At the risk of generalizing, let’s just agree that tenants, on the whole, wouldn’t treat properties with the same level of care and respect that an actual home owner would. So when we received a call from the owners of a luxury Bay Street condo who told us that three international students were currently living in the property, we didn’t expect to really feel that “luxury” vibe inside the unit. Keep reading to learn how we brought this dated condo with good bones into the contemporary market, and broke sale records.
There aren’t a lot of true 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom condos in the 2,000 square foot range in the downtown core, even though you might think this to be the case. Most units in newer developments are of the small, 1-bedroom variety. The owners’ decision to keep the unit proved to be a good one, and now they were looking to sell the unit and put the money into renovating their family home.
The sellers freely admitted that the unit “hadn’t been updated in some time,” but also noted that they hadn’t checked up on the condo in the two years that the students had been living there.
We set a date to check out the space, and we prepared ourselves accordingly.
The building itself is classic and classy. It’s a throwback to the early-2000s but with features you don’t get in a new condo, like a friendly concierge who knows every single resident’s name, and that of their friends and family. The fact that this unit was located on the top floor allowed us to use the “Penthouse” label, for whatever that may or may not be worth.
The first impression wasn’t great; a scratched front door with a handle that was just about falling off. But once we stepped inside the unit, it got worse. The front foyer featured a few dozen pairs of shoes and walls that looked like they had been beaten with the heel of every shoe in there. The lightbulbs were burned out and there had probably never been an attempt at changing them. The powder room was a biohazard. A full toilet, a sink stained with years’ worth of toothpaste, and a mirror that had never been cleaned.
As bad as the first impression was, each successive impression was worse. The kitchen was so dirty you could almost put your index finger in the air and feel the grease. But in the event that you couldn’t, there was enough grease on every surface to make up for it. The cabinets were scratched and falling off the hinges, the floors were sticky, and every square inch of the counters had something on it.
The rest of the condo was just messy. Dirty, beaten, and abused, but nothing came close to the kitchens and bathrooms. The flooring throughout the condo was scratched and there was obvious water damage in the two areas next to the balcony doors. There were built-in cabinets that took up way too much space—even in a 2,000 square foot condo, and they were dated and worn-out as well.
All told, this space had been neglected for years, and then abused for years thereafter. But the good news was: we could see past all of this! What we saw was a 2,000 square foot condo with 9-foot ceilings, lots of natural light, an exceptional split-bedroom layout, and an over-sized kitchen with an eat-in breakfast area that you’d never find in a condo built today.
We saw potential. We saw a blank canvas, albeit under an inch of kitchen grease, but that canvas was one that we wanted to paint on! The owners had considered simply hiring “extreme cleaners” and then taking the unit to market, but we talked to them about the potential of a small renovation.
Expectations and approach
The unit would be difficult to move in its current condition, so the investment would help sell the unit in a slowing and declining market, but would also add significant value. And we wouldn’t be pushing the listing too far back as the renovation would take no more than two weeks, so long as we planned everything out in advance.
Anybody who has ever completed a renovation on a house or condo knows how often problems arise. Our project wasn’t without issue, but every issue was prepared for and dealt with efficiently and effectively.
The entire unit needed to be painted, as there were some shades of green that didn’t show the space in the best light, but also some damage to the walls and some crown moulding that needed caulking. Once we removed those two massive built-in cabinets, we’d also need to fill the large holes in the walls and paint. There were baseboards and crown moulding missing where the built-ins were located, so those were sourced, replaced, and painted along with the rest of the crown and trim throughout.
We decided to replace all the flooring. It simply couldn’t be saved. But a new style, colour, and texture would help modernize the space, taking us from that yellow-ish wood so synonymous with the late-1990s and early 2000s, and upgrading us to a classy white oak look that’s very popular in 2022.
All of the lighting was replaced; about 20-something fixtures, and older pot-lights were upgraded to LEDs. Nothing fancy, just Rona and Home Depot specials. All of the brass door handles and hinges were replaced with chrome, which also helped modernize the space tremendously.
Both outdoor spaces were dirty, cluttered with debris, and the wooden tiles were rotten. We cleaned up these areas, power-washed them, and installed new deck tiles which were economically sourced from none-other than IKEA.
We replaced the bathroom vanities in all three bathrooms, as all three were damaged and dirty. New hardware was sourced and added an updated look and feel. The rusted “Showgirls” light fixtures were removed and replaced, as were the stick-on builder-grade mirrors that had been in place for two decades. HomeSense to the rescue! The floor tiles remained, but they were re-grouted and cleaned. One toilet was replaced as it was cracked, and that’s a place you do not want to experience a catastrophic failure during use!
In the kitchen, we really went to work. The kitchen wasn’t fully open concept, but rather featured a “short order chef” window that looked through to the living space. We removed a section of cabinets that helped to open this up and substantially changed the relationship between the kitchen and entertaining space. The cabinets were sanded and painted. The countertops were replaced, as was the backsplash. All of the kitchen appliances were disposed of. You simply cannot comprehend just how over-used, damaged, and greasy the fridge, stove, microwave, and dishwasher were! We got great deals on the kitchen appliances and actually came in under budget on the kitchen overall.
The renovation was finished on time; just before 5:00pm on a Friday, which enabled us to go ahead with cleaning on Saturday, staging on Monday, photos and video on Tuesday, and get to the market on Wednesday as planned.
To date, no property in this building had ever cracked the $1,400,000 mark.
So when we sold this condo for $1,550,000, we knew that the pre-listing renovation not only helped us to get buyers through the door, and offers on paper, but to achieve a level of success that had never been achieved before.
Renovating a house has its logistical challenges but renovating a condo can be an absolute nightmare. Coordinating the delivery of materials or appliances in “windows” of time, while trying to book a moving elevator—which can only be used on certain days, at certain times, isn’t easy. But we worked cohesively as a team and were able to ensure we never missed a delivery or had a tradesperson on site without a job to do. Intense preparation proved again to be the key to a smooth process and final sale that exceeded expectations.
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