“The sellers included a Covid-19 clause”: How an accountant and a non-profit worker bought a house during the pandemic
Who they are: Christian Chiari Manni, 42, an accountant at Wave Financial; Yael Schwartz, 27, director of operations at Shelter Movers; and their Labrador–German shepherd, Compass
The buy: A 1,600-square-foot detached home with three bedrooms and two bathrooms near Danforth and Coxwell
Listed at: $979,900
Bought for: $1,075,000
Christian: In 2010, I bought a one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo in Corktown for $255,000. That’s where I lived for most of my 30s. I met Yael in 2017. We were both volunteering at a non-profit called Shelter Movers, helping a woman move out of an abusive home. We were both single, clicked right away and exchanged numbers. Yael moved into my condo the next year.
Yael: Corktown is a hidden gem. We think it will become popular really soon. When Christian bought the place, it was just a bunch of vacant lots. Now it’s all condos, and there are trendy bars and restaurants popping up. The apartment just got too cramped for us. It’s 500 square feet, which is already small for two people, but it got even tighter after we adopted Compass.
Christian: In late 2019, we started to think about moving, long before coronavirus entered the news cycle. Financially, we were lucky—I’d been saving money, and I’m pretty close to paying off the mortgage on my condo. We didn’t create any kind of savings plan. We just said, “We need to buy a house. We have the money and we can do it.”
Yael: We looked for a semi-detached with two or three bedrooms, so that we can start a family. Our list of must-haves included a quiet neighbourhood, a backyard for Compass, a parking spot and two washrooms so we could stop fighting over the single bathroom in the condo. Our original budget was between $800,000 and $900,000, so we started looking east of Toronto in Scarborough, Pickering and Markham, where there were houses in that price range. But we didn’t want an overly long commute. The thought of getting stuck in rush-hour traffic or spending hours a day on the GO Train didn’t exactly appeal to us.
Christian: We thought that maybe we could buy something smaller in the city to avoid the commute. We bumped our maximum budget up to $1,000,000 and started looking in the East Danforth area. In February, the market was hot. Inventory was low and buyers were snapping up everything in sight. By the time we saw a place we liked, it was gone for well over asking. Some houses were getting 20 offers. At one point, we considered making offers based on listing photos alone, so we could make quick bids. But we didn’t want to purchase a long-term home by looking at pictures.
Yael: In early March, we lost out on two places. The first was a detached two-storey in Woodbine-Lumsden. We bid less than $1,000,000 and it sold for $1,075,000, so we knew we might have to go beyond our budget moving forward. The next place was a two-bedroom bungalow in Pape Village. We submitted a bully offer for over $1,000,000, but they declined. I guess the sellers couldn’t drum up a better offer, because it eventually sold for $975,000.
Christian: On March 11, when the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic, people didn’t know what to do. There were still less than 100 cases in Ontario, but businesses were closing and events were being cancelled. It seemed like some buyers were going to keep hunting and some sellers were going to keep listing.
Yael: We decided that we didn’t have much to lose by continuing to look, so we kept going. Things really slowed down. Compared to the month before, there were fewer people at viewings, and there weren’t as many offers being made. We thought maybe we could find someone who really needed to sell. When we saw the house near Danforth and Coxwell, we loved it right away.
Yael: We were actually the last clients our agent took for an in-person showing. It’s a detached house, which wasn’t even originally on our list of must-haves. It checked all the other boxes, except it didn’t have a dedicated parking spot.
Christian: But parking wasn’t a big deal. Yael works from home a lot. Plus, not to stereotype myself, but I’m from Italy and own a Vespa, which I can park anywhere.
Yael: On March 24, the day after our viewing, the Ontario Real Estate Association urged agents to stop all face-to-face business. That same day, the sellers put the place on the market and we submitted a bully offer of $1,050,000 with no conditions. Even our real estate agent was skeptical. She thought the offer was too low.
Christian: The next morning, the sellers told us they were thinking about it. To make them think a little bit faster, we sweetened the deal with another $25,000, which boosted our offer to $1,075,000. It worked. The listing agent said they were expecting more, but they were still happy to get it done. I guess it was good timing for them, too.
Yael: The closing date is April 23, which is coming up quickly. We’re finalizing the mortgage with the bank. Our broker let us know the process would be a bit slower because of Covid-19. But the sellers included a “coronavirus clause” in the deal, which states that both buyer and seller acknowledge there could be delays because of the pandemic. If there are issues, the closing date can be extended. We think we got lucky, since the pandemic likely lowered the price and sped up negotiations. Either way, we’re happy: this is our dream home.
Christian: In my opinion, we got a deal. We got this place for just over $1 million and, when we looked up East York sales in February, semi-detached homes were selling for between $1,200,000 and $1,300,000 million.
Yael: The new place is move-in-ready, too. If there had been renovations we needed to do right away, that would have been difficult now that non-essential services have shut down because of the virus.
Christian: Eventually, we might close in the front porch to create a mudroom, but right now it would be too challenging to find materials or contractors.
Yael: When we move later this month, we can do it all ourselves if we need to. Moving companies are still operating at the moment, with reduced hours and less trucks. If necessary, we’ll move in phases. It helps that we still have our condo, but we’re getting that place ready to show in hopes of renting it out soon. We’ve listed it for $2,000 a month, which will go straight toward paying our mortgage on the new house.
Christian: We took our own photos for the Corktown condo listing, because our agent isn’t sending photographers out during the pandemic. We’d like to have it rented out by May 1, but realistically, we’ll be lucky if that happens by June. We think there will still be demand for rentals, so we’re preparing to give FaceTime tours on our phones.