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7 Rosedale Rd., Toronto.Michael Peart

When even the most garden-variety house in the Toronto area becomes a prize for people to fight over, imagine the estimations that go into deciding the value of a genuine rarity.

An English-style cottage presented something of a cipher recently when real estate agent Jimmy Molloy of Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd. listed the property he calls “a niche, niche product” for sale.

“It was a stone cottage in South Rosedale. It was not a huge house,” Mr. Molloy says. “You would swear it was right out of the Cotswolds. It was so elegant and so charming.”

Mr. Molloy says fixing an asking price was difficult because the last time any property remotely similar changed hands was a couple of years ago, when a two-bedroom jewel box of a house sold on Park Road. That one went for about $4.5-million, so Mr. Molloy decided to use that figure as a starting point at 7 Rosedale Rd.

“You have a house that looks like it was flown in from a set of the BBC,” he says. “How do you price how that speaks to someone’s heart?”

He set an offer date seven days later and then let the prospective buyers make their own calculations as to the worth.

Four bidders vied for the four-bedroom house. The determined buyer deemed the value to be $6.6-million – or an eye-watering $2.1-million above the asking price.

Mr. Molloy sold the house to the current owners in 1994.

The converted upholstery shop at 40 Argyle Place, Toronto.Sotheby’s International Realty Canada

In addition to a lovely stone exterior that spoke to people, he says, the interior has a double-height great room and period details.

“All purchases of homes are based on emotion – but emotion is balanced with need,” he says.

Mr. Molloy says limited supply in the market is also leading to buyers paying lofty prices, pointing to a vintage bungalow near Bayview Avenue and York Mills Road he recently sold after listing it with an asking price of $3.5-million.

The property drew 14 offers and sold for $4.28-million.

In his opinion, the market can’t find a comfortable rhythm because some homeowners consider selling and setting a closing date during a pandemic risky business.

At the same time, buyers are willing to spend $6-million and up for a house because of the lockdowns and other restrictions they have experienced. Government and public-health officials have been stressing to Canadians that the safest place to be is at home, he adds.

“The confidence is there and it has been reinforced because of the pandemic.”

In the case of the Rosedale house, a coveted location and pure charm made it appealing to the small circle of buyers that would find such a property suitable. It’s a diminutive house in comparison with neighbouring properties, which made determining a market value that much more challenging.

“This is where the butler from Downton Abby would live,” he says. “It’s very difficult when you’re within a stone’s throw of houses that are 10,000 square feet and have seven bedrooms and underground parking for eight cars, he says.

The house cannot be torn down because of the heritage conservation rules that protect the streetscape in the traditional enclave.

Mr. Molloy says three of the four offers were nearly identical. He went back to those three and asked them if they wanted to improve their bids. All three did so and the highest bid of the second round prevailed.

“When you have such a tight supply in a market that is enthusiastic, you don’t know where it will end up – and that’s the story of 7 Rosedale Rd.”

Gillian Oxley of Oxley Real Estate represented one of the dejected bidders for the stone cottage.

Her client was disappointed, but Ms. Oxley also believes the sale price of a unique house is nearly impossible to estimate.

“We felt a little cocky,” she says. “We went in $1-million over asking and Jimmy said, ‘You’re not even close.’ ”

Ms. Oxley is preparing to list a singular property in Rosedale herself. Setting an asking price is an art, she says, because the same family has lived in the house at 32 Chestnut Park for nearly 50 years.

The stately brick home was built in 1904 for lawyer Charles Kerr.

The converted upholstery shop has been turned into a loft-style home with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and beamed ceilings 11 feet high.Sotheby’s International Realty Canada

Little has changed over the years, she adds, and many original details remain intact. It’s increasingly rare to find houses that haven’t been renovated by previous owners.

“I think the biggest challenge these days is finding this – there aren’t many left,” she says. “It’s easy to forget that those eight- or nine-inch oak baseboards have history to them. They were probably hand-planed and hand-sanded.”

Ms. Oxley says many buyers today are looking for a renovated house in move-in condition, but others are keen to restore a historic residence where its patina has not been destroyed by a quick reno.

She has had all of the furniture removed from the house so prospective buyers can use their imagination, she adds. While the heritage rules prevent tearing the house down or making drastic changes to the façade, a buyer would be allowed to expand at the rear and renovate the interior.

She is listing the six-bedroom house with an asking price of $6.5-million in order to attract eyeballs, but she expects it to go much higher.

“What’s the hit-it-out-of-the-park number?” she asks rhetorically. " What one buyer will pay for, another buyer won’t.”

Ms. Oxley used a similar strategy of listing below her estimate of market value when she sold a house at 65 Rowanwood Ave. in the spring.

That property was listed for $5.7-million and sold with five offers for $7-million.

32 Chestnut Park, Toronto.Birdhouse Media

For 32 Chestnut Park, Ms. Oxley plans to hold off offers for seven days. Without comparable listings, she can’t predict what a buyer might be willing to pay.

“There’s no other house like it. You can’t find out,” she says. “If the true market value is really $7-million, we’re going to get there.”

Elli Davis, a real estate agent with Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, has listed a unique laneway house near Queen Street West and Ossington Avenue with an asking price of $999,000.

The asking price is lower than the amount she expects the property to fetch, she says, because no similar properties exist.

The converted upholstery shop at 40 Argyle Place has been turned into a loft-style home with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and beamed ceilings 11 feet high.

“It’s the only house on the laneway. It’s steps to the Ossington vibe,” she says of the vibrant stretch that includes a retro Cuban diner, a brewery and Vietnamese noodle shops.

Ms. Davis says she sometimes stages houses and condos with furniture, but in this case the personal style of the owners adds to the character of the space.

Ms. Davis says the building is unusual because it has zoning for residential and commercial use. She figures a buyer might turn it into a live-work space with living quarters above and a studio below.

Plenty of buyers were looking at the house in the first few days on the market, she says.

“I went low because we don’t really know where it’s going to go.”

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