I Bought A New Condo (Part III)

I might have bought this condo an hour after it hit the open market, if I were afforded the chance to do so!

Instead, I had to wait overnight, jump through hoops, and out-bid another would-be buyer…

That photo made me jump out of my seat.

It was about 2:30PM on Tuesday, July 12th, and I was looking at the new listings on MLS.

I saw a new listing for a condo at 66 Portland Street that had a great 900 square foot terrace, and it was priced at $1.2 Million.  I was just about to email it to my girlfriend as a joke, saying, “I think I might buy this,” but when I clicked back to the new listings, the system updated and added a unit with the picture above.

On MLS, you get to choose one photo as the “Title Photo,” if you will.  That photo shows up on the listing and is the first thing people see.

I took one look at this photo and my heart started racing.

Every time I see a large terrace, I wonder “Could this be the one?”  As we know, it’s usually not perfect enough for me, or has one strand of cat-hair on the floor and I say “Thanks but no thanks!”

I clicked on this listing and I scrolled down to the description and while looking at four-hundred words on the whole, I only saw this:

(1076 sqft)…………………………………(1054 sqft)

I looked right through everything else, and only saw those two numbers.

For years, you could have quoted me as saying, “I’d love to find, like, a thousand square feet inside and a thousand square feet outside.  Yeah, that’s really what I’m looking for.”

My current condo is just under 600 square feet and has a 440 square foot terrace, and while I want a much larger unit, I also want a larger terrace to go with it!

This unit had exactly what I was looking for, AND it was only a block away from where I live now.

112 George Street, aka “Vu.”

To this day, nobody knows whether it’s “view” or “voo,” but I didn’t care.  I knew “This is it.”

I called the listing brokerage to make an appointment, and when the receptionist asked, “….and for what time?”  I said, “Well, I’m in the car now, and if I continue to drive approximately double the speed-limit and I don’t get pulled over, I think I can be there in about eight minutes.”

I called the listing agent directly, and he broke the bad news: the property was tenanted and thus it needed 24 hours notice.  He also added that he didn’t have the key yet, so even if he could make an exception, he wouldn’t be able to physically get me into the property.

I booked a showing for the next morning at 10AM, and I didn’t get a lot of sleep that night.  I was already looking at furniture online…

The next day, I brought my girlfriend and two of my colleagues to see the unit.

As much as I consider myself an expert in real estate in Toronto, it’s very difficult to take off one hat and put on another, which is to say that I can’t be a buyer and an agent at the same time.  You might find it odd that I brought two colleagues through the unit, but I needed an entirely unbiased opinion of value without my own wants and needs playing into the situation – not to mention my emotions!

I remember my first impression at the onset: it was not great.

I always assumed that I’d walk into my “dream condo” and I’d know that this was the one right away.  But opening the front door, I looked directly into a wall where the tenant had about twenty pairs of shoes.  That was the first impression.

The unit was slightly smaller than I’d expected, but the 10-foot ceilings made a huge difference in the “feel.”

I skipped right through the kitchen and went onto the terrace.

The terrace is just under 1100 square feet and is northwest facing, but you can see the water if you’re standing on the west point of the terrace.  It’s almost laid out like a 50 x 20 foot rectangle, except for a minor irregularity, and then there is a long walkway from the kitchen out to that massive 900 square foot area.

Fifty feet long.  Wow.  I had never seen anything quite like it.

There are a lot of balconies that offer this kind of length, but these are 4-feet in width, whereas this condo was TWENTY!

There really wasn’t much to write home about as far as the current state of the terrace was concerned; they tenants had a rusted table and chairs that was toppled over, an outdoor seating set with no cushions, and a few planter boxes scattered around the space.  I stood out on the terrace and looked at the CN Tower, all the bank buildings, and of course, St. James Park & Cathedral, and I realized that this truly was one-of-a-kind.

What’s more is that on the other side of the railing – on the north side, there is nothing but the roof of the rest of the building, and it’s covered in gravel.  If “one” were so inclined, “one” could hop over that small railing and play a game of touch-football with “one’s” friend’s on what looks like 2,500 square feet.  Go long, just not too long…

The unit itself was above average, but again, it lacked any sort of “WOW” factor that you might see in a condo which has been staged and marketed effectively.

The hardwood floors were an upgrade for sure, and that’s one less thing to worry about both from a cost perspective (about $10,000), and in terms of renovating when you move in.

The unit is a corner unit, so there is floor-to-ceiling glass running all along the west and north sides of the condo, meaning you get a ton of sunshine and you won’t miss the fact that there is no ceiling light in the living room.

The kitchen is large and has a centre island; stainless steel appliances, granite counters, but a truly awful baby-blue backsplash that needs to be replaced.

The “master” bedroom is actually smaller than my current bedroom, but it fits a King-sized bed and two end tables, so that’s really all I need.  The ensuite bathroom doesn’t feel palatial in any way, but again – I’d rather have that square footage in the living room.

