Living in History

January 29, 2011

My condo is in a building that was designated a heritage property by the city of Toronto on July 8, 1998.
Heritage Toronto Plaque
Heritage Toronto Plaque
The following is excerpted from a City of Toronto report (May 25, 1998) recommending the heritage designation for the building.

The property is identified for architectural reasons. The apartments were constructed in 1928 according to the designs of Toronto architects Kaplan and Sprachman. W. Pidgeon and Sons Limited were both the developers and the contractors for the project. Albert E. Pidgeon, a member of the firm, occupied a unit.

The apartments are designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, identified by the red clay tile roofs, curvilinear gable, round-arched openings, and stone details imitating adobe stucco. The I-shaped three-storey plan is covered by a hipped tiled roof with gables on the south face and double chimneys on the east, south and west ends. The principal (south) facade is symmetrically organized in three parts. The centre section contains the main entrance at ground level. A projecting entrance porch has a red tile roof supported on brick piers. A round-arched stone-clad opening contains a single wood door with multi-paned sash and arched sidelights with single panes. Iron light fixtures in the shape of griffins holding globe lights are placed on either side of the entrance. A two-storey round-arched window opening over the entrance lights the interior stairwell. Pairs of rectangular windows are separated by a spandrel and surmounted by an arched transom with leaded glass. On either side of the entrance bay, each of the three stories has single flat-headed windows with brick lintels and extended stone sills. The centre of the wall is topped by a curved gable with corbelled brick and stone coping. The end sections of the south wall have flat-headed window openings, organized in pairs and threes and linked by continuous sills. Trios of round-arched window openings mark the third storey. Above, the gable ends of the roof have stone corbels and brackets. The end walls of the south wing are devoid of openings. The north extension of the building has red brick cladding and regularly spaced fenestration. On the interior, the entrance hall with its ceramic tile floor and the wood staircase are important features.

The property is set on landscaped grounds on a tree-lined street. It is a well-designed example of the Spanish Colonial Revival style and a visible feature amid the mainly single residential buildings in the North Toronto neighbourhood.
My building
My Building
A Google search of the architectural firm who designed the building will find that they were noted theater architects who designed between 70 and 80 percent of all movie theaters in Canada between 1919 and the 1950's including the Eglinton Theater which is located not far from my building. It opened on April 15, 1936 with a screening of 'King of Burlesque'.
The Eglinton Grand
The Eglinton Grand Image Source:


A Co-Ownerwhat?

January 24, 2011

I wrote in an earlier post that my home was quite low in price for the area. Before you start thinking I bought a dump, the reason my unit was priced much lower to similar in the area is simple - it's a co-ownership, not a condo.

When I first heard that the unit was a co-ownership, I assumed I knew what that was - I mean, I've watched 'Sex and the City' - Carrie lived in one, right? Wrong.  She lived in a co-operative, which is not the same as a co-ownership. Anyone else confused?

At the time I was looking I did a quick internet search (gotta love Google) so I'd have a basic understanding.  Below you'll find some of the differences and similarities between condos, co-ops and co-ownerships.  *Please note that these are as I understand them to be - if you're considering purchasing a co-ownership, please consult your real estate lawyer for all the details.


  • Each unit is a separate property which can be bought and sold
  • Condos can be mortgaged
  • Owners of the units in the building will also own shares in the common elements of the building that are proportionate to the size of their unit


  • The entire property is owned by a corporation
  • The 'buyer' of a unit owns shares in the corporation, and is granted exclusive rights to use that specific unit
  • Shares can be mortgaged
  • Buyers are not registered on title for the property
  • Generally most banks will not loan for a co-op, but some credit unions will


  • There is just one property, and all the owners are listed on the title for the property
  • Owners have a proportional share of the entire property and are given the exclusive right to occupy their unit
  • Shares can be mortgaged
  • Generally most banks will not loan for a co-ownership, but some credit unions will
One of the reasons that co-ownerships are generally less expensive than 'regular' condos is that financing can be difficult.  In order to qualify for my mortgage I needed to have 30% down - this cuts out a large portion the buyer demographic looking to move into a one-bedroom unit, which in turn drastically reduces demand.


