Hindsight Is A……Well, You Know How The Saying Goes…

I’m not a big hindsight person, many of you know this.

I work in a market where it’s absolutely pointless to look back and say, “If only I had…” and then finish the sentence with hypothetical action, that you may or may not have taken, had you possessed the knowledge then that you do now.

However, in the spirit of completely contradicting that, let me show you one of “the ones that got away” that I am forced to revisit every single time I drive through the east end…

Hindsight

Let’s say you happened to live at Adelaide & Jarvis.

And let’s say your mother happened to live at Birchmount & St. Clair.

How would you drive to see mom in the most efficient way possible?

Well, you’d undoubtedly find your way to Kingston Road, whether you take Eastern or Queen, and then take Kingston all the way to Birchmount, and hang a left.

That’s what I do, I’d like to say, once a month.  But if I really sat down and thought about it, I’d realize I need to see my mom more often…

Each and every time I see my mom, however, I’m forced to revisit one of the most painful “woulda, coulda, shoulda” moments in my real estate career.

Back in 2006, a new development called “North Beach Condos” made its debut at 640 Kingston Road, just west of Main Street.

A modest, 6-storey, 72 unit building on the south side, made of red brick and glass; visually appealing, and with a great design inside.

The area wasn’t nearly as established back then, as it is now.  2006 was not 2017, and the units didn’t sell overnight; far from it, in fact.  Some sat for (gasp!) weeks, and some were reduced in price as sellers tried to adjust their expectations.

Eventually, the building’s inventory from flippers and speculators alike was absorbed by the buyer pool, and within a couple of years, sales were happening much faster, and the price appreciation was, at the very least, in tandem with the market average.

I never put any buyers in that building, but I showed a few times.

And every time I drove to my mom’s, I passed by, and looked to my right.

A couple of years after North Beach Condos made its debut, I was driving on Kingston Road, and on the other side of the street, the north side, or “to my left,” I saw a FOR SALE sign on the lawn of a small, unassuming house, that was sandwiched between a low-rise apartment building and an auto-body shop.

Here’s what it looked like:

Kingston

The little house was being used as a daycare, and there was a large sideyard with kids’ toys, wading pools, and a jungle gym.

But that “little house” was situated on a massive 107 x 135 foot lot.

107 feet.

Frontage.

In Toronto.

On a major street.

Just…..wow.

You don’t have to know much about real estate to know that 107 feet on any major street, today, is impressive, and as a result, expensive!

But back in January of 2008, this 107 x 135 foot, irregular lot, measured a total of 1,637 square-metres, or 4/10th’s of an acre, was only up for sale for $1,495,000.

Just…..wow.

Hindsight, I know, I know.

But this one strikes a chord with me because I actively tried to sell this property, and I knew the potential was massive!

As I mentioned, the property was being used as a daycare, and there was a lease in place until March 31st, 2011.  This represented about 38 months at the time the property was listed, but I didn’t think much of that, given anybody buying this for development would likely need those three years for zoning, approval, permits, and pre-sales, before they got a shovel in the ground.

The property sat on the market, as I tried to pitch this to two developers – one small, one large, neither who seemed interested.

I didn’t understand.  Across the street, there was a 6-storey, 72-unit condominium, meaning somebody could probably get 7-8 storeys here, close maybe 80-90 units.  And this property sloped downwards, and backed onto greenspace, meaning your 6-storey front could actually be 8-9 storeys in the back.

Every time I drove to my mom’s, I looked to my left, and saw that giant piece of land, sitting there, with the FOR SALE sign gathering dust.

And then one day, six months later, the sign was down.

I hoped, and prayed, that the property had been taken off the market.

But when I went into MLS to check on the status, I suffered not one, but two disappointments, with the second being larger than the first:

1) The property had sold.

2) The property had sold for $1,000,000 even, asking $1,495,000.

Just….wow.

Who knows what really happened with the price – why it was $500K under list.  There could have been something else at play.

But a million bucks.  For that massive piece of land.

And every single time I’ve driven to my mom’s since then, I’ve looked over my left shoulder to see what was going on with the property.

For years and years, nothing happened.  That little house, with the little daycare, remained.

And then one day, it was gone, and the machinery started to appear.

This is what the site looks like today:

Southwood02

Southwood01

And just a refresher for those with short-term memory loss; remember what the site used to look like:

Kingston

Hindsight, eh?

It’ll get ya, every time!

