he wants is right there, and his practical handiwork is visible everywhere you turn. His renovated pantry is insulated with styrofoam, and his handmade shelving is well-stocked with enough food to “keep us going a coupla weeks”, so I know where I’m headed if a blackout ever strands us.

Upstairs, I finally met Peter’s wife Trudy.

Trudy in the kitchen
Trudy in the kitchen

“Of course you can take my picture,” Trudy told me, “I’m very proud of my kitchen.”

Peter toured me through the rest of the rooms of his cozy house, and then proudly showed me the new access door and folding staircase they built to reach their attic. “I’ve got 900 square feet of storage up there!” he announced, hopping up those steep stairs like a man half his age. I gingerly followed and snapped a few photos, encouraged that this could be a viable solution to the minor hoarding problem I am developing at home.

Trudy watching us in the attic
Trudy watching us in the attic

After my tour, we just stood and chatted for a while. Trudy moved into this Leaside home with her family at the age of 4. Her father purchased the house in cash, and it has never been mortgaged since. Trudy recalled sitting on her grandmother’s lap on the back porch, watching people dig out the basements of the houses behind them one by one using a horse. “It was so hot one summer that the horse just went belly up and died,” she said, shaking her head. She feels the neighbourhood hasn’t been the same since they started paving Moore Avenue in the ’50s. Wow.

Trudy met Peter when she was just 16 years old, and married him in her 20s. They moved to another house in Leaside as a young married couple, but returned to the home she’d grown up in when her parents passed away. They’ve been married for 56 years, and raised three children in this house. I hope my wife and I will be as fortunate.

Peter & Trudy
Peter & Trudy

They told me I was welcome to stop by for a visit anytime, and I promised that I would. They have a beautiful yellow lab named Lucy, and I’m sure we’ve seen her on our countless walks past their house. Now we will know who is there, and can say hello.

It was the most extraordinary sequence of events, and none of it would have been possible were I still working at an office job. I was able to drop what I was doing and follow a photo story when I saw one, and then stay as long as it took to see it through. The freedom is worth the financial woes, and is like breathing pure oxygen for the first time in almost two decades.

Less than a week later, we were passing by on a dog walk and Peter was outside to greet us. I was happy to introduce him to Jody, and have a brief chat about the progress across the street, as well as next door to him. It seems the equipment returned the day after I left.

Even the front door is gone now, and that fence is locked up tight.

Peter, with Lucy at the door
Peter, with Lucy at the door
Bungalow Demolition

I hope you enjoyed this guest post! Make sure to check out Allyson’s website and have a great weekend! – Kristen

Toronto West End Real Estate

January is usually a slow time in the real estate market. People are burrowed in their homes keeping warm, not wanting to traipse through feet of snow to visit open houses. The market sees a few homes up for sale, but not the number that usually grace the MLS in spring, summer and fall. Still there’s usually a good little inventory that keep the market going, and offer a decent selection to would be home owners.

This winter in Toronto, there is a lack of inventory on the market, and it’s starting to make people do crazy things. It’s reminiscent of Black Friday at Walmart and people willing to fist fight for a half price flat screen tv. Now don’t get me wrong, the Toronto real estate market is always hot. Back when we were looking we saw over 100  homes and witnessed bidding wars up the prices well over our budget. The worst we experienced was a Victorian on Euclid where we had to wait in line for our scheduled showing and it went over for 100k over asking.

That my friends is nothing compared to what’s been going on in the West end of Toronto in the last few weeks.

A dilapidated fixer in Roncesvalles with soot covered walls, no heat, missing windows, knob and tube wiring and a gaping hole in the roof had over 300 viewers to it’s weekend open house.

Roncesvalles "fixer"
Roncesvalles “fixer”

The listing alone advised viewers to leave their kids at home. This was not a move in ready home. I’m surprised it wasn’t condemned, and to even have electrical and gas service hooked up extensive rehab was needed. The agent estimated that it needed $400k to make it livable. In the end it sold for $803,649. $153,749 over asking. WOWZA. [See the Toronto Star article here.]

