Last week my HB and I had our first experience house hunting in Toronto. If you aren’t familiar with Toronto’s current real estate market, in short it’s full-on bananas! Houses are regularly priced under market value to ignite bidding wars, bidding wars and bully offers are par for the course, and a lot of the houses within my HB and I’s budget are interesting to say the least.
To give you an example, so far we’ve seen a total of 7 houses (2 of those were actually condo townhouses), and there was only one we liked. Here’s what it looked like.
Cute right? It was actually the first one we saw and we were pretty impressed. You could tell right away that the owners maintained it well. However, there were a lot of things that just didn’t sit well with us from the get-go.
First off, it was tiny! The master bedroom was a good size, but the second bedroom, which my HB would have used as an office, could barely fit a single bed in it. The bathroom was equally small and basically needed to be gutted. Lastly, the kitchen had been remodelled (in 2006), but it didn’t include a dishwasher. Who remodels a kitchen and doesn’t put in a dishwasher? Who?!
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Since it was our first time looking at properties and there were quite a few things we wanted to change about it that weren’t just cosmetic, we decided to pass on putting in an offer. Looking back we’re still happy with our decision, but it sure was snapped up fast!
It was listed at $479,000 and it sold two days after we saw it for $531,000 without any contingencies. That means it was purchased for $52,000 over its asking price, possibly without a home inspection by the buyers. I sure hope the new owners like to do dishes by hand.
Since that was the best house we’ve seen so far, let me go through the three worst ones we saw. I’m sure on our house hunting journey we’ll have a number of other horror stories to tell, but for now let me start with the one we nicknamed “the ship”.
From the outside, this house looks promising, right? I liked the blue exterior and the wood walk-up, but it was in a relatively sketchy part of town. As you can see, the view from the front entrance looked onto a big industrial parking lot. On the plus side, it had a basement suite we could rent out as a mortgage helper.
But it desperately needed some work and it had a very odd layout. Put simply, there was no hallway to connect each room. Each room was just connected with another door, so in order to get to the kitchen or bathroom, you’d have to walk through the first and second bedrooms. Clearly, this basement was never meant to be lived in it.
When you got to the main floor of the house, it was actually pretty decent. It had a good sized kitchen and living room along with a bedroom which we would have used as an office. But once you walked up the stairs to the upper floor, that’s when things got weird. The floors were so uneven my HB, our realtor and I all had difficulty standing straight. If we’d brought a level, I’m sure it would have exploded or something.
After we left the house, no joke I felt a bit seasick and had to take a minute to get my bearings. When our realtor asked us how we felt about it, I told her straight-up “My gut says to run…as fast as possible.” I can’t remember exactly how much this house was listed for (I think the mid-400s), but I really hope no one buys it unless they can afford to knock it down.
Thinking that we’d seen the worst property on our list, we eventually made our way to “the ghetto house”.
This house also looked like it had potential from what we saw online. It was on a nice street with other well-maintained houses and it was in a good neighbourhood close to transit. But the moment we approached the front door I knew something was wrong.
First of all, the front porch smelled like booze. Old booze. Old cheap booze. Then it got worse. As we opened the front door, a big smelly cloud of garbage and cigarettes hit us like a one-two-punch.
For some reason, my HB could look past the smell (or smell past it?), because he still thought the house could be saved instead of burned to the ground. That is until we started taking a good look around. First of all, almost every available space was converted into a bedroom, and there were at least 50 illegal immigrants living there.
And as a selling point (I guess?) the owner made sure to let us know that two feet from the backyard there was a store that sold really cheap meat. Umm…why would we want cheap meat in the first place? We lasted about 5 minutes and left the house covering our noses.
And I’m seriously not exaggerating about the smell. When we got home we could still smell it on our clothes. The minute we got home we jumped into the shower and tossed our clothes into the laundry. How that place is listed at $509,900 I’ll never know.
Last but not least, there was this too good to be true bungalow I deemed “the puke flavoured jelly-belly”. It looked innocent on the outside, but once you bit down on it, it was just full of regrets.
After passing on the first white house and seeing a bunch of properties I wish I could forget, this place looked perfect. It had a basement suite we could possibly rent out and appeared to be in stellar condition.
Unfortunately, although it had only been on the market for a few days, it had received a bully offer the day we booked to see it. What that means is even though seller set a specific date for when buyers can put in an offer, some bully gives the seller an early offer anyway in hopes of beating out the competition and avoiding a bidding war. Because of this bully offer, we had to decide right after our showing whether we wanted to put in an offer as well.
I was so anxious on the car ride there, I could hardly focus. Luckily, my HB had his game face on and read through the entire home inspection report before we stepped inside. I’ve got to hand it the sellers, they cleaned up the place real good.
But I’ve seen enough HGTV to know when I’m really looking at a shack with an accent wall and a fancy looking kitchen backsplash. That and it was also obvious that the basement suite they boasted about was totally illegal. While walking through it my HB almost hit his head on the ceiling twice.
There were also a few major issues noted in the inspection report. There was evidence of water damage in the basement and possible knob and tube electrical.
Basically, even though the sellers made the place look nice, all of their work would have to be reversed in order to fix all of the problems they hid. We walked away relieved that we just avoided a major money pit. Let’s hope those bullies know what they’re in for.
So that was my first experience house hunting in Toronto. It was pretty stressful and eye-opening, but spirit isn’t crushed (just yet anyway).
Even though we haven’t found anything good enough to bid on, we’re confident that the right place will appear at the right time. Until them, I’m so glad we live in an apartment with even floors and no crazy odours.