The building under construction is called “The Southwood,” and is being developed by Streetcar Developments.

A 6-storey, 56-unit building, which unlike most condos under construction today, is not being aimed at investors.

This project actually offers functional floor plans, ie. an 800 square foot, 1-bedroom, 1-bathroom condo.  No developer downtown today would EVER offer a 1-bed, 1-bath at 800 square feet, when they can jam three tiny bedrooms and two bathrooms in that 800 square feet, and make more money.

There are 2-bedrooom units of 1,300 and 1,440 square feet, and a 3-bedroom model at 1,585 square feet.

The smallest unit is 580 square feet.  No “micro-condos” in this project, as we discussed in Friday’s blog.

So I guess in the end, the fact that this project is one that I actually like, cushions the blow a little bit.  It’s nice to see that the building is being marketed to, and mainly sold to people who already live in the Beaches or Upper Beaches, and folks who want to downsize from their houses into condos.

But it doesn’t take all the sting out, unfortunately.

I think back to one developer telling me “that’s a crappy lot, on a crappy street, in a crappy area,” and it frustrated me to no end (those guys are no longer in business, which might be in part due to their selection of projects…), since I knew this project had massive potential, and there was an existing condo of the same scale right across the street!

It was right in front of everybody to see, and yet people were passing.

2008, if you recall, was when our real estate market dipped for about 4-6 months; the only true “drop” in the market in the last 20 years.

That probably had a lot to do with not only peoples’ decision to pass, but also the price paid in the end, since you don’t see sale/list ratios of 69% every day.

So add that to the “hindsight” that already exists, and sure, you can tell me it’s easy to look back in 2017 and pat myself on the back.

You can tell me I should forget it.

But that’s easier said than done.  Because no matter how you slice it, hindsight never really goes away, does it?

7 Comments

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  1. Tanya DiNic says:

    This struck a chord! We owned a property for the sole purpose of flipping it in 2001. We had scraped together every penny of our equity, credit, savings, and then some, to do the project. It was on Rhodes in the Upper Beaches, next door to a rooming house. We were insanely proud of the place by summer’s end, and were putting finishing touches on it by early September, because we did 80% of the work ourselves.
    On September 11, before our sign went up, the whole world stopped. (Obviously there were more important things than money going on right then, but we also had kids and bills.)
    We cashed out (at a modest profit) and ran for just under $300 000 feeling like we’d dodged a bullet!
    How’s that for hindsight?😄

  2. WEB says:

    I remember seeing that listing (I live in the beaches.) I was intrigued by it but my lack of real estate expertise didn’t allow me to see the potential. I wonder what that same parcel of land would be worth today?

    Great location….walking distance to Danforth GO station, Main St. subway station, Glen Stewart Ravine, Queen St E, Kingston Rd Village, and the beach.

  3. Kramer says:

    Hindsight is a #####. Even when you’ve made a decent move here and there… “well what if I had done so and so”.

    I always fall back on the fact that if I knew back then what I knew now, I wouldn’t have invested in real estate, I would have invested in 5 specific stocks (including Apple), and sat back not having to worry about tenants and replacing dishwashers, etc. That helps with any real estate regrets. That and that leveraging yourself to the eyeballs 5 times over in real estate is not really permitted. When you look back at missed opportunities you somehow always had a bigger stack/credit to play with than you actually had.

  4. Kyle says:

    I think this is the future of development in this City. The large vacant lots are all gone, and Developers now need to eek it out on these small to medium sized lots. Back in 2008, this lot may not have been considered very prime. As well there are some archaic planning rules that potentially make developing a site like this uneconomic. For example buildings with more than 39 units, are required to enable a garbage truck to enter and exit back onto the street in forward. This eats up a lot of sellable sq footage if you can only build 6 or 7 storeys. The city claims that their new rule which allows developers to build mid rises using wood framing should reduce costs, but i hear it is actually the opposite.

    1. Boris says:

      Toronto is the wild west right now in terms of development.

      Giddy up!

  5. Joel says:

    These are the types of projects that I hope we will see a lot more of in the future. It increases density withing neighbourhoods and allows seniors to downsize and younger families viable options to remain, or get into a neighbourhood.

    I know that you have mentioned them before, but I really do like the majority of the projects that streetcar does. We need more developers like them.

  6. Ed says:

    Re $1 mil sale price from the $1.5 mil ask. Maybe the seller gets one of the finished units as part of the deal.

TWEETS