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Tim Hughes and Rozita Razavi pose for a photograph in front of their recently purchased Parkdale home in Toronto, on August 22, 2014. (Matthew Sherwood for The Globe and Mail)
Tim Hughes and Rozita Razavi pose for a photograph in front of their recently purchased Parkdale home in Toronto, on August 22, 2014. (Matthew Sherwood for The Globe and Mail)

Buying real estate in Toronto: The million-dollar dream Add to ...

One million dollars. It’s still the stuff that dreams are made of, it’s just that our dreams have become a little less extravagant.

In April, Toronto’s wild housing market hit a historical benchmark, when the average price of a detached home hit $965,760.

Most real estate observers rounded up to $1-million, and clarified that they were discussing the cost of a house, not a mansion: just a nice place to live, where two kids can each have their own bedrooms, and we’re not constantly yanked into the drama between neighbours on the other side of a wall.

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Prices fluctuate, of course – in July, a detached house was a mere $880,433 and yes, there are still good houses in good neighbourhoods for less money. But interminable gridlock and perpetually minuscule interest rates are a deadly combination for anyone hoping to find a house with a bearable commute to downtown.

Perhaps the biggest factor is that Toronto is a bustling city full of energy, ideas, and fun. Despite bidding wars and mortgage insurance, condo delays and endless real estate bubble talk, it’s why buyers are willing to spend seven figures to live here. Here’s a look at three who did, and what they got for $1-million.

Rozita Razavi and Tim Hughes

Parkdale

Lot size: 30 ft by 110 ft

Bedrooms: 3

Bathrooms: 3

Asking price: $889,000

Sold price: $999,999

Agent: Chris Chopnik, Sage Real Estate Ltd.

Tim Hughes and Rozita Razavi lost three bidding wars, and were bullied out of a fourth before it started. “There were Seaton, Grafton and Manning,” says Mr. Hughes, counting off the streets that could have been. “And then Beverley, that was the bully offer.”

The couple began their search in March, when the condo that they were sharing with Ms. Razavi’s sister finally seemed just too small. Ms. Razavi’s parents visit often, for one, and Mr. Hughes, 46, is a bicycle aficionado with a lot of wheels and frames to fix. “The elevator in a condo drives me nuts,” he says.

Their requirements were simple enough: three bedrooms within bicycling distance of the University of Toronto, where he’s a professor and she’s a research associate, since they don’t have a car. Although they were approved for a mortgage of up to a million dollars right away, the couple originally planned to spend about $750,000. “That wasn’t realistic,” says Ms. Razavi, 42, of their early search. “Even if that was the asking price, the final selling price was always over a million.” Mr. Hughes was pushing for a detached house, but they looked at semis and even rowhouses, including one on Beverley Street, just south of the university, that was sold before they had a chance to get their paperwork together.

By June, the couple was ready to take a break for the summer when their agent suggested they look at one more house in Parkdale. The commute seemed a bit long, though they both liked the neighbourhood’s cool yet down-to-earth vibe. What convinced them, though, was the place itself, a 120-year-old detached house with a wraparound porch, many of its original features, and almost 4,000 square feet of space. “It’s an amazing house,” Ms. Razavi says. “Better than we expected.” It does need some modernizing and renovations – Mr. Hughes is looking forward into making the unfinished, 1,000-square-foot loft (which has awesome vaunted ceilings) into a livable space.

Of course, there was a bidding war: theirs was one of seven offers. In fact, Ms. Razavi and Mr. Hughes were told by another buying agent that they’d lost out, and were headed home when the call came through that they’d actually won.

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