In comparison, two streets over from our house, a move in ready, renovated semi with a basement rental unit topped the scales with 500 open house viewers, 32 offers and a selling price of $848,625. A measly (cough cough) $208,725 over asking.

West Toronto semi that sold for almost $210,000 over asking.
West Toronto semi that sold for almost $210,000 over asking.

This is my neighborhood. The same one where I regularly find beer bottles in my planter boxes, have seen drug deals happen on the corner, and the dog caught a hooker & a john in the back alleyway during the summer. (He barked, and scared them away. )

Our neighborhood is gentrifying, and really it had nowhere to go but up. It was a working class neighborhood with tons of industry which kept it from soaring in the earlier housing booms. Now is it’s time for change, as the industry slowly moves out the condos have started to go up bringing with them new infrastructure as well (a new Metro & Shoppers Drug Mart going in at Dupont & Lansdowne). The proximity to the subway and the vast array of restaurants & bars makes it a hipsters paradise, and the real estate market has followed the brunch crowd. However, $850k for a semi?! That’s  just ludicrous! [See The Globe and Mail article on the house here, Toronto Star here, and for a more candid article see the Mash here.]

Is this the way the Toronto West End market is headed? I doubt it. It most likely was a perfect storm with lots of desperate buyers and few houses on the market. Come spring when the mercury gets above sub arctic, and the sellers come out of hibernation, the market will (hopefully) spring back to its normal status quo. Until then, good luck intrepid home buyers, good luck!

Real Estate….Movies?

When we were looking to buy our first home, we looked at a LOT of houses. From scouring the MLS daily to Open Houses on weekends and weeknight showings. We saw our fair share of homes; over 100 to be exact.

During that time we witnessed various marketing initiatives from the estate agents selling those homes. We saw everything from MLS listings without a single picture, to websites created just to sell one house. We had bags full of sell sheets, flyers, magnets, flashlights, pens etc. I thought I had seen pretty much every real estate marketing technique around. Until I stumbled upon this You Tube video from a local agent.

Instead of a sell sheet, this agent decided to sell the lifestyle. He showcases how someone would use the home, and while doing it, he manages to tell you all the cool stuff about the house without saying a word. You see the neighborhood, public transportation, parks, quiet street, parking, spacious entry, gorgeous bathroom, walk in closet,  (strange) wine cellar above the bedroom, a chefs kitchen with pot filler, gas range, big fridge & farmhouse sink. Then it shows the technology the home has, with baseboard vac, a/c and a nest home thermostat. Finishing off with nice comfortable dining room perfect for a lovely dinner, and an outdoor deck.

I personally think the agent did a great job with this video. It appeals to young couples looking for something with a new build feel, with some charm. If I was in the market (and had $869k to drop on a house) I would definitely go for a showing.

What do you think? Seen any other real estate videos?

Oh, and while we’re on the topic of real estate. Congrats to Wendy at Old Town Home for making the leap, quitting her job and becoming a real estate agent in Old Town Alexandria. I am envious of her following her passion!


*Just to clarify this is not my real estate agent, I don’t even know him! Just found the video online and thought it was great.

Houseaversary – Closing Time

Last post of Houseaversary week! In case you missed it, be sure to check out our posts on how we almost missed out on even seeing the house, the offer process and the inspection. Today is all about closing day.

We used a quick closing date as a negotiating tactic in the purchase of our house. We closed in 30 days. Originally we planned to give our rental landlord two months notice, and have a month overlap to do some painting and move in at our leisure.  Our landlord however rented our loft to the first people who viewed it, and they were able to move in a month early if we wanted out. We agreed as it saved us a months rent! The only problem was that we needed to move into our house on closing day. We were only moving two blocks south of where we were living, and we were moving ourselves using borrowed truck & trailer from Mom & Dad and the vehicles and muscles of friends, so we figured we were flexable enough to roll with it whenever we closed. Our lawyer and bank got us to pre-sign all the paper work a week before the closing, and we expected no issues. We loaded up the trailer the night before with all the boxes, and sat around drinking coffee waiting for the call from our lawyer.

