A True “Live/Work” Loft


4 minute read

July 15, 2009

I got really excited when I saw this new listing for a condo on Noble Street for just over $300,000, but after reading over the MLS listing, I completely discarded it.

Other than a topic for my blog, it was of zero use to me or my clients.

Unless……well, unless I have any hippie, do-gooder clients…


Aside from price, what is the number-one reason that people live in condominiums as oppose to houses?

I would have to say lifestyle, in that a condominium is intended to provide a more carefree style of living.  There is far less maintenance and upkeep required in a condo, both with respect to the building as a whole as well as your unit.

The building is run by a property manager who oversees the other staff such as security, concierge, cleaners, and outside contractors such as window-washers, garbage-collectors, etc.  Some or all of your utilities are included in your monthly maintenance fees, and there is no snow to shovel, leaves to rake, or leaky roofs to fix.

So when I see a condo like the one pictured above on Noble Street hit the market, I have to wonder what the appeal is…

First, a little background about the area, perhaps.

West Queen West as it is known is a transitional area that has equally as many investment bankers inhabiting the surrounding condominiums as there are homeless people begging for change.

Parkdale was a complete ghetto up until a few years ago when the yuppies began to take notice.  It used to be that the downtown-crowd would only hang out at Queen & Dufferin; frequenting places such as Cadillac Lounge or Stone’s Place, but now they’re actually moving in!

A few of the buildings on Brock Street and Noble Street were once zoned as “live/work” space for “artists,” but those regulations have been removed as the downtown crowd has begun to outnumber the artsy-fartsy types that live in the area.

But one particular building on Noble Street, however, is a different story.

This is one of the few buildings in the area, or in the city for that matter, to remain a true Live/Work Building.

There are only eleven total units in this building, and not a single one has ever been on MLS before.

The building is a hard-loft conversion from an older, industrial structure, and it incorporates all the elements of a true conversion such as exposed brick walls, timber-posts, and floor-to-ceiling windows.

There is no doubt in my mind that this 738 square foot unit would be worth the $332,000 asking price under ‘normal’ circumstances, but thankfully I read the fine print.

The first thing I saw on the MLS listing was the following, which I have circled in red:


So the building has no property management company, for starters.

And when I saw “new owner will have their own duties,” I began to laugh.

Is this practical?

Most people live in condos for the lifestyle, and perhaps for the privacy as well, but in this building on Noble Street, the owners are expected to live happily ever after as if the condominium were some sort of commune.

The thought of having to befriend ten strangers and speak to them on a daily basis about who is taking out the garbage does not appeal to me in the slightest.

But you know what?  Even if this lifestyle did appeal to me, there is no guarantee that I could move there!  That’s right – any potential purchaser must be approved by the other ten owners, aka the Board!

Here is some fine print of interest:

Upon acceptance of this Agreement of Purchase & Sale, the Buyer agrees to provide to the Board of Directors the following:

1) a declaration setting out the nature of the business intended to be carried on in the unit, the names of the individuals intending to carry on business within the unit, any proposed alterations to the unit and other reasonable information considered relevant by the directors of the Corporation and;

2) at least two personal references, the buyer’s previous address and financial credit information in a format acceptable to the Corporation attesting to the Buyer’s ability to afford the monthly carrying costs associated with the sale transaction

That’s it?

You mean, they don’t want a blood or urine sample along with that?

So basically, you are buying a condominium unit in a building where the owners govern themselves, manage the property together, live in harmony, and decide who will come in and out of the building.

It’s almost like trying to join a really exclusive club, isn’t it?

And what type of “duties” will be assigned to the new buyer as per the instructions on the listing?  And who is responsible for making these decisions?  I can only assume that some sort of Grand Poobah lives on the third floor who will routinely order you to do things; “David, we’re going to need to you give a foot bath to Mrs. Jones down the hall.  She’s had a really long day of writing letters to the editors and feeding her cat.”

In most ‘normal’ condos, residents can volunteer to serve on the board of directors if they so choose.  But in this quaint, eleven-unit building on Noble Street, ALL residents are expected to serve a directors role, and there is no “carefree” lifestyle to be had.

So my preceding rant begs the question: who is going to buy this condominium unit and why?

I really have no idea.

