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Real Estate

We fell in love at Scarborough Town Centre. Nine years later, we found our dream home down the street

We’re close to our parents, we love the diversity and it’s so easy to get downtown

By Alissa Mohammed, as told to Roxy Kirshenbaum| Photography by Sierra Nallo
We fell in love at Scarborough Town Centre. Nine years later, we found our dream home down the street

Asif and I met at Scarborough Town Centre in 2013. I was in my last year at U of T, working at a clothing store as a cashier; he was studying auto-body repair at Centennial College and working as a supervisor at Princess Auto near the mall. One day, he came into my store to buy a sweater. He was carrying a jar of candy that he had won at work. He offered me some and we chatted. I gave him my number and we began texting soon afterward. A few months later, we went out to see The Hobbit, our first official date. Then we went to the cinema again and again. Going to the movies became our thing. 

We were both living with our parents. My mom, dad, sister and I were in a two-bedroom condo. His family, including his sister and two brothers, lived in a five-bedroom house. With no place of our own, we spent most of our time in and around Scarborough Town Centre. We’d also take the train down to the waterfront or to visit one of our favourite restaurants, like Cluck Clucks.

We got married in December 2017 at a community centre in Ajaxan intimate service with just over 100 guests, mostly family. My parents chipped in a few thousand dollars, and his folks brought food and helped set up. The goal was to celebrate and save money at the same time so we could buy a home of our own. 

After saving for another six months, we were pre-approved for a mortgage. My uncle, a realtor, helped with the finer details. Since it was our first time buying, we just wanted something clean and modern and move-in ready. We put in offers on Scarborough condos that fit the bill, but were always outbid—once by $40,000. 

Then, in August 2018, we visited a south-facing high-rise condo, right behind my parents’ place. It was a sunny one-bed, one-bath on the 17th floor with a large walk-out balcony. It had granite kitchen countertops and new hardwood floors. We liked that it had no unit above and an unobstructed view of the city. On a clear day you could see across Lake Ontario to Pickering. We got it for $350,000, with a down payment of five per cent.

We installed shelves in the living room and marble wallpaper to create a feature wall in the bedroom. But, after living there for two years, we decided it was time to sell. We knew we’d eventually want to start a family and would need more space. We were also following the market, and it was hot. Similar units in our building were selling for $430,000.

We fell in love at Scarborough Town Centre. Nine years later, we found our dream home down the street
Alissa and Asif loved their Scarborough condo, but they wanted more space to raise a family

 

In February 2020, we put the condo up for sale, and after a week we had received 10 offers. We took the highest one: $460,000. We didn’t think we’d get that much for it. Since we didn’t have a new place to live yet, we asked for a 90-day closing. With more money to work with, our criteria for a starter home had changed. Now, we wanted a ground-floor townhouse close to nature. We also wanted a family-friendly neighbourhood, so we expanded our search to Durham.

We settled on a townhouse in Pickering. It had two bedrooms and one-and-a-half bathrooms. It was a stacked-style townhouse with a balcony in the front, an attached garage at the rear and another unit above it. It had been built two years before we purchased, so the kitchen and bathrooms were contemporary, with an open-concept layout. We made an initial offer of $520,000. With several other buyers in the running, the sellers asked everyone to up their bids. We raised our offer to $530,000 with a $100,000 down payment, and they accepted.

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Moving into our new townhome, we added wallpaper, built a nook in the spare bedroom and painted a black feature wall in the living room for some flair. We decorated the house with photos and travel mementos from our trips abroad: our honeymoon in Hawaii and vacations to Rome, Peru, Paris, Grand Cayman and Egypt. Still, while we enjoyed the house’s modern vibe, after a few months, we realized we still needed more space. And we didn’t like sharing such thin walls with our neighbours. Again, we kept our eye on the market. Our new (and hopefully end) goal was a detached house with a backyard.

When we put our Pickering townhouse up for sale in April of this year, there wasn’t much competition. Our asking price was $750,000, as similar properties were known to sell for even more. We thought that, once we posted the listing with some beautiful photos, it would sell immediately. We were wrong. 

A week later, we had no offers. According to the realtors we consulted, nobody wanted a ground-floor townhouse—buyers were instead coveting natural light and outdoor amenities. 

We added mirrors and more lighting to make the space look bigger and more open. After the first week of silence, we lowered the price to $699,000. Still no offers. Then we dropped it again, to $670,000, and then sold for $650,000. It was still a $200,000 profit, and we were happy. It closed in June 2022. It was time to return to Scarborough—to be close to our families and to have easy access to downtown. 

We moved in with my parents for the summer while we hunted for a new house. Space was tight, and we were sharing just one bathroom. But, other than that, there weren’t too many downsides. We saved a lot of money, and we both like spending time with my parents and eating dinner as a family. We would even love to have them come live with us after they retire.

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The new plan: find a home with a separate entrance and in-law suite that we could rent out for a few years. We wanted at least three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a garage and a big yard to build a garden suite. 

In September, we saw a detached postwar house that met all our wants and needs and, as a bonus, was within walking distance of Scarborough Town Centre. We initially offered $1,017,000, and then raised it to $1,031,000, as we could sense a bidding war coming. The sellers accepted on September 26. Funnily enough, the house next door to us sold for $1,350,000 in March of this year, so we feel like we got a great deal.

We love our home. It’s still in its original condition and needs some upgrades, but it’s a great foundation for us to start our family.

We fell in love at Scarborough Town Centre. Nine years later, we found our dream home down the street
Alissa and Asif outside their new home in Bendale

Did you recently break into Toronto’s housing market? Share your story with us at realestate@torontolife.com.

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