Bilal & Jenn: From Starter Condo to Dream Home

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posted by Allyson Scott

In 2011, our client Bilal was in his 20s with a great job at Facebook, and he decided it was time to gain a foothold in the Toronto real estate market. He was looking at the CityPlace neighbourhood downtown, and chose a brand new 1-bedroom suite at 15 Iceboat Terrace with as many upgrades as he could afford.

“I walked into a local office, and met my mortgage broker, Steve DeRee. He was really helpful in explaining everything to me, and made the whole process seamless!” Bilal said.

With a little assistance from his dad for the down payment, Bilal paid $327,500 for his 468 sq ft unit in one of the Parade towers – the two iconic buildings connected by the Skybridge, which offer killer amenities for residents. CityPlace is a relatively affordable, vibrant community with a variety of condo buildings, green space, entertainment and dining options, and access to both transit and the Gardiner.

Parade condos at Concord CityPlace (image © Toronto MLS®)

Bilal’s CityPlace condo living room  © Allyson Scott

Bilal had a very aggressive financial plan in mind for himself. “In the Iraqi culture, paying interest is really frowned upon, so I wanted to pay off the mortgage as fast as I possibly could. It took a lot of sacrifice, and I ate a LOT of Chef Boyardee, but I was mortgage-free in 7.5 years!” Bilal said with pride.

Three years ago, Bilal met Jenn at a party. Perhaps it was partly because both of them work in social media marketing for IT companies, but they really hit it off! Before long, Jenn relocated from Montreal to join Bilal in his small condo…and they realized that they needed more space. “I decided to buy a new place before listing my condo, because I have pretty specific taste,” Bilal laughed. “I wanted new, modern, open, and bright.” “No projects!” added Jenn.

Bilal contacted listing agents directly for several properties, and was shocked at the lack of response he received. When he found a stunning property in Mississauga in January, he reviewed the financials with his mortgage broker Steve, and lamented his experiences with Realtors. “Oh, you need to call Jody,” Steve said (thanks again for the referral, Steve!), and sang our praises.

The home in Mississauga that caught Bilal’s eye (photo © Toronto MLS®)

Bilal gave Jody a shout, and they had coffee the very next day to discuss the market, his needs, and this particular home. Jody booked a showing for he and Jenn, and helped them review the comparable sales and evaluate the property. It was a brand new house built with quality workmanship and finishes, and included some high-tech smart home features as an added bonus. Everyone agreed that it was worth the $1,399,000 asking price, and that it ticked all the boxes for Bilal and Jenn. “We took our time, and sat on it for over a week before we decided to put in the offer,” Jenn said.

Living room and custom staircase (photo © Toronto MLS®)

Because the universe has such a wild sense of humour, when they finally moved forward with submitting an offer on February 5, someone else did the same thing, and they found themselves in competition.  To further complicate matters, the sellers were boarding an overseas flight (remember those days?), and we had a hard-stop timeline for negotiations that night.

The back and forth with changing of terms continued until midnight, when we finally heard we’d sealed the deal – for sixteen thousand dollars under asking! Bilal and Jenn would have a new home by the end of April! Who could imagine what was to come…

As soon as the new purchase was secured, they began to prepare the condo for sale in less than two weeks. Jenn was a critical part of the decluttering and staging process, which helped make the photo and marketing process run smoothly. We decided to put it on the market for one week at $499,900 with an offer date. “I thought that was such a dumb idea, and that we wouldn’t get the number I needed, but I trusted Jody,” Bilal said. We had well over 100 showings in one week, so poor Bilal and Jenn had to practically live at their Crossfit gym!

Offer night was February 24, and we all gathered at our brokerage office to streamline the process. A total of 15 offers were presented both in person and via e-mail, which we narrowed down to the top few to work with. As we waited for improvements, Bilal wrote our names in Arabic on the whiteboard, which we thought looked like incredibly beautiful art!

Our names in Arabic, courtesy of Bilal

After a busy evening of negotiations, we’re proud to say that we set a new record price for the building of $1,315 per square foot ($615,000)!

Just a couple of weeks later, the world changed and our city went on lockdown. Luckily, both Bilal and Jenn remained employed, but Bilal said they would have been able to close in April regardless. “We had a worst-case plan with contingencies – there was no way we were losing this house!”

You can see why they felt that way!

Custom kitchen with waterfall stone island and skylight © Allyson Scott

Walk-in closet with organizers and skylight © Allyson Scott

Bilal and Jenn on their upper deck with multiple walkouts and privacy railing © Allyson Scott

Private fenced yard complete with hot tub © Toronto MLS®

“Buying a house was way more complex than buying a condo,” Bilal said. “There was more to think about and to do, and we needed to find other professionals like a lawyer, and insurance agent, and contractor for the basement flooring.”

“We didn’t have to stress about finding them,” added Jenn. “Jody was able to give us all of those referrals, and every one of them worked out great!”

Bilal’s smile lit up his face. “You guys are a one-stop shop! We really liked that all of the marketing photos, virtual tour, and referrals came as a package deal, because I’ve got friends that had to pay extra for things, and didn’t have as great an experience!”

Their basement rec room has a new floor thanks to our fabulous contractor and friend Jason Deschamps, and they have turned their garage into their own Crossfit workout space.

These two are ready to live their new life to the fullest, and we couldn’t be happier for them! Congratulations – and hope you enjoy the Chef Boyardee we included with your closing gift for old times’ sake!

Jenn and Bilal in their home Crossfit gym. © Allyson Scott

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