Little house, big ticket

As an example of a Vancouver real estate market that can induce gasps, consider 4541 Belmont.

It is a detached house on a 60-by-95-foot lot.

The house is 720 square feet in size. It is for sale.

It has one bedroom, size small, one bathroom, size smaller, a living room an optimist might describe as “cosy” and a kitchen decorated in the latest turn-of-the-century style, and by that I mean the 19th century.

The walls are painted in a colour best described as Custard Gone Bad, and permeating the interior is a funky smell of — what exactly? — mildew fighting it out with Clorox? Its basement, reached by stairs steep enough that one properly should rappel down them, has a bunker’s charm. The house has gutters but, oddly, no drainpipes. Its age? Unknown. They’re still waiting for the carbon-dating results.


The owner is asking $2,199,000.

It is, of course, a teardown. Belmont is one block south of N.W. Marine Drive in Point Grey, and building lots bring top dollar.

The house next door, a modest two-bedroom bungalow still standing, though probably not for many more years, sold a while ago for $2,165,000. A block away on Belmont, somebody is building a 45,000-square-foot palace for an estimated $31.5 million. Point Grey is a world with which most of us are not familiar.

“I refer to Point Grey,” said Phil Gustin, the realtor handling the property, “as the land of the rich and the land of the lucky. If you’re rich, you can afford to buy here. If you’re born here. you’re lucky. I’ve been doing this for about 30 years, and I remember as a kid saying to my parents, ‘How can I ever afford to live in this neighbourhood?’ Even so, it’s still mind-numbing to me.”

The owner of the property is Jim Shepherd. Shepherd, 45, used to live in the place in the 1990s, but no longer does. He inherited the place.

“It was my great-aunt’s — her name was Joan Park,” Shepherd said. “She lived across the street from it as a child during the Great Depression. She and her husband were hard-working people — they saved every penny they made — and they bought the house, and the house behind it as well, as rental property. Then they rented them out to students and nurses and such.

“I was her favourite nephew — she had no children of her own — and she really wanted me to live there. She gave me the home around, I think, 1992.”

Was he aware that she was bestowing upon him a fortune?

“I was not unaware of that at the time,” Shepherd said, with admirable understatement. “But I really loved her, and it was some of the best times of my life, living there and just going over to visit her.”

He was in his 20s at the time, and a bachelor, and need we say more? A young guy with place a block away from Locarno Beach? In a house that didn’t need coddling?

“I had some of the biggest parties in that little house,” Shepherd said. “People would fill up the inside and then spill out on to the front porch.”

The house also served as a great pickup line for dates.

“I’d be at a party at one of my friend’s and I’d say, ‘I have a little shack on Belmont, and they’d think, ‘Oh, yeah?’ And then when they got there, they’d say, ‘Oh, it really is a little shack, isn’t it?’ with a look of disappointment.

“It’s still a standing joke with my friends.”

Shepherd, who produces trade shows for a living, moved out seven or eight years ago, he said. His mother, who lived nearby, grew ill and her caregiver moved into the house. When the caregiver left recently to move in with her daughter, Shepherd decided to sell.

“It was time,” he said.

Shepherd now lives in a 2,500-square-foot home. His new place is in Kitsilano, which is nice, but it’s no Point Grey.



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