France has its catacombs, America has abandoned malls, and Canada has its vacant homes — all 1.3 million of them, according to the OECD. For decades, urban explorers have been touring abandoned buildings and sites. The activity of questionable legality has been a niche subculture for some time. However, the rise of TikTok (and YouTube to a lesser extent), has helped them find a new audience — Americans shocked by the number of vacant homes kicking around Canada.
We thought we’d save you some time and round up our favorite viral accounts exploring vacant homes. Now fire up the Volcano, grab a bag of chips, and let’s go through some of our favorite videos.
Ethan Minnie @ethanminnie, Southern Ontario
First up is Ethan Minnie, a.k.a. @ethanminnie. They’ve run an urban exploration channel on YouTube for a few years, but really found their audience on TikTok. Topping 200,000 followers and 2.3 million likes, he has a knack for finding homes seized as the proceeds of crime.
One of his most popular videos is “Mafia Boss’s Untouched Abandoned $8,000,000 Custom Mansion.” It’s unclear who, and whether it’s an actual mafia boss, but the community says it’s been empty since 2015.
Another of his greatest hits — “Drug Dealers Forgotten Abandoned 7 Million Dollar Mansion.” The video has racked up over 400,000 views, and explains it also went vacant in 2015… also because the government seized it…. yes, it’s a different home.
Not into government seized asset tours? Then perhaps, “Abandoned 1980’s Mansion Forgotten For 18 Years,” is more up your alley? The circa 1980s-Toronto area mansion caught fire in 2004 and has sat vacant ever since.
Lomar Mendz, @LaceyDecay, Southern Ontario
Lomar Mendz, @1aceydecay, appears to be more focused on smaller, lesser known places. Most of the videos are from Southern Ontario, with his latest being “the Grandma’s House.” The video tours a home that looks frozen in time, that’s also partially dilapidated. Outfits are still laid out to wear.
jdooms, @jdooms, British Columbia
jdooms… doesn’t have a real name they’d like to share. They focus on exploring the Lower Mainland, including the “Model’s Pool House.” It’s not an actual pool house, but a large house with a pool.
He claims the home belonged to a model in the 80s, with a number of photographs still in the home. He’s also found plane tickets from the 90s scattered around, so it’s probably been vacant for a minute.
They also have a few “crispy” homes — urban explorer slang for abandoned after a fire. It isn’t clear how long this was abandoned, but there are signs it’s been a substantial amount of time.
“Dave,” @Freaktography, Southern Ontario
Freaktography, from what we gather, is a Yoda-life figure in Southern Ontario’s urban exploration community. His latest TikTok, “$20 million billionaire’s mansion,” takes us through a sea of paneled mahogany that looks like a cartoon billionaire’s home. It isn’t in too bad of shape but has clearly been empty for a while.
Over on their YouTube, they do longer-format tours for their 75.5K subscribers. One of his more recent videos explores places like this 1960s-era mid-century modern home in Toronto, that’s been sitting vacant for some time.
Riddim Ryder, @RiddimRyder, Southern Ontario
Riddim Ryder on YoutTube has racked up tens of thousands of followers exploring abandoned places in Southern Ontario. One of his latest videos is the “Exploring A Vacant Seven Million Dollar Villa Mansion in Toronto!” It’s also called the Doctor’s Mansion by the urban exploration community in Southern Ontario.
In a blog post for a “$7 million abandoned mansion,” Riddim explains why he sees so many abandoned homes in Canada.
“Oftentimes these places are owned by foreign investors waiting for prices to continue to rise before eventually selling, wealthy people looking to build a dream house or even foreign nationals purchasing them to move money out of one country to another,” he concisely explains.
But, you know. Canada’s vacant home situation is just 1.3 million myths.
Photo: Freaktograhy’s YouTube Channel.
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The feds or provincial governments need to start charging 25% yearly tax on all vacant properties. That will force owners to sell or rent them.
Also. Find out who the true owners are and confiscate any that are found to have been purchased with dirty money.
Or just raise interest rates so credit driven growth is less reliable and we don’t have to structure the economy as a ponzi scheme
Actually municipalities should put their property taxes up to 10-20k monthly. If you are a disclosed owner, you get a 10-20k monthly discount. Hey it’s just the cost of doing business. Problem is it’s gone on too long and Canadians think they’re rich…
Vacant home by my house has been vacant maybe 10-15 years. Racoons live in it.
I can actually think of at least 10 homes in my neighborhood that have been vacant for the nearly two decades I’ve been here. We’re lucky it’s not Detroit and people largely leave them alone but outside of the immediate downtown Toronto, you’re kidding yourself if you think this isn’t a problem.
Such a joke that anyone thinks this isn’t a problem. Either Canada is a highly attractive real estate market where the incentive to hold property vacant is extremely attractive or the average person can assess home prices with machine like efficiency and has never overpaid once in their life.
well that was fun. Thanks!
I knew you guys were more popular than your social stats show since you’re newsletter first, but I didn’t think you were “TIKTOK” thinks you’re a DDOS attack amounts of traffic. Haha.
Wonder what that’s about.
I wondered about the OECD’s 1.3 million estimate. How do they count or not count snowbirds? My neighbors spend 6 months a year in Florida. Having said that my neighborhood has 3 houses that appear to be abandoned. People keep telling me that “students” own the houses but I have my doubts!
The methodology is pretty clear from Stat Can. A snowbird would be a usual occupant of a home and therefore it’s occupied. Someone who is only part time in a home and has no declared residency would not be.
i.e. if you’re on vacation for a year, your home is still occupied because a usual tax resident is still there. Maybe 20-30k are empty due to moving and have yet to be occupied, but the real estate industry pretends there’s just hundreds of thousands of people that haven’t moved into their new home yet. lol
Expats that have homes vacant in Canada could be exempt from a large tax.
Just foreign non residents.
After my mom moved to nursing home. First we decided to rent out to cover the cost; but after a bit of research we decided not to pursue the option. Too much headache renting out in Ontario. I didn’t realize there are so many people in same situation.
Has nothing to do with people having an extra home they think is too hard to rent. They don’t want to enter a contract/dispute with a tenant in the event things go wrong when they’ve already hidden their ownership.
I started documenting vacant homes in my old neighbourhood in Toronto (Yonge and Eglinton). You can always tell in the height of summer, when the yard is full of weeds. It was #VacantHomesTO on instagram. I just did a few, but these were average looking homes peppered throughout this very desirable neighbourhood. If I went back now, I’d get to include the house we were illegally evicted from because the landlord claimed an immediate family member was moving in. That was 3 years ago, but that house and the other 8 the landlord owned on the same block are still sitting empty. And don’t get me started on the brand new empty condos…
I actually know investors that began scooping property in that area around 2015 and you’re absolutely right, they have no intention of filling the units. If the property becomes uninhabitable it’s a tax discount.
The average person can’t fathom the amount of money being used to speculate on housing. It’s not even efficient to fill the homes they need to buy so many.
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