26 Biggar St., Toronto
Asking Price: $2.199-million
Taxes: $6,455 (2019)
Lot Size: 40 feet by 141 feet
Agents: Josie Stern and Valerie Benchitrit, Sutton Group Associates Realty Inc.
Aubrey Spring used to walk to work with his two sons when he taught elementary classes at Humewood Community School in the early 2000s. Every morning, his wife left their house and cycled in the other direction to her medical practice just south of Christie and Bloor streets. Their short commutes to work usually took longer than expected.
“Anytime you walk around our community, you see some friends,” Mr. Spring said. “It’s inevitable to stop and talk to parents and students and people you know.”
And most people in the Hillcrest Village neighbourhood, just south of Saint Clair Avenue West knew the Springs. They were the family of four in the three-storey home on 26 Biggar St. with a rink behind it – one that was kept clean and flooded in winter so that the kids in the community could come and skate. Their big brick home was every young family’s dream – there was ample parking, a close-by grocery store and more than enough space to play in and around the house.
But now 20 years later, keeping up that space is at times cumbersome for Mr. and Mrs. Springs. The children – now grown men – have moved out and the six-bedroom house with three finished floors is too big for two emptynesters.
“It’s going to be hard to leave this place," Mr. Spring said. "There are great memories. I feel so comfortable here, but it is a big home.”
The house today
The house, built in 1912, is a busy combination of charming heritage elements and modern additions. The ceilings are high, the living room wallpaper is vintage yellow and green, and the floors, pocket doors and entire staircase are all gracefully aging hardwood. When the Springs bought the home in 1997 and became only its second owners, they stripped layers of linoleum and broadloom off the floors and walls, in the process revealing intricate patterns of woodwork.
Since then, they’ve redone the kitchen to allow for more sunlight and a view of the backyard. They opened up the dining room area to have more space to entertain extended family and friends. And they added two solar panels to the roof shortly after buying the house.
“We were sort of pioneers when we got those installed,” Mr. Spring said.
Their most prized renovation piece is the main bathroom – the Springs refer to it as the powder room – where they had a Toto toilet installed with heated seats and a built-in bidet function.
“We had been to Japan in 2012 and fell in love with their toilets,” Mr. Spring said with a laugh.
Their time in Asia also inspired a backyard makeover. By then, the children were older and less interested in skating, so the Springs transformed the rink space into a garden, which was professionally designed and landscaped by local gardening guru Marjorie Harris. Shades of green, purple and red shrubbery surround rows of growing vegetables.
“My wife is a big veggie grower,” Mr. Spring said. “I get out to prune and weed.”
A path of cement tiles follows the green space and leads to a three-door garage, a rare sight in Toronto. The Springs rarely used three cars, but a space to store cars could come in handy to new buyers, should they choose to take full advantage of the property. The home’s lot includes plans for building a 1,400-square-foot, two-storey laneway house next to it, useful for when a teenager wants to move out – or when an elderly parent wants to move closer – and does not want to spend millions on another property in the city.
“For a growing family,” Mr. Spring said, “this place has a lot of potential.”
Selling in a pandemic
Yet, trying to sell a house in the thick of the COVID-19 crisis comes with its inherent challenges. So far, Mr. Spring has left his home each time a potential buyer has visited, and has prepared the place to be viewed and not touched.
“If someone comes in,” he says, “we leave all the lights on and closets open so that nobody has to touch anything.”
Real estate agent Josie Stern has organized one-person-at-a time viewings and ensures that potential clients and agents wear a mask and gloves. She says that while most clients have put their moving plans on hold during the pandemic, 26 Biggar has already had five viewings in the 10 days it has been on the market.
“As it turns out, this is a really good pandemic house,” Ms. Stern said. “People want this space when working from home – here they don’t have to be crammed in a basement. Some of these bedrooms could be turned into a nice office with great lighting.”
On top of the in-person viewings, Ms. Stern has offered virtual tours of the house via Zoom, Facebook and Instagram. Her business partner Valerie Benchitrit methodically went through the exterior and the interior of the house using her phone to showcase each room and feature.
Ms. Stern is confident the house will sell for its originally listed price of $2.199-million. Before the pandemic, she tended to under-list houses to elicit interest and create bidding wars between clients. But that strategy, while still used by some agents, does not hold during periods of physical distancing, she said.
For now, Ms. Stern is selective about which clients get to visit the property.
“People who come in are serious buyers, and are not ‘just looking,'” she said. “That’s why we are sticking with a price we think is fair. The house’s charm with the wood is quite rare and it’s beautifully maintained.”
While Mr. Spring is upset to part ways with his home, he is confident that it will go to appreciative hands.
“It’s got the space and the neighbourhood vibe that a growing family would appreciate … it’s something we loved about it.”
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