City Living & Home Ownership

I am solidly into my thirties. I have a good job that compensates me well. I have made mostly good financial choices (well except for a few regrettable, expensive fashion decisions at the Yorkdale Mall in 2003). I don’t live luxuriously by any means. I don’t eat out often. I make my own goddamn coffee most days. And I almost always buy second hand. SO why the fuck can’t I even begin to fathom buying a house in downtown Toronto? Here is my rant about City Living & Home Ownership.

There is something so demoralizing about the current real estate market in Toronto these days. Shacks are selling for $500,000. A borderline condemned, raccoon infested home two streets north of me sold for over $800,000 (listed at 600,000 so it would come down to a bidding war) this spring because it was a detached home. LIKE WTF? How is that even reasonable? We have completely normalized outrageous prices that 2% of the population can actually afford. Toronto Life did this hilarious article a few years ago – the cover of TL depicted a couple sitting in a big empty living room eating old pizza. Bare rooms. They couldn’t afford anything after investing all they had into a buying a home. I think the term is ‘house poor’. The Huffington Post did this post about buying a home in Canadian cities. The Globe did a piece “Can you afford a home in these cities?“. Nope Nope Nope.  The average price of homes in neighbourhoods that I like is anywhere between 500$ for a shit hole to 800$ for something nice-ish. Perfect. Well that just makes my dream of owning something other than a horrible constructed shoebox in the sky in downtown Toronto completely unattainable.

What I haven’t mentioned yet is my OSAP/student loan debt. I have incredible student debt because I wanted to do an occupation that requires a graduate degree and I didn’t have the good fortune of having parents who paid for my post secondary education. And I haven’t won the lottery yet. And I haven’t married into a wealthy family yet.

Now that I have that nasty little airing of dirty laundry out of the way, I can continue on with my rant.

It’s all very laughable at this point to me. I am resigned. Sadly. Unless Nan finds me a pot of gold, we ain’t getting our own digs in Toronto. So what is something that has crossed my mind (at least until buying a modest home is sort of obtainable)…. Renting in the city and buying a small cottage type shack somewhere a few hours north of Toronto. Or maybe more. Or maybe a little east. Or maybe not.

A few Christmas’ ago, I was at a family get together and my slightly younger cousin shared very frankly that him and his long term girlfriend were going to always rent in the city and buy a cottage up north somewhere. My ears perked up! Something interesting. I asked why. Straight forward enough, he knew they wouldn’t be able to afford a home in the city for a reasonable price so they wanted to buy something affordable and comfortable OUTSIDE of the city. A cottage.

I like this idea.

Since then it has floated onto my radar that a few other urbanites have done something similar. So maybe this will be how I finally end up getting my own little plot of land. It makes sense for me. I prefer the outdoors. I like projects. I have a feeling that the type of place I could afford would be a fixer-upper but it would be nice to have a weekend project. And I know a few handy dads (whatta ya think pops?) who might be able to help.

So the idea has been conceived. Guess I just need to start looking.

My wish list: 2-3 bedrooms, running water, winterized, some land, not too far from water (river, lake etc.), 2-3 hours from Toronto and that’s it.

Here is what I fantasize about (although I know it will be nothing like this):

Michal Graydon

Source: Michael Graydon 

Vandervort Architects

Source: Vandervort Architects 

Here is a real life cottage for sale – boat access only…. My heart. I need it. Built in 1937. Perfectly preserved by the family that owned it.

cottage for salecottage dock

I am so obsessed with owning a home outside the city, I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to my dream cottage.

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  • Danica_K

    It’s def. a tough call but can I tell you something we live in the country and yes we are weekly commuters. Our road we use to commute home to has a lot of city slickers going to the cottage. The running joke is how angry those drivers are because they have to drive so fast on the weekend to get to their cottage to enjoy 2 days of bliss. Where as every night we come home, sit outside and enjoy our coffee and tea in happiness. No rushing no wondering and hoping that the weather will be nice so we can enjoy the weekend. Consider a country home, commuting in the country is not as bad as some make it sound. Commuting from city to city is horrible but once you live in the try country it’s very different.

    Did that make sense…

    PS: I like the new look and I am happy of the direction of your blog. I always enjoyed reading here.


    • Thanks so much Danica for commenting! I am loving the new look too but you never know how it will float with readers… Appreciate it!

  • I cannot even understand the Toronto real estate market. Who are all these people with all this money? Where did those condo dwellers come from? It sucks, and it would be a big hesitation if we ever decide to move back to Toronto. I mean, the same thing exists down here (minus affordable-ish shoeboxes in the sky), and that’s one of the main reasons we dream about leaving NYC. I’ve also entertained the thought of renting forever (sadface) but owning a weekend home upstate a bit. I love the idea, but would also involve owning a car (a rarity in this town). Anyhou, I can commiserate. Can we start a commune?

  • Sigh, I’m with you – I own a 1 bed condo, but I’ve recently come to the very disheartening realization that I’ll never be able to move out of it into a “real” house in Toronto unless some previously unknown wealthy relative leaves me their entire fortune 🙁

    • Approve—
      Sent from Mailbox

  • lpw

    it’s not just toronto. and it’s why i ended up buying a houseboat.

  • Jordana @WhiteCabana

    I do sometimes get sad about the fact that I cannot afford to buy/live in the city I grew up in, but then I look at my life in Waterloo and realize how darn lucky and happy I am! Small city living completely agrees with me (and I certainly do not miss Yorkdale spending sprees!).That said, I, too, am starting to dream of cottage living! It’s good to have goals, right?

  • Totally right there with you. The housing market in California is insane. I’m married and we still couldn’t even dream of owning anything. So we’re looking into buying land and building something small. A cottage would be amazing though! I’m at the point that I’m considering just getting roommates so we can afford something…but my husband isn’t on board 🙂