Local Real Estate Professionals Weigh in with their 2015 Community Outlook

By Duncan McAllister

As we head into real estate’s busiest time of year, we take a look at four unique neighbourhoods in the West Village, each with their own special offerings and characteristics. Some of the area’s top tier real estate teams, local specialists within their respective neighbourhoods, give expert opinions on the market this year and two things keep popping up.

First of all, the year is shaping up to be a busy one for buying and selling real estate, with early indications of growth that’s bound to outpace last year’s sales. Almost all our sales representatives say that demand is high for single family homes due to a citywide lack of inventory, often resulting in multiple offers and bidding wars.

David Batori is a sales representative with RE/MAX whose specialty is Forest Hill North. Although a part of midtown, Batori considers Eglinton to be downtown because it’s so close to the city core while still maintaining a suburban feel.

His clients represent a broad mix, ‘I have a number of first-time buyers that are spending upwards of one million to 1.4 million, which is quite interesting that they’re first-time buyers.’

This is a great place for growing families says Batori—the Upper Village boasts schools that are consistently ranked among the best in the city and province. Batori says, ‘there’s a lot of affluence in Toronto as we know. There’s also a push of a different spectrum of buyers coming into North Toronto from different backgrounds.’

Further south is Forest Hill, one of Toronto’s most affluent areas. Julie Gofman, sales representative with Forest Hill Real Estate, and her husband Roman have been working this grand old neighbourhood of mansions for years. Like others, Roman Gofman is quite optimistic about the housing market this year. ‘I expect it to be as vibrant and as busy as last year. This year is shaping up as busy, if not busier. The homes in the range of four to seven million dollars, they don’t sit on the market for too long, although you won’t see bidding wars and multiple offers on properties in this price range,’ he says.

The area is experiencing a flurry of new development, but not so much in the midrise, multi-unit category. The big trend here is to demolish older homes and build anew. ‘There’s not much you see of renovations any more. They’d just rather build a new one. It’s the land value; lots go for 2.1 million to 2.5 million, just for the land— no house,’ Gofman says.

The Harvey Kalles Realty team of Michael Loewith and Jennifer Greenberg are the leading lights in the neighbourhoods surrounding Hillcrest Village. The couple has lived here for fourteen years and know it well. In what has become Forest Hill’s little sister, the Wychwood Park neighbourhood has grown out of a fairytale and become private artists’ community. It’s an area where multimillion dollar homes are kept within the family and rarely come up for sale. And situated north of St. Clair are the burgeoning communities of Hillcrest Village and Cedarvale. The average home here is about 100 years old. For many years, retired, empty-nesters have held on to these properties or they’ve been divided into rentals, resulting in what Loewith and Greenberg call an end-of-lifespan neighbourhood.

All that is changing now, as the area undergoes an urban renewal with a new generation of young buyers with growing families moving in and staying put. ‘When we moved into the neighborhood, there was a pawn shop on every corner and all the schools were starting to close. Now the schools are packed to the gills with kids,’ says Greenberg. It’s hard not to notice the extent of new development along the stretch of St. Clair from Avenue Road to Oakwood. New condos like Rise by Reserve Properties, is centrally located at Bathurst and St. Clair, with 21 storeys with 283 units. And a new midrise development by the Rockport Group, the Nest Condos is situated on St. Clair at Hendrick Ave., and will feature nine storeys with 122 units. ‘It’s really integrating a lot more housing, a lot more units, with options for single parents, options for single people, young couples and older people looking to move out of the home and go into single-floor living.’

Greenberg says these new projects breathe life into this previously neglected corner of the city. ‘When you get into that new lifecycle again, you see great rejuvenation and then you see things like little independent shops coming in.’ Loewith and Greenberg have a personal connection with the area. ‘We’ve been part of the lifecycle in the neighborhood. We have two children that are seven and nine and I understand the importance of schools and daycare and transportation and services because I’ve just passed through that myself.’

Further down the road towards Bloor Street are the Annex and Casa Loma neighbourhoods, hosting a father and son real estate team, Douglas and Trevor Freeman of Freeman Real Estate. Trevor has been working these neighbourhoods for over a decade and says that people are attracted to the Annex by the allure of owning a Victorian home that’s been renovated to modern standards within close proximity to the city’s core. ‘A lot of the properties are turn-of-the-century that have unbelievable character that you can’t find further north. The properties are being updated but still maintain a lot of their character with stained-glass windows and old fireplaces, the high ceilings with crown moldings,’ says Freeman. ‘I think that buyers are still very motivated. Property prices are consistently going up and appreciating on a yearly basis, but the fact that interest rates continue to fall and the lack of general supply in the neighborhood and the amount of demand, it’s a very healthy neighborhood to invest money into.’

As Greenberg reminds us, buying a house should be fun. ‘Take that joy of starting out as a family and putting down roots. Anyone can find a house. It’s about all the other pieces of the search that are important to a couple.

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