The listing: 2950 Lobsinger Line, Heidelberg, Ont.
Asking Price: $700,000
Taxes: $4,552 (2019)
Lot Size: Half-acre
Agents: Jamie Kubassek, Remax Twin City Realty
The back story
Tell a prospective home buyer that you’ve got a large century home that has been faithfully and tastefully renovated and restored, has a huge lot and is below nearby market comparables and they’ll have just one question: What’s the catch?
In the case of 2950 Lobsinger Line, what is one buyer’s catch might be the another buyer’s strongest selling point: It’s located in a village of Heidelberg, which is a little less than ten minutes north of Waterloo, Ont. In census 2016, the town’s population was 666 people.
“You don’t have to sell people on the house, you have to sell people on the town,” said listing agent Jamie Kubassek, with Re/Max Twin City Realty. He sold the house to its current owners, lives in another nearby small town himself (Conestogo) and sells quite a few houses in the small villages that ring the Kitchener-Waterloo city region.
“You have to have people who are small-town people … it’s not everybody’s cup of tea.”
For Jane and Steve Warner, it was the exact flavour of tea they wanted 20 years ago: a big house to raise their four children in. They come originally from Owen Sound area, have lived on farms and in small towns, and they wanted something with that pre-1900s charm. Not that there weren’t years of work to get it to this state: The interior of the house had undergone a “modernization” in the 1970s that did everything from lower the ceilings to replace all the panelled doors with flat featureless slabs.
“We did a lot of contextual renovation, sensitive to the history of the house,” said Steve, who transitioned from a career in music to run a mini Airbnb empire in recent years. “We got from a friend a bunch of old baseboards from a barn, and had that installed.
“We did put an addition on the side of the house… a sunroom/dining room. The biggest compliment we get is it looks like it’s been there a long time… the [exterior] saw-toothed trim and cornices and brackets, we had all that reproduced” by local Mennonite craftsmen.
The children have mostly moved out, and Steve and his wife, Jane, a chiropodist who has an office next door and in Elmira, hope another big family wants to live in small-town Ontario. That said, they do wonder how a young family could afford to buy in the village. The region is booming, and property prices are high in part because there’s been a restriction on new subdivisions in order to protect farmlands. “There will be no more growth in Heidelberg,” Steve said. Their son moved to even-more rural Palmerston looking for affordable housing options.
The house today
Like many of Ontario’s small villages, the oldest houses in Heidelberg are right on the main road, and Lobsinger Line (a.k.a. Regional Road 15) can be a busy route (the nearby town of St. Jacobs is a popular draw). The traffic out front is just as likely to be horse-drawn carriages as summer cruising motorcyclists and pickups and family-packed SUVs.
But while the front yard may deal with traffic, the backyard is almost a half-acre lot, including a vintage barn. Mr. Kubassek said that can be another disincentive for people who might romanticize acreage they’ve never had, until they can see up close how much lawn that is to cut or rake.
The house is a muted yellow brick with deep green trim, very common features in the area. There are two front doors, but the one on the covered porch opens into a central foyer. To the right is an updated kitchen with maple countertops (made by those local craftsmen) new cabinets and an island with seating. Through the kitchen is the addition (more on that below).
Left from the front door is a grand living room with Steve’s grand piano in the bay-window nook, the focal point of many a carolling and sing-a-long session from those family events. Marble fireplace, pale floors, stolid and thick mouldings and trim give it the feel of an update on an 1890s parlour.
In the back of the house is smaller lounge, with a stand-up piano and another fireplace; this is the less-formal living room.
Next door is a big mudroom combined with a laundry room that backs onto the rear deck (with hot tub). Faux-wood tile for durability, more wood panelling for that modern-country feel. There’s also a powder room on this level, with a full soaker tub. The house has two bathrooms and four bedrooms, which must have been interesting with four kids and two adults.
The staircase upstairs starts in the kitchen hallway (thick railing, solid posts and that deep-brown farmhouse stain). Two of the four bedrooms on this level have lofts for storage (a feature that probably wouldn’t work in a house with anything less than 10-foot ceilings). There’s a walkout balcony deck looking over the rear yard here, too.
The main bathroom on this floor is recently updated, black and white checkerboard tile, shower tub and fluted ceramics.
The house has one more surprise in the basement: Underneath the addition is what feels like a 1950s diner, a space built for the kids with exposed wood, black and white tile, a bar area with vintage fridge, a red leather sectional couch and a home entertainment centre with a projector for video games or movies. It’s the kind of games room you might find at a resort, not in Mennonite country.
The whole house feels like a mix between cottage and farmhouse, but the sunny addition is on a different scale.
It seems almost too big for its use: The dining-room table sits in the middle of a vast tiled floor – oversize rectangular tiles with underfloor heat – surrounded by windows that cover three-quarters of the space between ceiling and floor. The shared wall with the kitchen is the old exterior to the house, and the brick is exposed here.
A three-piece chandelier dangles over the table; a big fan on the ceiling probably helps for those August afternoons. Two armchairs share an ottoman in the corner, and there are a couple side tables along the red walls that can’t dim how bright it all is.
The Warners’ host a lot of Christmas and family functions, and this room is flexible for multiple uses. Even though it’s new, they went all out to make it feel older. “When we were putting in the light switches, we ordered push-buttons,” of the type introduced in the early days of electrification, said Steve.
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