Trying to Leave Toronto

Even before my former house had closed, I was looking at Realtor.ca.

Staying in Toronto was not a reasonable economic option. If I went to back to school for a 4 year program and graduated with a new lucrative career, that would be least $ 72,000 in rent alone –  if I stayed put and the new owner didn’t raise the rent, or evict me so the unit could be renovated. A modest condo in a so-so location would cost more than I had to spend – before the condo fees.

I had also grown to sort of loathe the city. I couldn’t find the space to be away from people. I could hear them upstairs, I could hear the salon music downstairs, I could hear their cars and wretched music through the windows. Even when I went to the laundromat at 10:00 p.m. (it was open until 1:00 a.m. — and just across the street) there was always someone around. There was a high school across the street. I blamed all the teenage germs and viruses on the local streetcar for making me sick all the time in that apartment.

I saw a few great prospective houses and buildings come and go, while I was waiting for my funds. A friend drove me all over Hamilton, to look around. It seemed like a possibility.

One of the houses was a run down house from the 1850’s that needed so much work. It sounded like the last family member that lived there had some hoarding issues. Because I was waiting on my funds, I didn’t go to look at it. This liar bought it, and claimed a family member would be living in it. This person had a little pressure from the local heritage group. I was appalled when it reappeared on the market, with the exterior somewhat preserved, less than a year later. Inside it looked like a Home Depot showroom. All traces of the house it had been were gone, thanks to this shoddy flipper.

My realtor was the daughter of the realtor that sold my ex and I the house. She was supremely patient about showing me the worst dumps.

In the time between the house was sold, and I received my proceeds, house sales in Hamilton had gone crazy. Everyone who had been pushed out of Toronto was now feasting on Hamilton. What could have been bought for $ 125,000 in late 2015 was now over $ 200,000, with bidding wars. I looked at Realtor.ca twice a day.  I saw listings go up at 10:00 p.m. and by the time my realtor contacted the agent the next morning to schedule a viewing the property was sold.

We did make a couple of Hamilton expeditions and it was traumatic. One of the houses said it needed work in the description, but when we got there discovered that there had been a major fire and it was gutted to the studs inside. One had a crazy seller who wouldn’t let prospective buyers inside for viewings, and also had fire damage. One had a couple of tenants who both resembled Jabba the Hut, sitting in two dark rooms, side by side, on their independent computers, with messy chaos all around. Viewings were much more uncomfortable with the residents there. One had a missing lockbox so we couldn’t get inside. Next door these two little tough kids were sizing up up. They were just standing around in their yard in their bathing suits, with no parents around, asking strangers questions.

One house that looked promising had a realtor that told all prospective viewers to bring a dust mask, and advised that there were still cats living in the house. An elderly woman had been living there until she couldn’t anymore, and the family was selling the estate. The house had been cleaned up the best they could, which wasn’t very clean. I brought a can of cat food and some cat treats with me. I imagined the cats were probably pretty stressed out in there alone, with strangers coming through. I also brought extra shoes, in case the house was Hoarders level bad.

The house smelt like neglected cat boxes, old blankets, dust and despair. The cats were shy for a moment, but when they realized I was friendly stayed close by us. One of the cats was a love starved dilute calico, who was so happy to get pet. She had a funny, bony bump on her jaw, and I guessed she had bone cancer there. I noticed she was walking oddly, so I picked her up to look at her feet. All the claws on her front feet had grown so long they were embedded in her footpads, which would be so incredibly painful.

The kitchen was still filthy. Even the cat dishes were half empty with cloudy water that hadn’t been changed for days, and layers of old, old food. I washed their dishes and gave them clean water and a can of food. My realtor had a Swiss army knife, so I used the little scissors to trim the terrible claws and pull them out of her footpads. Her feet would be tender for a couple of days, but not as sore as they had been for MONTHS.

The house had many of the things I was looking for. It was an early 20th century house that still retained the original mouldings, plaster ceiling medallions, original windows and exterior details. Almost every room had a gruesomely overflowing cat box, that had not been cleaned for months, which one or all of the cats had been peeing beside. The house needed a new roof, new wiring, new plumbing, exterior repairs, new kitchen, new bathroom, new furnace, new flooring and extensive work to seal in all the bad pee smells, before any occupancy could begin. It did have a mature tree – exceptional for Hamilton.

I turned myself in knots trying to make this house situation reasonable. Maybe the seller would be willing to sell it to me at a lower price if I agreed to adopt and care for the three cats that were there ? I knew the family had removed other cats from the house, and there was a very panicked feral tortie in the backyard. I estimated that basic thorough repairs would cost at least $ 100,000. It was listed for $ 199,000. I chose to walk away and not jump into the frey. It sold for $ 370,000. I’ll bet some Toronto buyer felt incredibly lucky to get this semi, after having their dreams utterly crushed in the Toronto real estate market. To get a house like this in Toronto, even in this condition, would have cost at least $ 750,000 at that point in time.

I contacted a couple of Hamilton cat rescues and gave them the house address. I suppose the family was probably just dumping the cats at the local shelter. The elderly lovebug would have no chance, and would probably just be euthanized upon intake, due to her condition. I don’t know what happened with those cats and it bothers me to this day.

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