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Reno Story: How a real estate agent and an executive modernized a 19th-century Victorian – Toronto Life

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Reno Story: How a real estate agent and an executive modernized a 19th-century Victorian

The Place: A three-storey Victorian home in Harbord Village
Owners: Robert Brown, a 60-year-old vice-president at Cineplex Media, and Paul Maranger, a 53-year-old real estate agent
Purchased For: $2.2 million, in 2018
Renovated In: 2018
Renovation Cost: More than $1,000,000

The backstory

In 2005, Robert and Paul purchased a four-bed, 1.5-bath semi in Cabbagetown. They loved the neighbourhood, but by 2014, they wanted a place with more outdoor space. So they bought a condo in the city, where they planned to spend their time during the week, and a cottage in Prince Edward County, where they could spread out on the weekends. Paul and Robert thought the cottage would be perfect for large get-togethers, since it sat on a sizable property. Unfortunately, it took three and half hours to drive there in Friday rush-hour traffic, so friends and family were often unwilling to make the trek. In early 2018, they sold the cottage and started looking for a house in the city, something with a decent-sized yard.

A few months later, a friend tipped them off about an unlisted century home in Harbord Village. Apparently, the owner was keen to sell. When Robert and Paul went for a viewing, they loved the neighbourhood’s wide streets and picturesque Victorian houses. But they found the actual house in utter disrepair. The original brick façade was covered with aluminum siding. The interior was covered in anti-Trump graffiti. Some of the lights wouldn’t turn on because of electrical issues. The ceiling in the main kitchen was MIA. Plus, the owner had converted the home into five separate rental units, so there were four other dilapidated kitchens to fix up. The basement, which was partially finished, had mould from decades of water damage. In the backyard, there was old dusty furniture and a broken piano. Beneath it all, however, Robert and Paul thought the home looked structurally sound and had plenty of reno potential. So they bought it for $2.2 million.

The renovations

After some careful planning, Robert and Paul got to work, with the help of Midtown Builds. They gutted the interior: none of the plumbing, electrical or HVAC was salvageable. They reclaimed the kitchens from the rental units, turning one of them into a dressing room for the master suite and another into a guest bedroom. They also hired two masons to restore the home’s heritage Victorian exterior. During the process, they stumbled upon some unexpected problems. Although the house looked structurally sound when they first viewed it, when the contractors took out the drywall on the third level, they realized the floor needed rebuilding. They also had to reinforce the garage, replace the drainage pipes beneath the basement and pour a new concrete floor. Before long, their budget had tripled.

Five months and more than $1,000,000 later, renovations were completed just in time for a Christmas party—a shindig with 140 family and friends. “It was an amazing feeling to have our new house filled with loved ones,” says Paul. Since then, they’ve decided to downsize. Their renovated five-bed, five-bath Victorian is listed for $4,850,000.

The foyer

Before: The 131-year-old main-floor staircase was one of the few salvageable original interior elements.

After: Robert and Paul spruced up the staircases with imported Spanish wool carpeting.

The powder room

Before: This was the main-floor bathroom, which Paul and Robert turned into a powder room.

After: Paul and Robert went for the “wow factor” with a butterfly wallpaper design by Christian Lacroix. They also reconfigured the layout, making it slightly smaller and more like a powder room.

The dining room

Before: The dining room used to be a bedroom.

After: They ditched the closet and installed beams to support the roof and create an open-concept layout, connecting the dining room and hallway. They also added glass panels to the railing beside the staircase.

The living room

Before: The flooring had to go, but otherwise the living room was in better shape than the rest of the home.

After: They managed to preserve the original window mouldings. The wood-burning fireplace was replaced with a gas insert and a black marble mantel.

The kitchen

Before: When Paul and Robert bought the place, the main-floor kitchen didn’t have cupboard doors or a ceiling.

After: They updated the space with new cabinetry from AyA Kitchens, along with windows from Loewen.

The master bedroom

Before: The doorway into the master bedroom was off-centre and the interior needed a splash of personality.

After: They centred and expanded the entrance with double-entry doors and added crown moulding throughout. Since they’re both early risers, they also added a thin layer of sound reduction installation in the walls and ceiling.

