81 VICTOR AVE., TORONTO
ASKING PRICE: Originally $899,000, now $949,000
TAXES: $4,791.54 (2013)
LOT SIZE: 18.75 by 111 feet
AGENT: Jen Tripp, Homelife/Realty One. Ltd. Brokerage
When Martin Griffey moved to Canada eight years ago, he wasn’t exactly sure where he wanted to live. So, he took a drive with his real estate agent, Jen Tripp.
As they drove through the gently shaded streets of Riverdale, he quickly fell for the neighbourhood. It wasn’t just the convenience of being close to the amenities of the Danforth, he says. It was also because he was a short jaunt to the 505 streetcar that takes him straight into the core. And, yet, even so close to the city’s hustle and bustle, Victor Avenue is sandwiched between two parks.
“Riverdale Park is just a walk away and Withrow Park is just on the other side,” Mr. Griffey says.
Plus, as he points out, you get more space for your money in Riverdale compared with Cabbagetown, which is across the Don River. In 2006, Mr. Griffey paid $585,000 for 81 Victor Ave.
The back story
The other thing that really drew Mr. Griffey to the house was its Victorian aesthetic. The home is believed to have been built around 1887 as housing for railway workers. Since then, it has been transformed from a single family home to a rooming house, then back to a single family home.
In its current incarnation, the home boasts three bedrooms and one bath, as well as a fully finished, separate bachelor basement suite that has its own kitchen and bathroom, which Mr. Griffey rents out for $850 a month.
Like many traditional Victorian homes, there is no elaborate, oversized master suite, but Ms. Tripp points out that the next owner could easily turn the third floor, which is currently an open space with its own walk-out deck, into a roomy bedroom with an en suite bathroom.
“It wouldn’t be hard to put plumbing up here,” Ms. Tripp says “Then you could easily turn it into a ga-ga beautiful master suite.”
Over the years, Mr. Griffey has given the house a lot of TLC, including between $150,000 and $200,000 on improvements. They range from large – redoing the roof, which now has a 35-year warranty – to small, such as replacing bathroom fixtures.
He also worked on restoring the decor of the house. When he purchased it, most of the doors were hollow, cheap things, as he describes them, except for the original front door with its functioning wind-up bell. So he searched antique stores to find Victorian era doors to replace them, making sure they had four panels on them, not six.
“People tend to put Georgian doors – which have the six panels – in Victorian houses so I tried to match doors with all four-panelled doors,” Mr. Griffey says. “Once we found them, we stripped and waxed them, and then gave them crystal doorknobs.”
The biggest renovations, however, were to the basement and the outside spaces. The basement was an “awful” place when he bought it, explaining that it wasn’t finished. So he put down a floor and added some drywall as well as installing a kitchen with granite counters and a comfortable bathroom with its own tub and low-flow toilet.
The entire exterior of the home has been professionally landscaped. The front has lights to accentuate the Victorian architecture at night. In the back, there’s a small water structure, as well as a deck that’s large enough for dining in the summer. Both the front and back have irrigation systems.
The backyard is Ms. Tripp’s favourite space, especially because it has a large shed at the back that is hidden out of sight from the deck by a wall. It’s big enough, says Ms. Tripp, to be either someone’s studio or a home office. “As a mom who works at home, I’d make that insulated shed my home office if I lived here,” she says.
Ms. Tripp also loves the sun room, which is off the kitchen on the main floor. Even on a freezing day, its floor-to-ceiling windows create a greenhouse effect and keep it toasty when the sun shines.
The outdoor parts of the property are also Mr. Griffey’s favourite features, but he prefers to enjoy them from the third-floor deck. He says the view sealed the deal when he purchased the house back in 2006.
It has an unobstructed view of Leslieville to the south, the Beach to the east and the city skyline to the west in the winter. But in the summer it’s incredibly private, he says. “There are a lot of beautiful maple trees around the house, so it’s very leafy.You feel as if you’re in a country setting even though you’re just a 10-minute streetcar ride away from downtown.”