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04/08 - Buying, Trends

A 40-Year Real Estate Story! What’s Yours Going to Be?

Toronto Real Estate Feature: Mom and Dad

My parents moved to Toronto in the 1970’s and have seen the city change a lot over the last forty years. And now, being in the business of real estate, I am always fascinated to learn about buying and selling property from former generations. There’s a lot to learn from an older generations’ real estate story.

So I thought, who better to sit down with than my own parents! Over the years, I have learned a lot from my parents and can look back now with a better understanding of how their decisions around buying and selling property impacted their lives (and indirectly, mine).


A 40-Year Real Estate Story

A 40-Year Real Estate Story | Fox Marin Blog

I asked my parents some questions about their real estate story and loved what they had to say. Take a look, and just maybe you’ll take something away from their story too.


1. When you first moved to Toronto, did you rent or buy? And why did you make that choice?

Dad: We rented because we had very little money.

Mom: We rented an apartment when we first moved to Toronto in 1974. We could not afford to buy anything because we had just finished school and then travelled for six months.


2. Tell us about the first property you ever purchased. How much was it?

Dad & Mom: $60,000

Kori: OMG!


3. Why did you choose this home in particular?

Dad: We could just afford the carrying costs. It was close to public transportation and on a nice street.

Mom: We had been looking for a large apartment to rent in a house or townhouse because I was pregnant. And, our one bedroom apartment in a high-rise did not seem like a good idea. We had looked at quite a few rentals. We passed an open house sign on our way to the 401 and immediately felt that the house and neighbourhood would be ideal. It seemed within range price-wise, and we looked forward to making it ours with paint and wallpaper, a vegetable garden and window boxes. 


4. Where you nervous to buy?

Dad: Somewhat – due to the monthly mortgage payments.

Mom: More excited.


5. Why did you sell it?

Dad: We sold it in 1979 because it was too small for a family of four and we knew we would make some tax free money on the sale.

Mom: We lived there for three years and, in spite of taking out a wall downstairs to open up the living room, the house always felt incredibly small and claustrophobic to me. The kitchen window was just a couple of feet from the brick wall next door. 


6. Did you own property in 1989 and did the recession and huge increase in interest rates influence your real estate choices?

Dad & Mom: Yes, we owned a home in 1989. Fortunately, we had locked in a five-year mortgage interest rate before the recession. We did not sell and buy another home until well after the recession started to recede.


7. What is the biggest change you have experienced living in Toronto over the last forty years?  

Dad: A lot of families have, not one, but two cars. I believe this contributes to the heavy traffic we have now. Plus, the number of condos going up is obvious.

Mom: The number of people in high rises downtown and on the roads.  The price of properties is also obvious.


8. What’s the biggest difference between the home you raised your children in versus the next generation?  

Dad: All of the digital-smart things that are now available for a home.

Mom: We raised our children in many different homes – from the above as babies to two condos, to a rental home in the country, to two large homes on large lots in subdivisions north of the city. From our experience, the next generation seems to have a much better grasp of where they want to live and why. Easy access to work, conveniences, entertainment, restaurants, etc. seems to be a priority. Whereas, I my concerns were about how I felt in the space and area, and was prepared to drive. 


9. What’s the most important aspect of a family home?

Dad: Affordability and having enough room for various activities.

Mom: Affordability has to be major because no one needs the stress of paying for a home. I have always felt that everyone needs to be able to collect in a communal space. For many people that is the kitchen, although for us it was the family room watching t.v. or a movie together. However, there also has to be the availability of private space. I like an open concept for the kitchen/family room when it comes to the communal space.


10. If you could go back and talk to your “thirty-something” selves, what would have done differently in regard to real estate or investments?

Dad: I would have rented out our first house in Lawrence Park that we purchased for $60,000. If we had kept it, we would have a lot of money today as a result of the sale.

Mom: Buying a condo from plans in the Florida Keys or Hilton Head Island would have been a good investment and a spot we would have enjoyed on vacations.  