The master bathroom

Before: Robert and Paul thought the master bathroom was “ugly,” among other problems. It was too small, the window was tiny and they knew everything had to be replaced.

After: All five bathrooms were overhauled. The enlarged master ensuite now includes a glass shower, a TV over the vanity sink and a bigger window.

The attic

Before: Robert and Paul discovered structural issues in the back of the attic after removing the drywall.

After: They reinforced the attic’s structural supports, then removed a dingy fire escape and installed two skylights.

The basement

Before: Robert and Paul could smell mould the moment they stepped into the basement.

After: They tore out the flooring and the 1970s-era wood panelling and completely waterproofed the lower level, which they now use as a spot to hang out.

The backyard

Before: Since their Cabbagetown home didn’t have a yard, Paul and Robert wanted to use this outdoor space for barbecues and parties.

After: They removed the reinforced concrete to add a touch of plant life, then installed an outdoor fireplace and stone patio.

Do you have an interesting reno story? We’d love to hear about it.


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Which GTA region has seen the biggest decline in real estate prices since February market peak? – Toronto.com

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Real estate prices across Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) have taken a pounding since reaching record highs in February.

In February, the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) reported an average GTA sale price for all dwelling types combined of $1,334,544. In TRREB’s July report, that average fell to $1,074,754 — a 19.5 per cent decline in just five months.

Prices have fallen further in some areas than others, with Durham Region leading the way with a 26.6 per cent decline. Southern areas of Simcoe County were a close second with a 24.8 per cent decline in average prices, followed by York Region at 19.7 and Peel Region at 19 per cent. Real estate prices have fallen 18.1 per cent and 15.8 per cent in Halton Region and Toronto, respectively.



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Graph showing average sale price for all dwelling types combined in Toronto, Peel Region, York Region, Halton Region, Durham Region and parts of Simcoe County between February 2022 and July 2022.




Durham Region led the way in price declines for detached homes, seeing a 29.1 per cent decline, followed by Toronto and Simcoe County both at 26.9 per cent. Detached units sold for 20.7 per cent less on average in July compared to February, while detached ditched home in Peel Region have dropped 20.3 per cent and 19.9 per cent in Halton Region.



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Graph showing average sale price for detached homes in Toronto, Peel Region, York Region, Halton Region, Durham Region and parts of Simcoe County between February 2022 and July 2022.




Semi-detached homes broke down a little differently. Durham also saw the steepest decline for that segment at 25.8 per cent, followed by York at 25.4 per cent and Peel at 25 per cent. Semi -detached home prices in Halton declined by an average of 22.9 per cent, with Simcoe seeing a 15.5 per cent drop followed closely by Toronto with 15.4 per cent decline in average price for semi-detached units.



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Graph showing average sale price for semi-detached homes in Toronto, Peel Region, York Region, Halton Region, Durham Region and parts of Simcoe County between February 2022 and July 2022.




Condo apartment prices have fared a little better in most regions outside of Simcoe, which has seen condo prices tumble 35.2 per cent since February. Durham condo apartments have lost 17.3 per cent in value over the past five months, with Peel Region and York Region condos seeing 15.3 and 13.5 per cent declines, respectively.

Toronto condos fared a little better, seeing only a 9.5 per cent decline between February and January. Condos in Halton Region have held their value the best so far, only declining by 4.2 per cent.



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Graph showing average sale price for condo apartments in Toronto, Peel Region, York Region, Halton Region, Durham Region and parts of Simcoe County between February 2022 and July 2022.




The table below shows a breakdown of how much the average price for all dwelling types combined in all cities and towns monitored by TRREB have fallen since the GTA market peaked in February.



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Table showing how much average real estate prices have fallen since peaking in February 2022 in all GTA markets monitored by the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board.




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A real estate transaction gave me neighbours. A car crash taught me to value them – CBC.ca

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This First Person article is the experience of Becky Sarafinchan who lives in Calgary. For more information about CBC’s First Person stories, please see the FAQ.

The crush of glass and metal silenced us mid-phrase, the kids and I on that early spring day. I saw their frozen expressions as I wondered if I had really heard or felt that sound. We ran outside. 

Across our busy street, a SUV straddled the yellow line. Its grill faced the crumpled remains of our neighbour’s two parked cars. Two cars, swiped by one driver. My neighbours stared in shock at the sad mix of wreckage, nose to bumper.