A pic of the boxes piled up in our loft ready to move (man have cell phone cameras improved it the last two years or what?!)

The first sign that the day was not going to go as planned was when the furniture store called saying that they had delivered our new mattress set to the storefront. (We had requested the LAST delivery of the day, not the first.) The furniture store left the mattress on the front covered porch of the house (they were in big plastic bags). So not only was our brand new mattress sitting on the door of the house we didn’t have the keys for, but no one was there, and it was raining out. We couldn’t even take the trailer there and pick up the mattress, cause brilliant me had said to load the trailer TO THE BRIM the night before. We figured closing was right around the corner, so my Mom & Dad headed down there with the truck & trailer to park out front and make sure no crack heads took off with our new pillow top dream machine. Speaking of the new mattresses, the furniture company delivered them but not the new bed frame…so a very agitated Kristen spent several minutes bitching pleading her case to get them to pick up another frame from the warehouse in Brampton and deliver it that evening so that I would have a bed to sleep on (I was not going to put my brand new mattress on the floor thank you very much!)

Then I started to get antsy. I called and pestered our lawyer, who informed us that there was a problem with the sellers banking info. Apparently the seller wanted our bank to split up the money and send it to several different institutions. Our bank said hell no. If they needed that done, the money should have went to the lawyer in escrow and been split up by their lawyer. It wasn’t our banks job. So we waited, and waited, and waited some more… After lunch time rolled around I headed down to keep my parents company and keep watch while they stretched their legs and walked to a local coffee shop to get a cup of coffee and use the loo. Finally at about 4pm we got the call that we could pick up the keys. The problem now was that our lawyers office was smack dab downtown, and it was now RUSH HOUR. It took El Granto over an hour and a half to get down there, get the keys and get to the new house. Where it promptly started to really rain. Luckily we have amazing friends and family who lugged, and carried, and go soaked to the bone. We took a pizza break around 9pm, but didn’t make the final trip until almost midnight.

Holy Crap we have a lot of stuff

Then of course we needed a place to sleep…Exhausted and sweaty/rained on I insisted that we assemble the beds for both El Granto & I and my out of town parents who had come to help. So we allen wrenched and bolted, and eventually had beds built. At about that point in time we realized that we didnt have either a shower curtain rod not a bath tub stopper, so no one was even getting a nice hot shower that evening. We crawled into bed, and were promptly woken at the crack of dawn by the lack of curtains in the whole house.

So lessons learned kids: Dont move on the day you close. Hire movers.  Don’t get furniture delivered on closing day. Label each box with not only the room its headed to, but whats inside it. Buy copious amounts of liquor for drowning your stresses. Make sure you have window coverings, a shower curtain and remember where you packed the coffee maker. Those are the keys to a smooth move.

Houseaversary – Inspection

Day 3 of Houseaversary week! Today’s post is about the inspection.

As you may know, El Granto & I (and the Storefront of course) appeared in an episode of Mike Holmes’ TV show Holmes Inspection.

The show Holmes Inspection is all about how a home inspection failed the home owners in some way. This is absolutely the case in our story. Did we forgo an inspection? Nope. Did we hire a cheap company that we found on Craigslist? Nope, we went with one of the most reputable (and NOT cheap) companies in the city.

Then what went wrong? To be honest, we thought we’d done everything right. We hired an inspector we trusted. We had worked with him before on a house we previously put an offer on. That offer was conditional on inspection, and we walked away from the house when our inspector found termites and a toxic heating oil spill. So what went wrong this time? I think we were all fooled with how nice the house looked. We walked through the house with our inspector looking at everything with him (except the roof). We both have handy parents, and are not house stupid. We knew to look at the windows, furnace, hot water heater, support beams in the basement, electrical etc. We also asked to see the building permits, and we checked with the city that assured us they had passed all their inspections and the permits were all closed. We looked at the architectural drawings, and read the extensive report the Home Inspector gave us. It stated a few things, but here were no big issues. The house looked great, and all the renos appeared to be done very well.

