They bought in the early ’80s. Prepare to be overwhelmed with envy

They bought in the early ’80s. Prepare to be overwhelmed with envy

Photographs by Dave Gillespie

The place: A three-storey semi near the Danforth
The sellers: Rosa Venalainen, 66, and Esko Venalainen, 59; retired medical lab technologists
What they paid: $116,000 in 1982
What they sold for: $1.4 million in May 2017

When Esko and Rosa Venalainen were house hunting in the early ’80s, they had three items on their wish list: the place had to be relatively close to Rosa’s parents at Bloor and Bathurst; it needed a unit that they could rent out; and it had to be on a subway line so they could take the TTC to Toronto Western Hospital, where they both worked as lab technologists. Their budget was $90,000. Eventually they found a two-and-a-half-storey semi near Danforth and Logan that had been converted into a duplex. The first floor and basement were already rented out, and the upstairs and third storey were in good condition. They stretched their budget and offered $116,000, knowing that their tenants would be paying $600 a month toward the mortgage.

After taking possession, Esko renovated the dated interior. He started with the upper floors, moving their bedroom as he completed each room. He combined two second-floor rooms into a dining room and added a deck to the third floor. Five years after buying the place, they learned they were expecting—a daughter, Natalie—and would soon require more space, so they gave their tenants notice and reclaimed the rest of the house. One weekend, they invited their friends and had a tear-down party, then spent $100,000 on a renovation.

The Venalainens were happy in Toronto, but they’d always loved camping and fishing, and they yearned to live in the country. In 2016, after they retired and Rosa’s mother died, they decided to move to the countryside. It was a hard decision: they’d been in their home for 35 years. In the spring, they took the first offer that came along—$1.4 -million. They paid $665,000 for a three-bedroom, four-bathroom bungalow on a half-hectare lot in Severn Township. The new place has a three-car garage and a large finished basement; the amount of space still astounds them. “We’ve never had a garage before,” says Rosa.


Other families who are cashing out…