Would you sell someone’s backyard for $1m?

A high-end developer has marketed a neighbourhood for sale by the side of the road. “Buy it! Buy it! Buy it!” the banner reads. “If you can’t buy it outright, why not buy it next to it?” The advertisement asks. The website promises: “Nothing’s like your backyard to get you in the mood for building.”

Buildings surrounding the market-priced homes in the backyard are expected to become available at about a dozen sites in the next few years, says Jim Dansey, a real estate analyst in Toronto. The homes, which are being marketed to “bird-watching hipsters”, will be put up for sale at prices between $1 million and $2.5 million.

“It will certainly be seen as a minor niche when compared to single-family home sales, but for people who don’t want to move, you can truly take ownership of your backyard,” says Dansey.

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His belief that developers are targeting Canada’s urbanites with laneway homes is backed up by observations by Conner Brown, an estate real estate broker in Toronto. The brand of development that Dansey refers to is exemplified by hundreds of “custom-built” homes in Canada. Created by builders with no real experience building and often lacking in adequate parking, these homes can include anything from a garage door, side yard or roof, according to the company’s website.

The distinctive houses are also being built in the US. According to architects Mark Lesage and Alex White-Gillespie of MSDC, of Las Vegas, “walkable streets” (or close-in neighbourhoods) of one- to three-unit houses, with some extra structural walls on two sides, are popping up across the country.

However, he says this does not mean urban dwellers will all be driving to their backyard abodes in short order. Building-code regulations will need to be clarified and there will be an adjustment period for homeowners to learn how to “configure a piece of [their] yard into a perfect next-door-neighbour-friendly space”. But, he adds, future development should create neighbourhoods with nice connectivity between neighbouring homes, such as a public square or tunnel.

A question: would you buy someone’s backyard for $1 million?

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