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58 Earlscourt Ave., Toronto. On the main floor, the sellers removed all of the walls, installed Brazilian teak on the floor and built a high-gloss white kitchen. (James J. Burry)
58 Earlscourt Ave., Toronto. On the main floor, the sellers removed all of the walls, installed Brazilian teak on the floor and built a high-gloss white kitchen. (James J. Burry)

For one Toronto seller, the market is a waiting game Add to ...

Neal Prabhu is an architect with a modern sensibility. So when he saw a dowdy Toronto semi-detached house for sale in the Corso Italia neighbourhood near St. Clair and Dufferin, it didn’t take long for him to imagine it as a gleaming white space.

Mr. Prabhu and his wife, Lisa Sawatsky, renovated the house to suit the couple and their two toddlers. But now they’ve decided to move to a larger house so that Ms. Sawatsky can create larger works of art and Mr. Prabhu can have a hidden home office. When they decided to list the house at 58 Earlscourt Ave. for sale, they knew they needed a strategy that suits a real estate landscape that seems more balanced than it has for years.

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They set an asking price of $619,000, which they think is in the ballpark for a renovated semi in that neighbourhood. They decided to accept offers at any time instead of setting a date in the hope of sparking competition.

“We didn’t want to list the house below market [value] and let bidders take it up.”

The neighbourhood has not seen as much change as such hot spots as High Park, the Beaches, Leaside and Roncesvalles Village, Mr. Prabhu points out, and therefore a modern reno is quite unorthodox.

“One other modern reno did sell around the corner recently in a similar price range – we’re trying to tap into the same niche,” says Mr. Prabhu. “We know it isn’t for everyone.”

They hired real estate agent Carl Langschmidt of Royal LePage Your Community Realty, who recommended setting a fair price and allowed room to negotiate. Mr. Langschmidt’s research showed that there have been only three sales of similar-sized houses in the area that broke the $600,000 mark.

The house has been on the market for a little more than a week and the couple has already received one lowball offer, which they turned down.

Mr. Langschmidt says the house had about 10 showings in the first five days, which is lighter traffic than he would have expected last spring or last year at this time.

“Had he had the property ready a month before or two months before it would have been a different story,” he says. “At this time of year the market tends to be cooling down towards the holidays.”

Their experience is similar to that of a lot of other sellers at the moment. The buyers are still showing up to look around but they are taking their time about making a decision.

“Buyers aren’t bullied into buying something,” says Mr. Prabhu.

Meanwhile, the couple, their children and the dog are all staying with relatives.

Mr. Prabhu thinks the house will likely appeal to another young family that appreciates a modernist sensibility.

“When we bought it, it had been owned by the same owner for 40 years,” says Mr. Prabhu. “Upstairs we kept the original floors because they were so well cared for,” he says.

Mr. Prabhu saw the home’s untouched condition as an advantage because it allowed him to get a good look at the structure.

On the main floor they removed all of the walls, installed Brazilian teak on the floor and built a high-gloss white kitchen.

“Natural light is a huge, huge thing,” says Mr. Prabhu of the minimalist interior that allows the light to flow throughout.

Now he and Ms. Sawatsky just have to wait for the right buyer.

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