5 Tips For Buying a House in Toronto

04 September 2019

I’ve been trying to buy a house in Toronto. More specifically, I’ve been trying to buy a family home under one million dollars in Downtown Toronto.

To start off, let me explain. I’m not rich, I just have good luck and timing. My husband and I purchased a small condo with only 5% down a few years back. We bought something small that we could afford, just to get our foot in the door. Our condo has increased in value over these past years, so now we have enough equity for a decent down payment on the holy grail of Toronto real estate, a house.

In my search, I’ve come across articles that offer advice and tips for those purchasing a home. They all offer sage advice such as “buy larger, for when your family expands” or “look for an ensuite bath or double sinks”. They may even go into more practical advice such as, “check for water damage in the basement, this could end up being an expense later down the road”. All fine advice, except completely useless if you’re looking for a home in Toronto.

So, here are my personal tips for buying a home under 1 million dollars in Downtown Toronto.


The fact that you’ve stumbled upon a reasonably priced house listed on realtor.ca downtown Toronto means that it’s probably too late. When properties are listed on MLS, it takes a full 24hrs before they start populating on realtor.ca, or remax.ca, or any website for that matter. Unless you’re a real estate agent, by the time you’re aware that the property is for sale, there’s a good chance it may already be sold.

Most desirable homes that go up for sale in Toronto will have an offer date, usually a week after it’s listed. This usually gives most buyers a chance to see the property and give it some thought. However, there are always Buyers willing to submit pre-emptive offers (aka bully offers) and hope to get ahead of the competition.

When you’re ready to start seriously looking, have your Realtor set you up on alerts so you get notified within the hour of every listing available in your desired neighbourhood and price range. Plan to visit the property that night, or as soon as possible. The sooner you view it, the sooner you can develop a buying strategy.


I heard a rumour that once upon a time you could make an offer on a house with conditions.

There use to be standard conditions that Realtors once used. You could buy a house with set conditions so Buyers could make sure everything was as it seemed. Conditions on getting approved for a mortgage, or conditional on the completion of a home inspection, conditional on the sale of the buyers property. These things are unheard of now. It’s a Seller’s market in the world of downtown home buying. You need to go firm or go home.

Luckily, it’s common courtesy for Selling agents to have a home inspection ready to go for Buyers to glance over before an offer date, so you don’t have to go in completely blind.


Any desirable home in Toronto will end up going into a bidding war; and downtown homes in Toronto under a million definitely fall into that “desirable’ category.

You’ll know when to put the gloves on when your agent informs you that there is an offer date. That means the Selling Agent expects multiple offers, and you’re going to have to compete with carbon copies of yourself for the chance at owning the crumbling resemblance of a home in front of you.

Offering the highest amount doesn’t always mean you’ll win either. Closing date comes into play and sometimes offering too high will mean trouble getting a mortgage if you offer more than it’s worth. Your Realtor is the best person to ask for advice on pricing, but keep in mind that there is a good chance you will lose a fair number of bidding wars before you finally get your “dream” home.


Did I mention that these incredibly expensive homes will in no way resemble your “dream” home? They will be crumbling ruins. They will be teeny tiny bungalows. They will be alive with creepy crawlers or time capsules of faded retro wallpaper (not the cute kind). If you’re lucky, they may be livable, but there will ALWAYS be something that needs replacing or updating. As long as it’s in an area you want to live, you will consider buying it. You will start your search turning your nose up to green broadloom in the living room, to considering bunking up with a family of racoons.

You will be fighting tooth and nail over the only affordable scraps of freehold real estate the city has to offer, this is not the time to be picky.


By your third bidding war you may start getting foolish. You will want to start pushing your pre-approval to the max, offering everything you’ve got for the chance to live in a shack with a backyard and parking. Don’t. You’ll need some rainy day money for when that furnace goes, or the roof leaks.

It’s ok, you’ll get your dream fixer-upper eventually. Maybe you’ll try again in the winter when things generally calm down. I also heard condos have kid friendly amenities now. Have you thought about a townhouse?