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House Hunting in … Toronto | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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CreditEugen Sakhnenko for The New York Times

New York- This 1880 red brick house is on a tree-studded .32-acre corner lot in a historic district in Oakville, a town in the greater Toronto area. A grande dame with a rounded front porch embellished with fretwork, gingerbread trim and a fanciful wrought-iron railing, it was once part of a waterfront estate; today, much of the property has been sold and other homes built nearby. The house is a block from Lake Ontario and two blocks from downtown Oakville.

More than 9,200 square feet, it has seven bedrooms and seven and a half baths. It was renovated last year, opening up the floor plan to make it “more family-friendly,” said Alex Irish, a saleswoman with Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, which has the listing. Preserved throughout are period chandeliers and hardware, plaster molding, extensive millwork, wide baseboards and five fireplaces. “True architectural details were kept, such as the quarter-sawn oak floors in a herringbone pattern,” Ms. Irish said. “Some of the fussy Victorian styling was removed.”

Swirls of leaded glass punctuate the oak front door, which opens to a hall with a barrel ceiling. To the right is a switchback three-story staircase with hand-carved newel posts and floral fretwork; there is also a wood-paneled elevator with a seat and an old-fashioned phone. The formal living room to the left has a wood-burning fireplace and tall bay windows.

The dining room opens to a conservatory with tall arched windows topped by stained-glass transoms and a lantern skylight. French doors lead to a walled courtyard with a garden, a fountain and a firepit. The kitchen, which has handcrafted European cabinetry, a center island, granite countertops and high-end appliances, is open to a family room; both spaces have a view of Lake Ontario. “The Apple Lady,” a large 1888 stained-glass window at a staircase landing, recalls the estate’s orchard.

The second-floor master suite has tall bay windows, a tray ceiling, a marble fireplace, a dressing room and an en-suite marble bath with two porcelain sinks, a shower, a separate tub and a private commode. A second suite has a fireplace and a bath with a stand-alone tub, a separate shower, a pedestal sink and bead-board walls. On the third level are a sitting room with a lantern skylight and three additional bedrooms, each with a walk-in closet and an en-suite bath.

Front and back staircases lead to the lower level, which has a two dens, a powder room, a home office, a bedroom with an en-suite bath, a workshop and a dog-washing station. Glass doors open to an ivy-draped walled terrace.

There is also a garage with a one-bedroom apartment upstairs.

Oakville, which has nearly 200,000 residents, has a lakefront walking path, two harbors, restaurants, museums, art galleries, boutiques, a square used for tree lighting at Christmas and a piazza. Downtown Toronto is 25 miles away, or about a 30-minute drive.


Until April 20, when the province of Ontario implemented the Fair Housing Plan with a new 15 percent Nonresident Speculation Tax on single-family homes, “the housing market was gangbusters,” said Steven Green, a sales representative at Royal LePage Partners Realty.

With 30 percent growth in a single year, the lack of supply was creating unsustainable demand with “multiple offers and bidding wars,” Ms. Irish said, which was partly driven “by an international buying spree.”

The tax on foreign buyers was “designed to cool the market,” she added, and was “part of a plan to make homes more affordable” and available, particularly for young families. When it took effect, she said, the market “went from incredibly hot to tepid,” with would-be buyers sitting on the sidelines “watching the market move in their direction. It is turning into a much more balanced market.”

Last month, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board, residential sales were down by more than 40 percent over a year earlier, while the number of new listings increased by more than 5 percent. The average selling price was up 5 percent, to 746,218 Canadian dollars, or about $588,479.

The market for new condominiums, however, “has shown no slowdown,” said Elliott Taube, president of the Toronto-based International Home Marketing Group. “Prices have continued to escalate,” he said, ranging from 650 to 1,100 Canadian dollars a square foot, or about $513 to $867.

The 660 units in the two new 46-story Nobu towers sold out in 30 days, Mr. Taube said, except for 30 three-bedrooms and penthouses that will be made available during the Toronto International Film Festival next month. “The skyline is constantly evolving in our city,” Mr. Taube said. “I see Toronto Manhattan-izing more than ever.”

The tallest new towers are 80 to 90 stories, while the majority of new projects in Toronto’s core are 45 to 50 floors, with the highest density surrounding the subway lines.

The Ontario and Toronto markets are “heavily investor-driven,” Mr. Taube said, with investors — most with Canadian passports — “looking for capital appreciation and for a return in the rental pool when it is done.”


Most buyers come from China, sometimes by way of Vancouver, British Columbia, with a smaller portion from Iran and Korea, Mr. Green said.

Ms. Irish said she has seen a large contingent of buyers from India and Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, as well as an uptick in American buyers since the 2016 election.

Drawn by “the favorable exchange rate,” Mr. Green said, buyers from New York and Connecticut buy condominiums close to shops and restaurants in the Yorkville neighborhood and the downtown entertainment district, as well as cottages in Muskoka, a picturesque area in central Ontario. “A lot of the movie stars have cottages there,” he said. “It is like the Hamptons, but better.”


In Toronto proper, buyers pay a land transfer tax of about 2 percent, plus a 2 percent tax to the Province of Ontario. “One of the reasons people like to buy in Oakville is to avoid the 2 percent Toronto tax,” Ms. Irish said.

Because international buyers must put 35 percent down to secure a mortgage, “most foreign buyers pay cash,” Mr. Green said. Mortgage interest is not deductible.

Legal fees run from 1,000 to 3,000 Canadian dollars, or $789 to $2,366, depending on the lawyer, whether a mortgage is involved, and the complexity and value of the deal.


English, French; Canadian dollar (1 Canadian dollar = $0.79)


The annual taxes on this property are 29,086 Canadian dollars, or about $23,000.

The New York Times