Stretching The Boundaries


5 minute read

August 31, 2011

I’m constantly amazed at how properties are being listed as part of a certain neighbourhood when in reality, they’re nowhere close.

Do you consider Eastern Avenue & Broadview to be “Prime Riverdale?”

Stop me if you’ve heard this story, but it’s worth re-telling.

I was at an extended-family function a few years back in Burlington, and I was introduced to a lady “from Toronto.”

This lady was told that I was from Toronto as well, but she wasn’t told that I was: a) a real estate agent, b) born and raised in Leaside.

She proceeded to tell me that she “loved” Toronto and currently resided in one of the most prestigious locations in the city!  She was so spoiled!  Her friends and family were in shock and awe of her life and how great it was!

I asked her where this incredible/amazing/fantastic/unbelievable neighbourhood was, and she said, “Leaside.”

Without revealing that I was a Realtor and that I was born and raised in Leaside, I asked her, “No kidding – what street?”

She took a swig of cheap white wine, threw her left hand out so I could see her French-tip manicure, and said, “Chilton.”

I laughed inside for what seemed like an eternity, before I threw her a curious look and said, “Chilton?  You mean… East York?”

Her eyes widened like a five-year-old caught in a lie and she replied, “Oh…..haaaa…..well it’s south Leaside, really.”

But I didn’t let her off the hook!  No way!

I said, “Actually, south Leaside is bordered by Eglinton, Laird, Bayview, and Southvale – before it turns into Moore.  North Leaside is on the other side of Eglinton, but you’re about five kilometres from that.”

It’s not that I didn’t like her, I just didn’t like her type.

For lack of a better word, I’d describe her as a “poser,” like we did when that word was cool back in ’95.

The city of Toronto is full of neighbourhoods with no identities, and people who aspire to live in a better location.  Combine the two of them, and you’ve got home-owners that make some incredibly outrageous claims.

Four years ago, I started playing hockey at Ted Reeve Arena on Monday nights.

When I first pulled into the side-street that the arena was located on, I couldn’t help but notice a giant sign advertising “Upper Beaches Townhomes.”

I stopped, pulled out a map, a compass, and some common sense, and still couldn’t make sense of the sign.

“The Beaches,” as it’s known in Toronto, is a pleasant little area down near the WATER.  That’s right – WATER.  A “beach” is, by definition, by the water, and unless the area is named with irony in mind, I’d like to think that for all intents and purposes – “The Beaches” was meant to be by the water.

“The Beaches” neighbourhood is located between Woodbine and Victoria Park (east to west) and between the water and, I suppose, Kingston Road (south to north).

Obviously, the prime houses are located as close to Queen Street as possible, and the further north you move, the less desirable the home.

This was the exact thinking behind the term “Upper Beaches.”

The “Upper Beaches” describes the area close to Kingston Road, and debatably further north.  It all depends on who you are, and how you feel.  If you’re a buyer of real estate, you’d likely think of “Upper Beaches” as the area between Queen and Kingston, but closer to Kingston.  If you’re a home-owner, then the sky is the limit!

Over time, and as marketing has become more savvy, “The Beaches” has borne an area called “Upper Beaches,” and that has spread into “Upper Upper Upper Beaches.”

Let’s face it – Gerrard and Main has absolutely, positively, nothing to do with a beach.

Gerrard is one major street north of Kingston, which is one major street north of Queen, which is one major street north of the actual BEACH!

How in the hell is Gerrard considered “Upper Beaches?”

I guess if you’re a developer, selling a fledgling development (sidebar: has anybody seen the townhouses on Merton Street priced at 350% of fair market value?), then you’ll say anything and have no shame with respect to marketing.  But seriously – does anybody consider Gerrard Street to be “Upper Beaches?”

I’ve seen many, many instances of “stretching the boundaries” in real estate, especially when it comes to MLS listings.

If you’re a Realtor, and you’re listing a property in an area adjacent to a very nice neighbourhood, why not just refer to it as that neighbourhood?

It happens every single day, and it always makes me smile.

Leslieville is an area of the city that has questionable boundaries.

Just like “The Beaches,” the area is defined by proximity to Queen Street, and the further north you go, the less desirable the locale.

Once you get to Dundas, in my opinion, you’ll have a hard time still calling it “Leslieville.”

But do you think that stops property sellers and Realtors from referring to a house on Austin Avenue as “Leslieville?”  Of course not!  Why not stretch the truth, fib, joke, and full out LIE when there are no repercussions?

