The listing: 503 North Shore Blvd. East, Burlington, Ont.
Asking Price: $3,290,000
Taxes: $12,945 (2019)
Lot Size: 264 by 286 feet (irregular)
Agents: Dina Maglietta, David Knox, Summerhill Prestige Real Estate Ltd.
It never fails that if Karen Haist is in the front yard doing some gardening, or at the curling club and the topic of where she lives comes up, people have a story about her house.
“I can’t tell you how many times, people stop me: ‘Gosh, I remember that home, our kids used to play there,’ ” she said. “We’ve met so many people that knew the family, know the house, grew up in the area. It’s been wonderful having people know where you live and having that pride of ownership.”
That’s part of the perks of being just the seventh owner of the property first built in 1925 (the longest stretch was a surgeon who owned it from 1973-1996), right beside the eighth hole of the Burlington Golf and Country Club.
“We didn’t know this whole area of Burlington existed; we just fell in love with the home,” said Ms. Haist, who grew up in the Niagara region. “It’s a great place for walking when we had a dog. We joined the country club for the curling and that brought us right into the social environment.”
Ms. Haist has worked in the financial services sector for decades, her husband Larry Roik is an information technology project manager and consultant, and her almost 10-year stay in Burlington was the couple’s longest stretch in one house. Now, the semi-retired couple is looking to migrate back to Niagara and maybe spend less time on the GO Train.
The house has been on the market for two months, but showings have slowed to a trickle in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We chose not to do a virtual tour. This is one of these properties you want to visit physically,” said listing agent Dina Maglietta, broker of record with Summerhill Prestige Real Estate Ltd. “The right buyer who walks in here will buy it instantly.”
“It looks like a house from Rosedale – in Toronto it would be worth $7-million,” said Summerhill co-owner David Knox, who says there have been quite a few sales in the area in recent months, sometimes with the intention of taking advantage of cheaper land and larger lots to build new. “A lot of our clients sell their homes [in Toronto] and are moving out that way.”
Ms. Haist has fielded those kind of inquiries in the past. After all, the lot is huge – almost an acre – with unobstructed views of the golf course at the rear and side yard. “I would feel very uncomfortable to sell it to someone knowingly to tear it down,” she said, even though she knows what happens next to the almost 100-year-old house won’t be fully up to her. “I think I have to take the emotion out of it.”
The house today
Walking in the front hall is like a trip back to 1920s high society. Lead-paned, bevelled-glass windows in the entryway framing the door and vestibule set the tone, and the dark, fine-grained gum woodwork carries it onward. It’s the kind of place you’d expect to take fedoras and furs from visiting guests and pass them a high-ball or a saucer of champagne.
The hallway leads up to the staircase; to the right is a formal dining room with gum wood panelling. There’s a servant’s door to the kitchen and a fireplace in the corner. The beams of the coffered ceiling add more dark wood.
To the left is a sitting room that passes through to the sun room, accessible by wide entryways on either side of a tiled fireplace. In the sun room there’s another fireplace with gas-fired insert and a door to the rear yard. Above this room is a balcony-deck that offers views to the eighth hole of the golf course and wraps around to the rear of the house for another golf-course vista.
Both front rooms have deep bay windows, and the same gorgeous deep brown tiger-striped oak floor.
“My degree was in fine arts,” Ms. Haist said. “I love the decorating part, and this house has a sense of opulence you don’t have in a modern home.”
At the rear of the house is the kitchen. It’s not huge, but has been updated with new cabinetry and an island connected to the pantry for more prep space. “When [the house] was built there were servants. The kitchen was meant to cook and serve, but not to entertain,” Ms. Haist said.
Upstairs are the bedrooms, tasteful and restrained throughout. The master has dark wood and beige walls with a walkout to the deck and an updated ensuite bath. The second bedroom has a beautiful mural on the wall, a pastoral scene with cat-tails and herons (painted by the previous owners). The third bedroom is more modest in decoration and space. The main bathroom on this floor is also a trip back in time.
“There are places that have not been touched, and it’s nice to see 1920s tile-work on the first and second floor in the bathrooms,” Ms. Haist said. The seafoam-coloured tiles on the wall may not be ultra current, but the quality is impressive.
The third-floor attic space has been turned into offices – his and hers – but could become one or two more bedrooms.
Every family has put its stamp on the house, and Ms. Haist’s most lasting contributions will be a complete refurbishment of the once-dingy brick-walled basement to a bright space that may not have soaring ceilings, but does come with a home gym, steam room, another full bath and home theatre with another fireplace.
The best feature
This is a house with outbuildings. There’s a shop and a garage off to the side of the main house and the curving circular driveway, and in the rear is the cabana/pool house next to the (new as of 2018) pool tucked behind the garage. The couple does a lot of entertaining, and the rear with its decks, gardens, patios, pool and cabana is the star attraction.
“We did a complete reno of the back social spaces, and a gut job of the cabana,” Ms. Haist said. “Its cozy with an English cottage feel, it has a full kitchen, full bathroom with shower, lounge … it’s remarkable. We could rent it out as an Airbnb.”
Or rather, she could have before the pandemic resulted in a provincial ban on all recreational short-term rentals. It’s a unique market, and an economic moment that almost no one knows how to read, but for Ms. Maglietta it is somewhat familiar.
“When I first got into the business in the mid-eighties, it was ridiculously crazy. Multiple offers, 30 offers, and then we had the black Friday in 1989,” Ms. Maglietta said. “It wasn’t until 1992 we saw the market improve. I compare what we’re going through now with the doom and gloom feeling of that time.”
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