Sarah, Jesse, And The Unicorn Hunter

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Meet Sarah and Jesse.

Sarah works in fundraising for Doctors Without Borders, and Jesse is a lawyer. Several months ago, Sarah moved into the 1-bedroom apartment on Ossington that Jesse had rented since 2011. “It was a nice apartment,” she said, “but not really suitable for entertaining – we could only fit about four people comfortably! There was also no space for us to do separate activities, like if one of us wanted to watch t.v. and the other wanted to read. We just needed more room.”

They started looking at listings online, and went to a few open houses in the fall, thinking that their house search would take about six months. “Then we started to see what was happening in the market, with all the multiple offers. We were afraid of being priced out,” Jesse said.

Mutual friends had recently purchased a home through Jody, and said she “actually made the stressful process fun” for them. Sarah and Jesse met with Jody, and together they hit the house search hard, going out on appointments every time some new appropriate listings became available. They also quickly became experts at the offer process, bidding on several homes, but always losing out to other offers.

One property that caught their eye was this beautifully renovated Victorian semi in South Riverdale. Listed at $899,000, they knew it would probably go for more than they wanted to spend, but they offered well over asking and hoped for the best.

photo from Toronto MLS® system

photo from Toronto MLS® system

The winning bid came in even higher than everyone expected, and the search continued.

From the beginning, Jesse said their preference would be to stay in the Bloor/Ossington area, but they were fairly certain it would be financially out of reach. They looked at a lot of fixer-uppers in the east end, but most of them suffered from the same fatal flaw: a basement ceiling too low to accommodate Jesse’s 6’3″ height.

When a house just a stone’s throw from their current apartment was listed in early February at $899,000, they were certain it would spark the same frenzy of bids as the Riverdale one they’d just lost. Feeling stung by the experience, they decided not to bid. To everyone’s surprise, the offer date passed with no registered offers. Sarah scrambled to get away from work at lunch time the following day, and viewed the property with Jody.

“I thought there had to be something really wrong with it, but there wasn’t. We kept expecting to find a catch, like the time Jesse put a water bottle on the floor of a house and it rolled into another room…instead, it checked all the boxes.”

The semi-detached house had 3+1 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, an upper and lower deck, and although it was renovated, still maintained a lot of character with details like exposed brick walls.

Sarah & Jesse’s new house © Allyson Scott

photo from Toronto MLS® system

photo from Toronto MLS® system

Knowing there were at least two other showings booked later that afternoon, Jesse and Sarah wanted to act quickly and get an offer in on the house – despite the fact that Jesse had not actually seen it in person! They made a firm offer to make it as attractive to the seller as possible, since the seller’s expectations had clearly not been met the night before. Within hours the house was theirs, and just over a month later, they had the keys.

With the previous owner’s dark furniture out of the way and a fresh coat of lighter paint on the walls, the rooms were even larger than they realized. They even managed to refinish some some dark cabinets left by the owners, avoiding the anticipated expense of IKEA wardrobes.

Master bedroom, photo from Toronto MLS® system

Sarah & Jesse in the repainted master bedroom with repurposed wardrobes © Allyson Scott

The ability to see potential, and look beyond surface things like paint colours and furnishings that can be changed/removed is critical in a house hunt.

When summer comes, this couple’s fully fenced back yard will be surrounded by the green of mature trees, and they’ve got room to put in a substantial garden while still enjoying their huge deck. Jesse also has plans to turn that fully-serviced garden shed into an amazing man cave (and remove the metal cross from the roof!).

Sarah & Jesse’s back yard © Allyson Scott

It’s been said that finding your house in this market is a little like finding a unicorn, and for that you need the best unicorn hunter around – Jody McDonnell!

Jesse & Sarah at their new home © Allyson Scott

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