FOR SALE: Charming, historic fixer-upper in prominent Ottawa neighbourhood (24 Sussex)

Our newly-elected Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, finds himself in a situation many tenants face when the landlord decides to make major renovations and they have to find another place to live for a while, which must be disappointing. After all, 24 Sussex was Justin Trudeau’s childhood home.

It was also one of my first workplaces. I worked there and at Rideau Hall as a gardener one summer, many decades ago, when Pierre Trudeau and his family lived there. (A few fun facts: I was one of the first two female gardeners hired by the National Capital Commission (NCC). Justin was a toddler then. And, yes, I am that old.)

24 Sussex is in pretty poor shape. As I recall, it was already in need of repairs that summer. But, as often happens, instead of addressing structural issues, the owner (in this case the NCC) put in a pool, one paid for by the tenant.

Under subsequent prime ministers, things got even worse. Buckets were placed on the floors to catch rainwater, windows were covered with plastic to keep out drafts, and the HVAC foundation was so bad that the bedrooms needed space heaters which, in turn, shut down the electrical system. (Another fun fact: It’s also been reported that the most recent occupants used part of the third floor to shelter dozens of cats.).

Now that is a fixer-upper.

If 24 Sussex were on the market, I can imagine the listing: “Attention: contractors, investors, carpenters! Spacious heritage fixer-upper with excellent privacy/security, located in a terrific neighbourhood, close to Parliament and the Governor General’s, equipped with pool, and 2.5 acre lot overlooking the river! Alarm systems include Mounties. No SPIS (owner has never lived in property). NOTE: Asbestos, mould, some knob and tube, needs new plumbing. See LA for full list and estimated cost of repairs. P.S. Expect to faint.”

We’re told the estimated renovation costs will be around $10 million. Definitely not a job for the faint of heart, even if it is the NCC who is going to end up paying.

Is it worth it, then? Or should the NCC tear down 24 Sussex and rebuild? Whatever choice is made, it makes me wonder how much it would have cost the NCC to fix it back in 1973 when I was busy planting bulbs in the garden. I’m guessing a whole lot less than $10 million.

To put that kind of budget in context, the most expensive property ever sold in Ottawa went in in Rockcliffe for $8.25 million back in 2003. The second-highest priced home was a stone mansion in nearby Rothwell Heights with gorgeous Ottawa River views. It sold for $7.67 million in 2014. But more often, the high-priced properties on the market in Ottawa top out at around $3 million.

So, for $10 million, I can help you get two or three gorgeous Rockcliffe homes and even throw in a trendy Westboro semi; heck, I’d even reduce the commission. (Hear that, Prime Minister? Call me.)

Peggy Blair is a sales representative with Royal LePage Team Realty in Ottawa. A former lawyer, she writes the bloopers column for REM Magazine and is the award-winning author of the Inspector Ramirez series published by Penguin Canada and Simon and Schuster Canada as well as internationally. Her most recent book, Hungry Ghosts, is now in bookstores.

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