Do you have an Octopus in your basement?

January 18, 2011

Since my house search took so darned long, my agent and I had the pleasure or viewing a massive number of places. Some were good, some were bad, and some were just plain scary. There was the place that smelled of cats, the house that had a leak in the roof (you could tell as there was water in the kitchen 2 floors below), and there were quite a few with octopus furnaces.

I had no idea what I was looking at the first time I saw one - all I knew was I'd entered a basement and discovered it was almost completely filled with this:
Octopus Furnace

Octopus furnaces, or gravity furnaces date from the late 1800's to early 1900's, and usually burned coal. The one above had been modified at some point to burn gas, but no matter the fuel they are not at all efficient.  You can't see any in the picture above, but there was also asbestos wrapping on the ducts which would be a giant pain to have removed as it's highly toxic.


The Beginning

January 10, 2011

My adventure into condo ownership, and therefore decorating started in May 2009.  At the time I was living is a 330sq ft bachelor apartment whose one redeeming factor was the amazing view.
View of the Toronto Skyline at sunset
The Amzing view
I’d lived there for two years (one year more than planned), and after a few fire alarms in quick succession, (21 flights of stairs makes you quite dizzy by the time you get down – to say nothing of the pain in the thighs for the walk back up), I decided I’d had enough.

My first step was to be pre-approved for a mortgage which was fairly easy - taking about 2 days.  My mortgage pre-approval was valid for 90 days and I thought that was plenty of time to buy a place - little did I know that it would take almost 4 times that long to be in my first home!

My next step was to find a real estate agent.  I think most people use one recommended to them, but as the only people I knew who had recently purchased a home didn’t have nice things to say about their agent I had to find my own.  I figured the easiest way to meet agents was to basically go to a LOT of open houses every weekend, and talk to the agent(s) on duty.  Most didn’t give me the time of day, or when they heard what my budget was, were decidedly uninterested in helping me.  I met the agent I ended up using at an open house that was massively out of my budget (what can I say – I like to explore other people's houses and dream), but she made the time to talk to me and find out what I was looking for.  I wonder if she had any idea that my search would take much longer than I had anticipated - I certainly didn't.

After living in apartments for years I was ideally looking for a small house to live in.  I was enamored with the idea of some green space to call my own, and the joy of stepping out side your door and actually being outside – not in the hall waiting impatiently for the elevator to arrive.  I was more than willing to take on a fixer upper – I like the idea of being able to create a home exactly as you want it to be – not the way the people before you wanted it. The area I was looking was east of downtown Toronto – Leslieville, Riverside, the Upper beaches, and the Danforth.  My agent lives and works in that area, so I hoped she's be able to steer me clear of any trouble spots.

I know at the start of this blog post I indicated I owned a condo, and I’ve just finished writing that I wanted to live in a house – the change in thought was a long time in coming.  It took me quite a while to realise that I just couldn’t afford the home I wanted, in the area I wanted.  I had lots of success finding houses I liked at a price I wanted to pay.  Unfortunately for me, others wanted them more, and they had deeper pockets - I was a four-time looser in the bidding war game.  After a while I realised that if I wanted to get on the property ladder, I’d have to start in a condo and my next place will be the little house with a  yard.

The place I ended up buying was found by my mom who spotted  it on while sitting at a computer 3000 km away.  My condo is located in midtown Toronto, not far from my old bachelor apartment.  I hadn’t even considered looking in the area as I knew the area to be too expensive for my budget.  My condo was about half the price of comparables in the neighbourhood (I’ll explain why later), and after my fifth offer, and a little negotiation, it was mine!

I took possession on March 31, 2010.

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