The Chase: a lawyer’s search for a fixer-upper she could grow into

The Chase: a lawyer’s search for a fixer-upper she could grow into

The Chase: a lawyer’s search for a fixer-upper she could grow into (Portrait by Erin Leydon)

The buyer: Heather Spence, a 31-year-old partner at Mass Tsang, a criminal defence firm.

The story: In 2008, while Spence was attending Osgoode Hall Law School, she squeezed into a 400-square-foot Annex rental. Six years later, she’d paid off some loans, made partner at her firm and felt ready to take the ownership plunge. Condos held no ­attraction—she knew too many people who had bought units and then quickly outgrown them. If she decided to have kids someday, she didn’t need the hassle, or expense, of moving again. She got approved for a $510,000 mortgage and started the search for a fixer-upper somewhere between Queen and Dupont, from St. George to Dufferin. She was willing to consider any house, as long as it wasn’t about to be condemned, and she still had to up her ante to get into the game. Even $556,000, she discovered, wasn’t enough to make her a bidding-war contender.

The Chase: Option 1

Option 1

Fisher Street (near Dundas and Dufferin).
Listed at $499,900, sold for $565,000.

Spence loved this row house, despite its lack of curb appeal—and the Virgin Mary mosaic on the front wall. The layout was open concept, so it wouldn’t require any structural renos. But her offer of $521,000 was trumped by a buyer who went in at $65,100 over asking.

The Chase: Option 2

Option 2

Fisher Street.
Listed at $499,900, relisted at $569,000, sold for $565,000.

Two months later, the house next door went on the market. The main level had been partitioned into a warren of rooms, but, having seen its twin, Spence knew its potential. She offered her max, but the seller wanted what the neighbour’s had sold for. So Spence chose to walk.


The Chase: The Buy

The Buy

Delaware Avenue (near Dupont and Ossington).
Listed at $529,900, sold for $540,000.

This semi wasn’t ready for its close-up: the white siding was filthy, the floors were crooked, and a kitchen sink and cabinets had been installed in one of the three bedrooms. Assuming she’d be outbid, Spence offered $5,000 under asking, but no other bidders stepped up. The sellers rejected her offer and considered pulling the house off the market. After three sign-backs, the two parties agreed on $540,000. Spence had enough cash leftover to fix the floors and turn the pseudo-kitchen in the bedroom into a laundry cupboard.