Last Sunday night, before the sun went down, my boyfriend and I decided to stroll through my favourite Toronto neighbourhood and casually look for a new place to live. Right now, we rent a 1950s, 800-square-foot, ground-floor apartment near Sherbourne and Bloor. It’s a nice spot (we have our own garden and the building is quiet), in a nice area (we’re caught in a sweet spot between subway access and a lush, peaceful ravine). But I’ve always loved the neighbourhood around the Art Gallery of Ontario, at Beverley and Dundas West. The streets — leafy with lots of Victorian semis — are incredibly charming, and it’s near the Grange Park, OCAD, U of T, Kensington Market and Chinatown. Plus, my boyfriend and I are getting to that stage in life where renting is starting to feel too student-y (he just turned 30 and everyday I feel my 20s slipping away).
The first For Sale sign we noticed was for a tumble-down brick bungalow the size of Timbit. It looked a bit sad, with a yard of concrete pavers enclosed by a wobbly chain link fence. But before I could utter the phrase fixer upper, I was choked by the price. Over half a million dollars. The revelation made me feel both insulted and poor. I briefly tried to rationalize the price — good location, cute shape (with a little peaked roof) — then my brain started to hurt, so we moved on.
The second For Sale sign we came across was definitely a step up: a two-storey, 4-bedroom, stucco-clad semi with a nice garden, just steps from the Grange Park. The price? $1.58 million. Right. As we walked briskly away, I tried to figure out how many years it would take me to save up the down payment for a $1.5 million house at my current salary (assuming I gave up clothes, entertainment and groceries). Let’s just say it would take more than a decade, and then I would need several lifetimes to pay off the mortgage.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice looking place. But $1.5 million? How many people can seriously afford that (without a mountain of debilitating debt)?
This doesn’t attempt to answer the question, but today, in The New York Times, I noticed an article about how Russian billionaires are buying up American real estate, using the recent sale of a 4-bedroom, 6,744-square-foot Manhattan penthouse (to a 22-year-old heiress named Ekaterina Rybolovlev) as the prime example. The condo—in the ultra-glitzy 15 Central Park West—cost $88 million, the highest ever paid for a Manhattan apartment. So I guess things could be worse? Or really, Manhattan is just more ridiculous than Toronto (this city’s most expensive condo on the market is in the more reasonable neighbourhood of $30 million). Incidentally, for me to buy an $88 million condo, I would need to save 100 per cent of my salary for over 2,500 years. I’ll get right on it, and hope the price doesn’t go up in the mean time.