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How this Leaside family’s reno plans pivoted for an unexpected addition





Melissa and Brian Finley had a perfect plan.

With two rambunctious little boys, they were outgrowing their semi-detached, three-bedroom with the tight galley kitchen and short basement. The couple debated moving to a bigger house, but in the 2016 real estate bubble, that would have meant forking over upwards of $2 million to stay in their beloved Leaside neighbourhood.

NOW: Melissa and Brian Finley with sons Emmitt, 5, Paxton 3, and Camden, 7 months, in their renovated, open-concept kitchen. “I love it,” says Melissa.
NOW: Melissa and Brian Finley with sons Emmitt, 5, Paxton 3, and Camden, 7 months, in their renovated, open-concept kitchen. “I love it,” says Melissa.  (Moe Doiron / Toronto Star)

Renovating was the only logical choice. Working with 3 Stones Custom Homes, they designed a new layout that would add 800 square feet to the main and second floors, and dig out the basement so the marathon mini-sticks tournaments could continue as their sons grew up.

Melissa, 33, who works in marketing at OLG, was especially thrilled to imagine the master bedroom of her dreams, including a spacious ensuite bathroom and huge walk-in closet featuring an island and a laundry room. They hired designer Andi Wheelband, co-owner of Two Birds Design to help get all the details right.

After much consultation, plans were drawn up. Contractor Rovimat Group Inc. was on deck. All that was left was to apply for the building permits and get started.

Then the family got some unexpected, but happy, news: Melissa was pregnant. “All of a sudden we had to decide whether to leave the plans as-is, and have two boys bunk together, or put in a fourth bedroom.”

Melissa and Brian, 37, a detective with York Regional Police, chose to go back to the drawing board — literally — to squeeze in a nursery. Melissa credits designer Wheelband for making it work without sacrificing the elements she wanted. The island in the closet was scrapped, the laundry room became a closet in the hallway with a stackable washer and dryer and the ensuite bathroom became more compact but still features a tub, shower with bench, large window and two sinks.

Today, they have a master closet that’s not far off from what Melissa imagined and 7-month-old Camden slumbers under a skylight in his very own bedroom next door. (The room abuts the shared wall and the master closet, so there was no option for a window.) Brothers Emmitt, 5, and Paxton, 3, each have their own rooms facing the front of the house and a three-piece bathroom at the top of the stairs is designed for the boys to share.

Downstairs, Melissa worked closely with Wheelband to create a spacious and functional main floor. The original house positioned the living room at the front of the home and the galley kitchen with a cut-out to a dining room just behind it.

With the expansion at the back of the home, they were able to create a generous living room with plenty of seating and a wall of windows that flood the open space with natural light. A powder room and wide mud room is adjacent to the back door, allowing for an out-of-the-way place to hide hockey bags and outerwear. It also serves as the entrance to the unfinished basement play space/guest suite.

At the front of the house, a formal dining room seats eight and boasts an electric fireplace at table-level for added ambience, a wine fridge and bar.

But the real showstopper on the main floor is the kitchen, which sits between the living and dining rooms. Flanked by two pathways and custom white Shaker cabinetry, a massive four-by-9-1/2-foot quartz island with Blanco Silgranit sink takes centre stage. It’s where the boys eat their meals and guests socialize. “When we were designing, I knew I wanted the kitchen to be central. We entertain a lot and people tend to migrate here,” says Melissa. “I love it.”

Wheelband worked with Impressions Kitchens to create a classic space that’s dressed up with cladding and brass elements. The appliance triangle dominates one side of the island while the other acts as a buffet and is set off by the original brick wall.

“We worked to maximize space as much as possible with deep and shallow cabinets and drawers. We even tucked some below the overhang in the island,” said Wheelband.

Melissa considers the $40,000 for the kitchen and dining room money well-spent, and chose to draw the eye to the island with three pendant lights from Crate & Barrel, which came in at $700 each.

She was inspired to undertake her own DIY design project late in pregnancy, creating a custom media console for the living room by adding doors, baskets and cupboards to two Ikea Kallax bookshelves and resting them horizontally. She finished them with brass hardware from Amazon and Greek-style decals from Etsy shop O’verlays.

“When I came in to see the renovation in progress, I realized how long and bare that living room wall would have been. I wanted a white media console, which is hard to find, and I couldn’t find one long enough,” she said.

After the initial planning hiccup, the renovation began in October 2017 and finished in April 2018, just ahead of the birth of Camden. The family lived in a rental down the street during the six months of construction.

