726 Gerrard St. E., Toronto
Asking Price: $799,000
Taxes: $2,236 (2011)
Lot size: 14.88-by-100 feet
When buying a home, potential can be just as important as the type of flooring or the number of bedrooms, or maybe even whether there is a parking spot. Okay, maybe not as important as a parking spot, but it is a good sign to walk into a house and start to envision all of the ways you could make it a home.
Nicole Hall has a sixth sense when it comes to sniffing out potential in houses. When she purchased 726 Gerrard St. E., nestled on the border of Riverdale and Leslieville, it was a run-down squatter’s haven. (There were actually people and pests – including bigger beasts like raccoons – taking shelter in the building.)
But that didn’t deter Ms. Hall, who has plenty of experience renovating properties. She and her twin brother, Dan Hall, who runs his own building company, co-host the W network’s reno reality TV show, Sibling Rivalry.
“[The job of reviving this house] was not like putting lipstick on a pig,” said Ms. Hall. “It had to be completely redone, properly.”
So after months of work, the property – which was converted into a space that could be either a one-family home, a rental property or an office-home hybrid – is finally ready for its new owners to enjoy. But it was a long route getting there.
“The house was in pretty bad shape ,” she said. “We had to peel back the layers upon layers upon layers of the ‘renos’ – and I use that word lightly because it was like plaster over plaster over drywall over newspaper over vinyl flooring on the walls. Underneath it all, it revealed good bones.”
Some of those good bones included the brick that she used as a starting point for her new design.
But before she could get to the fun of interior design, she had to completely redo the electrical system (which was knob and tube) and the plumbing. Illegal venting and other mechanical changes had to be reserved too.
But these repairs were small potatoes compared to the surprise she found in the basement. When she first bought the home, the dry basement only extended about half of the length of the home. Further investigation proved the house wasn’t sitting on a proper foundation.
“That was certainly a shock,” she said.
For some, it might seem more logical to completely tear down such a dilapidated structure. But Ms. Hall not only recognized the impossible task of bulldozing a house sandwiched between two others, she also believes that builders need to do everything they can with the city’s current landscape.
“We have to look at housing differently,” she said.
“We need to think about conversion of the existing house stock in the city.”
Now that it’s done, there are no remnants of any of the past lives of the house. The upstairs loft has 20-foot cathedral ceilings with exposed fir beams and a deck that is nearly 500 square feet. The downstairs space has a master bedroom that opens up onto the backyard and a 25-foot front sitting area (or potentially an office/commercial space) with a restored grey-brick wall.
There are separate entrances and utility meters for the two floors. Each floor has its own bathroom, kitchen and laundry units, making it ideal for a rental situation. Ms. Hall believes that if both spaces were rented out, the new owner could likely see a monthly income of over $4,000 from the freshly renovated east-end home.
But none of these elements is Ms. Hall’s favourite feature. That title easily goes to the beer tap on the first floor.
“I’m always terribly giddy of the prospect of pouring suds for my guests,” she said. “People just go crazy for it.”
Both kitchens were custom built with walnut cabinets and live-edge countertops, meaning the ends of the 21/2-inch thick Nicaraguan wood counters have been left unfinished to show off their natural wave and texture. Ms. Hall is also very proud of the top-floor deck. It’s made of composite deck boards, meaning it’s good for at least 25 to 35 years, said Ms. Hall.
It’s also got two levels: one area that would be suited for a barbecue and another for either a luxurious patio couch or full patio table and chairs. Plus it faces south, so it gets good sunlight but it’s high enough up that it’s removed from the buzz of Gerrard Street.
When you add up all of the features – from the beer tap to the barn beams – Ms. Hall is proud of the urban space she has created.
“It’s so funky and so unique,” she said. “There really isn’t anything like this place out there.”