Real. Estate.

Back on New Year’s Day – the first time I pledged to blog more often – I created a document about what I wanted to write about for the coming year. I cleverly named this document Random Ideas and Possibilities, then promptly forgot about it. Digging around in my Google Drive the other night unearthed it, and I can honestly say there are some excellent points. Good job, slightly hungover me! One line that made me laugh out loud, which I had completely forgotten I had written was this: Stay away from the dead parent posts. It’s been done, move on, no one cares.

Now this isn’t to suggest that no one actually cares about my dead parents, obviously, it was more a reminder to me that there are other topics out there, and for my own sake I should probably move on. I tend to dwell. And to be fair, there is a lot of processing that goes into losing one then both parents, and if you like to write, that processing might take place on the page. And it might continue to take place on the page, 5, 6, even 10 years later. And maybe that processing ultimately turns into my book! Aha, more incentive to take it outside. Or at least off the blog.

So dead parents are, for the moment, off the table. Instead, I would like to talk to you today about real estate. Specifically the batshit housing market in my city, and in particular in my neighbourhood.

There is a house on the street perpendicular to ours that is for sale. This in itself is kind of unusual, our neighbourhood is not known for high turnover rates. It is one of those “sought after” neighbourhoods that real estate people like to talk about. Close to schools, shopping, etc. And it is. And it’s nice. It’s fine. It’s a fine neighbourhood.

We bought our house in 1999 and paid the astronomical-at-the-time amount of $169,000. Granted, things change, and this isn’t to say that housing prices will always be at that level, but for quite a few years, they definitely were. About ten years ago that all started to change, when we began seeing houses like ours in the 300s and sometimes even the 400s. We used to laugh “haha we can’t even afford to live in our own neighbourhood anymore!” But wait. There’s more.

The house I mentioned that is for sale? It’s a 1.5 storey house, lovely from the outside, and nicely done inside. Three bedrooms, one bathroom. Nice yard. It’s listing price is $629,900. And, chances are, it will go for considerably more than that, this seems to be the norm in this city right now. Recently, I heard about a similar house selling for over $850,000.

I can’t. I mean. That is a LOT of money for a wee house. And yes, Toronto is much worse as far as real estate prices, and so is Vancouver, but we are talking about Hamilton, here. Great city, yes. But still. Wow.

It’s location, I get that. It’s proximity to the 403, the gateway to Toronto and beyond, and I get that too. But now – for absolute real – my family could not afford to live in this neighbourhood, should we be in different circumstances, looking to buy our first, or even our second house.

They say the bubble will burst, and that there are plans to cool the jets of this skyrocketing housing market. But what then? I don’t pretend to have answers, economics, etc. is not my bag, but I can’t imagine, in the current situation, ever recommending home ownership to anyone. A nearly one million dollar mortgage seems terrifying to me, although I get that I am coming at this from the sheer privilege of having purchased a home in a completely different housing market, a completely different time in the life of my city too.

So these houses that are selling for three quarters of a million dollars or more, where are their people going? As I mentioned, there hasn’t historically been a lot of turnover in the neighbourhood. People like it here and they tend to stay. So perhaps these are older people moving into apartments or condos. Or maybe they are empty nesters who realize the house is too big, and want to downsize. Or maybe they are thinking what I’m thinking, which is take the money and RUN. Take your near-millions, and buy something in the north or east end, where housing prices are still (mostly) normal. Or what I still think of as normal.

Six years ago I had to sell my family home. I grew up in an area that isn’t, and has never been, “sought after,” but the houses on my street are lovely. At the time I remember having a figure in my head about what it could probably sell for, recognizing even then that I was probably blinded by childhood memories, and isn’t your childhood home priceless? So I tried to be fairly conservative in my estimate. But still, it’s a 1.5 storey, 3-bedroom, 1.5 bath, with a gorgeous landscaped yard, finished basement…you get the picture. The agent listed the house for just over $100,000 and I was devastated. Surely it was worth more than that? “It’s just…this…” he said, gesturing in the general direction of Barton Street. It turns out that not all neighbourhoods are created equal.

I wondered, at the time, how much more it would have been worth, had we been able to pick it up and transport it to the neighbourhood where I currently live. And now that 1.5 storey homes seem to be worth close to a million dollars, I guess I have my answer.




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