When we moved to Toronto we thought we would give condo living in the downtown core a trial. At the end of next month, our 1-year lease is up and it’s time to make some decisions about our housing future.
Things are a little bit different in Canada when it comes to buying, selling and renting a property. I wrote about our experience searching for somewhere to live when we arrived and some of the differences here
Lucky for us come the 31st December we will not be kicked to the kerb and we can stay in our current abode and just give 60 days notice when we would like to move out having to endure a slight rent increase for the privilege of not resigning a lease.
We love living downtown and like anything it has, it’s pros and cons. Some of the standouts for us have been
Walking – An apartment with only 1 car space means we have gone from owning 2 cars in Australia to 1 in Canada. Cheaper running and operating costs, better for the environment and our health. The 9-year-old and I walk everywhere during the week so my waistline is grateful as is my health.
No maintenance – Other than cleaning the apartment and the occasional changing of a lightbulb we have no jobs to do around “the house”. Nothing! Snow clearing, salting, pool maintenance, rubbish removal … it’s all done by someone else. No nagging or job lists and you know what that means?! Happy wife = Happy life!
Cleaning – A small apartment means less surface area to clean and so it’s much quicker than a house. It can also be a bit of a con because a small space can get messier and cluttered quicker if you don’t keep on top of it.
Needs and Wants – Before purchasing anything new you really question if you really need it because you will need to find a new home for it. Space is at a premium in under 900 sqft and I’m still learning this lesson. I’m much better but still, have a little way to go. Purging and donating is done on a more regular basis than previously.
Last-minute tickets – You get offered last-minute tickets to shows and sporting events that are located downtown if someone can’t use them as you are walking distance. This has happened via co-workers of The Canadians.
Action – It’s never boring. There is always something going on regardless of the time of the year.
Gym – I actually use it!!!! I just need to ride the elevator downstairs so because it’s made easy I’m more inclined to use it than if I had to drive or go to one further down the street. It’s also free because it’s part of the Condo amenities so no additional gym membership costs. If you don’t end up using it you don’t have the guilt associated with paying for an unused gym membership.
Restaurants – The amount of restaurants and pubs around us is crazy. It’s awesome but it can also be dangerous on the wallet and the waistline.
Glass – In Toronto, the majority of new condo’s are big glass boxes in the sky. This makes for some great views but with new buildings going up at cracking pace it means views get blocked and replaced with another glass tower. Glass also makes for tricky furniture placement especially in a small condo space. I struggle a bit with modern and new as I am naturally drawn to 100 plus-year-old homes and not so modern furniture. You also need to be open to seeing anything and I mean ANYTHING going on over in your neighbours. Just like this blog post-Peeping Tom
Play – You can’t say take that ball outside to play. I have begged my mum to stop sending things like balls and water bombs to the 9-year-old.
BBQ – We are not allowed to have a BBQ on our balcony as per our Condo’s rules and this just about killed me over summer. BBQ’s are located near the pool on the 11th floor of our building and you need to book them. They may be in a fantastic location and have an amazing view but it’s just not the same as throwing a snag on your own bbq. The only plus is someone comes and cleans it up after you and you don’t have to refill a gas bottle.
The Toronto real estate market has gone crazy stupid over the last couple of years and the average price for a detached house in Toronto is $1.2 million. That’s right I said average price is $1.2 million so for just under 1 million you are getting a shit box.
In Sydney, Australia another crazy real estate market the median house price is $995,000 but what I’m really not understanding about the Canadian real estate market is that minimum wage in Ontario is only $11.40 compared to $18.70 in Australia. Taxes and health care need to be factored into the take-home dollar amounts but even when you do I wonder how on earth is the average Torontonian affording a home? Well, it appears they can’t and especially first home buyers. Debt levels here are ridiculously high and foreign ownership is also a problem. Bubble? Well somethings up. Hardly any homes come on the market because people can’t afford to sell and replace. With low sales listings, the prices keep getting higher.
Vancouver recently introduced a 15 per cent tax for foreign buyers and some are wondering if this has just ended up making it worse in Toronto.
Recently new rules have also been made by lenders in regards to how much they will lend to people as previously they had not been factoring in much of interest rate increase and if a borrower would still be able to service a loan if rates went up. What! Turns out many in this land are taking a big punt on mortgage insurance keeping the market afloat. I keep getting a visual of shit hitting a fan.
Not wanting to drop a small fortune on a renovators delight only to become house poor and therefore travel poor a house is off the list …. or so I thought!
Having stalked the realtor website for the past 12 months researching the market I discovered that the further out of the downtown core you travelled the cost of detached houses did drop in some areas but not by much and others depending on the location ie on or near lakes etc get crazier.
A detached house in our price range based on the locations we could afford just wasn’t appealing. It would mean a move back to the suburbs and something I’m not ready for at this moment in time (never say ever)
A condo or townhome it would be. Then one day when searching the real estate website I happened to blow out the search and up popped one of my favourite historic cutie patootie towns just over an hour outside of Toronto and located on a lake. Bargain after bargain of 100 plus-year-old Victorian houses in immaculate condition kept popping up. We are talking 5, 6, 7 bedrooms homes in streets of beautiful homes.
My mind started racing, perhaps we could buy two places, a small apartment in the city and a weekend home on the lake. We could buy 2 places for less than the price of 1 shitty house in Toronto. My mind was racing, I was plotting and I could see our future. Perhaps when not using one of the places we could Air Bnb the other. I then noticed a B&B was for sale in the town, perhaps that was the way. I have spent the last couple of months researching Air BnB rules for the area and B&B laws and by-laws for the local city council.
I was planting the seed with The Canadian.
Something had been niggling me, was it all too good to be true? What is wrong with these houses? Is a highway planned to go through the town?
Well, today the bubble has been burst. Turns out along with the beautiful historic homes comes a historic radioactive dumping ground. The town is undergoing the largest radioactive waste cleanups in Canada.
Thanks but no thanks.
And so begins the search to purchase a downtown, Condo.