home located in Le Plateau Mont-Royal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Photo: Plateau Mont-Royal Borough
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Le Plateau Mont-Royal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

"The Plateau is the place to be in Montreal right now," says Franny Mathieu, a barista at Toi, Moi & Café, the sort of highfalutin hangout that likens flavoring coffee to no-nos like "pouring grenadine syrup in a Bordeaux." Le Plateau Mont-Royal, or "Mount Royal Plateau," borders both downtown and the city's namesake peak, which shoulders a green space designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same man who helped design New York City's Central Park. Anglophone and Francophone residents tend to walk to the chic boutiques and spoken-word performances—and not just because parking is a challenge. Even though climbing rents are prying students from their flats, the neighborhood remains an ideal congregating spot—a 10-minute bike ride from any of Montreal's four universities.

The Houses
The Plateau is one of the best places to find examples of Montreal tenements—two- or three-story structures known locally as 2- or 3-plexes—built between 1880 and 1915 from local limestone, brick, or wood (for the latter, 3-by-11-inch boards are stacked like masonry). Their standout feature: every-which-way exterior metal staircases, which give tenants direct door-to-street access. Historically, families bought these larger buildings as a hedge against retirement, renting out the top floor or two. But today, conversion into single-family dwellings is common. A 3-plex in need of work might—quickly—fetch $600,000 (USD), a 2-plex about 20 percent less.

Why Buy Here?
If the thought of shoveling snow from steep metal stairs makes you think twice, imagine borough-administered grants for restoring historic properties—in 2010, 119 homeowners received a total $1,480,000—and, for now anyway, fixed-rate mortgages at less than 4 percent.

Among the best for: Canada, Rowhouses
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