We signed back our purchase agreement and removed the inspection clause, and officially bought the house. We moved in a month later.  I wish the story had ended there on that happy note. What the inspection missed was asbestos wrapped ducts, a poor hvac job, some shotty plumbing, illegal venting, a brand new dishwasher that didn’t work, a stacked washer & dryer that were not attached to each other, lead pipe in the basement, a leaky sink and a very leaky skylight, roof and window.

What would we have done differently? We would have checked each and every working item in the house ourselves. We would have looked in duct work, turned on appliances, furnaces, hot water heaters and ran every single tap in the whole house. We would have looked for wrapped pipes and ductwork in the basement and paid for an inspector who had an infrared camera and who was willing to look at every single detail of our house. The BIG thing we would have done differently was head up on the roof along with the inspector. Photos can be deceiving. In pictures our roof looked okay, in reality the skylight had its own chimney and there was probably 20 different patches of roofing material over the roof. Do I blame the inspector? He couldn’t possibly have known about all those things, but he did miss a few clues that the reno’s were not done so well. Who do I really blame? The previous homeowner who COVERED UP THE PROBLEMS and the city inspector who passed the work. There was an HVAC permit, so why did my asbestos wrapped ducts get missed? How did no one notice that my dryer vent connected to an old cast iron plumbing stack to the roof? I also blame ourselves, we got caught up in how nice the reno was as well. Next time I will go into an inspection like I am adopting a stinky dog at the pound, and want to make sure he doesn’t have fleas before I bring him home.

A view in to our home during the renovations (from next door) to fix all the problems with our house

So my best advice? Have a home inspector you trust long before you put in an offer. Do your research, and take a good hard look at the house. I mean all of it. Take out the drains and look into the pipes. Stick your head in cold air returns, bring a tissue to test the force of the furnace in every room. Follow your gut and your nose. Does anything smell moldy or musty? And look at everything in that basement. Does the plumbing look like it was done by a pro? Or does it have terribly messy joints? Does the electrical look like a rats nest or is it all neat and tidy? I have learned that the contractors that do things right usually care to make it look nice as well. They are proud of their work.

Good luck on your inspection, and I really hope you don’t end up like us!

Houseaversary – Almost Didnt Happen

This week marks the anniversary of closing on our house. This week I will share with you with some of our house buying ups and downs. Today’s topic is about how we almost didn’t go see the house at all.

The Storefront you see was on the walking path to El Granto’s work. Every day he walked past the house and he knew exactly which one it was when I sent him the listing. He said. “NO, that place is a dump, we’re not going to see it”. I said “What?! Look how nice the photos look!” And he told me to look it up on google streetview.

The house we were looking at was the one on the left with the brown front

Eeek. That DID look pretty bad. Then El Granto dropped the bomb that for the last year or so it had been boarded up, and was covered in errant graffitti. Double Eeek.

But…this was the pic on the listing:

See…it didn’t look anything like a graffiti covered boarded up shack…

El Granto still insisted it was a dump, and we had been through a lot of dumps lately. This was just weeks after we had viewed a hoarder’s house and a moth ball laced home that we couldn’t even breathe in…

But I persisted. The house was right by the subway and we had to meet our agent at the subway anyways. Why not just schedule it as our first viewing and we would quickly pop in? El Granto grumbled about it being a waste of time, it only being 12.5′ wide, and on a main street etc. To get me off his back he gave in, and we had our agent schedule a viewing.

