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Denizens of Toronto’s Junction Triangle were trading stories this week about one of the more singular houses in their neighbourhood: Even the listing agent described the exterior as “unassuming.”

Everyone – including the owners – was shocked when the brown brick box at 186 Wallace Ave. sold for $601,186 above the asking price of $999,000.

The triumphant bid of $1,600,186 topped a heap of offers after one week on the market.

“Bustling corner in front, an urban oasis out back,” Alice Kent of Bosley Real Estate Ltd., said in the description. She was referring to the intersection of Wallace with Lansdowne Avenue, where a small retail strip includes cafés, a hair salon and Rosa and Joe’s Pentone Cigar Store.

Behind the vintage arched windows, the house is a cool, industrial live/work loft with exposed brick, a chef’s kitchen and a lap pool on the roof.

Even the realtor admitted 186 Wallace Ave. has an 'unassuming' exterior.

It’s the very antithesis of a newly built family home on a large lot in a leafy area, but buyers were clamouring for the chance to live in this reclaimed area that still has vestiges of grit.

As soon as real estate watchers think they have a handle on which neighbourhood, price segment, age group or demographic is driving the action in Toronto’s sizzling spring market, eye-popping deals show how unpredictable the movements can be.

A few miles away in Rosedale, the tall, semi-detached Victorian at 21 Roxborough St. E. sold for $3.685-million after receiving two offers in less than 24 hours on the market. That’s $335,000 above the asking price of $3.35-million.

Listing agent Janet Lindsay of Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd. says sales in established areas such as Rosedale are more sporadic than they are in Lawrence Park or Forest Hill, for example, where many of the houses are newer replacements of the traditional residences that once stood there.

“It is quirky. Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. It makes it very hard to be scientific,” she says of setting asking prices or forecasting how long a place will be on the market. As for the mindset of buyers, she asks “does it pique your interest, does it meet your needs, or is it different enough to make it one of a kind?”

Inside 186 Wallace Ave.

Ms. Lindsay adds that the preponderance of showings are taking place within the first two or three days that a house is on the market – even in the upper echelons.

That’s not uncommon in price segments where there’s lots of competition, but it marks a new and faster tempo at the high end, she says, as luxury buyers seem primed to pounce as soon as they see a property they like.

When the Roxborough house appeared on the market just before Easter, Ms. Lindsay says, the buyers moved quickly because they have children who were accepted at a prestigious private school nearby.

She says school acceptances are one of the reasons people are jumping into the market right now. At this time of year, parents may find out a student has just been accepted at University of Toronto or York University and buy a place close to those schools.

Or they may find out their youngest kid is heading off to Montreal or New York and decide to list their huge family residence for sale.

Bookshelves inside 186 Wallace Ave.

Ms. Lindsay says the Lawrence Park neighbourhood is popular because Toronto French School is coveted by parents.

“There’s no question that again the schools are the draw,” she says of the many areas where $5-million properties are selling briskly.

Farther north, Ronit Barzilay of Harvey Kalles Real Estate Ltd. was astonished when she drew 11 offers for 219 Burbank Dr. and the prevailing bid came in at $462,000 above the asking price. The 1970s house on a ravine lot was listed for $1,788,000 and sold for $2,250,000.

Ms. Barzilay says three bully offers came in during the seven days that the house was on the market.

“When we got our bully offer for $2.1-million we were actually going to take it,” she says. “We decided to wait.”

Ms. Barzilay says the area near Bayview Avenue and Finch Avenue East in North York is popular with builders who tear down older homes and with families who want to be close to Earl Haig Secondary School.

“It’s madness,” she says of sales in the area.