A painting of me

An Open House

   19 October 2014, early evening

An open house sign

“Hey! Can you guys sign in?”

Who is this dude barking at us? Of course I know. My cousin and I have walked into an open house. It’s a surprisingly cavernous detached home near Bloor and Dufferin. I could imagine it being quite nice—in some alternate timeline. In this one it was probably a former rooming house. It’s listed at 1.25 million dollars.

The housing market has moved beyond rhyme or reason. My cousin narrates tale after tale of being out bid on places he already can’t afford. Houses in our neighbourhood now regularly sell for $100,000 over their asking price. That’s walking around money. Now, I like where we live, but our neighbourhood isn’t $100K-over-asking nice by any stretch of the imagination. These stories play out across the whole city.

This house is full of sad ancient furniture. Remnants from its past life. I’ve seen houses in worse shape, which may sound like faint praise because it is. At least this house is relatively clean. My cousin has seen houses where the sellers haven’t even bothered tidying up. Why waste their time? They know the house will sell for more than they want anyway. The desperation of home buyers is palpable. Agents are emboldened.

Who can afford to live in this city? I could never dream of buying my busted-ass house now. It’s price has moved beyond me. That’s some sort of wealth, I suppose. Not the useful kind, but it’s something.

We walk through the house and leave. The agent makes no effort to talk to us. I am sure he is well aware we are just touring this dump. We probably didn’t look worn down enough when we walked in.



  1. That guy spoke at us in the most rude, obnoxious and condescending way imaginable. The real estate agent who was trying to SELL that house! It’s amazing. It reminded me of another open house I went to recently where the selling agent was idly flipping through a magazine and answered all of my questions with a shrug and an “I dunno”. That house sold for like a hundred over asking after a bidding war.

    Is there any other market like this? I think it speaks to the fact that housing is a basic need and that sellers and agents know that they have buyers by the balls in an absurdly tight market. But what happens when only very rich people can buy a place? I guess we’ll find out soon.

    Class struggle, peoples!

  2. Class struggle, peoples!

    I saw a movie about that recently.

    I’m also curious to see how the dynamic of the city changes. At some point things have to break. It’s not like the suburbs are cheaper. Neighbourhoods throughout the city are expensive. Houses are expensive in Markham, Richmond Hill, Mississauga, Oakville, etc.

  3. I also went looking at real estate this weekend, for fun, not for realz. My sis and I looked at some of the more affordable apartments, 350 square feet with two “bedrooms”. Asking price: $6Mil HKD (that’s about $850k CDN).

    Housing is a basic need and I would imagine the deprivation of that necessity makes up some of the sustaining force behind the occupy movement. Of course, electoral reform remains the key driving force. But on the 30th day of the Occupy movement, I think something more concrete, like a basic frustration with the inequities in Hong Kong’s everyday life is what keeps people on the street.

    Decades of skewed government policies with tight grip on the developable land supply plus a monopoly over the development industry mean that even I, a high income earner, can’t afford to move out.

    All of a sudden living in a tent in the middle of a four-lane highway makes so much more sense.

    So I will continue to live at home and continue my hour long commute into the city.

  4. So I will continue to live at home and continue my hour long commute into the city.

    That’s not the take away here. You need to rise up against the machine!

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