I got to the viewing late and I walked up to the front of the house to find it looking just as pretty as the listing pic. No graffiti, no boarded windows, no hobos.  I opened the front door to find a BEAMING El Granto. He looked like a cat who swallowed a canary. I quickly did a tour of the house to discover that holy crap, it was great! A brilliant use of space, the rooms were laid out just how we would have done it, and it had a nice new kitchen and bath. A garage, a yard for future dog, and a big basement for storage. It also didn’t appear to have any squatters, dead bodies nor did it appear to be hiding Jimmy Hoffa. This was the best house we’d seen in…months. BUT it was over budget. It was 5k over our max cap. Our recently (but reluctantly) raised cap. AND it was beautiful, so we figured it would go for over asking. So we didn’t get our hopes up, and moved off to our other scheduled listings that night (which were mostly hell holes BTW).

That night all we did was rave about the house, and debated putting in an offer, but the more we raved the more we worried that we’d hyped the house up too much, and that our memories were failing us, and it wasn’t as great as we thought it was. So first thing the next morning we emailed our agent and got her to schedule us another viewing that night.

We hustled to the showing right after work, and damned if the house wasn’t BETTER than we remembered it! We started freaking out, and decided right then and there that we needed the house…

Stay tuned! Later this week I will post about the buying process, inspection, closing & moving.

Neighbourhood Walk Score

In reading a recent Toronto Life article “House Wars: true tales from the Toronto real estate market” I got to thinking about how the walkability of your home effects your life, and where exactly you live.

El Granto & I do not own a car, we commute via TTC to our jobs and walk pretty much everywhere else. I buy groceries 3 times a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) because I can only carry so much. I buy only the food we plan to eat for that week, and as such we don’t have a lot of pantry items, snack goods or the like hanging about. I buy milk from the corner store as it’s too heavy to schlep farther than that, and we buy all our bread and meats from a local bakery & butcher, and in the summers we frequent local farmers markets.

Living downtown sans car means a lot of things to your lifestyle. Our weekends are spent walking to local amenities, restaurants and parks. To the hardware store to procure items for our home projects, and grabbing a coffee and heading out for an adventure with the dog. So when the Toronto Life article touched on Walk Score it got me thinking. We knew that when we bought our house the location played an important role. We could get a much bigger house say north of St. Clair and west of Jane, but we would be stuck on a bus to get anywhere near the subway, and lacked a lot of the things we loved. (Evening drinks with friends, Thai takeout etc.) We set a goal of living south of Dupont, and luckily we found it. Truth be told, our house was one of only 3 houses that we even looked at south of Dupont. One of the three was a major fixer on Euclid that went several hundred thousand over asking, and the other was a hoarders house in the Junction, that again, went over asking. We looked at over 100 houses, and really felt that we lucked out finding a house in the location that we did.

So back to Walk Score, I checked out our score today and noted that our house gets an 82 (out of 100) on its Walk Score and a 94 on Transit Score. That’s not bad and pretty much what we thought. Our neighbourhood is transitional (drug dealers and hookers are moving out, and hipsters  & young families are moving in.) As this transition moves forward more amenities move into the neighbourhood. We’ve got some great local restaurants (Starving Artist, Bloordale Pantry, Farmhouse Tavern to name a few) as well as great places to grab a pint (3 Speed, Bar Neon & Boo Radley’s) and lately coffee shops have been popping up like acne on teenage face. Café Neon and the Toronto Coffee Company among others. In contrast, when we moved into the house, Bloordale Pantry, Farmhouse Tavern, Bar Neon, Café Neon and Toronto Coffee Company didn’t exist. That’s a lot of new amenities moving in to the hood in the last year and a half. Hell, even the New York Times recently featured the neighbourhood in a Travel slideshow/article. Check it out here.

Transit however has always been good. We’ve got Bloor/Danforth subway, the Bloor GO Station, a plethora of buses (Lansdowne, Dupont, Symington, Dufferin) and the 504 & 505 streetcars. We knew with good transit options that our neighbourhood had too much to offer to stay underutilized forever. Now as we grow together in our first home we keep seeing the building permits go up in the windows around us, the junkies disappearing and the neighbourhood seems to get better every day.

So whats your Walk Score? Did you move into your neighbourhood before it was hip?