Ah yes – the living room!  My dream of having a massive 10-person sectional couch could come true!  The living room was a very open space with windows on both sides a corner where a large sectional could easily fit.  The wall begs for a 55-inch TV; maybe more.

I had barely even made it to “the other wing” of the condo before my girlfriend and my colleagues were asking me, “So whaddya think?”

The other side of the condo is home to a small den, a second bedroom, and a second bathroom with a beautiful glass shower that I’d probably use over the master shower.  It’s more than I actually “need,” but for some reason I’ve always wanted 1100 square feet (I suppose now I should work from home…), so it definitely fit the bill.

The unit itself is on the same floor as the party room, so that could be a cause for concern.  The party room’s door is about fourteen inches from another resident’s unit (I can’t ever imagine living there…), but this unit was on the other side of the hall, and the front door of the condo is tucked away from the hallway which leads to the elevator.

I noticed the small things – like how the elevator is close, and the garbage chute isn’t a 120-foot walk.  These are the things I grew to appreciate in my current condo, and they usually go unnoticed until you’ve moved some place else.

There was no doubt in my mind that this condo needed work, but I was willing to entertain it.

I figured that the terrace needed about $10,000 in custom decking, planters, landscaping, etc., and likely another $7,500 in accessories: outdoor sectional seating, dining table, BBQ, umbrellas, hammock, ping-pong table, etc.  No, I’m not kidding.  The goal here is to create a space that isn’t just one-of-a-kind because it’s large, but rather because it’s one of the best terraces in the city of Toronto.

Inside the condo, well, everybody “needs” new furnishings when they move in.  A new TV, a new couch, a new dining room table.

Overall, it was going to cost a lot of money to furnish the condo and build out that terrace the way it deserves to be built, but that wasn’t my concern.

I wasn’t sure if this was the unit for “me,” and ultimately I went outside on the terrace with my girlfriend, away from my colleagues who had stopped talking about “value” and started talking about “Dave Fleming’s sick condo,” and tried to decide if this was the unit for “us.”

This decision is partly about the investment, partly about my own desires, and partly about my future and the cycle of life that I’m in.  Could we live here for 3-4 years?  What if we had a kid?  My God – the questions, the questions!

It felt a bit awkward, but how could it not be?  This is a massive decision in anybody’s life, and it doesn’t make it any less significant because I sell 50 properties per year.

We left the condo around 11AM, and I think the consensus was a slow “….yes.”

But whether or not I wanted this condo was going to be impacted by a call from the listing agent – only ten minutes after we left the condo.

“Hi David,” he said, with me thinking perhaps I left my sunglasses behind.  “I just wanted to let you know that my office just called, and there is a registered offer on the property.”

@(*&$&!^@#

A registered offer?

Somebody else is interested?

Now, this was personal…

(TO BE CONTINUED)

13 Comments

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  1. WEB says:

    I have a house in the beaches and probably have more deck, balcony, patio and porch space than anyone on my street. I estimate my outdoor sitting space at 600 square feet over 5 seperate areas. And with this condo you have almost twice the outdoor space that I do! And you are in a condo downtown! Wow! Congrats!

    And if/when this mkt finally cools, your place will likely hold up much better than the mkt as a whole. Also, I’m guessing that that you don’t have to pay maintenance fees on outdoor space.

  2. Daniel says:

    That’s simply unreal. Is there any correlation between Realtors having amazing houses/condos and the rest of the public sifting through the leftovers? J/K! Congrats!

  3. Camila says:

    Wow David! This put a huge smile on my face. Big congrats! You deserve it all 🙂

  4. Krupo says:

    Mr Fleming, are you aware of the Simpsons Trivia night at the Gladstone? They have a group and a twitter and oh so much fun Lisa (It’s a trap! Run! Run!) http://www.facebook.com/groups/150258028346222

    1. @ Krupo

      Well, you don’t win friends with salad!

  5. Darren says:

    I was able to pull up the listing on this. What an awesome looking place. Nice snag David.

  6. Moonbeam! says:

    And a corner of the terrace for your outdoor bar & barstools??

  7. Graham says:

    Congratulations David. It’s very baller.

    Heey Bart, do you have a best friend yet? ‘Cause I’ve been looking for someone to boss me around!
    – Milhouse a.k.a Thrillho

    1. @ Graham

      We need more ‘Simpsons’ quotes on this blog!
      Hey, look, somebody’s attractive cousin!

  8. BillyO says:

    So I guess this will conclude on Friday? I can’t wait!

    I remember seeing that unit on the MLS, in the words on your colleagues it is sick, no doubt.

    1. @ BillyO

      Wow, you know me so well! Friday, it is! I got a bit carried away with the four-part series. I started writing this a couple weeks ago, and just my “background” alone was about 1500 words. It wasn’t long before I realized this would take up a whole week’s worth of posts! I actually had to cut it down, of all things!

  9. George says:

    Great, now I’m jealous.

  10. David says:

    I saw this listing pop up too! I thought it disappeared fast! Congrats, soon-to-be neighbour!

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