How a family of four found their happy place in Scarborough

How a family of four found their happy place in Scarborough

Portrait by Erin Leydon

The buyers: Samir Umer, a 41-year-old sales and leasing consultant at BMW Toronto; his wife, Lubna Aslam, a 40-year-old employment counsellor for Spinal Cord Injury Ontario; and their children, Zara, 11, and Zayed, 12.

The story: Samir and Lubna are from Kuwait, but they wanted to raise their kids in a more progressive environment, so they moved to Toronto in 2009 and settled into a $1,438-a-month apartment near the Ontario Science Centre. By 2016, they’d become Canadian citizens and landed good jobs, and were ready to buy a home. Samir imagined the full-on suburban experience: four-bedroom house, finished basement, sprawling backyard. Because of Lubna’s paraplegia, sustained in a car accident in 2002, the place also had to be easily modified for a wheelchair and within range of the TTC’s Wheel-Trans service.

Option 1

Portwine Drive (near Lawrence and Port Union). Listed for $779,000, sold for $876,200.
Tucked on a tranquil street near the lakeshore, this three-bedroom house was perfect for them. It had a big bay window in the living room, a wheelchair-friendly open-concept design and a massive playroom on the top floor that could moonlight as a guest bedroom. During their visit, Samir sat in the basement by himself, picturing life in the home with his family. Unfortunately, nine other bidders felt exactly the same way. Lubna and Samir bid $790,000, and then $825,000. Their final offer, $865,200, fell $11,000 short of the ­eventual sale price.

Option 2

Natal Avenue (near Midland and Kingston). Listed for $699,900, sold for $780,000.
This three-bedroom detached house in Birchcliffe-Cliffside looked good in photos, but, when they viewed the place in person, they noticed that the interior was broken up into several cramped rooms. Also, the curved staircase would have made it challenging to install a stairlift. Even so, the house had some advantages: it was a 20-minute walk from R. H. King Academy School, a well-regarded TDSB high school, and it was near the Scarborough GO station. They offered $680,000, then upped their bid to $699,900. They lost the place to another couple.

The buy

Lady Sarah Crescent (near McCowan and McNicoll). Listed for $799,900, sold for $915,000.
Samir was in tears when they lost the Portwine place, but this one cheered him. The kids ran upstairs and ­stumbled upon the owner’s impressive collection of Star Wars memorabilia. Downstairs, Samir admired the finished basement, which he reckoned could be rented out as a two-bedroom apartment. The couple bid $851,800, and hoped, for that price, to get both the property and the George Lucas shrine. The seller demurred, so they dropped the Star Wars condition, upped their offer, and won the place in the fourth round of bidding.

The Hunt