If you have been a long-time follower of the blog you would have followed our move from Australia to Canada and our first 12 months in Toronto. Before I took a break from the blog, the last post I wrote back in November 2016 was about our living arrangements.
In a nutshell, we had been living and renting a condo in downtown Toronto for our first 12 months and we needed to make a decision when our lease was up for renewal. Should we continue to rent or buy? Stay in a condo or move back into a house? Stay in Toronto or move elsewhere? The housing market at the time was crazy and overpriced. It was confusing. We had sold our house in Australia and wanted to get back into the property market.
With the benefit of hindsight was I right about the Toronto market? Three years later I still feel it is an overpriced bubble and basically for the same reasons I did then. Some areas have come off and some increased but mostly it has been stuck in a high limbo for the last couple of years. Time will tell.
We ended up staying in Toronto in the same condo for another year. We loved living downtown and I would have been happy to stay. Financially though it didn’t make sense long term. We started looking at buying a condo in Toronto but a few things turned us off. The first being the building maintenance fees. Compared to Australia the monthly building maintenance fees are much higher in Toronto. When I asked a few friends and family that own units in Sydney how much they pay it was always double the price for the same or less square footage here. On top of that, you pay property tax.
In downtown Toronto many of the condos have security staff sitting at a front desk in the building 24/7. They then have multiple staff sitting in an office within the building managing the building. In the building we lived in they had 2 security sitting at the front desk at all times and 3 in the management office. Did they need 3? Hells No! but you are paying for all these people as well as daily cleaners, amenities etc in the high building maintenance fees.
You might be thinking that they have really great sinking funds because the fees are so high if something major goes wrong with the building? Nope! Horror stories about special assessments in Toronto are on the rise. Condo living in downtown Toronto along the Harbourfront, Entertainment, Distillery and Fashion Districts has happened very quickly and only in the last 10 years. When you look at photo’s of the Toronto skyline it looked very different. It has changed dramatically in a very short period of time. The Condo’s have gone up fast and cheaply. The buildings are falling apart and they are less than 10 years old. The building we lived in for example had replaced all the glass on the external balconies within the first few years because it was falling off the building. In the time we lived in the condo we had inspectors come multiple times to check the cracks in the concrete on our balcony and the cracks appearing in the drywall as the building is shifting. After we moved out they had begun to replace the expensive timber panelling that lined every internal wall in common areas of the building as it was all damaged. It was not uncommon for only one lift to be in operation in a building that had four. That building is 8 years old. I weep for its future. I also weep for the bank accounts of the owners.
In our price point, the new apartments are also cookie-cutter boring. Same bathrooms, same unfinished concrete ceilings (not in a cool edgy way but a developer not spending money way) some cheap fittings. Kitchens don’t even exist, they are appliances stuck along a wall in the living area. Most don’t even include a kitchen island to attempt to separate it from the rest of the room. They feel more hotel room than a home. They are also tiny. The average condo size in Toronto is now 647 square feet. Down 40% from the older apartments built in the 1990s. Great as a Pied-a-terre. As a family home, not so much. The apartment we rented was 898 square feet. I couldn’t imagine us in anything smaller but that would have been our reality.
If a downtown Toronto location wasn’t on the cards we wanted to go to the other extreme and look at small country towns. Somewhere walking distance to the main street. A town that was small but busy. It needed to have places to go. Restaurants and bars. Interesting shops. Places you go for a walk and not get bored.
In that last blog post in 2016, I mentioned we had viewed a house for sale in a town outside Toronto. The house wasn’t for us but fast forward 12 months and after researching multiple other small towns within commuting distance to Toronto and even putting an offer on a house somewhere else and losing out, we ended up buying an old house in that very town I originally blogged about. Sheesh, isn’t it funny how things work out sometimes?
The town is cute. Like super cute. As you drive into town the welcome sign declares it has the most well preserved main street in Ontario. It is so cute I wouldn’t be surprised if it could also claim top 5 in Canada if such a list existed. The town is full of beautiful old homes, many are heritage listed and protected. It is located on Lake Ontario and is just over 100km from Toronto so kinda, sorta commutable. The Canadian commutes and the jury is still out if the commute is sustainable long term. That is for another day.
After claiming we would never buy an old home again, guess what? We bought an old home again. A 150-year-old Victorian-style house. It’s a house with a good layout, not too big and not too small and on a huge lot. Sometimes when I post pictures of our back garden on Instagram I get asked how big our block is and I honestly have no idea. It’s a great size though and has enough room for kicking a ball around and not getting in garden beds or over at the neighbours. It has three bedrooms and a full bathroom upstairs. I love having the bedrooms upstairs. It is much easier to keep the appearance of a tidy house. Downstairs has a half bathroom, laundry, living room, dining room, sunroom and eat-in kitchen.
It has some of the original features and a very homey feel. As soon as we walked in the door I fell in love with the staircase.
The icing on the cake was a wood-burning fireplace in the living room and a proper full-size gas cooktop/oven in the kitchen (something I was desperate for after cooking in the dollhouse oven in the condo). The biggest bonus? A relatively new hot tub time machine on the back deck. I love it! My inner Kath Day-Knight comes out every time I use it.
The house has great bones as they say. It just needs a lick of paint I thought. Well, that is what I told myself and The Canadian.
Famous last words.
I knew it didn’t but I love it.
Stay tuned. Over the coming weeks, I will do some room tours and updates on what we have done. Mostly it will be room tours on what we haven’t done and why.
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