How one woman built $1 million in equity (mostly) by herself

How one woman built $1 million in equity (mostly) by herself

Portrait by Erin Leydon

In 1985, Ann McGill was nearing 30, and she had a good job as an administrator at a big-five bank. She decided to buy a house on her own, but she didn’t have enough for a down payment, so she moved in with her parents for a while to save up.

Months later, Ann’s brother suggested that she buy his two-bedroom semi, near Main and Gerrard—which she did, for $95,000. At the time, for someone as young as she was, it was a lot of money. And borrowing wasn’t cheap: mortgage rates were in the double digits. To pay off her loans, she rented out a spare bedroom.

By the late 1990s, Ann had been promoted to a team leader at work, which came with a substantial raise. She fell in love with a three-bedroom home on Beech Avenue, in the Beaches, but the owner wouldn’t accept less than $200,000, which at the time seemed outrageous. (Today, of course, nearby houses go for upwards of $1 million.) Instead, she bought a three-bedroom semi in the less-fashionable Upper Beaches for $189,000.

In 1998, her boyfriend moved in. They were both working from home, and the semi suddenly felt too small. Ann decided to look at the eastern edge of Leslieville, pre-gentrification. Her partner didn’t think it was safe, but he wasn’t contributing any money to the purchase, and they had agreed that he would have no claim on the new house. Over his objections, Ann bought a three-bedroom in the area for $293,500.

The house outlasted the boyfriend, and, by 2008, Ann’s mortgage was paid off. She retired at 55 and bought Fred, her golden retriever, who is currently her only housemate.

The first buy

Osborne Ave. (near Main and Gerrard)
Purchased for $95,000 in 1986
Sold for $145,000 in 1996

Ann bought this two-bedroom brick semi from her brother. It was in rough shape, but her dad helped her sand the hardwood floors and rebuild the deck, and she repainted the cupboards.


The second buy

Kingsmount Park Rd. (near Woodbine and Kingston)
Purchased for $189,000 in 1997
Sold for $283,000 in 2002

This three-bedroom semi had only two tiny closets, but a trip to IKEA solved any storage issues. Ann sold the house when it started to feel too small for her and her boyfriend.


The third buy

Woodfield Rd. (near Dundas and Greenwood)
Purchased for $293,500 in 2002
Estimated value $1,000,000 in 2017

This three-bedroom detached home needed some work, but the real problem was the rooming house next door. The landlord ended up selling the place to a family in 2004.

The bottom line

Ann, now 61, managed to build a million dollars in equity on a single income. Thanks to early retirement, she’ll have plenty of time to enjoy it.

The Hunt