The pregnancy added some urgency to the operation, but Melissa says they were pleasantly surprised by how smoothly construction went. “People told me horror stories of renovations in older homes, but we had no major issues. The only unexpected thing was that we had to run new beams. It put us a month behind, but it was fine.”

Sometimes the best-laid plans get even better endings.


$670,000: Price the Finleys paid for their house in 2009

$400,000: Cost of renovation

1,200 sq. ft.: Original 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom semi-detached home

2,000 sq. ft.: Size of new main and second floors, with four bedrooms and four bathrooms


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Victoria real estate agent disciplined for false advertising, encouraging cash deal to avoid taxes





A Victoria real estate agent is facing $9,000 in fines and a 60-day licence suspension after breaking several professional rules during the sale of her father’s half-million-dollar property, according to a decision by the Real Estate Council of B.C. 

Whitney Garside’s missteps — outlined this week in a disciplinary decision posted on the council’s website — included falsely advertising the property as being almost twice its actual size and advising the buyer they could avoid the property transfer tax if they paid cash directly to the seller.

The property on Burnett Road in Victoria was being sold in 2016 by the real estate agent’s father. That relationship was disclosed and isn’t among the reasons she has been disciplined.

According to the disciplinary consent order, Garside told the buyer — whose name is redacted — that by paying $42,000 cash on the side, the value of the property could be reduced to avoid paying the property transfer tax.

That cash arrangement was not shared with Garside’s brokerage, Re/Max Camosun, a failure that contravened the Real Estate Services Act.

The council also ruled that she “failed to act honestly and with reasonable care and skill” when she advised the buyer the property transfer tax could be avoided by paying cash directly to the seller. 

The council’s discipline committee also found that Garside committed professional misconduct when she failed to recommend the seller and buyer seek independent legal advice, specifically regarding the property transfer tax and the cash agreement.

Another issue the council considered professional misconduct involved the size of the property in question.

The council ruled that Garside published false and misleading advertising and failed to act with reasonable care and skill when the property was advertised as 8,712 square feet, when in fact a portion of the lot belonged to the Ministry of Transportation, and the actual size was just 4,711 square feet.

The discipline committee ordered Garside’s licence be suspended for 60 days, which will be completed Jan. 3, 2021.

She has also been ordered to complete real estate ethics and remedial classes at her own expense.

Garside was also fined $7,500 as a disciplinary penalty and $1,500 in enforcement expenses.

She agreed to waive her right to appeal the council’s discipline committee’s decision in September.

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Frisco apartment community sells to Canadian investor





A Canada-based investor has purchased a Frisco apartment community as part of a larger Texas deal.

The 330-unit Satori Frisco apartments opened last year on Research Road in Frisco.

BSR Real Estate Investment Trust bought the four-story rental community that was built by Atlanta-based Davis Development.

Satori Frisco was more than 90% leased at the time of sale. The property includes a two-story fitness center, a car care center, a dog park and a resort-style swimming pool.

The Frisco property sold along with Houston’s Vale luxury apartments in a deal valued at $129 million.

“BSR recently exited the smaller Beaumont and Longview, Texas, markets and also sold noncore properties in other markets,” John Bailey, BSR’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “We are now using our strong liquidity position to invest in Vale and Satori Frisco, modern communities in core growth markets with the amenities our residents desire.”

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House prices on Prince Edward Island continue steady climb





Residential real estate prices on Prince Edward Island continue to climb at a rate higher than the national average, according to the latest report from a national organization. 

The Canadian Real Estate Association released monthly figures for November 2020 on Tuesday.

They show that the average price for a resale home on P.E.I. is about 21 per cent higher than it was a year earlier. 

Only Quebec had a bigger year-over-year increase, at about 23 per cent. Overall across Canada, prices were up 13.8 per cent year over year in the ninth month of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For the fifth straight month, year-over-year sales activity was up in almost all Canadian housing markets compared to the same month in 2019,” the report noted.

“Meanwhile, an ongoing shortage of supply of homes available for purchase across most of Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces means sellers there hold the upper hand in sales negotiations.”

That lack of houses coming onto the market compared to the demand means that in those provinces, there is “increased competition among buyers for listings and … fertile ground for price gains.”

There have been anecdotal reports for months that Prince Edward Island’s low rate of COVID-19 infection and looser rules around social activities have been encouraging people to buy homes on the Island. 

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