Friday, October 9, 2009

Baby We Were Born To Own

House got too crowded,
Clothes got too tight
And I don't know just where I'm going tonight
Out where the sky's been cleared by a good hard rain
There's somebody callin' my secret name

Bruce Springsteen
Lucky Town

Can we interest you in an 828-square-foot shotgun shack priced at $299,000 U.S.?
What if I told you it used to be Bruce Springsteen's house and that The Boss composed much of his breakthrough masterpiece Born to Run while sitting on its tiny front porch?
The two bedrooms and one bath is located a stone's throw from the Jersey shore and was recently placed on the market. It is priced about $50,000 above what comparable properties in the neighborhood sell for in the post-mortgage meltdown US of A. Not such a steep mark-up for a piece of rock 'n' roll memorabilia.
You can read the listing here

If These Walls Could Talk

Here we have the outside and inside view of a century-old Plateau house I recently sold. The interior photo is of the front bedroom, which is to say the two upstairs windows seen in the exterior shot.
Yup, it is the fixer-upper of all fixer-uppers. Beautiful brick, though!
The buyers took possession of the property on September 17 at about 6 p.m. At 8 o'clock the next morning, the wrecking crew had already begun to tear the insides out. It looks like they'll be at it until Christmas, or, possibly mid-January.
Every house has a story, but this one has a capital "S" story.
The previous owners bought the solid brick cottage from a widow in 1984. That was back in the pre-sushi shop and soy latté days of the Plateau when streets like Laval, Henri-Julien and Hôtel-de-Ville were inhabited by shmata workers, bakers, plumbers and others from the labouring classes.
The vendors shared a bit of local folklore with me. The woman from whom their parents purchased the house was the widow of a well-known local gangster. As one of them put it, "He was a crook. His brother was a crook, his uncle was a crook. They were all professional crooks."
The man, Monsieur Galipeau, came to a sudden end in the early 1980s, not at home but on his way to his mistress's apartment.
The widow Galipeau sold the house for about what an indoor garage would cost in one of the Plateau's sleek converted loft buildings. We're talking $24,000. She was glad to be rid of the drafty old house.
Soon after they took possession in 1984, the new owners got a visit from Monsieur Galipeau's brother. He knew them from around the way and was stopping by to wish them well. Here's where it gets interesting.
"You should check carefully," he told the owners. "I'm sure there's money in that house. My brother didn't believe in banks."
For 25 years, the family kept an eye out but they never found any money.
When their parents died within a short span of each other, the three now adult children debated keeping the house, still convinced one day they would find hidden treasure. They made last-ditch attempts, punching holes in the walls here and there and ripping out ceiling panels in a couple of rooms. They even had a session with a Ouija board which led them to rent a jack hammer and break up a corner of the concrete basement floor. Nothing. No money. No guns. No gold. No dead bodies.
As they handed over the keys at the notary's office, the vendors looked a little wistful. "We're sure you're going to find something."
Nearly a month into the renovation job, the only secret my buyers have uncovered is generalized floor rot in the downstairs bathroom. Pretty much every room has been stripped from ceiling to floor. So far, no money, no guns, no gold. Happily, no dead bodies.
They bought the house because it is smack-dab in the epicenter of their preferred neighborhood. Their son attends kindergarten half a block up the street. For the same money, they probably could have gotten a three-bedroom condo in a triplex but it would most likely have been a second or third floor, less space, much less privacy.
Instead, they've purchased a three-bedroom, two-story house, with 2.000-square-feet of living space, 10-foot-ceilings, a back yard and a dry basement for storage. Sure, they'll be coughing up plaster dust for months to come, but the house is going to be spectacular. And, if they play it right, they'll dine out on the story of Monsieur Galipeau for years to come.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Montreal Housing Resales Climb in September

Housing resales across the greater Montreal area rose by five per cent in September, compared to the same month a year earlier, according to the Greater Montreal Real Estate Board.
Last fall was a slower than average period for real estate, what with everyone gripped by the collapse of the U.S. housing and banking sectors. But this September's numbers don't just look good compared to a crummy '08. According the GMREB, it was the best September on record. (We pause to toot our party horns and raise a midday glass of champagne!)
I know I'm doing my best to keep the numbers up. I closed two sales last month. That compared to one sale in September, 2008. A welcome 50-per-cent increase!(Update: Alert reader Amy Barratt points out that is actually a 100-per-cent increase. This is why I let her handle the calculator.)
What else does the board say? Prices are on the rise, with the median price of a single-family home or condominium unit up 7 per cent. Plexes are up by 5 per cent.
The number of active listings decreased by 7 per cent to 20,912. The number of new listings to hit the MLS system in September totaled 6,110, a 11-per-cent drop compared to a year earlier.
There were more sales between January and September, 2008 but lower volume through the first nine months of 2009 translated into prices that were bwtween 3 and 4 per cent higher than a year ago.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dupuis Park, The Battle Continues

I just received an email from Albert Albala, the Verdun resident who spearheaded citizen opposition to the planned closing of Park Dupuis last spring.
Albala got wind of the plan to close the 4-hectare green space next to the Atwater filtration plant when he saw city crews quietly beginning to remove equipment like soccer goals from the site.
Hard to know what the real story is. It is either
A) Continued recreational use of the grassy expanse over the filtration plant's subterranean basins risks depositing soil and sediment into the water supply.
B) The city is worried about dog poop and pee leeching into the reservoirs.
C) Easy public access is a security issue that makes the water-filtration plant a potential terrorist target.
D) Verdun is tired of paying the bill to maintain a park that is technically located in the neighboring Southwest borough but is only accessible from Verdun.
E) All of the above.
It looked like a truce had been reached, with a promise from city hall that the status quo would remain in place. Now, it seems that the park will be closed next spring.

Here's what Albert had to say:

"Dupuis park is still set to be permanently closed next spring. The fence is being put up, and no entrance is planned for. Four hectares of prime green space is being lost in a neighborhood which badly needs green space!

Meanwhile, incumbent mayor candidate Gerald Tremblay says parks and green space are a cornerstone of his policy; concerning Dupuis park, the Tremblay administration says the park will be closed if citizens keep going there with dogs. But the city is making no effort to let anyone know (through signs, etc.) that dogs are not welcome. The dog issue seems to be a good excuse to close the park!

And closed it will be, unless citizens act now!

If you have the time and energy, here is what I propose:

(1) call 3-1-1 and ask city officials what is going with Dupuis Park (official name: "réservoir 3A de l'usine de filtration Atwater") and other water reservoirs in Montreal including McTavish reservoir.

(2) write, call your municipal representatives to let them know what you think.

(3) ***WEDNESDAY 7 OCT*** (TOMORROW) : go to the debate of Verdun mayor candidates in Nuns' Island.

(4) create and distribute leaflets to sensitize the population (you can put them up on the fence around the city's reservoirs).

(5) if you want to contribute to an eventual citizens' report on the park (and other reservoirs including other reservoirs in Canada), and ideas to keep reservoirs accessible while ensuring their safety, please write to me.

(6) any other ideas? Let me know!

(7) leave comments on

(8) get informed about the 14 reservoirs which will be closed in Montreal, and let us know what you have learnt!

Merci à l'avance!

Albert Albala citizens group

With a municipal election coming up on November 5, this might be our best chance to save Dupuis Park once and for all.