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Beaches property's $8-million price tag a new high for neighbourhood

Real estate in Toronto's Beaches neighbourhood is striding toward a new milestone: A grand house on the shore of Lake Ontario hit the market this week with an asking price of $8-million.

Even the owner had trouble seeing the potential when he bought the higgledy-piggledy property for $2.8-million in 2007.

Back then, the 1920s estate had long been carved up into six apartments and allowed to fall into disrepair. Today, 412 Lake Front is a luxurious beachfront refuge with a putting green, wine-tasting room and a swimming pool with walls of glass.

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The owner is a businessman who splits his time between Canada and the United States and asked that his name not be used. He searched for several years for a house on the water and chose this one for its unique position on the shore.

"The land juts out from all of the surrounding houses like a peninsula, so it almost feels like living on an island," he says.

The property is co-listed with real estate agent Thomas Neal of Royal LePage Estate Realty in the Beaches and Sam McDadi of ReMax Performance Realty Inc. in Mississauga.

Mr. Neal acknowledges that the asking price has raised some eyebrows in a neighbourhood where the previous high was about $3.8-million for a house that was not on the water. Along the shore, sales in the $3.7-million range have been made for a vacant lot or a house in need of a complete overhaul.

Mr. Neal said the owner spent about $4-million to transform 412 Lake Front.

"The Beach is growing up," Mr. Neal said. "I've been around long enough to know when $1-million was a lot."

The owner's favoured retreat is the top floor where he has set up his office to take advantage of the panoramic view over Lake Ontario.

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"Go ahead and sit in my chair," he said. "You can't even see the sand. All you see is water."

When he feels like breaking for a walk along the beach, the elevator takes him down four floors to the pool level. From there he can step outside and directly onto the sand from his back garden.

Security is taken care of by two panic rooms, surveillance gear and an underground tunnel to the garage.

Before buying the home, the owner met with Toronto-based architect Sharon McKenzie and builders G. Colucci and Sons.

"I just remember standing here and saying, 'this is a great house,'" recalled Ms. McKenzie on a return visit this week. "Over the years it had been added to and added to but we could see underneath it's a grand house."

The house was constructed by a prominent builder of the 1920s and the beautiful elements of the original Arts & Crafts architecture and Tudor details were still visible beneath the clutter.

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The interior was a disorienting maze of hallways and small rooms.

"Inside it was a labyrinth. It was dowdy and dark," she said. "So it was hard to see that."

By restoring the old house instead of building new, the owner was able to keep its position on the beach. Current rules wouldn't allow a new structure so close to the water.

Inside, the architect used the original front entrance as her starting point and designed the plan around a dramatic open staircase that winds up four levels.

The second floor has four bedrooms, including a master suite with a television that rises from the foot of the bed.

The interior design was handled by Toronto-based Powell & Bonnell, who supervised the millwork and hunted down exotic stone for the bathrooms.

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