In Toronto’s housing market, properties are often lumped into categories such as “starter home” or “forever home”. While this is helpful in determining what a buyer is looking for in a property, many buyers do not find themselves fitting neatly into one category. Let’s say, for example, we have a professional couple named Marcia and John. They are late twenties to mid thirties. John does not want the upkeep of a detached home and with their budget, they would like to buy something move-in ready. They are considering having kids in the next few years and are looking for a home that can accommodate a growing family. In Toronto’s current market, where does that leave them? John and Marcia find themselves looking for a “house alternative” - something that can be difficult but not impossible to find.
Just last week, a three-bedroom unit was listed at 152 Annette St, more often referred to as the Victoria Lofts. Originally a church completed in the late 1800’s, the heritage site was recently converted to 34 residential loft-style units. Although this specific unit might lack many of the signature church-y features - Sorry Marcia, no bell tower! - it makes up for this fact in functionality and might just be the perfect house alternative.
Looking first at the area, this unit places John and Marcia in a beautiful section of the Junction neighbourhood. Falling right in the middle of mature tree-lined streets with character-filled century homes, the Victoria Lofts are also just south of Dundas and places the couple a short walking distance from boutique shops, restaurants, and access to multiple lines of the TTC. To buy a semi or detached home in this neighbourhood, John and Marcia’s budget would most likely get them a fixer-upper or would force them to sacrifice a few blocks of location.
The unit itself allows them to live in a rare and sought-after style of building and has plenty of room for an expanding family. With an oversized master suite on the upper level, John and Marcia not only have two full-sized bedrooms for children but retain a comfortable amount of privacy as they grow. The unit also boasts a full, functional kitchen and plenty of living space so that this “unit” hardly compares to the small, cramped units that are being churned out today.
While this sounds perfect for the couple and many others like them, what are they sacrificing by choosing a property like this as opposed to a semi or detached home? The major concerns to consider would be privacy and outdoor space. In terms of privacy, a building such as this one is quite comparable to a townhome or semi-detached. Is there a chance you may hear your neighbours at some point? Yes - but this is not a problem solved by owning a detached home. Will you constantly hear your neighbours through your walls? No. In terms of outdoor space, the sacrifice that comes with this building - or any for that matter - is a yard, back or front. While the unit does have a beautiful terrace for the short-lived Ontario summer, backyard barbeques are out. However, yards require a significant amount of upkeep, something John, Marcia, and many other professionals are not interested in or simply do not have time for.
So while the dream might very well be a luxury yard for entertaining, the reality is most likely an overgrown burden.
So yes, while there are small sacrifices in choosing a house alternative, there is an incredible amount to consider gaining. As Toronto’s market continues to change, the nuclear family-home may no longer be suitable for everyone. Instead, consider a functional alternative that gives you more of want you want - and need - to suit your lifestyle.