Austin Avenue is in one of those “no man’s land” that really has no identity, and this is exactly the type of street is home to sellers who don’t care about lying on MLS.

What do you do if you live on Rhodes Avenue in between Eastern and Queen?  Do you call this “Beaches” or do you call this “Leslieville?”

If I’m a Realtor working for a seller, I call this “absolutely nowhere,” and I tell my clients to wait for a house on a better street.  I’m not trying to force my clients to buy on a brand name street, but if you can’t choose between cake and pie for desert, mixing them together in a bowl and eating it with a spork is hardly a compromise…

Riverdale is another area that gets a lot of false fanfare.  I constantly see houses north of Danforth (Dewhurst, Fielding, Baltic) referred to as “Prime Riverdale.”

Anything west of the downtown core also falls into a jumble that only the crossword-solving weirdo at the back of the subway could solve.

How do you define “Bloor West Village?”  Again, I think it all depends on proximity to the main drag, which in this case is Bloor Street.  Just as Queen Street defines Leslieville and The Beaches, Bloor Street runs through the heart of this neighbourhood.

Is Runnymede and St. Clair “Bloor West?”  I don’t think so.  In fact, it’s more like “Bloor north.”  But there are some MLS listings which feature houses north of Bloor, north of Annette, and north of DUNDAS as “Bloor West.”

Who are they fooling?

I feel like this is akin to listing a 3-bedroom home as “four bedrooms,” since buyers are simply being set-up for disappointment.  Unless you’re selling to Mr. and Mrs. Conehead, who hail from Remulak, a small town in France, then nobody is going to fall for your false advertising.

When it comes to downtown condos, there is a “take no prisoners” mentality.

And when it comes to the use of the word “prime,” there are simply no off-sides.

Consider King West.  What is truly “prime?”  Well I think the nucleus of King West is Freedville, or King and Portland.  But condo sellers on Strachan, Shank, Tecumseth, and the like are using the words “prime King West.”

And since when is Front & Spadina considered King West?

How about Queen West?  How many new developments are trying to capitalize on one of the most well-known neighbourhoods in the downtown core?

I don’t think the methods will ever change, but I do think that buyers are savvier than ever.

I’ve grown tired of letting out even the most coy snickers, and now I just pass by the listings and move on to the next.

Have the buyers followed suit?  Do they get lured in by the lower-than-average marketing tactics of bottom-feeding sellers and agents?  I’m starting to think that they don’t.

But I’m sure I’ll live to see the day when Ajax is referred to as “East Toronto”…

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. Tammy

    at 8:17 am

    This from a guy that lives in Moss Park 🙂

  2. Geoff

    at 8:57 am

    Oh c’mon that’s small potatoes in terms of ‘exaggerations’. I have met people who’ve said they lived in Toronto and when questioned it’s almost always Richmond Hill, Brampton, Pickering, or the shwa.

  3. Joe Q.

    at 10:28 am

    David, I always thought it was the RE industry (agents in particular) — and not the residents — who were primarily responsible for things like “Upper Beaches”, etc.

  4. DB

    at 10:31 am

    1) I thought I was a see you next Tuesday at parties. Good job David for raising the bar.

    2) When you list your place, will it be “King East”, “St. Lawrence”, or “Moss Park South”?

  5. johnny chase

    at 11:20 am

    Kind of like calling Sherbourne and King the St. Lawrence market area. I always disagreed with that notion… I understand you’re short walk away but you’re not in the hood.

  6. Thecondofitz

    at 3:34 pm

    I’ve met “Torontonians” in Mexico. Turns out the were from Milton.

    I sell real estate in Liberty Village. That’s my focus and I know it very well. Which is why I get mad when developers, realtors, and residents claim that their address is in LV, when in reality it is north or south of it. (I’m looking at you DNA3 & The Bridge) Those areas are nothing alike and they cheapen my product. There I said it.

  7. Craig

    at 4:00 pm

    The condos on King West/Strachan existed long before any of the Freedville projects were built, so the area was known then and still is King West.

  8. El-mikeo

    at 8:18 pm

    Some years ago there was a condo around The Queensway & Royal York Rd that was advertised as being in “Downtown West.” I wonder if anybody was able to keep a straight face?

  9. F

    at 12:32 am

    “How do you define “Bloor West Village?” Again, I think it all depends on proximity to the main drag, which in this case is Bloor Street. Just as Queen Street defines Leslieville and The Beaches, Bloor Street runs through the heart of this neighbourhood.