You can buy a similar unit at 27 Brock Street or 24 Noble Street and carry on your private life without having to roast marshmallows with your ten neighbors once a week while unnecissarily taking on the collective role of property manager.

There are some co-operatives in Toronto where residents happen to be from a certain demographic, ie. a Polish community inhabiting one particular building.  This, I understand.

But I’m not so sure that I see why a buyer would get involved with the situation in this condominium on Noble Street.  It seems a little too Amish to me – doing things the long, hard way despite the readily available means to do it with about one-tenth the fuss…

The idea of having to be approved by the other ten owners makes me uneasy.

West Queen West is a thriving residential area and is home to a bevy of gorgeous hard-loft conversions, but I’m beginning to realize just how much research a buyer must do on the area and the buildings themselves.

It’s safe to say that I’ll be monitoring this listing rather closely; purely out of curiosity as to how easily the property sells.

I guess the upside is: if you have no friends, you can always buy this condo and make ten new friends right away!

Either that, or join a cult.  To each their own…

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

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  1. Calico Cate

    at 8:27 am

    Don’t drink the kool-aid.

  2. fidel

    at 1:01 pm

    The picture is actually from 24 Noble St, not 26… the listing is deceiving

  3. Franky B

    at 5:39 pm

    Seems to have sold for above asking, in a multiple-offer situation, according to people familiar with the matter. David, do you have any color?

  4. michael

    at 6:47 am

    The building is run as a co-op.
    With so few units, the owners (I one of them) feel it in our own best interest to have created bylaws to protect ourselves from people such as yourself. The history of the building is important to consider, 12 artists who pooled resources to buy a building and make it theirs without having to deal with landlords and in those days late 80’s- early 90’s “slumlords” that rented old crappy warehouses that would find raves, addicts and really poor conditions overlooked and really not very good places to be if you were in fact an “artist”, or someone that made a living as an artist.
    The reason this building has never been on mls, we have always kept sales in the building as private sales by only ever selling to friends or other tenants.
    I have owned several condos and believe me when I tell you the frustrations I felt when it came to condo boards and getting things done. It was very expensive on a monthly basis and very annoying to deal with a few overzealous owner-board members with holier than thou attitudes.
    Our building is very small so we self manage and keep our condo fees low. At times it is very frustrating to have a building run by the tenants, but in the long run I have found it to work very well and enjoy it very much. I don’t think it’s for everyone and I think the listing has outlined all of the facts in regards to the sale, so I find your criticisms a bit harsh.
    The owner of this unit lives out of town and that is the sole reason it was listed.
    I was the first person to “buy into” 26 noble from the outside, so to speak, and my lawyer advised me against it, it was hard to convince my partner that it was a sound investment and I had my reservations. But after a learning curve and some very interesting board meetings I have to admit that it’s been one of the best places I have ever owned.
    We have a very low turnover with any of the few units that currently have renters, there are no issues with noise, pets, parties, bad management, or transient units that are owned by corporations.
    The owners are all successful, world renowned, award winning artists that have created an environment that is unique and protects our own best interests.
    If you have any questions regarding the building before any more posts I or any of the other owners would be glad to answer them.

    1. RealInvestor

      at 4:28 pm

      I totally agree with Michael’s response.
      David just sounds bitter for some reason towards this building. I can see myself living in a situation like this. I have lived/owned multiple condos simultaneously and I can tell you that there is nothing worse than dealing with condo management companies. I believe I don’t have to mention the ever increasing ridiculous condo fees.

  5. michael

    at 7:14 am

    and in response to fidel, yes the picture IS actually 26 noble street.

  6. Lucy Sanford

    at 7:53 am

    First to the comment from Fidel – the picture is 26 Noble Street not 24. I know because I am the listing agent for this property and was there when the photographer took the photo. 26 Noble is a hard loft and 24 Noble is a soft loft and, as such, has an enormous appeal to many. It is indeed a very different situation for a condominium but one which, many buyers were drawn to. There were multiple offers the first day it was allowed to be shown. There were 10 showings that day and 10 booked for the next day. So obviously David you were wrong about the appeal of this building. I would think David, that before trashing a building and the people who live there, it would be prudent to actually see the building or to meet some of the artists who live and work there and run the building. The ones I have met are professional and enjoy and are protective of the community they have created. I, for one, would prefer to live in a building and have quiet enjoyment of it rather than live in some of the other ones I have been showing lately. I was in one the other day (approximately 1 year old) where a dog had a dump in the hall and the owner had not bothered to pick it up. They obviously took no pride in the building or had respect for the other people who lived there. I notice that you were not one of the agents who saw the building or booked an appointment for one of your clients. Perhaps being so close minded and judging this building so quickly made one of our clients lose out on something they would have liked.

