Winning the real estate lottery: homeowners who are cashing out
There’s usually only one rule when it comes to Toronto real estate: buy. But these long-time homeowners took one look at a rip-roaring market and cashed out at the perfect time.
What it’s like to Win the housing lottery
in 2001, the Abbotts were living in a modest semi in the Beaches when they learned Michelle was pregnant with their third child. They wanted to upsize but didn’t want to leave the neighbourhood they adored. The kids’ school was excellent, and they were just minutes from the beach. Soon, they found a 2,500-squarefoot, four-bedroom, one-bathroom home on a 6,000-square-foot lot, just three streets east, on Kingswood Road, for $679,900. They spent $200,000 on upgrades: renovating the kitchen and bathroom, replacing the wiring and furnace, and adding central air conditioning. Then they moved in.
In 2004, the couple’s fourth child, a daughter, was born, so they renovated again,
spending another $180,000 to add a bedroom, bathroom, wine cellar and laundry room in the basement.
For years, their home was the site of countless celebrations and a cherished gathering place for the extended family. So when a realtor cold-called in 2016 asking if they’d consider selling, Michelle instantly declined. He asked if he could call back in a year, and Michelle said sure, just to be rid of him. But the Abbotts’ eldest son left for university that fall, and when the realtor called back a year later, their stance had softened. The realtor visited the home in March 2017, just as the early spring market was beginning to heat up, and said he could probably sell it for $2.65 million. Andrew and Michelle weren’t desperate to move, but the potential payday was too tempting to resist. Four days after their open house, they received a bully offer for $2.55 million. The prospective buyers, a young couple with three kids, attached a letter outlining their vision of a beautiful future with their family. The Abbotts accepted.
They bought a post-war bungalow for $1.1 million in the Hunt Club area a few blocks northeast and have begun a $400,000 renovation. The finished product will be modern—sleek lines, open-concept layout— with rooms for the three youngest children, plus a guest bedroom and a pool, so they’ll still be able to host when friends and family drop by.
in 1951, rose salnek and her husband, Joseph, were running out of space. The pair had moved from Manitoba to Ontario in 1947, settling in a third-floor apartment on Rusholme Road. But Rose, a factory worker for Neilson, was pregnant, and the cramped unit wouldn’t do.
The pair discovered 96 Lansdowne Avenue, the last of six row houses on a west-end block filled with young families. It was far from their dream home: the floors were slanted, the washing machine was down in a trap-door basement dug out of the kitchen, and the couple had to share part of the second floor with renters in order to cover their mortgage. Still, they splurged and got the place for $7,050. Joseph and Rose went on to have four children—three girls and a boy—and the house became the setting for most family functions.
They loved the neighbourhood: people were always complimenting Joseph on his dahlias and tomatoes, and the kids were on a first-name basis with the shoemakers and bakers on Queen Street. But the house still had its flaws. There was no shower, only an original claw-footed bathtub. The toilet was Victorian-style, with a pull chain instead of a high tank. The place was heated with oil, and the kids were afraid to light the pilot. Storage was at a minimum, with only two closets in the entire house.
In 2007, Joseph passed away, and Rose stayed in the home for almost a decade afterward with her daughter Marilyn. But when the 14-step staircase finally proved too formidable for Rose’s nonagenarian knees, she knew it was time to move. Near the end of 2016, she listed the house at $569,000, and, a week later, it sold for more than $120,000 over asking. The new owners, a young family, are doing a full gut job and digging out the basement. Rose has since moved to Mississauga, where she and Marilyn share a two-bedroom condo.
when esko and rosa Venalainen were house hunting in the early ’80s, they had three items on their wish list: the place had to be close to Rosa’s parents at Bloor and Bathurst; it needed a unit that they could rent out; and it had to be on a subway line so they could take the TTC to Toronto Western Hospital, where they both worked as lab technologists. Their budget was $90,000. Eventually they found a two-and-a-half-storey semi near Danforth and Logan that had been converted into a duplex. The first floor and basement were already rented out, and the upstairs and third storey were in good condition. They stretched their budget and offered $116,000, knowing that their tenants would be paying $600 a month toward the mortgage.
After taking possession, Esko renovated the dated interior. He started with the upper floors, moving their bedroom as he completed each room. He combined two secondfloor rooms into a dining room and added a deck to the third floor. Five years after buying the place, they learned they were expecting—a daughter, Natalie—and would soon require more space, so they gave their tenants notice and reclaimed the rest of the house. One weekend, they invited their friends and had a tear-down party, then spent $100,000 on a renovation.
The Venalainens were happy in Toronto, but they’d always loved camping and fishing, and they yearned to live in the country. In 2016, after they retired and Rosa’s mother died, they decided to move to the countryside. It was a hard decision: they’d been in their home for 35 years. In the spring, they took the first offer that came along— $1.4 million. They paid $665,000 for a threebedroom, four-bathroom bungalow on a half-hectare lot in Severn Township. The new place has a three-car garage and a large finished basement; the amount of space still astounds them. “We’ve never had a garage before,” says Rosa.
What She paid $7,050 in 1951 What She Sold foR $690,000 in December 2016 a three-bedroom row house in roncesvalles
Rose Salnek, 98 retired factory worker
WhAt they pAid $679,900 in 2001 WhAt they sold for $2.55 million in 2017
Andrew Abbott, 51 banker Michelle Abbott, 51 homemaker
a four-bedroom detached in the beaches
Rosa Venalainen, Esko Venalainen, 66 59 retired medical lab technologists