The Chase: searching for a classic Cabbagetown house for under $1 million

The Chase: searching for a classic Cabbagetown house for under $1 million

They wanted to stay in Cabbagetown. Their budget was just under $1 million. But the place had to be big enough for Cardinal Richelieu

The Buyers: Keith Pfeiffer, a 50-year-old retired television director, and Lawrence Reiter, a 37‑year-old pharmacologist.

The Story: When Pfeiffer and Reiter moved to Toronto from their native Johannesburg in 2008, they bought a modest home: a semi-detached Cabbagetown Victorian on a narrow lot with no yard. Two years later, they started looking for an upgrade.

Their wish list: a house wide enough for their oversized furniture, with a yard for their three dogs and a large wall to display their huge antique portrait of Cardinal Richelieu. “The Cardinal has been in my family longer than I can remember,” says Pfeiffer. “It’s a beautiful piece.”

Sumach Street (near Winchester). Listed at $999,000, sold for $850,000.
This three-bedroom detached is a neighbourhood landmark. “People call it the gingerbread house, and we had always admired it,” says Pfeiffer. The dining room wall was big enough for the Cardinal, but the second floor was cramped. The couple returned four times before moving on.

Winchester Street (near Parliament). Listed at $949,000, sold for $870,000.
They loved that this four-bedroom semi had a grand staircase and a second-floor landing with ample space for the Cardinal. But the living room was too small for their sofa, and the kitchen and bathrooms were outdated. They offered below-asking, and when the sellers came back with a counter-offer, Pfeiffer and Reiter walked.

Ontario Street (near Carlton and Parliament). Listed at and sold for $995,000.
Coming home from the gym one day, Reiter saw an open house sign on a lawn just down the street from theirs, and wandered in for a walk-through. The semi-detached Queen Anne Revival was on a 23-foot-wide lot and had it all: three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a big yard for the dogs, and a large wall on the upstairs landing, visible from the front entry, for the Cardinal. “Everything was right about it: the proportions, the back garden. It was perfect,” Reiter says. He summoned Pfeiffer to come take a look, and they made an offer later that day for about $10,000 under asking. The sellers signed it back at the asking price, and with a caveat about cleaning up the basement, the deal was done.

(Images: Pfeiffer and Reiter by John Cullen; houses by Lisa Gent)