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Really raw real estate draws a million-dollar bid

831 Logan Avenue, across from popular Withrow Park in east-end Toronto is in rough shape after years of less than meticulous care. But the home sold last week for more than $1-million.

JENNIFER ROBERTS/jennifer roberts The Globe and Mail

"The world could come to an end and there would still be demand for a house like this," says real estate broker Duncan Fremlin, standing in the foyer of a Riverdale house that has remained virtually unchanged for 51 years.

Every Toronto neighbourhood has a house like this, he figures. It's the house that everyone knows because it has an old character of an owner who resists all modernization.

When it goes up for sale, the neighbourhood turns out in force.

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"Three-quarters of Riverdale came through on the weekend," says Mr. Fremlin. "People are interested because he was present on the front porch all those years."

In this case the character is Pawel Kowalski, who loved to sit on the verandah and watch the passers-by, says his daughter Wanda Gravelle. She recently persuaded her 91-year-old father that life would be easier in a nursing home.

Mr. Fremlin, a broker with ReMax Hallmark Realty Ltd., was given the task of selling the prominent corner house across from Withrow Park.

Almost immediately a couple of bully offers landed on the table but Ms. Gravelle refused to look at them before the date set for reviewing bids.

Last week 17 bidders vied for the chance to own the house at 831 Logan, which had an asking price of $699,000. The successful bid was higher than $1-million, says ReMax agent David Andrew Nicholson, who represented the buyer.

Mr. Nicholson says the buyers plan to renovate the house and live there with their three children.

During a tour of the house, Mr. Fremlin opens the circa 1940 Philco refrigerator. "You don't see these very much - the raw product," he says of the 100-year-old house.

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"Hopefully, these old characters won't just disappear."

Ms. Gravelle says her father searched for a couple of years to find the right property back in the early 1960s. He wanted a corner lot and easy access to the highway so that he could travel to his farm near Bowmanville on the weekends.

Mr. Kowalski had a commercial-grade tile floor installed in the kitchen in 1961. It's still there today.

"He was so proud of that floor," says Ms. Gravelle. "He said, 'It will last forever - and it did."

But after all this time, the purchasers of the house will almost certainly undertake a back-to-the-bricks renovation, Mr. Fremlin says, who hired a home inspector before listing the house for sale.

What was the scariest thing the inspector found?

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"Everything," says the agent matter-of-factly. "Everything except the structure. If you have to have this house inspected, you can't afford it."

The house is still solid and relatively true, says Mr. Fremlin. But he had to hire an electrician just to deal with the dangling wires before potential buyers could safely view it. Other workers cleared up the crumbling plaster.

"I can safely say we're pretty sure all the wiring is knob and tube. I don't think I've ever been able to say that before."

But the house is large and still has such appealing elements as the original fireplace surround and tiles in the living room. The oak floors and staircase are also original and a sunroom catches all of the light from the south.

There's a large backyard and an old garage with space above.

"A lot of people have been dreaming about converting this into a studio or an office or something like that," says Mr. Fremlin.

Mr. Fremlin hired a team of people to ready the house for market.

"The big problem was the basement because [Mr. Kowalski]kept everything."

As the crew made its way through the basement, they found old appliances, lots of tools and a cement mixer from the 1950s. The oil on the chain was still there, says Mr. Fremlin. Mr. Kowalski kept his old shoelaces and draped them over the pipes.

Ms. Gravelle says her father was a World War II survivor who immigrated from Poland and worked as a bricklayer.

One of the few upgrades to the house was a new heating system which was installed after his insurer insisted that the oil tank be removed.

Ms. Gravelle says her father was displeased because he watched every penny and was reluctant to spend the money.

"After that, he never got insurance," she recalls with a laugh. "He did feel he was born under a lucky star."

Editor's Note: An earlier online version and the original newspaper version of this story reversed the order of one of the real estate agent's first and middle names. This online version has been corrected.

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