The Chase: A grad student swaps his house for an extra-roomy downtown rental

The Chase: A grad student swaps his house for an extra-roomy downtown rental

The renter: Sean Hillier, a 27-year-old PhD student in political science, sessional instructor at Ryerson University and naval officer with the Canadian Forces.

The story: In October 2014, after nearly a decade living in Toronto, Hillier left his apartment in Regent Park to live in a house he’d bought in Hamilton. The place turned out to be a good investment, but he quickly grew tired of his commute to Ryerson, and he missed his city friends. He listed the place in March 2016 and sold it in less than a week, leaving him with more than $100,000 in his pocket and a four-month window before he had to hand over the keys. He found a potential roommate and began searching for a two-bedroom apartment south of Bloor, between Bathurst and Church, for between $2,800 and $3,200 per month. He’d be moving with an entire house’s worth of furniture, so the bigger, the better.

Option 1

Four-bedroom townhouse on Dalhousie Street (near Dundas and Church), listed at $3,000 per month

This four-storey townhouse needed new carpeting and a fresh coat of paint, but it was big enough for Hillier’s furniture needs, with over 2,000 square feet. Better yet, it was steps away from the Ryerson campus and had a private backyard. He put in an application, but the landlord was a handful: they spent days haggling over the price and other things, like whether Hillier could bring along his dog. The negotiations ended when the landlord started to suspect that Hillier and his roommate—two guys renting a four-bedroom—were planning to list the apartment on Airbnb.

Option 2

Two-bedroom penthouse on Hayden Street (near Church and Bloor), listed at $3,300 per month

Shortly after losing the Dalhousie townhouse, Hillier’s future roommate found out that he was being transferred to Amsterdam. At the same time, Hillier was posted out of town for military duty for three months, leaving him just 10 days to find a home when he came back in late June. Upon his return, Hillier began a frenzied search. He saw at least eight mediocre places before falling in love with this two-bedroom, two-bathroom penthouse, north of the Church-Wellesley village, with a sweeping south-facing view, a walk-in closet and a fireplace. He rushed through the paperwork and got it to the landlord, but another applicant beat him by an hour.

The choice

Two-bedroom loft on Baldwin Street (in Kensington Market), listed at $3,200 per month

With days left before he’d be forced to leave Hamilton, Hillier was worried he’d have to crash on a friend’s couch. But then he saw a listing for this Kensington Market loft. He arranged a viewing within hours. He was sold on the apartment’s 13-foot-high ceilings, breezy open-concept design and unobstructed view of the gleaming “Kensington” sign on Baldwin. He was the first and last applicant to view the place. He took possession two days later. The rent is high for a single person, but Hillier figures the extra space (1,300 square feet, to be precise) is worth it.

Here’s the living area:


The dining area:


One of the bedrooms:


And the other one:


And it’s located right above a pot dispensary (though, pretty much every apartment in Kensington is):


The Hunt