Into The Fire…

A house came onto MLS today; well….half a house.

Once upon a time, this was a beautiful Forest Hill house where modern luxuries met with old world charm.

Today, it’s a pile of rubble for sale at $995,000…


I’m not at all afraid to admit this fact: I really, really like Sarah McLachlan.

My favorite song: Into The Fire.

The chorus is great:

Into the fire
I’m reunited
Into the fire
I am the spark
Into the fire
I yearn for comfort…

Speaking of yearning for comfort; I wonder how the owners of the house pictured above are feeling right now!

It’s a sad story, but since it was well documented by every television station and all the major Toronto newspapers, I don’t think I’m out of line by posting this.

Highbourne Avenue isn’t quite located in Forest Hill, but I’m sure that doesn’t stop everybody on the street from telling their pals at the local yacht club, “Oh yes, I live in a nice little area; maybe you’ve heard of it – Forest Hill!”


Back in late 2007, a duplex on Highbourne Avenue was listed at $1,945,000, and sold after only ONE day on the market for an even $2,000,000.  Somebody clearly saw the value in the price and jumped on the chance to get their hands on this unique property with a total of 6000 square feet of living spread over a 51 x 122 foot lot.

The owner’s suite was 3900 square feet with a centre hall plan and impressive principal rooms; 4-bedrooms and 3-bathrooms.  The second suite was slightly smaller at 2500 square feet, but equally as impressive, and with an “in-law” suite in the basement.

The house sold in September of 2007, and the deal closed in late January of 2008.

But in August of last year, this happened:


From the website:

Three Alarm Blaze In Toronto

Firefighters are still putting out a blaze that began early Monday morning in Forest Hill.

At 5:30am, 55 firefighters were called to a three-alarm fire at (address censored).

“It hasn’t been fully knocked down as of yet,” Toronto Fire Services Public Information Officer, Captain David Eckerman said.

Officials are beginning to scale back the 13 fire trucks that arrived at the two-storey home, but four adjacent homes remain evacuated.

A primary search of the house has been done of the affected house, and no one was home at the time of the fire, said Eckerman.  The owner of the home has confirmed that six people are out of the house, and all are safe, he said.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but the interior fire Marshall has been called due to “high dollar loss,” said Eckerman.

For a video of the actual fire, click here.

So here we are in February of 2008, and the house is currently for sale at $995,000, listed and advertised as “vacant land.”

Actually, it’s being marketed as a “prime building lot.”

How about this tagline: “build your dream home!”

I find that statement cruelly ironic.

One family is going to build their “dream home” where another family’s dreams were shattered worse than Joe Theisman‘s fibula on Monday Night Football in 1985.

And would you even want to build your dream home in the very place where other dreams were crushed?  Would you feel the stigma of living on a pile of ashes and bad memories?

Would this be along the same lines of living in a house which at one time featured one of these:


I wonder which is worse: a house where somebody was murdered or a house that burned down?

In any event, this “property” on Highbourne Avenue was first offered for sale in November of 2008, just two months after the fire, for a sum of $1,175,000.  They eventually reduced the price to $995,000, but the house didn’t sell.

Now we have a new listing for the same pile of rubble, also priced at $995,000.

The last house to sell on this property was $2,000,000, and it was a duplex, meaning the house did not maximize the location and lot potential.  Mind you, prices have come down significantly in the last 18 months, although I still think this lot has $2,800,000 potential.

So what does this mean for a purchaser?

At $250/sqft, a new 6000 square foot house would cost $1,500,000 to build.  Add that to the $995,000 asking price, include your Land Transfer Tax, admin fees, and financing, and you could barely squeak out a product that justifies the money spent.

Now I’m assuming that there is $2,800,000 in a five-star house on this lot, but I’m also assuming that the owners wouldn’t take less than the $995,000 asking price.

I wonder which of those assumptions is worse?

Chances are, the house was insured and the owners received their $2,000,000 when the flames were put out and the smoke cleared, but what then are we to make of the sale?  Perhaps the owners haven’t received the full insurance settlement and won’t until the current “vacant lot” sells?

Time will tell, but we, the public, will never know.

It will be interesting to see, however, what this pile of rubble in Forest Hill eventually sells for, and what is built on the lot.

Forest Hill has always been a popular locale for members of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Maybe one of the new Summer 2009 free-agent signings should purchase the lot and build a house!

Okay, I was going to end this post with a really lame play-on-words involving the Toronto Maple Leafs and the pile of rubble and/or fire & going up in smoke, but that’s just too easy, and I can’t narrow it down from my short-list of a dozen…

I’m just thankful that members of the Leafs powerplay unit weren’t the ones aiming the fire-hose at the house when it caught fire, or it’d probably still be burning today…


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  1. greg says:

    its nice to see how committed people are to recycling these days…

  2. earth mother says:

    I agree it’s sad … but every resale property will have a history… some good some bad, but a history in every house…. So realistically there will, ultimately, be a buyer … someone will be less interested in the history and focus on the land. But I loved your views on the house!