Where to Buy Now 2015: three thriving neighbourhoods where houses still sell for under a million bucks

Where to Buy Now 2015: three thriving neighbourhoods where houses still sell for under a million bucks

(Image: courtesy of TPL)


Wallace Emerson

Average Condo Price: $304,340
Average Detached Price: $754,573
Average Semi Price: $657,696
Average After-Tax Household Income: $60,650

Wallace Emerson has everything an aging hipster needs: restaurants that serve complicated comfort food under the glow of Edison bulbs, endless cultural diversity (thanks to the neighbourhood’s immigrant roots) and subway access for trips downtown. The lots are narrow and the houses are generally dated, but many of them remain within financial reach. Even among detached homes, sales over $900,000 are rare. “People are still turned off a bit by the neighbourhood’s proximity to Lansdowne and Bloor,” explains Donal Ward-McCarthy of Right at Home Realty. The area is home to two of the city’s last remaining strip clubs, but tattoo parlours and pawn shops are steadily giving way to vegan bakeries and gastropubs.

What’s here

The Emerson
1279 Bloor St. W., 416-532-1717
This jovial spot is the ultimate urban family restaurant: the room is filled with reclaimed curios, the space is large, the music is mercifully low, the cooks sport paper hats, and the crowd is a mix of flannel-clad parents and toddlers.

Ransack the Universe
1207 Bloor St. W., 647-703-6675
This glorified garage sale is packed with all manner of miscellany: records, vintage clothes, Formica tables and anything else you might find in Hannah Horvath’s apartment. Reserve at least an hour for browsing.

Brock Sandwich
1260 Bloor St. W., 647-748-1260
With two Susur alums among its three owners, this lunch counter crams pillowy white buns with things like applewood-smoked bacon, mustard-glazed pulled pork and buttermilk fried chicken drenched in fiery piri piri.

Who Bought Here

The buyer: Petra Fisher, a fitness instructor, and Chris Loughren, an energy industry worker
The street: St. Clarens Avenue
The Price: $885,000

Petra and her partner, Chris, had been renting a King West loft for four years when they learned their building would be converted into condos. The couple were forced to make a choice: continue renting into their 40s, or buy their first home. They opted for the latter and bid just shy of their $900,000 spending limit on a detached triplex. After removing asbestos, installing an IKEA kitchen and paying $120,000 in construction bills, they had a tailor-made condo alternative on the main floor. Petra teaches Restorative Exercise out of one of the unit’s two bedrooms, and Chris has an easy commute to his job at a downtown energy firm. Factor in rental income from the basement and second-storey units ($700 and $1,400 a month, respectively), and the couple’s total cost of ownership is comparable to what they would have paid in rent.

What’s Selling

1104 Dufferin St.
Semi-detached, four bedrooms, two baths
Listed for $599,900
Sold for $742,000
115 Pendrith St.
Detached, five bedrooms, three baths
Listed for $879,000
Sold for $870,000
751 St. Clarens Ave.
Semi-detached, six bedrooms, three baths
Listed for $824,900
Sold for $827,000



Mount Pleasant East

Average Condo Price: $497,065
Average Semi Price: $814,098
Average After-Tax Household Income: $100,188

Mount Pleasant East is bound to change in the coming years as developers build condo towers and the Eglinton Crosstown LRT nears completion. For now, though, the neighbourhood is still made up mostly of handsome, century-old homes with sizable backyards. Semis, and even a few smaller detached houses, sell for $650,000 to $1 million. (Procrastinators beware: the Crosstown could drive those values up.) Residents do their shopping on the high streets of Davisville Village and stroll through Mount Pleasant Cemetery—which isn’t as morbid a hangout as it may sound. “People look at it as a park,” says Bosley realtor Patrick Rocca. “You can run through there, and there are trails. It’s actually quite spectacular.” A playground in nearby June Rowlands Park is one the liveliest kiddie hubs in the city. The only thing lacking is diversity. With three quarters of its population Canadian-born, the neighbourhood is one of the city’s whitest.

What’s here

Smoked and Cracked
516 Mount Pleasant Rd., 647-748-5722
Lobster rolls are the bestsellers at this nook, and for good reason: owners Michael Kash and Ron Raymer bring in crustaceans daily from Yarmouth in the winter and Newfoundland in the summer. The rolls are wonderfully simple, featuring chunks of claw and tail drizzled with hot lemon butter.

Kids’ Books
Mabel’s Fables
662 Mount Pleasant Rd., 416-322-0438
The selection at this kid-lit sanctuary trumps almost every other bookstore in the city. The titles are organized according to age, making it easy for flustered adults to figure out what five-year-olds or tweens might like to read. And yes, there is a Mabel: she’s the plump ginger cat snoozing in the stacks.

Regent Theatre
551 Mount Pleasant Rd., 416-480-9884
Indie cinemas are a dying breed, but Mount Pleasant East has managed to keep one of the best ones alive. The Regent specializes in second-run blockbusters and small-release foreign fare, meaning you can catch something serious in German or just watch Liam Neeson kick ass.

What’s Selling

184 Cleveland St.
Semi-detached, three bedrooms, two baths
Listed for $769,000
Sold for $910,013
556 Balliol St.
Semi-detached, three bedrooms, two baths
Listed for $799,000
Sold for $915,000
523 Soudan Ave.
Detached, three bedrooms, two baths
Listed for $849,000
Sold for $911,000



Woodbine Heights

Average Condo Price: $280,543
Average Detached Price: $711,301
Average Semi Price: $568,665
Average After-Tax Household Income: $75,057

In 2012, when a Starbucks opened at the corner of Plains Road and Coxwell, Woodbine Heights officially earned its “neighbourhood in transition” status. And it’s not just the coffee options that are getting more diverse. The post-war bungalows, which typically sell for between $550,000 and $700,000, are gradually being razed and replaced with two-storey homes. “It’s becoming quite affluent,” says Lynn Marie Robinson of Royal LePage, Johnston and Daniel Division. The new builds often list for around $1 million, but buying one of the bungalows is a better idea for people who don’t require a lot of room right away, or who cherish the opportunity to level an aged house and build their dream home from scratch on a roomy lot. For the money, buyers get easy access to the DVP and the Danforth, not to mention unparalleled proximity to the Don River Valley.

What’s here

Child’s Play
Oaks ’n Acorns
1856 Danforth Ave., 416-425-3213
All those young parents moving into Woodbine Heights are going to need somewhere to take their kids. This recreation centre offers indoor play areas, music lessons, puppet shows, family fitness classes and a café. Though memberships aren’t mandatory, the $59 annual fee gets you discounts on classes and party bookings.

Hole-E-Burger Bar
1050 Coxwell Ave., 647-349-9200
This burger joint gets its name from the four holes stamped into every patty cooked on the kitchen’s flat-top, a process that ensures even cooking and allows sauces to be piped directly into the meat. Supplements include bacon and chive mashed potato patties and a crispy “cheese skirt” around the bun.

Taylor Creek Park
Dawes Rd., north of Danforth
Forming the northeastern border of Woodbine Heights, this thin, diagonal swath of greenery presents residents with an easily accessible escape from Toronto’s relentless urbanity. Its 3.5-kilometre hiking trail lets you follow Massey Creek from Victoria Park in the east to its western endpoint at the Don River.

What’s Selling

123 Cadorna Ave.
Detached, three bedrooms, three baths
Listed for $779,000
Sold for $760,000
165 Holborne Ave.
Detached, three bedrooms, two baths
Listed for $599,900
Sold for $590,000
17 Treadway Blvd.
Detached, three bedrooms, two baths
Listed for $599,900
Sold for $685,000