Larry Chilton is a Toronto homeowner with a very unusual property and an unconventional plan for selling it. Mr. Chilton lives in a large Victorian-era brick house with a front garden gate that opens directly into Trinity Bellwoods Park.
“I like to think of this as my front yard,” says Mr. Chilton, gesturing at the trees, the pathways and the monument to South American hero Simon Bolivar.
The rear of the property has access to a lane that leads to Crawford Street. Now Mr. Chilton wants to sell part – but not all – of 2 Bellwoods Park Dr. He’d like to keep the two-level unit he created for himself on the third floor with stairs leading to a loft above and a deck in the treetops.
He’d also like to cash out some of the equity value that he has built up since he bought the place in 1978. He just doesn’t want the first and second floors any longer.
Mr. Chilton currently rents out rooms to people who share the kitchens and bathrooms and he figures he’s interviewed more than 1,000 prospective tenants over the years. Most of them have been university students and recent graduates who are just starting out in their careers, he says.
“I’d like to lessen that responsibility of taking care of the building,” says the owner.
Mr. Chilton has had a hard time coming up with just the right formula.
Daniel Freeman of Freeman Real Estate Ltd. was willing to work through the possibilities. He says real estate partnerships for residences are very common in cities such as San Francisco.
“It’s tantalizing what could be done with it,” Mr. Freeman says. “If this could work anywhere, it could work in this unique area.”
The very fact that the two are floating this strategy is a good illustration of how the tight supply and lofty prices in Toronto real estate are spurring creative thinking.
Mr. Freeman thinks the timing could be right for such an eccentric arrangement because buying a house in downtown Toronto has become so exorbitantly expensive. First-time buyers no longer have a chance in a neighbourhood like Trinity Bellwoods.
“The market is strong and the barriers to entry are high.”
Part of the reason that Mr. Chilton is so reluctant to leave is that he loves the renaissance of the stretch of Dundas Street West near the park.
“Dundas was karaoke bars and shootings,” says Mr. Chilton of the neighbourhood vibe in years past. Now the street has some of the hippest bars and restaurants in the city. “I like this youthful influx that’s come into this area.”
The price for the entire property is $1,695,000. A 25 per cent interest in the property is being offered at $479,000. Two 25 per cent stakes are available, or one 50 per cent stake.
Mr. Chilton figures that another owner or two could take over the lower floors and create their own units. Or they could just keep it as a rooming house.
“It’s divided up very nicely as a triplex,” Mr. Chilton said on a recent tour of the building.
Each floor is approximately 1,300 square feet and Mr. Chilton has already had an architect who lives in the building draw up plans for what the new owners’ suites could look like. He points to original architectural elements such as the turret, bay windows, stained glass and pressed-tin ceilings.
Mr. Chilton doesn’t see any problem with working out a deal for a buyer to purchase part of the property. The buyer would be able to sell their share in the future.
“People will see what they’re getting,” he says.
But Mr. Freeman allows that the unusual ownership structure makes it hard to establish an asking price for a share.
“It’s a little more complicated to create a value,” he says.
Large houses are sometimes divided into condominiums but that process takes time, money and a lot of busting through red tape, says Mr. Freeman.
He has coined the term “nondo” to describe the unusual arrangement they are proposing.
Mr. Chilton says that he is open to selling the entire property.
“If I can’t find the right kind of situation, I’ll sell it and move on.”
And Mr. Freeman believes that there’s a likelihood that Mr. Chilton will receive an offer that makes moving less painful.
“There’s a good chance we’re going to sell the property to the highest bidder.”
Even the lawyers they consulted along the way warned them against the scheme. It took a bit of research to find one who would actually agree to work with them.
“I think the odds are against him because the market is not familiar with this type of sale,” says Mr. Freeman. “I’m going into this with a little trepidation.”