18 bedrooms for $650,000: A look at a curious case in Windsor real estate

18 bedrooms for 0,000: A look at a curious case in Windsor real estate

Outwardly, there’s nothing remarkable about the three-storey house at 663 Marentette Ave. in Windsor, Ont. — other than its state of disrepair.

But a recent real estate listing for the property revealed its rarity: It was advertised as having 18 bedrooms, with potential for expansion to 21 bedrooms. 

A large house in disrepair, with a real estate for sale sign.
The three-storey house at 663 Marentette Ave. in Windsor was described in a February real estate listing as having 18 bedrooms, with potential for 21 bedrooms. (Dalson Chen/CBC)

Goran Todorovic of RE/MAX CARE Realty, whose team was responsible for the listing, described the property as an “enormous investment opportunity.”

“It does need some TLC. — tender loving care. But if it’s bought at the right price and renovated, the income coming from it is going to be substantial,” Todorovic told CBC Windsor.

“This is definitely a cash income property that’s well positioned for the investor.”

A man stands next to a large house in need of repair.
Goran Todorovic, who’s with RE/MAX CARE Realty, called the Marentette property ‘an enormous investment opportunity.’ (Dalson Chen/CBC)

Major renovation and repair needed

The home was selling for just under January’s national average home price as reported by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) earlier this month — $659,395, a 7.6 per cent increase from January 2023

The listing’s description even made note of the monthly rents that were previously charged for the rooms: $650 to $775.

“Ideal for the savvy, ambitious investor looking to scoop up an amazing opportunity,” the listing says. “Great potential once renovation and repairs are completed.”

Such potential might not be obvious: The home’s doors and windows have been boarded up. There’s exposed wiring on the exterior.

Photos of the interior show damaged walls, vandalized fixtures and garbage strewn on the floors.

A room in a house in dire need of repair and renovation.
A view of the damaged interior of 663 Marentette Ave. in Windsor. (RE/MAX CARE Realty)

A bathroom in dire need of repair and renovation.
One of the bathrooms inside 663 Marentette Ave. (RE/MAX CARE Realty)

Todorovic said the house has no heat and requires new plumbing. He estimated at least $150,000 worth of renovation are need to make the property habitable.

But the condition of the house and the $650,000 asking price didn’t dissuade potential buyers.

Todorovic said there were offers within days of the listing going public. The seller accepted one on Feb. 23, just eight days after the property hit the market.

“A property like this will bring out-of-town investors,” Todorovic said. “The real estate value overall is going to increase… It’s going to pay itself off.”

An overhead view of a large house in need of repair.
An overhead view of 663 Marentette Ave. (RE/MAX CARE Realty)

Property predates zoning bylaws

Still, there’s the question of how a typical-looking house in a medium-density residential zoning district (RD2.2) can legally have more occupants than the number of players in a full hockey game.

The answer is in the property’s long history.

According to Greg Atkinson, the City of Windsor’s deputy planner and development manager, 663 Marentette Ave. is one of the few addresses in the city that are categorized as a Class 1 Lodging House.

Suitable for “congregate living,” the classification pre-dates Windsor’s existing zoning bylaws, which came into effect 1986.

“Legal non-conforming use is when a property or building was established prior to the passage of a bylaw that would no longer permit that use,” Atkinson told CBC Windsor.

“So, prior to that RD2.2 zoning coming into effect, this property would have been established as a lodging house, legally, and that use can continue as long as it’s being used for that purpose.”

A large house in disrepair.
The three-storey house at 663 Marentette Ave. is categorized as a ‘legal non-compliant’ lodging home under city zoning. (Dalson Chen/CBC)

The house at one time served as a convent — accommodating nuns who worked at the large church across the street.

The Church of Immaculate Conception dates back to 1904, but was sold by London’s Roman Catholic Diocese in 2002. It’s now known as the Holy Family Chaldean Catholic Church.

Atkinson said there are currently only 11 houses of this classification in Windsor.

In the related category of Class 2 Lodging House, suitable for supervised living, there are 12.

“They are permitted throughout the city, but not typically in lower density, lower profile neighbourhoods,” Atkinson said.

A bedroom in need of repair, with garbage strewn on the floor.
One of the bedrooms inside 663 Marentette Ave. (RE/MAX CARE Realty)

A room in a house in dire need of repair and renovation.
The house at 663 Marentette Ave. needs a lot of work, but it didn’t dissuade the buyer. (RE/MAX CARE Realty)

Lodging houses in the midst of a housing crisis

Despite homes of this nature being far from prevalent, their existence still raises concerns for some community advocates.

“You will see some people on the lower end of the [income] spectrum who are willing to put themselves at risk of housing security — because it’s affordable rent,” said Frazier Fathers, a researcher, consultant and community developer. 

While Fathers believes residential densification and creation of more units overall are the solution to Windsor’s “generational housing crisis,” establishing controls on those ideas remains a live debate.

“I do think there is a role for rooming houses, lodging houses to play in the spectrum of housing in our community. But I think that there has to be an honest conversation of what that’s going to look like,” Fathers said.

A large house in disrepair.
A view of the three-storey house at 663 Marentette Ave. — described in a February 2024 real estate listing as having 18 bedrooms, with potential for 21 bedrooms. (Dalson Chen/CBC)

A time for opportunity in Windsor real estate?

Todorovic said he’s not certain what the new owner plans for the property, but he imagines they will want to keep up its rare lodging house status.

On the state of the local real estate market, Todorovic has a different perspective than Fathers. While the veteran Realtor acknowledges there is a housing problem in Windsor and beyond, he feels the time is ripe for those with the wherewithal to purchase property.

“Here’s the reality for the buyers who are listening to me: This is the opportune time for you to buy a home,” Todorovic said.

“All indicators that we see say that the interest rates are going to drop — as they’ve started to, already. And when interest rates drop, real estate goes up… Now is an opportune time to get ahold of significant value.”.

Todorovic said his realty team will soon be listing another Windsor lodging house property — this time with 30 bedrooms.

A real estate sign.
The ‘For Sale’ sign at 663 Marentette Ave. in Windsor. (Dalson Chen/CBC)