Monday, September 22, 2014

Two Bedrooms, Elegant Architecture and an Oasis of Green, Facing Jeanne-Mance Park

The courtyard, an oasis in the city.

 If you've ever walked past the tennis courts in Jeanne Mance Park, chances are you've noticed Chateau Esplanade, the yellow brick complex directly across Esplanade Ave.  The Chateau, built circa 1915, makes a statement with its dark-stained and arched wood windows and doors, elaborate exterior staircases and elegant courtyards. These are not cookie-cutter condos.

View from the courtyard towards the street and beyond that Jeanne-Mance Park.

 Amy Barratt and I have just listed  Apt. 3 at 4433 av de l'Esplande, a two-bedroom condo with a balcony onto the lovely courtyard. The asking price is $325,000. The monthly condo fees are $158 . Taxes, combined are $2576.

The combined living and dining room.

 There are only two condos per floor in 4433 Esplanade. This unit has two good-sized bedrooms at opposite ends of the apartment, for maximum privacy. The master bedroom is on the courtyard side of the building, with a balcony overlooking the trees and flowers. The second bedroom has a window on St. Urban St.

Second bedroom, now used as an office.

Master bedroom with balcony.

The kitchen is an enclosed galley style, with a pass-through and breakfast bar. The refrigerator, stove, washer and dryer are included.

Kitchen with pass-through and breakfast bar.

Among the features of the Chateau Esplanade, are a communal bike storage room, very large individual lockers, a building sauna and a party or meeting room.

Esplanade and Mont-Royal is an ideal Plateau location. Jeanne-Mance Park, with its tennis courts, soccer fields and open spaces, is directly across the street. The mountain is just beyond that. Every shop and service one could need - grocery store, pharmacy, SAQ, coffee shop, bakery or bank, is located within a three-uminte walk. 

Public transit could not be more simple, with buses on the corners of Park Ave., St. Urban, St. Laurent and Mont-Royal. The Mont-Royal metro station is a short bus ride or 10-minute walk away.

All in all, this condo has everything an urban sophisticate could want - including a little oasis of green when it is time to retreat from the hubbub of Montreal's most vibrant neighborhood.

Call or text me to arrange a visit. Or check the listing on my website:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Come and Gone and Gone Again

The story of the little house on Newmarch St. has another chapter. As it turned out, my young buyer was up against a contractor when he put in his winning bid. He had ambitious plans to expand the little house by building a mostly glass addition in the front yard and connecting it to the old house by covered walkway.

The contractor didn't give up easily. After the sale was finalized, his agent contacted me and asked whether my buyer would be willing to sign over his accepted promise to purchase in return for a financial consideration. As it turns out, my buyer was willing to do that. The original vendors also agreed to allow the buyer with whom they had struck the deal to cede his rights to the new guy. Everything was done on the up and up.

The contractor offered to allow my vendors to stay in the house rent free for an extra month. As for the young buyer, he made a little somethin' somethin' selling the house before he even owned it.

Turns out the contractor bought a similar property next door to our dollhouse. Sadly, he will be tearing both properties down in order to build a condo complex.

There's no doubt that the project will make more efficient use of the land but I'm sad knowing that a little bit of Verdun's small-town past, a few trees and the birds who lived in them will be disappearing from the landscape.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Come and Gone!

I sold a couple a cute little house on Newmarch St. in Verdun five years ago. It was a dollhouse, barely more than 900 square feet on two floors, as rustic as a country cottage and with a big fenced yard out front with a vegetable garden. It was perfect for a young couple just starting out.

Next time I saw them, they had two little ones, aged 3 and 16 months, and the little house was as cute as ever but now bursting at the seams with toys and baby paraphenalia.

The little house on Newmarch went back on the market and, with just s few weeks, caught the eye of another buyer who fell for its rustic charm, quiet yet central location and the big fenced yard.

Listed at $298,000. Sold at $280,000 in no time flat!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What Were They Thinking?

. and sometimes I'm convinced my fellow agents are just being whimsical. This photo for a very nice Plateau cottage, was labelled on the listing as "kitchen".

