The Importance Of Lot Size


4 minute read

May 26, 2009

You know that saying, “They aren’t making any more land”?

Well that phrase resonates every single time I take a look at a new listing.

Some people look at the pretty pictures of the flower garden, while the very first thing I look at is the lot size


Today I’m listing a property on Lippincott Street just two blocks north of College Street for a million-bucks.

And it is going to prove to be a difficult sale.

Not because of the price is high, but rather because the property is very “unique.”

The house has been in the same family for fifty-eight years, and being the cynical person that I am, if it were me that read the caption, “First Time Offered For Sale In 58 Years!” on the MLS listing, I’d say to myself, “Soooo…..the house is a heaping pile of waste?”

Before you accuse me of being just about the worst salesperson alive – indirectly bad-mouthing my listing, and all – let me add that this property’s “unique” nature represents the entire appeal for any buyer.

Lippincott Street is home to a hodge-podge of semi-detached houses and row-houses; some as small as thirteen-feet wide, and as shallow as sixty-six-feet deep.

On the three blocks of Lippincott Street between Harbord and College, I would estimate of the 150 houses less than ten are detached, and only two have a private driveway.

My listing is one of those two.

And, my listing is on a 30 x 125 foot lot which makes it the ONLY property on Lippincott Street that is 30-feet-wide.

So what about the house itself?

Well, it needs to be gutted from head-to-toe, and you could put anywhere from $75,000 – $250,000 into it.

But the property is one-of-a-kind.

The backyard, which of course is bigger than any single backyard on the street (and 6-8 times the size of some), is home to an endless orchard of mature fruit trees, all 40+ years old and yielding enough produce to start a farmer’s market.  There is a cherry tree, an Italian plumb tree, a peach tree, a pear tree, and two hazelnut trees for good measure.

The west exposure provides a ton of sunlight, and the addition of a six-foot-cedar fence would be a nice touch.

Bottom line: the house is old and completely out of date, but the property is a gem.  Call it, “a diamond in the rough.”

On Sunday afternoon, I happened to be taking measurements at the property when a property across the street was featuring an open house.  There were fourteen people (I counted) lined up to see this semi-detached Victorian, listed at $595,000.

The seller and her agent are holding back offers, and with the lack of product in that price range, not to mention the impeccable condition of the house, I think it could sell for as high as $650,000.

But the property is on a 16 x 118 foot lot, and is semi-detached with no driveway or parking whatsoever.

How does this compare to the property I have listed on a 30 x 125 foot lot?

In the long run, it doesn’t.

I find that people are focusing more and more on the condition of the house and less and less on the property itself.

It seems like people don’t actually care about the land that lays under their dwelling as much as they care about the ceramic backslash in the kitchen and the Brazilian-cherry hardwood flooring in the living room.

Obviously we all have to actually live in our houses, and we can’t buy a large, empty warehouse to call “home” just because it’s on a large chunk of land, but surely the lot size has to come into play, no?

I’ve been shocked to walk into open houses in the past and see a feature-sheet that doesn’t even list the lot size on it!

That saying, “They aren’t making any more land,” should be in the back of every buyer’s head when it comes time to view properties and make a decision.  Would you buy a semi-detached house on a 22 x 125 foot lot over a detached house on a 28 x 135 foot lot because the kitchen and bathrooms had all been renovated?  Well, obviously it depends on price.

But there is a heckuva-lot more you can do with the detached house on the larger lot than the smaller semi.

There are some very unique “shoebox” properties around Queen/Bathurst that measure 20 x 38 feet.  Call it a “condo alternative,” but I don’t care how nice it is – I want more land!

I’d rather live in a sub-par house if it means more land because I can always renovate it later on.

Two of my clients last march gave up their search for the perfect semi-detached, 2-storey house and bought a detached bungalow that had about 60% of the living space, but the lot size is 33 x 130 compared to the 25 x 125 foot semi’s we were looking at, and they can always add a second storey down the road and avoid buying a million-dollar house on the resale market.

Now clearly I’m making some massive generalizations here, but I’m just finding that many of today’s buyers aren’t even asking what the lot size is, and if they are, it’s a complete afterthought.

Personally, my eyes go right to the middle of the page on every MLS listing to see that “45 x 150” or the “16.67 x 81.82.”

That is what I want to know, first and foremost.

It doesn’t matter if backyards don’t interest you, or if you consider having mature trees to be a painful cleanup in the fall.

Houses are unique and distinct from condos in that you actually own a piece of land.  You’ve got terra firma under your feet, and it’s YOURS for as long as you want it.

Don’t ever forget that.

You can build as many homes in the sky as you so desire, depending on which level of the stratosphere you want to build into.

But always remember, they aren’t making any more land

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. Krupo

    at 12:32 am

    “A man without land is nothing!”


    1. Laura Adams

      at 7:43 am

      If my property accesement is telling me I own 53×52. How do I measure that?

  2. Krupo

    at 12:33 am

    … er, “a man without land is nobody!”

    Same idea.

  3. seth

    at 6:55 pm

    very good article, thanks

  4. Tommy

    at 6:27 pm

    Well. There is stronger and stronger voice to tax based on land size as urban sprawl becomes a severe problem.

    The whole land equation might need to recalculate when the larger the land equate to more expense combine with compound effect.

    I just came from Texas yesterday and their property tax is 2.5% of property value and they have no income tax. I found we have extremely low property tax in North America standard and might change in the near future

  5. Paul

    at 2:27 am

    I enjoyed reading your article. We own property in Thunder Beach, Tiny, Ontario. Our family cottage had a small flood and we tore it down. We also purchased the lot and cottage next door and tore that down. Now the lots are being joined to be one large one. My question is: do lots fetch more dollars as single lots or one combined lot for the prospective person intending to buildÉ

    1. logan paul

      at 9:34 pm

      Paul, to answer your question separate lots are generally worth more as they can be separate developed (two or more houses)

  6. Graham

    at 6:56 pm

    Thanks for this,
    Here in Vancouver we’re. Facing many. Of the same housing issues as you, in Toronto. I sought out the information in this article for comparison. a friend’s house (5Br,2Ba) is on a 56’x147’ lot. With our new mayor and council talking about introducing,”Gentle density into traditionally single family detached house neighbourhoods, my friend is wondering if subdividing his lot into 2 28’x147’(4116sqft. Lots each with a duplex and,’ ADU’ (Alternate dwelling unit) down might be a better use of precious downtown Vancouver land. -something to consider and, maybe even, advocate. Because,”They aren’t making any more land.” In Vancouver either!

  7. Sharon Fogel

    at 9:06 am

    “Some day I hope to build on it!” 🙂 Great article, thx.

  8. Wayne

    at 10:04 pm

    My agent re-inforced the same with me.

    So now I own over 6.2 million square feet of land in 2 parcels.


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