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This L.A. man is paying for his dream home by building many, many tiny ones

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LOS ANGELES, CALIF.—Chris Toledo has gone to painstaking lengths to build the home of his dreams.

He drew the patterns for his 1920s Spanish Mediterranean house — Casa California — for every one of its eight stained glass windows. He shaped delicate scroll railings for the Juliet balconies. He laid nearly 6,000 barrel tiles on his rooftop.

Chris Toledo works on the roof tiles of a 1920s Spanish Colonial Revival miniature home he built in his L.A. apartment.
Chris Toledo works on the roof tiles of a 1920s Spanish Colonial Revival miniature home he built in his L.A. apartment.  (Mel Melcon / TNS)

Thousands — including architects and interior designers — have followed his efforts online for the past two years.

But it’s a masterpiece of illusion: The guest room is just the length of a pencil. The stone fountains are no taller than Q-Tips. The fireplace fits in the palm of a hand.

The whole house is less than six-feet wide.

A life-size version would cost millions, so his model is the closest 32-year-old Toledo, who lives with his fiancé, Matthew Mathiasen, in a rented apartment, has come to owning a house in L.A.

He’s wanted to build something like Casa California since he was 8 years old, after seeing a magazine for miniaturists: Nutshell News.

When Christmas came, he asked his parents for a kit to make a miniature two-storey log cabin. Next came a Victorian, followed by a farmhouse.

“We were convinced he’d be an architect,” said his mother, Liliana Eschoyez.

Instead, he grew up to work in fashion, photography and later in his current field, graphic design. Four years ago, after a long pause, he returned to building the little houses.

Chris Toledo looks into the kitchen and breakfast room of the 1/12th-scale miniature home he built.
Chris Toledo looks into the kitchen and breakfast room of the 1/12th-scale miniature home he built.  (Mel Melcon/TNS)

Toledo’s plan was to build a two-storey, two-bedroom Spanish villa, a vision he’d formed from watching handyman Bob Villa restore a Spanish home on TV and spending hours driving around ogling grand estates in Hancock Park and South Pasadena.

“I imagined I was a wealthy person in the 1920s … who moved to Los Angeles to build a home for my family. This would be my castle,” he said.

Everything his father taught him about carpentry, painting and metal work came in handy.

To make six different types of terracotta and ceramic tiles, he tried nearly 20 methods — including flattening clay on a pasta machine. He ended up hand-painting each tile and laser etching the grout lines.

“If something wasn’t just right,” Toledo said, “I’d literally tear it down and build the whole thing over again.”

The costs added up, into the hundreds, then thousands.

Then Toledo began posting images on Instagram — a sneak peek of his freshly tiled staircase, a close-up of his hand-painted ceiling beams. In every image, he included a little clue to show the scale: a quarter leaning on the fountain, a glue bottle in the corner of the guest room, a pencil in the kitchen.

The comments began to roll in: “Everything is so real! I imagine it on a hill above Montecito,” one follower said.

One person went so far as to call him “the Michelangelo of miniatures.”

Chris Toledo, right, and partner Matthew Mathiasen with the scale model of Toledo's grand home he built in the couple's L.A. apartment.
Chris Toledo, right, and partner Matthew Mathiasen with the scale model of Toledo’s grand home he built in the couple’s L.A. apartment.  (Mel Melcon/TNS)

His fan base grew to nearly 40,000. “The kid is astonishingly talented,” said Bradley Meinke, the head of the Cat’s Meow Miniature Society. “If he sticks with it, he’s going to be in the upper echelon of the miniature world.”

The upper echelon, Toledo learned, includes those who make the sort of intricate edifices Kay Browning began acquiring in the 1970s and displays in her museum in Maysville, Ky.

Browning recently came across Casa California’s black-and-white-tiled bathroom online, and said it was mindful of her Greek Revival childhood home. She commissioned Toledo to build that childhood bathroom; they have yet to discuss a price.

Browning’s miniature world includes buildings that have sold for more than $200,000.

Now, Toledo and Mathiasen, who long to own a piece of Los Angeles where entry-level properties are $600,000 (U.S.), realize that miniature Casa California may be their best bet. “It’s fine art,” said Mathiasen, who works as a fashion sales manager. “It can be worth a lot.”

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

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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

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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

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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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