But this is a feel-good story. It’s not about race track streets or distracted drivers. It’s about neighbours. It’s about me discovering that I care what happens to the people across the street, even when their lives merge little with mine. It’s about the unexpected cheer that brings.

For most of my 16 years on Coventry Hills Way, in the suburbs of north central Calgary, the greatest common bond I shared with my neighbours was geographical. The random act of real estate mixed me up with folks I only knew in smiles and waves outside our garage doors. My life was filled with kids and work; I rarely thought of those who lived around me.

Until the pandemic, that is. Until human interaction became a source of anxiety worldwide and we were told to run for cover. In those long and bizarre periods of isolation when I couldn’t see friends and family, I could still see my neighbours walking by every evening. We could share a weary smile and sometimes — from a distance — we talked. 

A group of five people stand around talking on a driveway.
Front driveways are a natural gathering place on this street in Calgary’s Coventry Hills. From left to right: Gina Williams, Jennifer Robinson, Jesse Williams, Becky Sarafinchan and Glen McLaughlan. (Elise Stolte/CBC)

On the afternoon of the accident, I noticed Jennifer standing with the stunned car owners on the other side of the street. She was talking and pointing; the first to offer assistance. Although I’ve only ever spoken with Jennifer a few times, I knew she was open and kindhearted. It relieved me when I saw her talking with the neighbours. It felt like they were in good hands.

Someone called the police and a few people left to check their home security cameras for footage. Another neighbour motioned for the driver of the SUV to move to the sidewalk; he was still standing in the street. 

A group of teens, armed with the vehicle description, headed off to find an eyewitness who had left the scene. The adults compared stories of what each had seen and felt. 

Across the road, a young man dragged the bumper of his car onto his lawn. He crossed the street to a group of us, onlookers, huddled in a semicircle. He was debating if he should accept the offer: should he just settle with the driver of the SUV?

The group reacted at once: No! You can get help. It will be OK.

We lingered on the sidewalk and a conversation expanded beyond the crash. We began to talk about hockey and school; about work and the vacations we hoped to take. Normal stuff, but I had never stood and talked, never opened up about anything with my neighbours before. It felt new. 

People stand beside a residential street with vehicles driving past.
The street in front of Becky Sarafinchan’s house can feel like a race way. (Elise Stolte/CBC)

Soon the teenagers returned from their search for an eyewitness. “We found the guy who left the scene!” they grinned, triumphant. They had checked his vehicle. “We even felt the tailpipe on his truck and it’s still warm!” To their delight, the police wanted to know.

I watched those tall boys talk, eager to share and flush with their success. 

Standing in this group of people, suddenly feeling that they were my people, I felt lighter. It took me by surprise. I’d never thought of them as my people before. In the past, I was aloof and comfortable — a wave and smile would suffice for neighbourliness.

In truth, we don’t share interests; we don’t share the same ethnic backgrounds or weekend habits. We weren’t all on the same page about COVID-19 – some of us were supportive and others against mask and vaccine mandates. 

Maybe that’s what makes the huddled conversation on the day of the accident so special. It doesn’t matter if we’d naturally be friends had we not physically lived beside each other. It doesn’t matter that we have different views and beliefs. We are neighbours. That counts for something.

In the months since the accident I’ve thought a lot about what changed for me that day. It’s like the pieces fit together and I was able to discover a gift I’d never seen before.

We visit more now. We share gardening tips and someone suggested a block party. There’s even – imagine! – an inside joke or two we share. Community is growing where once I saw a street of strangers. I don’t ever want to lose sight of that gift.


Telling your story 

CBC Calgary is running a series of in-person writing workshops across the city to support community members telling their own stories.

Read more from the workshop hosted by the Northern Hills Community Association:

To find out more about our writing workshops or to propose a community organization to help host, email CBC producer Elise Stolte

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Here's what you need to know about Squamish Real Estate – Squamish Chief

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With Canada’s annual inflation rates spiking in June and a market still reeling from a global pandemic, local real estate in Squamish has seen its fair share of unpredictable ups and downs. 

“In May, I started saying that it felt like someone had flipped a switch,” said Jennifer Sale, a local Realtor in Squamish with Sutton West Coast Realty. “I’d say the peak was probably end of March, beginning of April. That was when I [saw] multiple offers and things going for quite a bit over. That has definitely changed.”

