When the pandemic hit, this family snapped up a fixer-upper cottage on the Crowe River for $525,000

When the pandemic hit, this family snapped up a fixer-upper cottage on the Crowe River for $525,000

Now the kids play outside after school, instead of staring at their devices

Tom Ioannou, 47, contractor, and Joyce Ioannou, 42, aromatherapist and kids art camp business owner, with their kids, five-year-old Rio and 11-year-old Faith, and their eight-year-old bichon-poodle, Batso


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Before the pandemic hit, the Ioannous lived a fast-paced life. Joyce managed two businesses: one doing aromatherapy treatments and the other an art camp for kids she ran out of the YMCA. Tom travelled across the city as a contractor for hardware store chains, doing repairs like upgrading staff washrooms and break rooms. Their son Rio was in daycare, and the parents split the task of shuttling Faith to tae kwon do lessons multiple times a week. It was difficult for the family to find downtime together.

In early 2020, Joyce had lined up $20,000 worth of events and bookings for March Break camps, all of which were cancelled because of the pandemic. Thankfully, Tom’s work as a contractor continued and helped keep the family afloat. Joyce shifted her focus to her aromatherapy business, offering virtual consultations and dropping off products to customers.

Over the summer, a friend of Tom’s invited the family to stay at a log cabin behind his main cottage on Crowe Lake in Marmora, which is a two-hour drive northeast of their four-bedroom home in Scarborough. The Ioannous went up for week-long stays three times over the summer. They loved the fresh country air and hearing the sounds of nature. The kids especially loved splashing around in the water. Tom and Joyce daydreamed about buying a cottage on Crowe Lake as a vacation home.

In September, they found out that someone in Faith’s class was Covid-positive. They decided to pull their kids out of school and switch to virtual learning. For a stretch, they didn’t have a teacher assigned to their classes because of a labour shortage, so Joyce filled in as her kids’ teacher. It was a frustrating experience.

By mid-September, Joyce was yearning for the freedom and stress-free days of their summer. She searched Facebook Marketplace for cottages and found a listing for a five-bedroom, three-bath ranch bungalow built in the 1920s. They went to check it out. The house was outdated and in need of a makeover. The carpets were a drab green, and there was loud wallpaper on all the walls, including around the tub. But the structure was sound and the place had a cozy feel. There was a propane fireplace, a large living room with big windows and a spacious patio. The timing was good: just before the cottage market went supernova, they offered $525,000 with no conditions, and got it. They found renters for their property in Scarborough, earning $1,100 a month for the one-bed, one-bath basement rental and $3,200 for the three-bed, two-bath upper level unit.

Today, Joyce is starting up a remote clinic in Marmora and networking with other women in the wellness industry. She usually spends afternoons working on small renovations in the home. Tom has finished his contracts in the city and is now transitioning to local projects. Once the kids finish school, they’re out in the yard throwing a ball for their dog, Batso. After dinner, they might light a bonfire and roast marshmallows together.

Joyce says that everyone in her family—even Batso—seems calmer in their new surroundings. Faith used to spend her free time on the tablet; now she plays outside. After school and on weekends, they go on nature walks together, explore the area or head into town, which is just a 15-minute walk away. Even though they still have their Toronto property, the Ioannous don’t see themselves returning to city life any time soon.

Do you have a story about buying or selling a property during the pandemic? We’d love to hear it: [email protected]