With demand staying strong and inventory low in the new home and resale markets, Toronto home prices show no sign of slowing down in 2017. With that in mind, we chatted with a happy tenant, Charlotte, a mother of one who lives with her partner in a house in The Junction.
Charlotte is a part-time server and office administrator, her partner Frank is an electrician, and Marissa is in senior kindergarten (names changed for privacy). They rent a house and have no intention of buying in Toronto. We asked them about this and why they love renting!
Newinhomes (NIH): How did you decide between renting a house or a condo?
Charlotte: We rented an apartment above a storefront for a long time and decided our next place had to be a main floor walkout or have a porch because we missed being able to sit outside in the summer. I was also starting a home daycare at the time and wanted a backyard for the kids to play in. I’m an avid gardener so green space was important. Neither of us have ever wanted to live in a condo. Maybe the only draw for me is the security of living in a building with people all around and a secured entry system, but other than that we weren’t interested in them at all.
We have several friends that live in the condos at Keele and Dundas and no matter how long they’ve been living there and how lived-in their place is, I can’t shake the feeling that it feels like a hotel. And there are so many restrictions! They can’t open all the windows in their units (thanks to the rubber factory), they have to have a certain type of curtains so the building looks uniform, can’t hang Christmas lights on the balcony, can’t BBQ etc. I also hate heights!
Renting a house with a kid is great. Marissa is old enough now to play outside in the backyard while I watch from the kitchen. She has a love of nature and gardening that comes from spending time outside in the garden with me, I think she gets more fresh air in a house than she would in a condo.
NIH: Do you find you use all the space?
Charlotte: When I had the daycare, yes. We used the basement as the space for the kids, but once that was done it was wasted space. We live in a fairly small house, three bedrooms upstairs and the third one rarely gets used except for storage. As a family of three and no plans to add to that number, we just don’t need much space. We gave up the basement in December so the landlords could make it a separate apartment. Not loving the idea of someone living right underneath us, but this way our rent is lower and we don’t have to move. I looked at one point for a two-bedroom rental in the Junction near High Park and couldn’t find anything with a porch or yard for under $2,500 + utilities/month
NIH: What do you like most about your neighbourhood?
Charlotte: We’ve lived in the Junction for almost 10 years now and love it. There is so much so close by, but it still maintains a kind of small town feeling. There is such a strong community of families and amazing events that are organized – park parties, pop-up art camps, Junction Festivals, Farmer’s Market, Christmas Market…Something is always going on – family-friendly or otherwise. There are restaurants, bars, live music, coffee shops, libraries…we just love it. The schools are good, the people are (mostly) down-to-earth and easy going. Crime is fairly low too. The Junction has such a lovely, safe, friendly vibe to it.
NIH: What would you say is the biggest downside to renting?
Charlotte: My only fear with renting is that our landlords could turn to us one day and say they need the house for their kids/a family member. They have two kids approaching the end of high school and if they ever wanted to live in the city for post-secondary I worry that our house would be where they would put them. Other than that, nothing really. Our landlords are pretty great about fixing things when needed or replacing appliances. Sometimes we have to remind them, but not often. One other downside is that there are things we want to do (paint, small renos, changing fixtures), but it sucks to put money and our time into a rental that we likely will leave one day. So even though the house is “home,” it’s not entirely ours.
NIH: What’s the biggest perk?
Charlotte: We pay rent and that’s it! Our roof started leaking three years ago, landlords fixed it. The porch needed to be replaced, they paid. We always offer to organize booking repairs or maintenance stuff, but they always pay for it. I love not worrying about major expenses like that. Or property taxes!
NIH: Are you saving to buy? Why or why not?
Charlotte: We want a house, but the prices in the Junction are insane. So right now no, we aren’t actively saving. Unless we won the lottery, there is just no way we could buy. It’s depressing to think about so we save for other things – vacations etc. Even if we could scrape together the down payment for a house I’m not sure we could afford the taxes, utilities, mortgage etc. And then if the furnace broke down or the hot water tank needed replacing…I suppose it would be better to save something, rather than nothing, but when houses are going for $800,000 to $1 million, it feels pointless.
We have talked about living in the country, where we could possibly afford a house, but it doesn’t appeal to either of us. Being city dwellers, neither of us knows how to drive so living in the ‘burbs would be a pain without a car. The car would just be another expense we would have to make room for if we bought a house outside of Toronto.
NIH: If you were to buy, where would it be and what kind of home would you want?
Charlotte: We would love to be close to High Park, so either the Junction or Roncesvalles (I grew up in Roncies). I would love a house with a big front porch, big front garden and backyard, close to a school and grocery store. We don’t want a huge house. Three bedrooms max, doesn’t matter about a finished basement or not. I do love big old homes like you find off of Roncesvalles. I love hardwood, wood detail, lots of windows and light, but these houses can be money pits and we just wouldn’t use the space. Ideally a small bungalow or two-storey house that isn’t too modern – brick all the way! No stucco or exterior panelling! And a quiet street with lots of side streets to wander up and down.
Thank you Charlotte for taking the time to chat with us about renting your beautiful home in The Junction!