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the next move

16 Stratheden Rd., in Toronto's Lawrence Park neighbourhood.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Even in the high-octane Toronto real estate market, some houses and condos are so singular that finding a new owner among a smaller pool of buyers takes some creativity.

In Toronto, a six-bedroom house in Lawrence Park is generating buzz for its $26,900,000 asking price.

One reason for the curiosity is that the previous high water mark for a sale in the upscale family neighbourhood is around $14.6-million.

The opulent six-bedroom house at 16 Stratheden Rd. has been on the market for more than 150 days.

Properties in the upper tier often stay longer on the market because sales in that price range are driven by desire, not need. Buyers who pay $20-million or more for a house often want to create their own vision.

The house is listed with agents Karen Rosenberg and Geraldine Del Zotto of Harvey Kalles Real Estate Ltd., who spotlight the “epic man cave” in the subterranean vehicle showroom, which has room for 12 cars. The area includes a cantilevered hydraulic lift and a tempered glass wall with a view into the billiards room.

Builder Andrew Nullmeyer combined two properties to construct the house on a 150-foot-by-125-foot lot.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The property is also featured on the cover of the realtor’s lifestyle magazine, which describes the grand foyer with marble flooring, a family-room with a glass-surround cupola ceiling and a high-end kitchen in 10,500-square feet of above-ground living space.

Builder Andrew Nullmeyer of the design-build firm Nuvo Homes combined two properties to build the house on a 150-foot-by-125-foot lot for his family. His mother, Catherine Nullmeyer, owns the house.

Lawrence Park tends to appeal to families who want a well-appointed home on a large lot with lots of outdoor space under mature trees.

Agents say many buyers with deep pockets would choose to live about three kilometres to the north, in the Bridle Path, where two-acre lots provide plenty of room for palatial homes and some residents find seclusion in gated estates.

Even in that enclave, the richest price for a sale last year was around the $23-million mark.

  • Unit 4601, 33 Charles St. E., Toronto. Listed for sale at $2,895,000.The Weir Team

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At the centre of the city, Scott Hanton is battling the concept that the area around the pivotal intersection of Bloor and Yonge has not lived up to its promise in recent years.

Mr. Hanton, broker with Weir Team Brokerage Inc., recently listed a two-level penthouse with walls of glass and a view expanding from just below Bloor Street to Lake Ontario.

Penthouse 4601 at 33 Charles St. E. is listed exclusively on Weir Team’s website with an asking price of $2.895-million.

Mr. Hanton says the unit has had a strong number of showings during the week or so it has been on the market.

“It’s super high-end but not in a super high-end area,” says Mr. Hanton, who also owns a unit in the tower known as Casa.

“I bought before it was even a hole in the ground,” he says.

Mr. Hanton says Charles Street east of Yonge was less dense when Casa broke ground. Now six or seven towers line that stretch and the streetscape is less friendly to pedestrians.

“The sidewalks aren’t big enough any more,” he says of the influx of residents.

To bring exposure to the condo, Mr. Hanton let all of the high-end agents in his database know that it has landed on the market. He also added the listing to two carriage-trade portals in China.

Mr. Hanton’s marketing emphasizes the unit’s 2,000 square feet of indoor space and ceilings 10- and 15-feet high. The current owners redesigned the suite with such luxuries as a waterfall island and high-end appliances in the kitchen, a soaker tub in the ensuite bathroom and a home office overlooking the city.

Mr. Hanton had the expansive outdoor terraces virtually staged so that prospective buyers could see how they would appear with comfortable loungers and planters filled with greenery.

His challenge in selling the penthouse, he says, is that many people with the budget to purchase an opulent condo would choose a more staid neighbourhood.

One of Casa’s neighbours is Sanctuary, an outreach centre for marginalized people living downtown.

“It is there to do good and it has been doing good for a long time,” Mr. Hanton says.

A couple of years ago, a tent city was established in a nearby park. After that, the park was fenced off so that condo dwellers and other local residents no longer had access.

“It should feel more cared-for,” Mr. Hanton says of the neighbourhood. “It should be a place you want to go as opposed to a place you need to pass through.”

At one time Mr. Hanton expected buyers at Bloor and Yonge to come from large houses in nearby Rosedale. Now he believes they are more likely to be upsizers than downsizers.

“It does tend to skew a bit younger – an older couple would be in Yorkville proper,” he says.

Yorkville, the upscale neighbourhood just north of Bloor and a few steps to the west of the condo, tends to have more outdoor patios and high-end restaurants, he says.

In the past, Charles Street East had a quaint ambience, but today establishments with wrought iron fences and flower boxes have given way to taller buildings. He’d like to see a rejuvenation of the streetscape.

“It seems to be missing a lot of its charm now.”

To attract potential buyers of the penthouse, Mr. Hanton says, he stressed the solitude of the terrace 46 floors above ground level. Residents can watch the weather rolling in and feel removed from the hectic pace of the city.

“When you walk in and see that spectacular view, that’s a big draw,” he says. “So what if there’s a little bit of riff-raff on the street?”

Looking ahead, he sees room for Yonge and Bloor to bounce back as pandemic restrictions wind down and more retailers and restaurants move in.

“We’re on the upswing, but it’s been a tough few years.”

Jennifer Chan, broker with Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, is trying some new tactics after she listed a condo unit for sale in a boutique building across the street from Roy Thomson Hall.

Suite 2003 at 71 Simcoe St. is listed with an asking price of $1,799,999.

The two-bedroom-plus-den unit has lots of fine craftsmanship in the walnut floors, mahogany trim and hand-painted Venetian plaster finishes.

“It’s very traditional and beautiful – they put a lot of working into it,” Ms. Chan says.

The challenge for Ms. Chan is that the property has not been seeing traction with buyers because the decor is not in keeping with the current trend toward modern spaces with minimal finishes.

Ms. Chan said that a stager she called in recommended that the unit be painted all white.

The owner would prefer not to paint over the expensive materials, so Ms. Chan had the 1,725-square-foot unit “virtually renovated” using digital image manipulation. The images show the suite as it would look with a modern facelift.

“I painted over it without giving her a heart attack,” Ms. Chan says. “We need to guide people to see the potential of the unit.”

After 29 days on the market, the owner has agreed to try Ms. Chan’s approach.

The area around King Street West has a very specific clientele, adds Ms. Chan. “I’m waiting for these people to come back.”

Ms. Chan says the residents of the area tend to love the theatre, the symphony and the area’s night life.

She imagines the buyers will use the suite as a weekend home or they may be a small family. An ex-pat returning to Toronto may also find the location appealing.

Ms. Chan has given the unit lots of exposure in her WeChat group with agents in Hong Kong, mainland China and Singapore.

With pandemic restrictions lifting, King West is undergoing a revival, she says.

The high-end condo tranche has been moving in ebbs and flows in recent weeks, Ms. Chan adds.

“There are people still looking,” she says. “We’ll see what the market does.”

Agents in many segments of the Toronto market are reporting a slowdown in March. Some buyers appear to be exhausted, while others are concerned about the outlook for interest rates.

At Capital Economics, senior Canada economist Stephen Brown now expects the Bank of Canada to hike interest rates more aggressively than he had assumed.

Mr. Brown says the booming jobs market offsets the downside risks to near-term economic activity from higher energy prices.

Since inflation and economic growth appear to be running at a faster clip than his previous forecast, the central bank will likely tighten policy more boldly in order to get inflation under control, he adds. Such moves in turn present a downside risk to housing.

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