  7. mystified man

    at 9:24 am

    Perhaps if you followed your own mandate, to offer a more fully constructive guide instead of an exaggerated stand-up routine, your blog would actually be of some practical use.

    It’s moot, since the unit sold for more than the asking and in record time, but in the end, you have entirely misrepresented an artist-created and artist-run building–developed by artists and craftspeople in the recession of the early nineties, who had the guts to collectively risk every penny they had on a crumbling commercial structure, in an area dominated (at that time) by halfway homes and drug dealers. One 5-minute phone call, should you have bothered, would have given you an accurate picture of the building’s history and how it functions.

    Maybe next time.

  8. Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen

    at 9:58 am

    I live with a an acoustic guitar maker, a print maker, a ceramic designer, two painters, a photographer, a couple students, a children’s entertainment company and I am run a cooking school and am a nutritionist. What is wrong with people wanting to know their neighbours, live in a community and take pride in their home?

    Happy you wouldn’t show this building to any of your clients, as I assume anyone who would choose you as an agent wouldn’t be into a helpful community building where we can leave spare keys with each other, know our neighbours by name and not only do we make eye contact with each other, we converse.

  9. David Fleming

    at 10:23 am

    I appreciate all of your comments.

    I look after my clientele, and this isn’t what they are looking for.

    The ‘yuppies’ that are slowly taking over your area with their downtown money are not interested in living in a commune.

    I called it like it is – from MY perspective, which represents the thoughts of my clientele.

    It’s only my perspective; my opinion, which has never proven to be fact.

    It’s nice to hear that all the residents of the building are happy living in the community that they have created for themselves.

    Not my cup of tea, but perhaps the herbal tea drank by many, many others…

  10. michael

    at 11:10 am

    Your perspective is quite biased and not fully informed and I’m sure your clients would be interested in the perspectives of others before you drown them out.
    I own 2 of the units in this building, I own several other condos in Toronto, Los Angeles and also Calgary.
    I run a small production company that has revenues in the 7 figures and I used to live as a renter in this building prior to buying.
    I happen to live in Leaside, so in your estimation I am a yuppy, however I am still a commercial artist that used to climb a ladder to my loft style bedroom.
    In the early days of living in parkdale I had to use the “buddy system” to go to the local video store so that I wouldn’t get accosted, I picked up used condoms, crack vials and still the occasional heroin bag from my garden and the surrounding area. I know who the local dealers are, drunks and police because I have been proactive in trying to make this a better community for YOUR clients that seem to be moving into this neighborhood.

  11. Sebastian V.R.

    at 10:44 am

    I’m really enjoying reading this thread!
    I’m amazed at how passionate the residents of this building are!
    David – you sure put yourself out there! But that’s what I admire about your blog. You’re always available to take a shitkicking. haha
    I’m one of your so-called “yuppie downtowners” and personally I have no interest in coming home every night during the midst of a 90-hour work week and having to run my own building. I live at The Icon where property management does their job. I have no interest in doing the job for them. But that’s just me!
    Perhaps there is a small fraction of “artists” that enjoy the community they have created.
    David – it doesn’t appeal to you and I, but I’m sure it appeals to the people who created it. No wonder they flew off the handle!
    I know, I know, it’s just your ‘opinion’…

  12. diana birkenheier

    at 4:27 pm

    I am an artist without the quotes around artist. I bought into 26 Noble in the spring of 2001. The space is a work space, and it is wonderful. If the Yuppies who wish to inhabit this area now would forgo a few overpriced meals in places they wish to be “seen” in, maybe they could buy a few original artworks from the aritsts at 26 Noble, thereby enabling the artists to pay for outside professional upkeep on the building.
    Furthermore, the original owners worked very hard to get this building done, they went through months of legal and financial hurdles, as well as very hard physical labour.
    I have my studio on the backs of these people, to whom I will always be grateful.

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