Monday, June 30, 2014

Making Space Count

I visited a condo on the top floor of a Plateau triplex with a client today. It was a fascinating experience. The condo was a good 1,100 square feet of living space, not at all shabby by Plateau standards. It had good light, two good balconies and up to date plumbing, electrical and a new roof.

And yet...

There was something definitely off about this particular condo. The space was weirdly used. The owner, who had lived there for 25 years, had converted it from a three-bedroom into a two-bedroom but she'd done it in such a way that the place seemed cramped. How do you knock out a bedroom and make a place feel smaller?

The owner, une dame d'un certain age, was European and she'd done some peculiar things to the place, like adding a sauna where part of the south-facing kitchen should have been. Instead of a nice eat-in kitchen with windows on two sides, she had a  narrow galley kitchen. Oh yeah, there was no oven. Correction, there was an oven, the kind that is usually set into the wall, but it was sitting on the floor and was being used as a makeshift table, with a tablecloth draped over it.

Instead of yer basic Whirpool or Kenmore, she had a Super Wave Oven, a gizmo that looked like a popcorn popper or inverted crockpot. You will be surprised to learn that it is sold on TV and in the kind of catalog you find on long-haul international flights. Check out the video:

She assured us that she could cook an entire meal for a dinner party without a stove or oven. I was skeptical. More to the point, buyers are skeptical, too. Her condo has been on and off the market for three years. That tells me I'm not the only visitor who found the space weird and poorly concieved.

What Were They Thinking?

No but seriously. I have a condo for sale and was taking a look at what else is available for sale in the building. This is what I found.

To be fair, bathrooms are notoriously hard to photograph. The smallest room in the house does not lend itself easily to the horizontal photo layout requirements of the GMREB. But still...

Seriously. Could one take a worse, more thoughtless and careless photo of a loo?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Verdun's Histroic May St. a Casualty of the new Champlain Bridge

Here's an update from the March of Progress file. The design of the "new" Champlain Bridge was released this week. It looks like a beauty and anyone who lives in Verdun or travels from southwest Montreal or the South Shore by car is no doubt excited about the relief a new and not decrepit bridge will bring.

Sadly, La Presse reports this morning that 16 homes on May St. will be demolished as part of the project.

Amy Barratt and I have spent more than a little time on May St., having sold two big and solid Victorian homes on the street in recent years. I have to say, it makes me a little sad to think of all that history being lost to the bulldozers.

Here's a previous post about the street's history.  And another.

It is true, the elevated part of the approach to the Champlain Bridge now cuts right past the second floor of these beauties, creating a steady rumble of traffic noise and a constant fine sifting of dust. Still, people learned to live with their front windows closed and to enjoy the quiet and cool that two-foot thick stone walls afford.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

3-Bedroom Snowdon Co-prop, $319,000.

 Just listed, a cute three-bedroom flat on the ground floor of an undivided co-ownership property. It has a finished basement, storage and a parking spot. This undivided property at 5354 Snowdon Ave., near the corner of Coolbrook, represents 50 percent of a 1930s duplex.

The asking price is $319,000. Because it is part of an undivided co-ownership, a minimum 20 per cent down payment is required and financing must be through the National Bank on Queen Mary Rd.

A co-ownership is a little different from the typical condo arrangement. You own a share of the building, as opposed to a unit of housing. Bills for the roof, foundation, exterior walls, etc, are split according to ownership share. There are no condo fees.

Also, there is only one tax bill and the taxes are considerably cheaper than they would be for a condo of a comparable size. 
This a classic NDG duplex, circa 1925. There's a central living room, with three good-sized bedrooms, including one at the rear of the house, off the kitchen. There's plenty of oak woodwork, etched glass doors and big ol' pantry in the kitchen.

As a bonus, the flat also has a finished basement, with large family room, a half bath and big laundry and storage area with a door to the outside. There's a nice deck off the kitchen, ideal for summer dining and hanging out.

There's a single parking space behind the building which is for the exclusive use of the ground floor.

According to our friends at Google, it is a 1-minute, 600-metre walk from the flat to Snowdon metro (orange line). The delights of Queen Mary Rd. are a quick three-minute stroll north. Everything you need, from public transit, to shopping and services are at your feet.

