Where to Buy Now 2015: three under-the-radar neighbourhoods that won’t bankrupt first-time buyers

Where to Buy Now 2015: three under-the-radar neighbourhoods that won’t bankrupt first-time buyers




Average Condo Price: $326,884
Average Semi Price: $488,208
Average After-Tax Household Income: $53,818

Rockcliffe-Smythe was born in the years following World War II, when Conn Smythe, the legendary one-time owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, transformed a gravel pit into housing for returning servicemen. Many of those houses still stand today. They’re still affordable, too, making the neighbourhood one of only a few in the city where it’s possible to find a decent detached home for under $500,000. A group of mostly working-class home­owners share the area with renters, who occupy the mid-century high-rises on Woolner Avenue. Relations between the two groups can be tense. “We had huge issues with prostitution and drugs,” says Marilia Janicas, a member of the Rockcliffe-Smythe Community Association. “In the last 10 years, though, there have been significant changes.” New retail development, like the Stockyards outdoor mall at the neighbourhood’s southeastern corner, has revived some formerly barren lots, and the Junction’s hot retail strip is just a short walk south. The latest sign of gentrification? Woolner Park is about to get an off-leash area.

What’s here

Green Space
Smythe Park
175 Scarlett Rd., north of St. Clair
Forming part of the Black Creek ravine, this 15.3-hectare park contrasts dramatically with the nearby autobody shops, and is a big selling point for house-hunters. Three baseball diamonds, a splash pad and an outdoor pool will keep the kids amused.

Community Hangout
Jane/Dundas Library
620 Jane St., 416-364-0400
This tiny branch is also one of the city’s most modern libraries—the place was renovated in 2006 and reopened in 2008, with a striking, modular, glass-box exterior. Inside, the large children’s section in the basement is a prime attraction for local families.

Lambton Golf and Country Club
100 Scarlett Rd., 416-767-2175
On the banks of the Humber lies one of Toronto’s most serene courses, founded in 1902 (back when this area was practically cottage country). In addition to its golf and tennis programs, the Lambton also hosts weddings and corporate events.

What’s Selling

99 Foxwell St.
Detached, three bedrooms, two baths
Listed for $524,900
Sold for $480,000
31 Corbett Ave.
Detached, three bedrooms, two baths
Listed for $469,900
Sold for $458,000
17 Cayuga Ave.
Detached, two bedrooms, one bath
Listed for $269,000
Sold for $270,000

Birch Cliff

Average Condo Price: $482,876
Average Detached Price: $719,735
Average Semi Price: $503,604
Average After-Tax Household Income: $73,364

Birch Cliff has a split personality. South of ­Kingston Road, it’s an affluent community where buyers pay in excess of $1 million for two-storey detached homes within walking distance of the Scarborough Bluffs and the Toronto Hunt country club. North of Kingston, it’s still ­possible to snatch up post-war three-bedroom bungalows with private drives for around $500,000. The area’s 30- and 40-foot lots leave plenty of room for growth; with the proper permits, buyers could do a tear-down and rebuild, and add a couple of thousand extra square feet of living space in the process. New condo and townhouse developments are steadily changing the character of the area’s main streets, meaning the historically Anglo-Canadian community may be in for a demographic shift.

What’s here

Vincent’s Spot
2496 Kingston Rd.,
Their sautéed veal Villeroy—slathered in white wine cream sauce and mushrooms—is locally famous, the atmosphere is cozy, and the continental fare satisfies. If the veal doesn’t fill you up, get an order of frog legs grenobloise on the side.

The Salvage Shop
1492 Kingston Rd.,
Bearing a sign that looks like a ransom note, this antique and knick-knack store is stuffed with classic kitsch (vintage Pepsi signs, Philco radios, cinema-style popcorn makers) and reclaimed household essentials (doors, windows, light fixtures).

Jatujak: Thai Style Street Food
1466 Kingston Rd.,
This spot is named for a popular weekend market in Bangkok, hometown of chef Aon Sakoonpham. Her menu complements the usual curries with home-recipe specialties like khao soi and lemongrass chicken wings.

Who Bought Here

The buyer: Dianne Chadwick, Health care professional
The street: Kalmar Avenue
The Price: $460,000

When Dianne returned to Toronto after 10 years in Georgia, she rented near her childhood home in the Beach while plotting her next move. As a manager at the University Health Network, Chadwick could afford a condo but couldn’t bear the idea of paying maintenance fees. Instead, in April 2014, she bid $30,000 under asking on a fully renovated bungalow in Birch Cliff. She has about 900 square feet of living space, plus a basement unit that she rents for $750 a month. “I’ve got the same space I would have in a two-bedroom condo,” she says, “but without the fees and with a tenant.” Dianne’s discovered a close-knit community, too. “Everyone networks around here. They all help each other out.”

What’s Selling

108 Harding Blvd.
Detached, three bedrooms, two baths
Listed for $449,000
Sold for $422,200

1262 Kingston Rd.
Detached, four bedrooms, one bath
Listed for $449,900
Sold for $447,000

23 Birchmount Rd.
Detached, five bedrooms, three baths
Listed for $999,900
Sold for $975,000
(Image: Waterfront Toronto)


West Don Lands

Approximate number of residential units planned for West Don Lands: 6,000
Approximate average price of a condo at River City: $390,000

The Pan Am Games are the best thing that ever happened to the West Don Lands. The Ontario government invested more than $500 million to turn the ex–industrial lands at the south end of Corktown into a functioning community—one suitable to serve, temporarily, as the athletes’ village. Without the cash infusion, new neighbourhood amenities like Corktown Common, Underpass Park and the Cooper Koo Family YMCA could have taken decades to materialize. Now, with the exception of the YMCA (set to open in 2016), all of those attractions are ready for new residents. Pre-construction condo prices in the area are affordable for first-time buyers: a young couple could get 700 to 800 square feet at the Canary Park development for about $430,000.

What’s here

Green Space
Corktown Common
Lawren Harris Square and Bayview Ave.
The most eye-catching development yet in West Don Lands, Corktown Common is both practical—it doubles as a berm that will protect downtown in a flood—and poetic. Paths meander between frog-filled marshes, wildflower groves and picnic-perfect swaths of grass.

Urban Playground
Underpass Park
33 St. Lawrence St.
This imaginative public space—tucked under the Eastern Avenue, Adelaide Street and Richmond Street overpasses just west of the DVP—turns a cold, dark, claustrophobic tract of land into an unexpectedly lively playground. The one-hectare area features a skate park, a basketball court and futuristic climbing structures.

Body Blitz
497 King St. E.
A trip to Body Blitz’s therapeutic waters is like a baptism, with a variety of soaks, steams and shvitzes to divest you of skin-related sins. First, you bathe in a warm Dead Sea salt pool to relax muscles. That’s followed by a series of ice-cold baths, aromatherapy sweat sessions and a plunge in the hot Epsom salt pool.

What’s Selling

(Image: courtesy of developers)

Canary District
Condo, two bedrooms, two baths
Listed for $418,900
Occupancy date April 2016

(Image: courtesy of developers)

Canary Park
Townhome, two bedrooms, three baths
Listed for $731,900
Occupancy date April 2016

(Image: courtesy of developers)

River City
Condo, two bedrooms, two baths
Listed for $504,900
Occupancy date March–July 2015