With various factors coming into play, such as higher mortgage rates and low inventory, Sale says that some buyers appear to be growing wary of the local market while having trouble qualifying for a mortgage.  

“We were experiencing a really hot period earlier in the year because the inventory was so low that there were so many more multiple offers versus pent-up demand,” Sale said. “So buyers were competing for properties.”

“Now with the increased rates … it’s really tapered off the number of sales,” she said. “There were only eight detached home sales in July.” 

(See prices and trends for the last 28 days in Squamish.)

Feeling the pinch

“Everybody’s feeling the pinch in one way or another,” said Lisa Bjornson of Royal LePage. “Since the beginning of June, probably into May, we started to see a shift in market trends in that … multiple offers are off the table, days on the market have lengthened, inventory has come up somewhat. So it’s definitely slowed the market down.” 

Yet historically, real estate sales during the summer are often low. 

“Summers traditionally aren’t a hugely active market in the Squamish area,” said Bjornson. “It’s not uncommon to have July and August be on the slower side.” 

However, looking back at summer sales in Squamish real estate from last year, Bjornson says there has been a drastic difference.

“Last year was a record-breaking year,” she said. “We’d never seen the likes of it in Squamish, in B.C., in Canada.”

COVID factor

Originally when the pandemic first hit in 2020, Bjornson says that the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation advised realtors that housing was going to plummet with a market drop of 20%. Yet their predictions were incorrect, with sales going up at the same rate they thought they would fall.

“COVID had the opposite effect of what everyone anticipated,” said Sale. “Since then, we’ve had these unprecedented increases not only in Squamish, but throughout B.C..”

When remote work became more of an option during the pandemic, many people realized that they did not have to remain in cities and began looking to buy outside of urban areas. Those within the Vancouver region who were of middle to high income were able to afford the prices just outside of the city, bringing an influx of buyers to Squamish. 

“It locked everybody up, changed everybody’s mindset,” Bjornson said. “Many people started to work from home and people started to homeschool. People thought, ‘I’m not putting my loved one in care’. We’re going to generationally live. How people viewed housing and what their needs were changed drastically.”

Over the course of the two years from March of 2020 to now, other challenges such as supply chain issues and labour became evident and began to affect real estate. 

“There’s so many forces at play when it comes to what makes up a housing market.” 

In addition to an influx of people leaving the city to be in smaller areas, Sale says that she has also noticed single people moving between townhomes to condos to half-duplexes.  

“People are always a little worried about getting out of the market. So it’s always nice to move within the same market,” said Sale. “Now that it’s slowed down, I think that’s gonna be a lot easier for many people.”

Overall, though interest rates are currently high, real estate prices in Squamish are seeing a return to relative normalcy. 

“We’re not seeing multiple offers. We’re not seeing things go for $200,000 over ask,” said Bjornson. “We’re seeing negotiations, we’re seeing prices moderate.”

As for the coming months heading into fall, Bjornson says that she predicts longer days on the market.

“If we suddenly get an uptick COVID coming into the fall of winter, does that change people again about how they’re feeling and what their wants and needs are? Hard to say,” she said. “The general feeling kind of across the board is that we had a tremendous run-up for 20 plus months and for any real estate cycle that was long. So the normal calming and settling of the market is to be expected.”

For those currently looking to sell in Squamish, Bjornson recommends that people be reasonable and pay attention to what the market is currently doing. “It’s still an OK market; you’re not losing anything. Govern yourself according to what the market conditions are. And if you’re a buyer, get your pre-qualification and know what price point you should be shopping in.”

“I would say to list a realistic price point,” concurred Sale. “Take the advice of your realtor and watch the market carefully.” 

Sale adds that comparing prices month to month with your neighbours is not helpful when trying to place a price on a home. 

“It’s always hard to see what your neighbour sold for in February or March,” she said. “You have to work within the market that we’re in.”

“The last couple of years there’s greater demand for people wanting to be in Squamish,” said Sale. “I don’t think there’s going to be a big drop-off. I think now it’s changed from a seller’s market, shifted briefly into a balanced market, and I think in some product categories, it’s definitely a buyers market.”

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