11. In your opinion, have you made any real estate mistakes? 

Dad: We purchased one home on a busy street in Port Credit which was not ideal. We soon moved out, rented it to people who reneged on the rent and damaged the property. We ended up losing money on the resale.

Mom: By now the answer is obviously, yes. We made some money on our first house but I did not like living in it. We sold it probably a year too soon because afterwards, the area became very hot. When we bought in Port Credit under stress, I learned that I could never live in the house because of air pollution from a factory on the lake. Renting it to a family also turned out badly and it took a long time to sell. We lost money on that one. We did put in an offer on a piece of property on Fripp Island near Hilton Head but luckily someone else was ahead of us. The property has since disappeared with rising sea levels. Having two properties, which we have had for twenty years, that are hundreds of miles apart and need lots of care is not easy unless you can afford to hire an excellent property manager. One of the advantages of a condo is trusting that all will be well when you go away. 


12. What has been your biggest real estate win? 

Dad: Within 24-hours after we listed a small one bedroom condo with a den, located at Yonge and Rosehill, a bidding war started amongst 3 purchasers, one of whom quickly dropped out.  The last bid came in at 11pm which we accepted. It was well over our asking price and easily broke the previous record for the building. 

Mom: Our one bedroom plus den Rosehill Avenue condo which sold a couple of years ago with a bidding war of three offers was our biggest win.

Kori: Wait, isn’t this the property that I sold for you?


13. If you had unlimited funds, what and where would you buy a property in Toronto today?

Dad: I like the properties in Forest Hill.

Mom: Perhaps a fully renovated brownstone in Yorkville. Or a large, open loft somewhere around King. Both would be ideal, one for living and one for painting and storing all my supplies as well as finished work. 


14. If you were working within a budget, would you purchase outside of Toronto and commute, or buy far smaller downtown and walk to work?  

Dad: I have had my fill of commuting. I would buy a small condo downtown and walk to the office for sure!  

Mom: Probably the smaller downtown property. 


15. Is there one particular property or condo building that you have ever envied from street level?

Dad: Again, most of the properties in Forest Hill. 

Mom: Many houses along Balmoral, Roxborough area and in Yorkville. I always liked the look and convenience of Yorkville Village and know it has been recently renovated. 


16. Could you live together in a 500-sqft. condo with one bedroom and one washroom, and make it work? 

Dad: Easily done.

Mom: Yes, we have. The biggest issue for us is storage though.


17. What is the number #1 thing you would tell first-time home buyers to consider when buying a new home or condo?

Dad: Make sure you buy a home or a condo with space for parking.

Mom: Do not rush it or buy under stress. Sometimes the intuition works and sometimes it doesn’t. 


18. Do you have a favourable view of Toronto real estate as a long-term investment decision? Why or why not?

Dad & Mom: Toronto is a great city, on par with NYC, and in our view, perfect for almost any long-term investment in real estate. We don’t think you can go wrong if you are willing to buy and hold in Toronto.


19. Let’s talk about your Toronto favourites.

Your favourite Toronto restaurant?

Dad: The ByMark in the TD Centre.

Mom: Lee Restaurant.

Your favourite Toronto Gallery? 

Dad: Urban Gallery on Queen Street because they support up and coming artists.  

Mom: The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)


Your top Toronto Shopping? 

Dad: Harry Rosen’s in the Eaton Centre.     

Mom: Bloor/Yorkville


So, what did I learn from my parents and their real estate story?

My biggest learning is to buy property and hold it for as long as possible – even if you have to beg, borrow and steal to make that happen. 

I also think it’s easier to make real estate choices when you don’t have children to consider. And, since I personally don’t have kids, I have more room to take risks and be bolder with my real estate decisions. I am also super proud of my parents for always putting their family first and working their butts off to create a life for themselves and their family. And, I appreciate everything they have done to support my sister and me, as we progress with our careers, our own family units and of course…our real estate story too!  

Now, let’s talk about what your real estate story is going to be!


This article is written by Kori Marin, Managing Partner and Broker at Fox Marin Associates. With a passion for Scandinavian design and all-things-Toronto, Kori brings her own brand of charismatic energy, creative integrity, and expertise to her work.