Matt Vaile became a young homeowner almost by accident. The Shopify art director had been renting his one-bedroom east end condo for just under four years, when his landlord gave notice that they would be selling the property. He was faced with a choice: Buy it privately at a fair market price or move out and find another rental.
“The last time I had signed a lease was four years before and I knew the rental market had gone insane,” says Vaile. According to condo research firm Urbanation, rental prices surged in 2018 more than they had in eight years, jumping 9.3 percent in just twelve months and bringing the average price of a one-bedroom condo up to a staggering $2,309 a month.
On the ownership side, the condo market has continued on a tear. The average price of a one-bedroom condo was $603,527 in the second quarter of 2018, which rose 5.9 percent to $639,316 in Q2 of 2019, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board’s Condo Market Report.
Vaile decided to buy. “My goal was homeownership, but I didn’t know how realistic it was to own in Toronto,” he says. “At the time, my job was half-based in Waterloo, so I was kind of looking there but I wasn’t ready to leave the city.”
A combination of clever saving, a stowed-away inheritance and a little price negotiation helped Vaile take the leap. “It’s the most adult thing I’ve ever done but the sale was pretty simple once I initiated it.”
The rental was Vaile’s first experience living alone and he selected the 690-square-foot unit because the features and finishes already aligned with his tastes. Plus, he loved the extra 100 square feet that the north-facing balcony provided, and he’s since transformed it into his own private oasis.
“The unit was the perfect blank canvas to create my own space,” he says. Over the years, he’s decked it out with restored furniture, antiques reminiscent of cottage living, and framed menus from cocktail bars he’s collected around the world. A common adage at Shopify is to ‘act like an owner.’ It seems Vaile treated his rental the same way — since he bought the place, he hasn’t had to make any updates to improve the interior.
Plus, Leslieville is home. “I’ve had the opportunity to grow up with the neighbourhood. When I moved in, I was in university and now I feel like a full-on adult. The neighbourhood feels like my home. I’ve supported the businesses, I know the people behind them and I feel like I’m part of it,” he says.