    Is Runnymede and St. Clair “Bloor West?” I don’t think so. In fact, it’s more like “Bloor north.” But there are some MLS listings which feature houses north of Bloor, north of Annette, and north of DUNDAS as “Bloor West.”

    Who are they fooling?”
    Seeing as there are no houses right on Bloor st w – in Bloor West Village, what exactly would you refer to as Bloor west village if not for houses north (and south) of Bloor? – Starting west of High Park, north at least up until Ardagh, west to perhap Old Mill and South to ???

    1. David Fleming

      at 12:59 am

      North of Dundas is hardly “Bloor” West…

  10. WEB

    at 7:17 pm

    Many years ago the beaches referred to south of Queen only. North of Queen was referred to as ‘upper beaches.’ Now of course north of Queen and south of Kingston is referred to as the beaches and north of Kingston and south of the tracks is called upper beach.

    What is the difference between the real beaches and something around Gerrard and Main? Well, a lot right on the beach (Lake Front) that is 60X150 just sold for $2.7 million! The cottage on it is worth about zero so it was purely land value only. What is a lot that size at Danforth and Main worth….well, just a tiny bit less!

  11. Kyle

    at 8:30 pm

    No offence to the owners, but those are possibly the ugliest feet i’ve ever seen. They look like they belong to someone who chews their toe nails. The big toes in particular look like they were pedicured with a jackhammer.

    I think any serious buyer looking to be within a certain neighbourhood already knows exactly what the boundaries are. In fact he/she probably knows the neighbourhood postal code, all the names of the best streets and where one school district ends and the next begins. There’s no way they’ll be fooled by a misleading description. Misrepresenting the location only serves to make the listing agent look clueless, slimy or both. Probably not a wise move in a business built on reputation. I also have to imagine they’re putting off potential new clients who actually do live in the neighbourhood and don’t like their neighbourhood’s boundaries being stretched.

    1. jeff316

      at 11:18 pm

      Agreed. I don’t understand all the hoopla about naming and boundary stretching in listing description boxes. As long as it’s on the map in the right spot it doesn’t matter.

  12. Roland

    at 8:37 pm

    I’ve recently heard with the Regent Park revitalization project that they are calling the area “Cabbagetown South”. Does have a nice ring to it, I must admit 🙂

    1. Kyle

      at 9:35 am

      The irony is it was Cabbagetown long before it was Regent Park. Before Regent Park was built, it used to have the same bay-and-gables, Victorian row houses and worker cottages that you still see today North of Gerrard. The whole area was called Cabbagetown, and it wasn’t a nice place to live, in fact the name came from the fact that the poor people living there grew cabbage and other vegetables on their front yards to eat. When Regent Park was built, it was supposed to be a shiny new example of an ideal neighbourhood, with towers and green space. Funny they probably re-named it Regent Park back then to lose the stigma of the Cabbagetown name. In the 70’s and 80’s people began renovating and restoring the houses North of Gerrard, gentrifying it to what it is today. Fast Forward to today, and the Cabbagetown name carries a lot of cachet. Now they’ve come full circle and are trying to re-name the area South of Gerrard to lose the stigma of Regent Park.

  13. Meany

    at 12:02 am

    Yea, it happens. Like when I was looking for a place to rent and discovered the “Prime King West” condo I was to look at was a Cityplace building near some train tracks at Fork York. Are you kidding me “Prime King West”? What a waste of time.

  14. Nicole

    at 5:14 pm

    I have a question for David: I just bought a house on Mortimer at the corner of Mortimer and Arundel Avenue, WHAT IS MY NEIGHBOURHOOD CLASSIFIED AS? I’ve heard Riverdale, but I’m not 100% sure that I fall into that perimeter. I don’t want to be one of those people claiming they live somewhere they actually don’t.

  15. Nicole

    at 5:18 pm

    I have a question for David: I just bought a house on the south side of Mortimer, at the corner of Mortimer and Arundel Avenue. Can you please tell me what my area is classified as? I’ve been told that is Riverdale but I’m not quite sure I’m within that perimeter..

    1. David Fleming

      at 12:29 am

      @ Nicole

      Riverdale is south of Danforth.

      You’re in “Jackman,” which is basically just an area named and based on the school that everybody wants their kids to go to. (Broadview/Danforth/Mortimer/Carlaw)

      Some might still refer to your area as “Playter Estates.” (really only south of Browning, west of Jackman)

      Some might call it the much larger “East York.” (O’Connor/Broadview/Danforth/Woodbine)

      1. Nicole

        at 1:37 pm

        Thank you for clarifying!
        Pardon my posting the same question twice.

        Love your blog!

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