Toronto Life - The Informer

Insider intel on the politics and personalities shaping the city. Sign up for Preview newsletter for weekly updates

Real Estate


The Chase: searching for a classic Cabbagetown house for under $1 million

They wanted to stay in Cabbagetown. Their budget was just under $1 million. But the place had to be big enough for Cardinal Richelieu

The Buyers: Keith Pfeiffer, a 50-year-old retired television director, and Lawrence Reiter, a 37‑year-old pharmacologist.

The Story: When Pfeiffer and Reiter moved to Toronto from their native Johannesburg in 2008, they bought a modest home: a semi-detached Cabbagetown Victorian on a narrow lot with no yard. Two years later, they started looking for an upgrade.

Their wish list: a house wide enough for their oversized furniture, with a yard for their three dogs and a large wall to display their huge antique portrait of Cardinal Richelieu. “The Cardinal has been in my family longer than I can remember,” says Pfeiffer. “It’s a beautiful piece.”

Sumach Street (near Winchester). Listed at $999,000, sold for $850,000.
This three-bedroom detached is a neighbourhood landmark. “People call it the gingerbread house, and we had always admired it,” says Pfeiffer. The dining room wall was big enough for the Cardinal, but the second floor was cramped. The couple returned four times before moving on.

Winchester Street (near Parliament). Listed at $949,000, sold for $870,000.
They loved that this four-bedroom semi had a grand staircase and a second-floor landing with ample space for the Cardinal. But the living room was too small for their sofa, and the kitchen and bathrooms were outdated. They offered below-asking, and when the sellers came back with a counter-offer, Pfeiffer and Reiter walked.

Ontario Street (near Carlton and Parliament). Listed at and sold for $995,000.
Coming home from the gym one day, Reiter saw an open house sign on a lawn just down the street from theirs, and wandered in for a walk-through. The semi-detached Queen Anne Revival was on a 23-foot-wide lot and had it all: three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a big yard for the dogs, and a large wall on the upstairs landing, visible from the front entry, for the Cardinal. “Everything was right about it: the proportions, the back garden. It was perfect,” Reiter says. He summoned Pfeiffer to come take a look, and they made an offer later that day for about $10,000 under asking. The sellers signed it back at the asking price, and with a caveat about cleaning up the basement, the deal was done.

(Images: Pfeiffer and Reiter by John Cullen; houses by Lisa Gent)

  • Addy Saeed

    Great buy! Congrats!

    I guess this is a hello from a neighbor as well :)

  • KYChelly

    Idiots. Option #1 was the correct answer.

  • Bruno

    Wowwowow, anyone notice the asking vs selling price on the houses they passed on? 150 and 80k under list prices… thats huge. Housing correction this spring?

  • Neville

    I’m with KYChelly. Always choose the detached over a semi. That’s the dirty (not-so) secret about Toronto housing. Those Victorian semis are spacious but who wants to hear the neighbours?!

  • Daniel Bloch

    Was a pleasure representing these two on their purchase. Home shopping for Victorians is always a highlight for any Realtor, they give me so much appreciation for their beauty and character, they couldn’t of picked a more perfect home. Cabbagetown has so much to offer with pride in ownership in almost every home.

  • keith pfeiffer

    Thanks Daniel, always a pleasure buying and selling houses through you, even if we were “Idiots” according to the Real estate Guru for not buying the other house.

  • Karen B

    Please consider removing the comments section on these articles. It only invites anonymous jealous cowards to post negative comments on here. The guys picked an amazing house! I hope they have a lot of great times there! Buyers choosing their Toronto homes and the section featuring what famous Torontonians can’t live without and anything that feature real Canadians are the very best part of Toronto Life. I wish people could see what a waste of time it is in this short life to be so negative and jealous of others. Be happy for others and concentrate on achieving your own goals!

  • Toronto Guy

    agreed – not to nice to see people waste energy, I live in Cabbagetown and have moved all over Toronto, if that person knew anything about the area he would know that there are rarely any detached homes ever available and I happened to see that home in the summer and it had a poor layout, so save your energy for the suburbs where detached homes are almost everywhere.

  • lucresialintondotcom

    Toronto Guy is right