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.

Toronto Life - - Front Page - by christina gon­za­les and erica lenti

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

PhotograPhy by dave gille­spie

a four-bed­room de­tached in the beaches

Rosa Ve­nalainen, Esko Ve­nalainen, 66 59 re­tired med­i­cal lab tech­nol­o­gists

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