The Toronto housing market continues to confound analysts, with its rising prices and shrinking inventory. And for the average Torontonian, the search for a home can occupy our every living, breathing moment. But what about those who have exhausted their living, breathing moments?
How does this market volatility affect the long-dead, who continue to inhabit the city’s homes and buildings? It seems that now is the right time of year to summon our ghostly ancestors and take equal measure of Toronto’s haunted housing market.
(With full disclosure, I had more trouble than anticipated securing interviews for this piece. Ghosts rarely keep scheduled appointments, and they are much more likely to try to freak out an interviewer and then flit away, rather than sit down to discuss real estate.)
The few ghosts that agreed to answer questions about the market were quick to shriek and moan. And that’s not the only similarity to the average Toronto homebuyer. Like us, ghosts just want to find a well-appointed house, in a neighborhood that doesn’t seem scary. But properties such as these are in short supply and as such, the poltergeist population ends up pitted against itself in pursuit.
The need to act quickly promotes a market free-for-all, where aggressiveness and duplicity abound. If and when a good home becomes available, a ghost will appear out of nowhere to scoop it up, without even saying boo, while other ‘interested parties’ prove to be merely an apparition.
The government attempted to crack down on some of this ghastly behavior in 2015 by enacting the Stronger Protection for Ontario Consumers Act, a law specifically designed to stop ‘phantom bidders’ (unless I have misunderstood the term ‘phantom bidders’). In any event, with more people dying to get into the haunted housing market every year, demand is only on the rise.
“Things sure were different in my day,” notes Alistair Winslow, whose day was in the early nineteenth century.
Winslow and his late wife have been stuck haunting the same duplex in Leaside for 65 years.
“You used to be content with what you had. Thin walls? All the better for walking through. Creaky floorboards? All the better for making creaky floorboard sounds. But now it’s all about ‘new’, and ‘big’ and ‘better’. My cousin Robespierre has a main floor walk-in closet in which to appear hanging, and it’s all we ever hear about. We happen to know the guy who haunts the Keg Mansion on Jarvis, and he claims to have a huge dining room full of guests each night to scare. It’s tough not to feel like a shadow of your former self.”
Halloween will come and go this year, and with it, our connection to Toronto’s ghost community. But a broader look at the city’s housing challenges reminds us what kindred spirits they really are.