The current owners and their co-owners upstairs have already agreed to redo the roof and take care of some necessary brick repointing of the rear facade of the building. This will be done prior to the sale.

The bathroom is recently and tastefully renovated. The kitchen could use a little cosmetic retouch,
starting with the ceramic tile floor. This is a fun project, as opposed to joyless work like bricks, roof or a French drain (already done). The asking price  of $319,000 is very competitive for the neighborhood. Snowdon, the northwestern corner of NDG, consistently holds its value and is a desirably neighborhood for young professionals and families.

Why not call me to ask for a visit?
Or check out the full listing at my  website, Plenty more picutres! Plenty more details!

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Journal de Montréal on the Delights of Verdun's Wellington St.

 The Journal has a nice spread with photos talking about Verdun's renaissance and especially about our vibrant main drag, Wellington, or "la Well" as apparently the hipsters are calling it.

'Tis true that not so long ago the only reason you'd see mention of Verdun in the local papers was if someone set fire to a building in an insurance scam, got shot or a patient at the Douglas Hospital wandered off the grounds. Those days are gone.

Now, thanks to its affordable housing, excellent public transit and proximity to the beautiful St. Lawrence River, Verdun is attracting young families and enrepreneurs with plenty of ideas and energy.
Fromagerie Copette + Cie
The Journal talks about some of great boutiques and restaurants: Boulangerie Sweet Lee's, Copette + cie, a fancy cheese shop with excellent bread and Belgian waffles on the weekend, Benelux, the artisanal brasserie in the old Bank of Montreal building, Blackstrap BBQ and Station W, recently voted one of Montreal's top 10 cafes.
Station W

Why would anyone want to live anywhere else?

Samcon, Montreal Condo Developer, Proposing Massive Project on Point Rail Yards

Twitter is exploding this morning (well, at least among urban development geeks) with news that Samcon, a condo builder known for its small-scale and affordably priced condo projects, has announced plans to build 850 condos on the old CN rail yards in Point St. Charles.
The rail yards are south of Bridge St. and east of Wellington. I've just noticed that Google has written "Sebastapol" as "Sevastopol". Hm, does this have anything to do with Russia's annexation of Crimea?

No news release yet, but the company, which has found success by targeting first-time and mid-price buyers, says that 75 per cent of the offering will be "affordable" housing.
Two things, what will the reaction be in the Point, where residents are well and truly fed up with the traffic and congestion that a spate of new construction has brought to the usually quiet residential streets.
Second, the land Samcon is looking at is the same parcel that the Casino de Montréal has been eyeing for some time. Before that, it seems to me that developer Vincent Chiara had a scheme to build a shopping mall and some housing.
According to reports, Sam Scalia, Samcon's president, says the new project and future projects will be developed according to principles of walkability and will be located close to public transit.
Not sure how that squares with the railyard, which is accessible to Wellington St. and a direct bus to downtown but nowhere close to a metro station.
More to come, no doubt. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Verdun to Get an Aquatic Centre

Fantastic news out of Verdun borough hall today. The local council has been quietly working towards building an indoor aquatic centre since 2009. Today, they've gone public with a budget - $18.6 million - and a projected opening date - 2016.

The complex will be built in Therrien Park, a riverside park in the south east corner of the borough. It's the last park before you hit Highway 15 South to Nuns' Island. Therrien Park already has baseball diamonds, football fields, tennis courts, a skateboard park, an outdoor pool and wading pool with water features, a playground, chalet and dog park. 

The park is also close to the Verdun Auditorium, a sometime home to junior hockey, heavy metal concerts and pro wrestling bouts. The borough is looking at redeveloping the Aud to get more use out of the arena. This could be the beginning of a new cultural and sporting axis in southwest Montreal. Woot woot!

Verdun already possesses one of the nicest outdoor pool complexes in Montreal. Our Art Deco Natatorium, built in the 1930s, was at one time considered the largest public swimming complex in Canada. It was built during the Depression and finished in 1940. Olympic swimming gold medalist Johnny Weismuller, who was also the star of the Tarzan movies, inaugurated the Nat in 1940. For indoor swimming, Verduners have had to use pools inside local high schools.

