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Mark (who does not want us to use his surname) and his dog Disco take a walk along Lake Promenade in the Long Branch area in Toronto, Ont. Tuesday, April 9, 2013. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

You never know what's going to give you an edge in buying a coveted house.

For one buyer, it was his decision to paddle his cedar strip canoe along the shore of Lake Ontario on a chilly day.

Mark, who asked that his last name not be used, recently triumphed over 10 other bidders – including one bully who stepped up before the offer date – to buy a house on Lake Promenade on the Etobicoke waterfront.

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During the days leading up to the offer night, Mark struck up a rapport with the owners of the house, who sat in the sun room overlooking the water, cordially greeting potential buyers who traipsed through their domain.

Mark, who rents a house a little farther along the shoreline in the same Long Branch neighbourhood, mentioned that he had been the first canoeist to brave the cold water in March. The owner recalled seeing him paddle by.

From there they discovered their mutual love of sailing.

On offer night, Mark made his first-ever offer on a house and beat out the competition with a bid slightly more than $900,000 for a house with an asking price of $799,000.

He's not sure how much his camaraderie with the owner influenced the decision because, he acknowledges, he offered a healthy amount above the asking price. But he was surprised when he got a phone call late in the evening inviting him to come over to the house.

"I was shocked when I got the call. They said, 'can you come over?' They showed up at the door with a glass of wine and shook my hand."

For his part, Mark says, the geniality made the buying process much warmer. He had actually lost interest in looking for a house several months ago. He still had approval for a mortgage in place, but he had stepped to the sidelines.

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But this purchase seemed meant to be. The house popped up on the market a week after his icy canoe ride.

An engineer by training, he admired the solid construction of the mid-century dwelling.

"I met with them. I recognized what the couple had built. There's a bond that happens – you're buying a home that somebody lived in their whole lives."

It's not large, but he doesn't need a sprawling place.

"I don't even use my living room. The living room is a storage closet for all of my sails."

He felt confident making an offer without a home inspection and he doesn't plan to tear the house down or make any major changes. And he loved the fact that the owners carried on with their lives during showings instead of having it professionally staged and moving out for a week.

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"The number of times I've see a house and the owner was there – it rarely happens."

Mark also had some help from his real estate agent, who was willing to reduce his commission in order to help Mark top up his bid.

He says he wasn't put off by the fact that there was competition for the house. That has been the trend on the street for the past couple of years while he has been observing the market. He knew the asking price was artificially low and he figured he had a good handle on the true value.

"If you know what it's worth, you can't be scared because there are other offers."

Still, sometimes he can't believe he was the victor.

"I was in shock for a few days."

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