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Home of the Week: Taking the helm of a houseboat home

Andrea Maguire and her husband built a houseboat and anchored it at Bluffer’s Park Marina in Scarborough. Home of the Week, 7 Brimley Rd. South #22, Toronto


ASKING PRICE: $289,000


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AGENT: Geon van der Wyst, Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd.

The back story

Andrea Maguire was a young visual artist when she visited the West Coast and found herself drawn to the houseboat communities of Vancouver and Seattle, where people lived in their floating homes year-round. Ms. Maguire and her husband mulled over the prospect of life afloat in Toronto. Could they comfortably live through the winter on the icy waters of Lake Ontario?

Her husband, who had experience building houses, believed they could.

The couple became pioneers when they built a houseboat and anchored it at Bluffers Park Marina in Scarborough.

"We were the first ones to create this sort of living space in Toronto," Ms. Maguire recalls.

The couple soon found a lot of people were fascinated by their unique lifestyle. Friends, acquaintances and complete strangers began asking them for advice.

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Before long, a small community had sprung up around them at the foot of the Scarborough Bluffs.

The houseboat

Visitors to Ms. Maguire's floating home stroll down a private walkway, then cross a gangplank to step aboard.

"It has a lot of lovely character," says real estate agent Geon van der Wyst of Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd., pointing out the wood surrounding the interior windows and doors.

On the marina side, the main living area has a wall of glass that slides away to bring the light and air into the interior. Across the way, a cormorant is sunning itself on a log. "You're actually living right on the water," says Mr. van der Wyst.

Ms. Maguire says she enjoys the winters in the marina even more than the summers. Fewer people are about so the birds and other wildlife are out in abundance.

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The boat is fully winterized, and warm and cosy.

"There's a wood stove, but that's just for atmosphere."

Ms. Maguire keeps a studio in Queen West so that she can keep her work and home life separate. The studio is for painting; the houseboat is for reading and relaxing.

The houseboat has a kitchen with a gas cooktop and combined convection and microwave oven.

The bathroom has an environmental bio toilet and a deep soaker tub.

A curving staircase leads to the bedroom on the upper level. Ms. Maguire says the couple used to clamber up a ladder to a sleeping loft before a renovation expanded the bedroom, which now has a walk-out to a private deck.

"That's my secret garden," says Ms. Maguire. "The goldfinches have been enjoying my sunflowers."

Mr. van der Wyst sees the houseboat as an alternative to a condominium or a summer cottage. Buyers won't be able to obtain a conventional mortgage, but small lenders are able to provide financing, says the agent. The typical down payment is 35 per cent.

Ms. Maguire says many professional couples and singles live full-time at the marina. Plenty of them have dogs and cats.

"It is truly a retreat," says Ms. Maguire. "It is a place where you can regenerate and enjoy the serenity."

The community

Ms. Maguire figures she knows all of the residents and nearly all of the owners of the boats moored at Bluffers Park Marina. People get to know each other at the restaurant and clubhouse, where the pub holds lots of get-togethers.

The restaurant and snackbar are open to anyone, but the houseboats of Bluffers Park Marina are set apart from the public areas of the marina. A locked gate ensures that only residents have access. Only residents and boat owners have free access to the boardwalks.

A sandy beach nearby has a "blue flag" that designates it safe for swimming.

Twenty acres of parkland surround the marina.

Ms. Maguire keeps a canoe alongside her houseboat. When she wants to go out for a paddle, she just opens her sliding door and tugs on the rope.

"I can just pull it around and get on it right from my doorstep."

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