Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Don't Scrimp on the Inspection

Here's my latest post to The Gazette's "Ask an agent" column.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Classic Montreal Shoebox Reimagined

Sleek contemporary design meets rough-hewn wood  in this Montreal bungalow. Photo: Sharon Wilson.

UPDATE: My eagle-eyed vendor points out that, in fact, this was a two-bedroom when she bought, not three. 

Vintage charm meets sleek contemporary design in this light-filled two-bedroom house on Springland St. in Ville Emard.
This is a classic Montreal shoebox, one of those flat-roofed bungalows you'll find in the city's older working-class neighborhoods. They were typically owner-built at the turn of the last century and designed so that a second floor might easily be added as needed. Spacing did a story about the shoebox last, as did Susan Semenak of The Gazette. (That link has expired.)
 Amy Barratt and I have just listed  this property for sale at an asking price of $319,000.
What does that get you? It buys you a one-of-a-kind property, redone from top to bottom by a professional designer working with a team of licensed contractors. Everything has been done by the book, including a new electrical entry and wiring, plumbing stack, roof, windows, doors, floors, kitchen and bathroom. It buys a house for about the cost of a condo with the added benefit of your own garden, no upstairs neighbors and no condo fees.
This house has 812 square feet of living space on one floor, with a wonderful three-season sun porch off the back. It has a high and dry basement that is just a bit under 6 feet, perfect for storage. It also has a fenced yard and detached one-car garage that is accessible off the lane.
My client spent six months taking this little house apart last year and putting it back together to maximize all it's best features.  It was a poky three-bedroom when she bought, with dodgy 100-amp wiring and a fuse box on the back porch. The bathroom was a disaster, with a leaky and half-obstructed skylight over the bathtub. 
She stripped it down to the bones and redrew the floor plan to create a loft-like space. The living room, dining area and kitchen flow together. The master bedroom, bathroom and second bedroom line up opposite.
There are tons of little details that set this house apart. There are transoms over all the doorways, as well as custom-milled woodwork headers. The transoms allow maximum natural light throughout the day. The light fixtures are funky pendant or sconce style with recessed lights in the kitchen dining and living area.
All the original woodwork has been stripped for a rough and rustic effect. It creates a cool contrast with the contemporary kitchen with its high-gloss white and imitation wengé cabinetry.There's a plank feature wall in the living room, part of the building's original structure.
I love that she moved the bathroom so that the skylight is now over the dining room table. I also love that she found mullioned windows at an architectural salvage shop and used them instead of the utilitarian sliders that were in place in the sun porch. She chose a paint colour called "kalamata olive" for all the doors. How perfect is that?
I wrote a blog post last summer about the adventures this client and I had while trying to find the right property for her to fix up and resell. We saw some scary houses together. We also saw some really bad renovations. I didn't think much of this house the first time we saw it, except that it had a classic brick "shoebox" facade and a back yard piled with German Shepherd poop.
Frankly, she could have done a half-assed job on this place and it still would have been better than most of the "reno" jobs I see in my travels. Instead, she took care and put real effort into getting it right.
The results speak for themselves.
If you know anyone looking for a really nice house in an up-and coming part of the city, send them my way. This one is a keeper.
Don't know much about Ville Emard? It's part of the Sud-Ouest borough and is across the aqueduct from Verdun. It has two metro stops, Joliceour and Monk. This house is about a seven-10 minute walk to Monk.
Monk Blvd. is also the 'hood's main shopping drag, with groceries, pharmacy and butcher shop and fish monger, as well as a great vet and Eddy Bicycle. That last two are where I get my dogs and bikes tuned up.
My Ville Emard pals swear by the SMAD WD at Pizza Nino on Monk Blvd near Springland. For the uninitiated, that's a small all-dressed well done. Wash it down with Brio.
Me? I'd be lying if I said I never sneaked over to the original Dilallo's at the corner of Hurteau and Allard for a burger, onion rings and Cott Black Cherry soda. The walls are covered with photos of musicians and sports stars from days gone. There's something to be said for gazing at a photo of Mad Dog Vachon while hoovering back a burger.
Ville Emard, a neighborhood worth getting to know. 

2812 Springland. Ten minutes from downtown by car, 20 if you take the metro.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Smart Guy Sticks a Pin in Talk of Housing Bubble

Gazette business columnist Jay Bryan ushered out 2010 with an excellent column that explains in clear, simple terms why all the hysterical talk about the bursting of the Canadian housing bubble is so much nonsense.
He's right, of course. The Globe and Mail regularly ran stories in the Report of Business about the imminent collapse of the housing market here. Any day now. Any... day... now. . .   I guess it made a nice change from those stories about whether there was going to be a snap federal election zzzzzzzz. Sorry, the thought of an election is so boring, I must have dozed off.
I ran into several buyers in 2010 who were poised to invest in real estate because they were certain that the market was about to collapse and they would be able to swoop in and buy up distressed properties at deep discounts. With clients like that, I listen politely and then gently disagree. Prices are rising, not by leaps and bounds but they are rising. Anybody who thinks they are going to get a great deal and pay less than they did a year ago, or even two years ago, is mistaken.
Here's the column, which I can't help but notice is being widely reposted in the blogosphere. Skeptical bloggers are taking aim at Jay Bryan and accusing him of drinking Canadian Real Estate Association Kool-Aid.
I think we should let those bloggers get back to stocking up their bomb shelters.