Selling To The Ultra-Rich Means Telling A Good Story

Photo via The Integral House Facebook page

Snagging a ‘qualified’ buyer for a property as unique as Toronto’s $21.5 million dollar Integral House requires a special kind of real estate agent. Preferably, someone with the ability to spin. Yarn that is, a yarn – as in ‘tale’ – because Integral House’s façade looks more artwork than house.

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The private Rosedale residence at 194 Roxborough Dr. has mysteriously sat on the market for six months, waiting for someone to appreciate its charms – one being an architectural design that pays tribute to the mathematical integral symbol most often used in calculus. Maybe because its creator, James Stewart,  authored so many calculus textbooks – in between winning architectural awards with his firm Shim-Sutcliffe Architects. The underachiever was also an accomplished violinist.

Perched on an east-facing cliff towards the Don Valley, the view presents the hills of Chorley Park all the way down to the Evergreen Brick Works. the house also contains a five-star performance space and has served as a venue for many gala performances.

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The home costs nearly $10 million dollars less than it cost to build ever a period of six years in 2010.  While realtors were hoping to target international buyers with deep pockets, brokers wonder whether the neighbourhood might not be as attractive an address as it used to be.

Following Stewart’s death, Mark Machin, CEO of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and his wife Melissa Mowbray-D’Arbela, managing director of a large private equity firm, purchased the house for a measly $15 million in 2016. It was continually reduced from the initial price of $28 million. Toronto Life said that “Only a very wealthy person with an extremely busy social calendar could possibly justify the expense.”

Even the most marvellous mansions can go unsold, and go to rot (like Michael Jackson’s Neverland or NBA legend Michael Jordan’s Chicago mansion

 

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Promotional material borders on the humorous, noting that it is a “Symphonic Blend Of The Rational & Emotional” for “sophisticated citizens of the world” bragging that their peers, the  “perfectionists & professional globalists” of the world, “will thrill to the contemporary design.”

However, since the people who can spend $25 million on a house in Rosedale can also afford a very nice house in Paris, Sydney, Tokyo – or any other cosmopolitan centre in the world, a niche property of this scale can sometimes take more than a year to sell – and a seductive story to go with it.

But integral house has the goods, as Stewart told the Mathematical Association of America in 2009: “I’ve set out to do two major things in my life, but I didn’t think of them as major at the time. I just thought, ‘My two students suggested that I write a calculus book; I think I’ll write a calculus book.’ Look what happened. And then I thought, ‘It would be nice to build a brand-new house.’ I naively went about interviewing architects, and look what happened.”

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