Creating your dream home out of a bargain deal



COLIN MCCONNELL/Torstar News Service


Using a bold Rodeo Red paint, Brad Hughes and Nadia Abuseif put a distinctive stamp on their 1920s home.


A can of paint can be your best friend when you buy your first home, as Nadia Abuseif and Brad Hughes discovered after moving into a modest 1920s house.

They’re glad they listened when their real estate agent kept telling them, “Ugly can be fixed.”

They bought near St. Clair Avenue and Dufferin Street — a six-room home with a basement apartment.

Hughes, a research analyst with IDC Canada, and Abuseif, an IT guru for TD Bank, met agent Wally Brazy at an open house. With his guidance, it took only three weeks to buy a house.

“We liked Wally right away,” Hughes says. “We made a list of 60 houses from the Internet, in our budget, and ... he brought the list down to three acceptable properties and we bought one of them.”

Brazy explains that he specializes in low-end properties and personally scouts out everything in the city that appears to be a bargain. And it’s his experience that ugly, which can be fixed, can also be the sign of a bargain.

“He warned us not to be seduced by pretty cushions and flowers,” Abuseif says, “but make sure the structure is solid and open everything you can.”

Their home had been a boarding house, with every square inch rented out to students. It had two communal bathrooms and kitchens.

Hughes, 35, and Abuseif, 30, signed the deal Dec. 1, with a possession date of March 1. They vowed they would have all the renovations completed for an official move-in on March 30.

They soon discovered that they had a mouse problem, a warning to those buying older houses. They had to enlist a pest control company, adding to their list of move-in expenses.

Within days of taking possession, they knocked down a flimsy wall dividing the kitchen from the dining room. Alas, the drywall contractor proved a “little unreliable,”

Hughes says. “We lost a week in our schedule waiting for the kitchen walls to be fixed.”

But that turned out to be just the beginning of their first-time-buyer blues. The dark-stained kitchen cabinets were perfect, but the counters they bought at Home Hardware were a few centimetres out — just enough to add $500 to the installation bill.

Then there was another hitch; their electric wiring was not approved and they had to rewire at their own expense.

The next mini-crisis involved their newish box spring — too big and inflexible to go up the narrow stairwell — a problem still unresolved.

After exhausting themselves painting, they decided it was worth another $500 to hire two men with a dumpster to take away the renovation debris.

In the end, Hughes and Abuseif figure they spent about $20,000 getting their home shipshape. “We were lucky. Every family member helped us,” she says.

And after all they’ve been through, do they still feel they got a bargain?

“We did the plumbing, painting and lots of other work ourselves,” Hughes says. “We’re really proud. I wouldn’t change this house for the world.”

your tools: safe and sound

Tips to help you use your tools safely:

  • The power cord: Do not handle the tool by its cord. This tends to damage the cord (not always visible.)

  • The plug and the handle: Grip the plug (not the cord) to disconnect the tool and use the handle to move it.

  • Damaged tools: Never use a tool if the electric cord has been damaged or if the ground wire is twisted or cut. w Three-pronged plug: Never cut or fold the rounded ground prong.