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A Toronto family moved to a $700,000 house in Grimsby. Then they spent $140,000 making it their dream home

Who: Nayem Baig, 43, an energy consultant; his wife Dola Baig, 37; and their daughters, Zaina, 3, and Rayya, 7.

The history: In 2013, the Baig family bought a four-bed, four-bath house in a subdivision near Vaughan for $650,000. When the market spiked in 2016, they decided to sell the place for $1.2 million.

In the summer of 2016, they rented a four-bed, four-bath near Canada’s Wonderland for $2,800 a month. At the time, Nayem had a full-time job managing an energy portfolio for a company based in Florida. Renting offered the family a bit of flexibility, in case they needed to move.

Fast-forward to 2020. The lease was expiring, and the Baigs starting thinking about moving to a smaller place, somewhere closer to Nayem’s Airbnb properties near St. Catharines, which would make it easier to maintain them.

The pandemic also made them want to move. Suddenly, living so close to the city seemed less appealing than ever. Plus, Nayem had been working from home since opening his own energy consultancy firm, and Rayya had switched to online schooling, which would make moving a lot easier.

The hunt: Nayem had always wanted to live in the Niagara region because of its proximity to the lake, for kayaking and canoeing, as well as hiking and cycling. He also thought the people in the area were generally really nice.

In August 2020, a three-bed, three-bath rental in Niagara hit the market for $2,800 a month. It had a big yard and a pool, which Rayya was excited about, so they decided to snatch it up.

Nayem’s realtor told him there were numerous other bids. “I couldn’t believe it, but there was a bidding war on the rental,” said Nayem. “I was like, You’ve got to be kidding me. Who’s competing for a rental in Niagara? My realtor called me and said I had to up my offer, so I offered to go up to $3,100.” When the realtor said Nayem had to go even higher to stay competitive, he decided to move on.

At the end of August, as the Baigs continued to keep an eye on listings in the Niagara region, a three-bed, four-bath detached in Grimsby went up for sale for $619,900.

Inside, exposed beams gave it a cottage-like look. With 1,800 square feet of interior living space, it had just enough room for the family of four.

“It had a real cozy feel,” said Nayem. “All the rooms were close together, which was a change from the big houses we’d lived in.”

Behind the house, the 5,000-square-foot yard had two 60-foot trees. One of them had a swing, which Nayem thought the kids would love.

There were a few problems, though. The place didn’t have a garage. The backyard needed some serious weeding. And the interior looked worn and dated. Luckily, the Baigs were willing to do a big-time renovation.

So, that weekend, Nayem called his realtor and asked to book a showing. The realtor said the property already had 70 showing requests and a line of cars outside, so they couldn’t book a time to see it.

The Baigs decided to go for it anyway. “I’m a practical guy, but the listing just blew me away, and I decided to take a chance even though we couldn’t see it in person,” said Nayem. Their familiarity with the area and excitement about nearby amenities—the waterfront and bike trails—sealed the deal.

On Saturday night, Nayem submitted an offer for $700,000, going $80,000 above asking, hoping to avoid a bidding war. It worked. On Sunday afternoon, his realtor called to say they got it, having beat the nearest offer by roughly $3,000.

The outcome: The Baigs got the keys on September 30, then started doing major renovations. The main house got a new roof and fresh siding.

Nayem built a 42-foot, two-car garage next to the main house, complete with a loft. That part of the project cost approximately $60,000. “I’m not totally sure what I’m going to do with the loft, but I might convert it to a playroom,” said Nayem.

Inside, they installed vinyl, wood-effect flooring throughout the home. “It looks good and it’s easy to clean, which is important with two kids,” said Nayem.

The kitchen got a complete overhaul, with all-new appliances, backsplash, freshly painted white cabinets and a 36-inch skylight. The interior renovations cost about $40,000.

In the backyard, instead of building a fence for privacy, Nayem lined the perimeter with 60 small cedar trees, most of which he planted himself.

They also built an office shed:

Finally, they installed a sheltered outdoor kitchen, complete with a sink, fridge and barbecue. The Baigs love to entertain—especially outdoors. “Anytime people come to my house, we’re outside,” said Nayem. “I probably barbecue 300 days a year.”

The outdoor renovations cost $40,000, bringing their total reno price to about $140,000.

The Baigs are enjoying small-town life. “Toronto is only 50 minutes away, but I feel like I’m out in cottage country. Whenever the weather is nice, Rayya asks me to wake her up early so we can go cycling on the trails together before school,” said Nayem.  “I just say, ‘Yes boss.’ She also loves to collect pebbles on the waterfront, and recently started playing guitar in the backyard.” In September, Zaina will start preschool, and Rayya will start grade three at a school in the area.

Nayem is somewhat open to the possibility of selling. A house with similar square footage listed for $800,000 and sold for $1.2 million, which makes Nayem think he could get a similar offer. But, for the most part, he imagines his family staying there for a long time. “Time will tell, but we love it here,” he said. “I still pinch myself.”


Do you have a story about buying or selling a property during the pandemic? We’d love to hear it: realestate@torontolife.com



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