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Toronto Real Estate Home of the Week: Basement reno puts the finishing touch on Roncesvalles house

Jamie Levak

The listing: 25 Saunders Ave., Toronto

Asking price: $1,349,000

Lot size: 19.83 feet by 120 feet

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Taxes: $5,980.00 (2018)

Listing agents: Chander Chaddah, Broker, Sutton Group-Associates Realty Inc.

It was just meant to be a way to pass the time with his parents. Or at least that is how Neel Dayal explains how he and his wife first came across 25 Saunders Ave.

The couple were having brunch with his parents on Queen Street West in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood. It was a nice spring day in 2010 and they found a nearby open house on a little dead-end street.

“It was a busy open house,” said Suchorita Sen, Mr. Dayal’s wife. “We were in and out fast – like 10 minutes. But we loved it.”

The backstory

The owners' realtor says the home has 'a stylishness' that 'most renovations don’t have.'

Jamie Levak

The pair weren’t really looking to move. They had been monitoring listings, but hadn’t actively been searching. Popping into 25 Saunders was the first time they had been to an open house in six months.

It was a lark turned love affair. Listed at $599,000, they put in a bid for $684,000. Soon after, they found out they had won.

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“I remember getting the call from our realtor,” Mr. Dayal said. “And I had never seen that look on my wife’s face before.”

Ms. Sen described it as a mix of shock, excitement and worry.

“I thought to myself ‘Oh my god, what have we just done?’” she said.

The current owners were immediately impressed with the home's design when they first viewed it.

Jamie Levak

The thing that sold them on the house was the extensive renovation it had undergone by the then-owner, Scot Laughton, a furniture designer and now head of the Industrial Design Studio at Sheridan College.

Ms. Sen remembers being immediately enamoured with the design, things such as the stainless steel kitchen island, the glass door in the back and the floating walls in the kitchen.

“There’s a stylishness to that – that quite frankly – most renovations don’t have,” said the couple’s agent, Chander Chaddah.

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Mr. Chaddah, a broker who has been representing homes in Toronto’s Roncevalles neighbourhood for more than three decades, had actually seen the home before the major renovation. He first listed 25 Saunders Ave. in the early 2000s and still remembers selling the semi for $260,000 back then. He also remembers all of the little rooms that made up the house.

“It was all doorways and walls,” Mr. Chaddah said.

A previous owner opened up the home to create sightlines to the windows at the back.

Jamie Levak

Mr. Laughton changed that by completely opening up the main floor so that you can see straight through to wall of windows in the back that frame the backyard and its massive old tree. He also transformed the third floor into a master bedroom suite, also with a wall of windows, but this time with a view of the tree’s canopy.

When Mr. Dayal and Ms. Sen took over the home, they decided their first project would be to revitalize the backyard. To convert the space, they landscaped the greenery, added patio stones and laid down some grass.

The current owners' first project was a revamp of the backyard.

Jamie Levak

Two years (and one kid) after that, the couple decided to tackle the basement, which was an uneven space with only a little storage.

“Every time you went down there, it would just be this reminder of that one spot that was unfinished,” Ms. Sen said.

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The desire to finish the basement came from wanting to have an area where their family could play. They knew that to make it livable, they would have to decide whether they wanted to add extra height to the six-foot-tall space. Mr. Dayal said they sought counsel from many people over the issue of whether to dig it out to eight feet.

“Realtors, especially, would explain that digging it out doesn’t mean that you’re going to get every dollar out of your investment,” he said. “But we realized we’re going to live here, so it doesn’t matter if we get every dollar out of the investment.”

The owners wanted the basement to be a space where the family could play.

Jamie Levak

The basement underpinning took eight weeks. They then sought out the help of a designer for the layout and a contractor do the finishings. The transformation encompassed everything: They redid the ducting, moved the mechanics of the home, added a full bathroom and a large storage unit (which is their main storage space since the home doesn’t have a garage). It also features a large central room that their two kids love to play in. Over all, it took about a year, but it added an extra 600 square feet of living space.

After that was done, they continued to add upgrades here and there, such as in-ceiling speakers throughout the home and a custom storage unit under the staircase that leads from the three second-floor bedrooms and bath to the master suite on the third.

One of the upgrades was a custom storage unit under the staircase that leads from the three second-floor bedrooms and bath to the master suite on the third.

Jamie Levak

Factoring in their new work and the maintenance of the original renovation was a big part of how Mr. Chaddah determined the listing price of $1,349,000.

The other part of the equation involved pricing the massive increase in valuation this part of Toronto has experienced in the past eight years. To do this, Mr. Chaddah looked back at when Mr. Dayal and Ms. Sen bought the house to find an average sold price for comparable homes in the neighbourhood then. After that, he found a price range for comparable homes now. That gave him a sense of where to start with the price. Then it became a question of improvements.

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“If all you’ve put in is a new furnace – sorry, you don’t get any marks for that,” Mr. Chaddah said. “But if you’ve dug out the basement and spent $100,000, then you’ve changed the house; you’ve added substantial value to it.”

Favourite features

The kitchen's stainless-steel island works as a hub for both cooking and entertaining.

Jamie Levak

Mr. Chaddah, who has seen a lot of downtown Toronto semis – infamous for being long, narrow and dark – loves the natural light that 25 Saunders provides.

“You don’t normally see all of this glass in this kind of a house,” Mr. Chaddah said. “It resonates with you.”

Ms. Sen said she still really appreciates the feature that made her first fall in love with the house: The master suite bathroom. It’s not a typical bathroom in so far as it’s not a separate room. There’s a water closet in one corner and the Japanese soaker tub sits just off of the sleep area, built directly into the wall, partitioned by a set of sliding frosted glass doors. It’s at once private and revealing.

The third floor master bedroom has a view of the backyard tree's canopy.

Jamie Levak

“That bathtub was the reason why I wanted the house,” Ms. Sen said. “I envisioned just lying in there,” adding that it is even more serene when you dim the lights.

“It’s kind of an oasis in that bedroom.”

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Mr. Dayal knows he will miss the kitchen, with its stainless steel island that acts as hub for both cooking and entertaining.

“I’m chatty, I love having people over and this is a great place to hang out,” Mr. Dayal said. “I’m devastated [about leaving] because I love everything about this house.”

So much so, they’re finding a way to bring some of the home with them: The couple is cataloguing these cherished details so that contractors can recreate them in their next house.

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