Like many people in their late 20s and early 30s, Heather Payne and her husband, Shawn Konopinsky, are bright, ambitious and successful – but they don’t own the place where they live with their one-year-old baby. Instead, they own a cottage.
For the past five years, they have rented their apartment in the downtown Toronto neighbourhood of Parkdale, joining the 50 per cent of millennials who are still renting their homes by age 30, according to the 2016 census data, compared with the 45 per cent of boomers who hadn’t bought their place by the same age.
In real estate, as in love, there are homes that you have a fleeting crush on, ones that you want to have a family with, and others that are just so out-of-your-league gorgeous they become the stuff of fantasies. Such is the case with 87 Highland Crescent, which I’ve loved from afar for years and which is now on the market. Am I going to be placing an offer? Given an asking price of $6.85 million, I’m afraid my feelings will have to go forever unrequited: with Canada’s maximum 25-year mortgage terms, even if I (miraculously) had a 10 per cent down payment, and borrowed the $6.2 million balance, every month I would have to give the bank about $37,000 (assuming a reasonable interest rate of 5.24 per cent per year). $37,000. A month. That’s more than my yearly take home pay. The only way I could swing that would be to invent a time machine, go back about 10 years, and tell my teenage self all about Facebook so I could scoop Mark Zuckerberg. Anyway, the house actually appeared on the market two years ago at a higher price — $7.995 million — so whichever gazillionaire buys it can sleep easy on his mountain of money knowing he got a relative deal. David Bowie is rumoured to be a fan of the home’s architecture, so maybe he’ll snag it for Iman. Sigh, below is why I love it so much.
The Place: A 5-bedroom, $675,000 Victorian in Toronto’s west end. It has 2 kitchens, so it’s either a live-in/rent-out property or the home of a food-hoarding over eater. I wonder what kind of house it would be for me: a way to boost my income, or my waist size? Actually, why not both? I could use all the rent money to buy fancy snacks, like prosciutto…and chocolate-covered prosciutto. It’s win-win-win, because then I could use the rent money to get lipo when I’m too heavy to breath. Yay.
When I’m looking for a piece of fantasy real estate, I usually don’t go for detached, suburban (albeit in a very Dwell magazine sort of way) homes that sit north of the 401 (which, for people who don’t live in Toronto, is a bit like living on the moon). But when I saw 20A Senlac Rd. on Torontolife.com today, I made that soft, sad whimpering noise that I make when I’m thinking “damn, I’m poor and I wish I weren’t.” With an asking price of $1.7 million, it would take me over 40 years to save up a 10 per cent down payment, and then the rest of eternity to pay back the mortgage. If I had kids, I would especially long to live here. True, me having little ones is as much of a stretch as ever being able to afford this house, but whatever paternal feelings I have were stirred by the ravine setting and the perfectly decked out little nursery. Sigh, here’s how I’ll never decorate the house for the kids I’ll never have.
The Place: The four bedroom prefab was designed by celebrated American architect Ray Kappe — who has, incidentally, been featured by Dwell magazine.
Thanks to a combination of factors — a deep-rooted fear of debt, my poor choice of career paths and an over-inflated real estate market — It’s a foregone conclusion that I’ll never be able to afford a house in Toronto. And if I did buy, it would likely be a bachelor condo the size of a hamster cage on the fringes of civilization (heaven forbid, somewhere north of the 401). I’m picturing a life where I’m too poor to hang curtains or buy any furniture, yet too stressed by my massive mortgage payments and claustrophobic digs to even care. So while I can’t buy a house, I’ve decided to torture myself with indulge in fantasy real estate — basically, from time to time, I’m going to be picking the places that I’d like to buy, and blogging about how I would decorate them to make them my own.
The Place:15 Crocker Ave., a two-bedroom, $519,000 Victorian townhouse near Trinity Bellwoods. It’s around the corner from Nadège Patisserie, which means I would get happily fat eating too many butter croissants and gin-and-tonic marshmallows. Overall, I like the neighbourhood and think this would be a fun fixer project.
The sad fact is that I can not, under any circumstances, afford to buy a house in Toronto. I can barely afford a new pair of runners or wine with dinner. Yet, like a tween girl (or boy) with fantasies of being whisked away by Justin Bieber, I can dream. And I have a serious real estate crush at the moment. It’s a peaked-roofed, brick Victorian row house in Kensington Market, with a garden in the front and bright, clean-lined interiors.
It’s possible to say that I’ve had an intimate relationship with both Toronto and Vancouver. I was born in Canada’s largest city, and have lived here on and off (currently on) for my whole life. It’s my steady, and I love it the way I love an old, comfortable sweater. I’ve also traveled west a few times to visit. There’s something about all the mountains and trees that used to really spark my imagination. But my most recent trip to Vancouver — a three month stint in 2008, when I was on a university work term — cured me of any desire to live on near the pacific. It’s pretty, true. Yet aside from the great skiing and hiking, it can be kind of tedious. How many lattes can someone drink without wanting a bit more edge? I have to admit, however, I’m a little jealous right now of a couple of their architectural projects. Might make a trip necessary again in the future.
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.