Toronto Life’s most popular real estate stories of 2023

Toronto Life’s most popular real estate stories of 2023

This year’s roundup includes a Batman-inspired mansion, cottage country feuds and an ode to van life

The Toronto real estate market dominated the headlines this year.

Watching the roller coaster that is Toronto’s real estate market has become its own spectator sport. In a city desperate for housing options, everyone has a take because everyone has a stake. Our readers consumed an eclectic spread of stories this year: an architect’s passionate defence of downtown living, harrowing accounts of student slums, breathtaking renovations built on a budget. But the real estate pieces that really took off were ones of dogged success—Torontonians who found freedom with a little bit of luck and a lot of ingenuity.

Here are Toronto Life’s most-read real estate stories of 2023.


No. 10 “I see now why landlords target international students—it’s easier to take advantage of us”

Recent studies out of York University suggest that international students in Toronto—particularly those from India—are being targeted by predatory landlords. These students often face sexual harassment, discrimination and slum-like quarters. Vansh Thukral, a 21-year-old York student, understands these abuses all too well. Here, he shares his story. | By Vansh Thukral, as told to Andrea Yu | August 16
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No. 9 How a $360,000 renovation transformed a Junction shack into a sparkling family home

Gord Harrison, a contractor, initially purchased this 100-year-old property for $1 million in February of 2021 as a home for his young family. He brought in his friend Shawn Chua, with whom he had partnered on a dozen previous renos, to share the load. Then they discovered a rat’s nest of problems. | By Andrea Yu | June 16
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No. 8 “My parks are nicer than your backyards”: An architect explains why young families should live downtown

“Even if someone offered me a detached house with a backyard for the same price and location as my condo, I wouldn’t accept it,” writes architect Naama Blonder. “Our condo has more privacy. Our building’s security makes us feel safer. And I would never trade our unit’s abundant natural light for the tiny windows of most suburban homes.” | By Naama Blonder, as told to Andrea Yu | April 11
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No. 7 Bad Builder: Inside Toronto’s epidemic of renovation fraud

He said his name was Mike Borac and that he could build homes faster and cheaper than anyone else. By the time his clients realized his promises were too good to be true, their money was gone. | By Mathew Silver, with additional research by Alex Cyr and Charlotte Genest | October 10
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No. 6 Surreal Estate: $10 million for a Kleinburg villa with a car elevator to a secret lair

What small-town home would be complete without 10,000 square feet of underground space, a cigar room and a kitchen as long as a bowling alley? | By Andrea Yu | June 14
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No. 5 This Etobicoke couple makes $157,000 a year. How do they spend it?

Marion Rana and Jarelle Gabison recently made the move from Mississauga to a one-bedroom condo near Islington station. With a combined salary of $157,000, the two have built a financial safety net by dividing their present and future expenses. “Most of his income goes to investments and savings,” says Jarelle, “while mine goes to everyday spending.” | By Roxy Kirshenbaum | May 18
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No. 4 The 2023 Neighbourhood Rankings

Five years have passed since we last ran our neighbourhood rankings, and what a transformation there’s been. The pandemic radically altered how we live, work and commute. Downtown lost its mojo (for a time, anyway), and the suburbs gained new appeal. Change proliferated in other ways, too. The city is bursting with new transit projects, condo towers, Michelin-star restaurants, rooftop farms, hypermodern shopping complexes—even a shiny new hospital up in Vaughan. Once-derelict stretches are now brimming with chic retail and cafés. Here is our mostly scientific, slightly inflammatory, deeply informative portrait of this ever-evolving city. Let the showdown begin.
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No. 3 “Not everyone can pay millions for lakefront property”: This man’s floating home is at the centre of a cottage country feud

Three years ago, amateur engineer Joe Nimen got to work building his dream home: a collection of four shipping containers fashioned into a floating cottage. In Nimen’s eyes, the four-season structure is a feat of ingenuity and environmental stewardship. For his many critics in the Port Severn area, however, it’s an unsafe eyesore with no business being on the water. Here, he tells us how he built a seaworthy home, why he isn’t bothered by the haters and what he sees as the real issues in cottage country. | By Courtney Shea | July 13
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No. 2 “Living in our van lets us travel the world. Here’s how we do van life while holding jobs in Toronto”

Toronto-based Tal Gershon, a 30-year-old nurse, and Mads Lott, a 29-year-old elementary school teacher, regularly pack up their Mercedes sprinter van and hit the road. For months at a time, they live in the 55-square-foot space while they travel the world. Here, the couple breaks down the DIY renovations that made their home on wheels livable, how much money van life saves them and how they balance their wanderlust with in-person jobs. | By Tal Gerson and Mads Lott, as told to Tara DeBoer | August 25
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No. 1 “I live in my van, rent-free, in downtown Toronto. Here’s how I make van life work”

Georgia Broderick has been living out of a van with her fiancé, Alejandro Aquino, for four years. When the 29-year-old music instructor and rock-climbing route setter moved in, the vehicle, a 2016 Ram ProMaster 1500, was basically a tin can on wheels. Since then, the couple has slowly decked out its 72 square feet to include a full kitchen, a freshwater system and internet access. Here, Broderick explains the logistics of sleeping, eating and everyday living; breaks down their DIY renovations; and tells us how she and her soon-to-be husband make tiny living work. | By Georgina Broderick, as told to Tara DeBoer | July 26
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