Bargain Hunting!

There are some fantastically affordable condos in the downtown core.  You just might not be aware of them.

Yesterday, I took out a client to see properties in a very unsung price range.

$239,000 and below…

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Andy found me through the Toronto Realty Blog and we began a correspondence about his impending move from Calgary to Toronto.

He was looking to purchase his very first “home” as he will be spending the next three years doing graduate studies at the University of Toronto.

The only problem, of course, is that living in Calgary and wanting to move to Toronto with a condo purchased and ready to move into might prove to be difficult.

I spend months with many of my buyers pouring over every single listing and viewing every single condo in the city.  Andy wanted to wrap this up as fast as he could.

Initially, his price range was $250,000 – $300,000, but after consulting with his brother and really hammering out the carrying costs, Andy lowered the boom and told me that he’d be looking under $225,000.

What the heck can you buy in Toronto for under $225,000?

Well, it would seem there are more options than most people think…

Andy’s brother, Greg, met me yesterday afternoon as he was in town attending a conference and would view some condos on Andy’s behalf.

We knew the price range would prove tricky, but there are options out there…

600 Fleet Street, $239,900
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“Malibu” is less than one year old, and is a lot nicer inside than it looks from the street.  The location is somewhat questionable as it is on the northwest corner of the busy Bathurst/Lakeshore intersection, and with the special lane for TTC streetcars on Fleet Street, it makes for a constant logjam of cars.

The unit, however, was among the better ones that we saw.  One bedroom, plus an actual den, comprising 575 square feet of living space with moderate finishes.  The presence of both the living room and the den gave the unit some versatility in terms of where to put furniture, but in the end, the north view of the Gardiner Expressway (not to mention the vacant lot which will eventually be a condo) was too much to overcome.

4K Spadina, $229,900
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I’m not usually a fan of CityPlace, but I actually like this building and the complex (also containing the newer 25 Telegram Mews).  These units are usually more impressive than you might think, but this tiny 460 square foot unit didn’t have a workable layout.

The foyer was far too large for such a small unit; imagine using 80-100 of your 460 square feet on a useless, over-sized entrance way.  The kitchen was combined with the living room, and I mean combined in that the one single-person couch was only four feet from the kitchen counter.  The finishes were fantastic, but we just couldn’t overcome the odd layout.

11 Brunel Court, $209,800
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I had never really thought about how far your two-hundred-nine-thousand dollars can go until I set foot inside this 440 square foot unit at 11 Brunel Court.  This unit didn’t have nearly as nice finishes as 4K Spadina, yet the layouts were somewhat the same.  I found the foyer to be far too large to suit such a small unit, and the hallway from the front door to the living room had to be fifteen feet long.

The bedroom didn’t have an actual door on it, and since it had no window, you have to live with the open-concept or risk living in a cave.  The broadloom was in poor condition and along with the marks on the walls we assumed the unit had been tenanted.  This would make for a great return on investment if you were renting it out, but I couldn’t see living here.

270 Wellington Street, $238,000
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In my mind, I had already sold this unit to Andy before his brother and I ever set foot in it!  I love this building, I love this location, and for 574 square feet, I absolutely love the idea of paying $238,000 for it!

250-270 Wellington, aka “The Icon” is home to the youngest demographic in the city.  In fact, I don’t know if you’re allowed to live here if you’re over the age of thirty.  Located at Wellington & Blue Jays Way, the building is right in the heart of the downtown core, and is close to “everything.”  The unit had a fantastic open living-dining room, and the finishes were great for a five-year-old building (the oldest we’d seen thus far).  I gave this unit rousing endorsement.

109 Front Street, $239,900
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Another unit that I was ready to sell before setting foot inside, this one got my attention because of the area.  109 Front Street is right beside the St. Lawrence Market, and is surrounded by prime retail, restaurants, and shops.  As I told Andy at the onset, “You’re not just buying a home, you’re buying the area and the neighborhood too.”

