Courtesy Todd Hirsch

When Todd Hirsch went looking for his first home in 1994, he remembers telling his REALTOR® he wanted something that was new or recently updated.

“I had no interest in home renovations. I’m not handy with anything like that at all. So I was looking for something new,” said Hirsch, chief economist with ATB Financial. “My price point was probably less than $100,000.”

The Realtor showed Hirsch some options, but nothing clicked for him.

“Then she said, ‘There is this one in Lakeview. It’s in your price point, but it does not show well.’ That was her specific phrase for it. In other words, it really was a dump,” he said.

“It had not been cared for at all. The carpets, the wall coverings, the window treatments – everything was probably 20 years outdated. It was full of cat pee. In fact, when we went to tour it, there was cat poop. There were three cats running around and there was cat poop on the rug. The whole thing smelled awful. The walls and ceilings were thick yellow from cigarette smoke. It really was horrible.

“When I finally took ownership, it was the first time I owned anything, and I took a lot of pleasure in ripping the carpet out because I didn’t have to ask (for) anybody’s permission.”

“But the minute I saw it, I could start to see the possibilities, and it was by far the best location. … It was just off the park. It was well within my price point. It just needed a lot of work. But despite that, I instantly started to see the possibilities of what this could become. I started to imagine my furniture there and imagine the things I could start to do with it.”

Hirsch decided to pull the trigger, purchasing the townhouse for $89,900 when he was 28 years old, and lived there until 2002. The home was spread across three levels, with lots of light coming in and stairs that were covered with threadbare, brown shag carpet.

“When I finally took ownership, it was the first time I owned anything, and I took a lot of pleasure in ripping the carpet out because I didn’t have to ask (for) anybody’s permission,” he said.

After he took possession, Hirsch’s parents came down from Edmonton and spent a couple of weeks helping him make his new home livable.

“I remember it was hard to get the cat pee smell out because it was in the floorboards. You remove the carpet and you remove the underlay and that didn’t do it. It still stank like cat pee in there. It took a while for that smell to finally dissipate, like probably six months.”