130-year-old mansion listed for $1 in Toronto

[450 Pape Avenue is a 130-year-old building listed for just $1. / Century 21]

Let the bidding war for this mansion in Toronto’s Riverdale neighbourhood starts at… $1?

That’s right, in a city where the average price of a home in February was $589,000 according to the Canadian Real Estate Association; this 25,000-square foot heritage property is listed for $1.

“We’re just putting it out there and seeing what potential it has,” real estate agent Matthew Pringle told Metro News. “There’s no point putting a certain number on it because for some people it will be overpriced and for some it will be a steal.”

Originally built in the 1880s, the Salvation Army purchased 450 Pape Avenue in 1930 and used it as a home for single mothers. The city gave the building heritage designation in 2010 and toyed with the idea of buying it to convert into affordable housing but the plan was ultimately shelved by then-mayor Rob Ford.

The Salvation Army sold it privately in 2011 for $1.7 million.

Pringle said the property’s current owners bought it two years ago with plans to develop a 28-unit condominium adding that the latest listing is a ploy to draw out any “grander visions”.

But Melanie Piche and Brendan Powell lead brokers with the BREL Team, a part of Sage Real Estate, say it’s likely more about media coverage and drawing out developers.

“They tried to sell it in the residential side a couple years ago and it didn’t work,” Piche. “They were listed around $4 million – they were on the market for 60 days and didn’t sell (so) here’s a new opportunity in a very different market.”

Listing at $1 takes an auction approach, explains Powell.

“In Canada, the average residential buyer doesn’t know what to do with something that’s listed in a traditional auction style,” he says. “But I think the institutional and commercial buyers, the developers, they have their own equation to figure out exactly what something is worth.”

Developers will take into account what they could fit, any stipulations about the land, costs to build, what it would go for, etc… and work back from there.

“I think the developers won’t be confused by a price of a dollar whereas a buyer, your average Joe like you and me who wants to buy a house… will actually be kind of paralyzed,” he says.

The property isn’t the first to list in Toronto for $1. There are currently nine MLS listings for $1 throughout the GTA.

“It doesn’t always work, we’ve seen the strategy fail a couple times in the last few years but it’s certainly a way to get some attention,” says Piche. “One listed at a dollar sold for $500,000 and another sold for (more than) a million – the other six didn’t sell.”

While the only hint to the potential price on the MLS listing is a tax bill around $35,000, Piche and Powell estimate it to be worth around $4 to $5 million.

“It really depends on the end use,” says Piche. “It’s a big piece of land in a great location.”

And it’s a heritage building, adds Powell.

“If it is a designated heritage property, you can’t tear it down or change anything on the exterior,” he says. “I hope whoever buys it keeps the character and turns it into something cool.”