The glorious days of spring bring forth tulips, hyacinths and for-sale signs. While the patios start filling with eager boys braving the crisp April breeze, others stretch their winter legs to check out open houses and condo sales centres. So where exactly are gay men flocking to buy their new homes? Who better to ask than real estate agent Gaelen Patrick, who spent many years as general manager of fly nightclub. Patrick now dedicates his professional time, as a sales rep with Sutton Group, to matching clients with their perfect abodes — some of them the young clubbers from his old life all grown up to become homebodies. Three particular neighbourhoods, Patrick says, are on gay men’s radar: King West, Corktown and the ever-popular Yonge St corridor.
It’s commonly accepted that gay men have disposable incomes larger than their hetero friends and can afford to be more selective in what they’re looking for. “The most important thing I hear on a regular basis is, What kind of floor does it have?” Patrick says. “Everybody wants engineered hardwood over laminate. View is very important, coming in second, then kitchens and bathrooms. Under-mount sinks and thick stone countertops are very attractive to buyers,” he notes, no matter the neighbourhood.
“King West is one of the most in-demand neighbourhoods in the city, from Queen to Front and from John to just east of Liberty Village. It’s the cool and trendy area that people want to live in,” Patrick says. “King West used to be known as a hetero haven, but now Richmond St clubs are being demolished for all the condominiums going up,” he adds, noting the gay movement toward condos such as Fashion House, Victory Lofts and the pre-construction Charlie condos. “The shopping alone gets people to buy near Queen St W.” It helps that Queen West and the Theatre District continue to be favourite evening destinations and that The Hoxton, on Bathurst St, is currently the place to dance the night away.
“The up and coming for me is Corktown. The dollar per square foot is very good and the neighbourhood is constantly being changed with new development. And those small houses are now running for $500–600,000,” Patrick says. “Corktown already has a strong gay community.” This is quite evident with the popularity of two gay watering holes in particular, WAYLA Bar and Prohibition, on Queen St E. With 700-square-foot units still under $400,000, new buyers are honing in on this no-longer-squatter-infested area of the city. Far from its origins as home to poor immigrants from Cork, Ireland (hence the name), the area is attracting business-type boys wanting proximity to their Bay St offices. And with the revitalization of Regent Park to the north and the current popularity of the Distillery District just to the west, more people are seeing the area’s potential.
The Village and surrounding area
“The Yonge St corridor will always be in demand due to the direct access to shopping and the subway, from Bloor St to Queen St. You can walk everywhere from here. In the Village itself there are not a lot of places to purchase. There’s more places to buy around the Village than in it,” Patrick says. “There are a lot of gay men who continue to rent. That’s one of the things that’s keeping people in the Village; it has all those rental buildings, and a lot of those units are very big too. Many think, ‘I’m paying $1,400 for a large two-bedroom apartment — why would I pay $2,000 a month for a two-bedroom condo?’” Radio City remains a popular purchase when there’s availability, and around the gaybourhood there are a number of new developments, even some affordable condos. It’s still possible to find an older bachelor unit for just under $200,000. More are opting for shiny new buildings, such as X, Chaz and Casa Condominio Residenza, on Charles St, and many queer couples have taken up residence in The 500 condos, at Sherbourne and Wellesley streets. With prices ranging from mid-$300,000 to luxury digits, there’s something for every gay budget.
Gay men are buying into many other neighbourhoods, of course. It is no longer unusual to spot male couples all around the city, though Patrick does notice the queer proclivity to stay within the catchment area of Dufferin St to the west, Eglinton Ave to the north, River St to the east and the lakeshore. Although there’s more to housing than condos, this is where the current market is thriving. “Houses are at a point where it’s a bit more difficult to purchase a detached or semi-detached, even for a second-time buyer. I’m at my third purchase now, and I’m still not at a place where I could buy a house,” Patrick says. Cabbagetown and Riverdale continue to be desirable locations to buy houses, though the prices are now comparable to low-end Rosedale and Hoggs Hollow homes.
With dire warnings all over the market news, should people worry about an imminent bottoming out? “There won’t be a crash. There may be a levelling out, maybe a slight correction. I do not believe it will happen in downtown Toronto, where it’s a sub-pocket where there’s a constant need for housing. People don’t realize that almost 90 percent of these new condos are all bought. Even if the market slows down, people will still own those units,” Patrick says. Not only is he optimistic that Toronto’s housing market will take a different route from that of our American neighbours, he also sees a change in buying attitudes. “I have so many first-time buyers whose parents give them the deposit as a graduation gift to buy their first place and get into the market,” he says, adding that financially fortunate gays are now more likely to choose a down payment over a new car. There was a time when gay men and artists, often one and the same, would start by moving into a not-quite-desirable neighbourhood, which inevitably became more up-market and trendy. That’s no longer the case. “We have purchasing power now, and we want to have nice things,” Patrick says.
Eduardo Sabate is looking for a home within staggering distance of the Village.