Real Estate

The Chase: A barista trades a crowded house for a solo basement apartment

By Graham Slaughter| Photography by Brittany Carmichael
The Chase: A barista trades a crowded house for a solo basement apartment

The renter: Natasha Ardill, a 39-year-old barista and manager at Sam James Coffee Bar on Harbord Street.

The story: Natasha was paying $570 to live in a five-bedroom house in Bloorcourt with several other people. The price was perfect, but, after five years of backyard barbecues and Sunday night parties, she’d grown tired of cleaning up after her housemates the next morning—and her 17-year-old tabby cat, Jedi, didn’t seem to be enjoying all the strange visitors. Hoping to find cleanliness and solitude, she went looking for a one-bedroom or bachelor apartment. Her $1,100 budget meant she had to warm up to the idea of living in a basement—hopefully one near work, with on-site laundry and a bathtub (she hadn’t had a proper soak in years). She enlisted the help of a real estate agent, scoured internet listings and, when things got desperate, resorted to posting a “please help” poster on the fridge at her coffee shop.

Option 1

A one-bedroom apartment on Salem Avenue (near Dupont and Dovercourt), advertised for $1,100 per month plus utilities

This place confirmed most of Natasha’s fears about basement units. The space was dark, dingy and arranged into several cramped rooms. When the property manager learned Natasha had a cat, he informed her he charged a $50 “pet deposit” every month. The cat surcharge seemed like a scam, so she moved on.

Option 2

A studio apartment on Manning Avenue (near Bloor and Bathurst), advertised for $1,100 per month plus utilities

This Koreatown basement apartment had an open layout that made the space seem roomy, and Natasha liked that the entrance was in the well-kept backyard. The biggest selling point was the spacious storage closet behind the kitchen, which had room for all her odds and ends. Better still, Natasha instantly hit it off with the landlord—but, five days after she submitted her application, she found out he’d gone with another renter. She never learned why, but she figured he might have realized the place was worth more than he’d listed it for.

The choice

A one-and-a-half bedroom apartment on Concord Avenue (near Bloor and Ossington), for $950 per month

Natasha was scrolling through Kjiji ads when she found this basement apartment, located one block from her current house. She was the first person to see the place, and as soon as she walked in, she knew she wanted it. The living room came with a fireplace (non-functional, but attractive), and Natasha figured the tiny second room could be converted into a walk-in closet. The apartment also came with ensuite laundry, a gas oven and a bedroom window that looks onto the backyard. She told the property manager she was interested, and they signed the lease the next day. The cozy apartment has proven big enough for entertaining, Natasha now has the freedom to choose when the parties happen, and Jedi is able to sleep all day.


Here’s the spare room:


The bedroom:


The living room, with non-functional fireplace:


And the kitchen:


The Hunt


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