The unit definitely showed its age, and the old-lady’s furniture and clutter didn’t help matters.  But at 550-570 square feet, I thought with a fresh coat of paint and new carpet, this unit would be well worth the asking price.

230 King Street, $219,900
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At this price, I just assumed there was something wrong with the unit.  But when I stepped inside, I figured this could prove to be the best unit we’d seen all day.  I happen to live in this building, so perhaps I’m biased.  But I truly believe that the St. Lawrence Market area is the top neighborhood in the downtown core, and I would love nothing more than to see Andy end up here.

The unit was 550 square feet and the owners had taken down the bedroom wall to make it one large bachelor unit.  That was the only drawback to an otherwise spectacular unit, and the price seemed too good to be true.  I’m not a fan of bachelor units, and neither is Andy or his brother Greg, but for the price and the neighborhood, we figured that we’d find a way to make it work.

105 McCaul, $206,900
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From the outside, I could tell that these were probably converted apartment units, but I never thought the unit would be in such rough shape!  The “new carpet” hardly did the unit any justice and didn’t take away the 1985 feel.  The walls were thick concrete much like you’d expect in old apartment buildings, and the kitchen cabinetry was that familiar white with a brown wooden stripe on the bottom.

There was no dishwasher, no washer-dryer, and no way I could see anybody living here.  There were three locks on the front door, which probably didn’t help either…

At the end of the day, Greg and I had seen some winners and some losers.

But there are definitely some $225,000 condos to be had in our city, and it’s a price range that most people think has long passed us by.

I thoroughly enjoyed looking at these entry-level units, and as I told Greg: I love all aspects of my job, and I can derive just as much pleasure from seeing million-dollar houses as I can from seeing $225,000 condos.

It is market dynamics and the product within the market itself that fascinates me, and marvelling at the 500-bottle wine cellar in the $5.2 Million house doesn’t always blow my socks off.

Looking for a useful, workable, livable floor plan in a sub-500 square foot condo can be just as exhilarating.  It’s a challenge to say the least, but challenges keep us sharp and on our toes.

Speaking of challenges, how does Andy now go about choosing a condo based on photos, MLS listings, and his brother’s own descriptions?

10 Comments

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  1. Alex says:

    Vancouver is considering zoning reform to allow for 205 sqft units. pretty disgusting.

    interesting article, btw.

  2. Susan says:

    A guy I dated used to own a bachelor condo- 360 sqft (pretty small). I don’t remember what the development was called but was a town house type condo located on Jarvis just north or Carlton. His place was WAY to small for me, so I’m thinking bachelor units would be that popular with the ladies.

    Do you sell a lot of bachelor units?

  3. David Fleming says:

    @ Fidel – I’m going to write a post on Friday about the potential for investment in these buildings. Thanks for the heads up!

  4. David Fleming says:

    @JB – good lord, no! Parking runs about $25,000 minimum. These “entry level” units are all without parking.

  5. JB says:

    Did any of these units come with parking?

    I find that smaller units tend not to have parking. I guess it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a car, though. Which, if you live and work downtown, you don’t need.

  6. fidel says:

    I’ve been thinking of buying a small unit as an investment property for some time, and with the softer prices & low interest rates now seems to be a good time.

    In your opinion, what is the rental market like for these smaller

  7. Calico Cate says:

    This is just like watching HGTV’s “House Hunters”. Please let us know which one Andy chooses and take us back in 3 to 6 months to see what he’s done to the place.

  8. David Fleming says:

    @Tim – I think it’s just shy of a “palatial estate.”

    It’s a modest 585 square feet; perfect for the single guy who would never move unless a wife/fiancee (or several if I move to Utah…) dragged me out, kicking and screaming.

    Oh, my patio is 440 square feet though. That counts for something. The golf net is being installed later this month…

  9. Tim Robbins says:

    David – dying to know here, how many sqft is your condo? Palatial estate?

  10. Josh G says:

    Any idea what the smallest condo in Toronto is?

    Do they make em under 400 sqft??

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