Today, the Nat has  a heating wading pool. Navi, a kayak-rental company, operates from a kiosk outside the Nat all summer long. It remains a beautiful swimming pool, with sight lines on the blue water of the St. Lawrence River.  Dreaming of summer. . .

Friday, February 28, 2014

Calculating Your Mortgage Insurance Premium

Here's an excellent video from RateHub that explains how mortgage insurance is calculated. Viewer beware, these are not Montreal prices they are playing with!

Hat tip to Allison Lampert of The Gazette for this.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. to Increase Mortgage Insurance Premiums May 1

 Anyone buying a home in Canada and who has less than 20 per cent of the purchase priceto use as a down payment  is going to see the cost of that purchase increase a little bit come May 1st, 2014.

The increase will happen because the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., a federal agency that insures all so-called high ratio mortgages, is raising its premiums by 15 per cent. It is the CMHC's first hike since the late 1990s.

CMHC mortgage insurance allows those with a modest down payment to get their foot in the home ownership door. Depending on the size of a buyer's down payment, the insurance premium currently ranges from 0.5 per cent and 2.75 per cent of the purchase price. On a $250,000 purchase, that translated to a $6,875 premium paid down over the life of the mortgage.

Under the new fee structure, the premium will rise to a maximum of $7,875, an added cost of about $5 per month on the typical 25-year, $250,000 mortgage. (We always use the $250,000 example but the average cost of a Montreal single-family  home is actually close to $291,000. Let's not be too picky.)

On its own, the rate increase is not a killer, but it does come a 18 months after CMHC tightened mortgage rules so that buyers can spread their mortgage over a maximum of 25 years instead of 30. That sidelined some first-timers who were scared off by the prospect of seeing their mortgage payments climb by more than $150 a month.Here comes another $5.

The CMHC has a handy chart showing the different cost increases.

The rate change will not affect anyone who already has a CMHC-backed mortgage, only new business. The effects won't be as dramatic as the change to amortization rules instituted in June, 2012. Still, every time the feds tinker, the market tightens just a bit.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Verdun Love

 Life in Verdun means life lived in rhythm with the mighty St. Lawrence. The sun rises over the open water and at night the moon casts a silver bright light on the rippling current. It is even beautiful in winter, though the boardwalk is buried under feet of snow.
photo credit: Comité embellissement Verdun

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Semi-subterranean Homesick Blues

 Montreal's Plateau Mont-Royal borough has implemented new rules that will sharply curtail the construction of semi-basement or "garden-level" condominiums. 

For the purposes of the bylaw, a garden-level condo is one in which 60 per cent of the living space is located below the level of the sidewalk. This housing type made huge inroads during the go-go construction boom that began in the late 1990s, as builders sought to maximize the number of units they could cram into their buildings while still respecting height limitations.

 In the Plateau, for example, that often meant that buildings could not be taller than the area's triplexes. One strategy might be to build a half storey below the ground, and three stories up, still within the height restriction and conveniently less than four floors.  Another benefit of building fewer than four stories and yet more than three was that Quebec's building code states that buildings with three floors can be built of wood frame, while those measure more than four must be made of poured concrete.

The problem was that a lot of these half basements were pokey and dark, with windows that let in little light and less air. At least, that's what a 2010 Plateau study seemed to indicate. Of 29 proposed  projects, 19 were to be built in high traffic areas where basement windows would offer little natural light, unappealing views and too much noise.

From now on, Plateau semi-basement condos will be permitted only on strictly residential streets and even then builders will have to ensure that windows are set back a minimum of 1.5 metres from the sidewalk. The space between the window and the sidewalk will have to be 60 per cent planted, not paved. Further, the setback from any parking area on the property will be a minimum of two metres.

In most cases, the new rules will mean that promoters will incorporate the semi-basements into their ground-floor units. It might even be that by tweaking the bylaws, the borough will help make the Plateau more attractive to families looking for homes with room for kids to live, sleep and play.

So far, the Plateau stands alone with these new rules, though the Sud-Ouest borough is said to be looking at them with interest. You can read more about it in La Presse.