Toronto’s “Alleyway” Homes

Houses | March 30, 2016

When you hear the term “alleyway,” what is the very first thing that comes to mind?

Admit it – many of you thought of either the term “dark alleyway,” as in “I wouldn’t want to run into him in a dark alleyway,” or you thought of something to do with homeless and/or drunk people, potentially living and/or puking in said alleyway.

But did any of you think of the Nintendo game for Gameboy called “Alleyway?”  No?  Just me?  Fine, let’s look at Toronto’s “alleyway” homes then…

I tell ya – a lot of buyers in this Toronto market will pay extra for an original Victorian home!  That charm, that character, that curb appeal!

And then, some buyers couldn’t possibly care less as to what the house’s exterior looks like, so long as the interior is nice, the location is great, the schools rate well, and so on, and so forth.

Some of my buyers consider “curb appeal” to be a form of materialism, in that it really offers nothing tangible, otherwise it would be called “curb value” instead.

I see both sides to the argument, and I’m not saying that because I’m a two-faced salesperson, but because it all depends on the individual buyer, their tastes, their preferences, their wants, their needs, and ultimately where, and on what, they place the value.

I sold a house a few years ago on a street called Moutray Avenue.

The house, which was built new in 2001 along with about six or seven others in the block of townhouses, was technichally in an alleyway.

Here’s the entrance to the “street” itself:


Yep, it sure looks like an alleyway to me!

Only once you get down about 150 feet, you see this great block of red-brick townhouses:


That house cost my clients about $150,000 less than what it would have cost if it were two blocks over.

It was better than any house we had seen before it, even those priced higher.

It was the only way they were going to get everything on their list, and more.

This house not only had 3-beds, 3-baths, a massive kitchen, 2-car parking, and a backyard, but it also had a legal, self-contained basement apartment paying $1,000 per month.

What should have been absolutely unaffordable to my clients, was right in the middle of their price range.


The answer should be obvious by now, otherwise I’m not telling the story very well.

The house was in an alleyway.

It didn’t have “street appeal,” and it couldn’t really have curb appeal because there was no curb on which to stand and admire the house (that’s a joke – the house was red-brick and gorgeous).

But my buyers got into the market, got a better house than they expected to, and as a result of the size, will take longer to out-grow it.

Every buyer is different, and there’s no right or wrong answer in this equation.

So if you’re an active buyer, ask yourself if curb appeal, and streetscape are at the top, or near the top, of your “wants and needs” list…

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  1. Kyle

    at 1:10 pm

    Alleyway or laneway housing is probably not for everyone, but I personally think there’s something cool about going through a gritty laneway, and then ending up in a dwelling that just blows your mind that no one would have ever guessed was there. Sort of like how some of the best clubs in NYC are accessed via an alleyway, through the kitchen and down a set of stairs. In fact, i typically see a premium associated with this kind of housing rather than a discount. The $1.5M Croft St loft in the video is a good example of this.

    But there are many other cool examples throughout downtown
    Melbourne Pl in Parkdale:
    Wellesley Cottages in Cabbagetown:
    Bisley St in Leslieville –
    Percy St in Corktown
    Glen Ballie Pl in Chinatown

  2. Geoff

    at 2:02 pm

    curb appeal is not high on my list.

    resale value is. So even if I can live with a house short on cub appeal, I’d have to make sure the price discount is sufficient to offset the future discount I’ll have to offer.

  3. Joe Q.

    at 2:46 pm

    There is a similar street in Oakwood Village. In that case the whole alleyway has houses and some of them look like they’ve been there for ages.

    To me, one of the major drawbacks would seem to be the lack of parking.

  4. R

    at 3:36 pm

    Hmm.. so no longer listed? Sold? That’s not very helpful.

  5. Marina

    at 4:09 pm

    The alley house in the video is just off the main drag. I don’t think that’s much of a drawback.
    If the entrance was, let’s say, 20 doors down an alley full of all garages, then I might think twice, mostly from a safety and resale points of view.
    But 2 doors down an alley way is like being on the main road with less noise.

  6. m

    at 2:39 pm

    Regarding Croft St, in the video, I would definitely not pass up a house there due to it being on a laneway. I walk/bike along this particular lane almost every day with my kid. It’s great, since there’s lots of space (compared to the sidewalk), clear sightlines, and very few cars. Laneways generally are great for kids playing road hockey, basketball, riding bikes, etc. Much more pedestrian friendly than the typical downtown street.

  7. jeff316

    at 3:41 pm

    I have to say that I’ve never found my alley to be particularly pedestrian friendly – cars often parked illegally, they often speed like crazy, the lane is full of junk and litter and it is a veritable dog toilet year round.

    You need some pretty decently sized lots to subdivide into alleyway housing. I think alley development has the potentially to be a very divisive issue for neighbourhoods given the impact on light and crowding and parking that a few houses in an alley could bring. A local residential garage near my house was recently renovated with new windows and doors. You should see how many times a day someone walks up to peek into the place. I see lots of local residents checking it out. The question is, are they just interested or scoping the place for an illegal apartment?

    From my experience there is a number of rental units on Toronto alleys. I see rental and nanny suites are more suitable for laneways than SFH houses.

  8. Julie

    at 7:36 pm

    Look up 7 Sherwood Lane – asking $4.9M for a lane way house – only one on the lane and it’s behind all the shops and restaurants on Yonge St…can’t imagine the noise they must get from deliveries and such! Funny thing is though that you’d never know the house was there unless you went looking for it!

  9. Free Country

    at 11:04 pm

    I agree with you Julie. When I looked at 7 Sherwood on Google, it seems that the dumpsters from the back of the shops on Yonge Street are practically within arm’s length of the front door – which appears to be the only entrance to the house. And as you say, delivery trucks are likely going up and down the alley day and night. It boggles my mind that the house could be worth $4.9 million to anyone.

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