It’s a market rough out there in Canada’s largest metropolis for small renters. If you’re struggling, don’t worry. The Leafy North has your back with a few tips to keep you off the street this winter.
Welcome to Hell
Find and renting an apartment in Toronto this fall is, quite actually, a waking nightmare.
Housing prices are still in decline and there is a heavy surplus of renters. Right now thousands of professionals, students, families, are all seeking, desperately, to put a roof over their heads.
To make it worse, roommates are awful.
It doesn’t matter if you’re sharing your space with your best friend or a complete stranger. That fucker — and their collection of crystal dolphin figurines — will get on your nerves, just like you’ll get on theirs.
Its time to escape to a pad of one. Trust me. Out of principal, you should reject any domestic relationship that actively encourages the wearing of pants.
I have just run this gauntlet and as I look back across the finish line, I know that if my broke-ass, with twin seven-year-old boys and a single-digit credit score, can land a place for $850 a month, then so can you.
1) Apps, Apps & More Apps
You probably already know this but if you’re want to rent in the city, it’ll most likely be listed online. An internet connection and phone will be the most powerful tools in the search, but make sure to use them both, constantly.
Ignore the free magazines, at the bus stops. They are windows to nowhere. They sell advertising to property management companies.
It is simple to utilize one of the many apps available for your mobile. Simply go to the Google Play Store on Android or the App Store, on Apple products, and type “Apartments” into the search bar.
The key here is volume.
There are literally dozen’s of apps to chose from in Toronto. Roomster and RentSeeker were two that booked me a few quality showings but I was using anywhere between 3 or 4.
All these apps allow for push notifications, so you can find out immediately if a new place goes up in your price range. The constant buzzing of your phone will drive you nuts but take a break from swiping left on shirtless bros and cowboy-hat wearing sorority sisters when ever you get one.
A few people recommended Facebook groups like the Bunz Home Zone during my search. Most were useless but Bunz, is constantly being filled with new listings. If shared accommodations are okay with you, than it looks like good resource but after responding to all of the few one-bedroom postings, I got no response. Many of the postings are filled with comments and responses within an hour after appearing in the group.
In the end my apartment came from the constant monitoring of Kijiji and Craigslist.
2) Get there, immediately
When looking for a place, I was finishing a degree in Ottawa. That distance put any place I wanted to see a minimum of four hours away, drove my travel costs through the roof, and made landlords uneasy.
I would try to begin a week by organizing viewings at the start of the week for a Thursday or Friday. Often enough, a full day of appointments made over the phone on a Monday would all be cancelled before the day I had booked them.
If you want to increase you chances of landing a quick one-bedroom rental that be prepared to drop everything and go. When you message a landlord about a potential place, don’t ask if it’s available, tell them you want to see it.
Book it quick, either that day or the next. Putting in the effort to show genuine interest can set you ahead of other applicant.
3) Monthly Numbers
The end and the beginning of the month is when landlords make a mad dash to fill apartments. People skip out on their rent, tenants get evicted and, for a litany of other reasons, spaces open-up unexpectedly.
Its best not to ask why, just take advantage.
Its a mad rush but the likelihood of snatching something up quickly during this window is high. Landlords are desperate, which is good, so are you.
The massive amount of available renters may hinder your search but the amount of quality candidates that people actually want to let occupy their properties during the next year is low.
Write a boiler plate explanation that tells them who you are, what you are looking for and then send it everywhere during the end/beginning of month window.
If someone agrees to a showing, clean yourself. Wash your filthy body, put on a nice shirt, and try not to be too honest about your amoral, fiscally irresponsible, millennial life-style.
4) Follow Up
It seems like a simple practice but its easily overlooked in the panicked exasperation that comes as your search seems to languish in an immobile limbo.
Find a way to keep track of who you’ve called and what they said. It can be anything, a piece of paper, Excel spreadsheet, marker on the arm, whatever works.
I used an email draft in my Gmail account. That way it could be accessed from either my phone or computer whenever I needed it.
Some places give a “maybe” that sounds like a “no.” Who knows what is causing their waffling, but their indecision can work in your favour.
Give them a week and then try again.
5) Go Private Whenever Possible
If you have good credit and a normal job than property management companies are still a painful irritation. To those without either, they’re massive time vampires that require seemingly endless supply of paperwork and will generally decline applications.
They waste precious moments you could be staring at your phone, worrying why no one is messaging you back.
Private property owners can be negotiated with, made to feel sympathy towards the various plights facing renters and often care more about the state of their rental property. Make sure to get a lease agreement so you’re protected advantage of you but on the whole they are a more human and empathetic choice.
6) Lower Your Standards
If you’re looking for that perfect place in the market, with a balcony and a building filled with only graduate students, it may not exist.
Just like when trying to find a partner so you won’t die alone after slipping in the bathtub, you may have to lower the high bar you have set.
Make compromises but don’t compromise yourself.
Living in squalor isn’t an option for most but neither is living in luxury. Decide on what you can live without and be realistic about the compromises you’re willing to make before beginning to look. This way, when its crunch-time and a choice needs to be made quickly, you’ll be ready.
Tragically, Toronto is not one of those cities, where things “just work out,” very often. Renters who are serious about finding something quickly, have to put boots to pavement. It is possible though and completely worth the aggravation.
My recent search taught me that a lot of places simply are not good. It is important to firmly set a minimum standard of living to find acceptable. However, it becomes increasingly difficult to draw that line in the sand on quality as a move date draws closer.
This city is expensive. Its easy to look at rentals that fall far below expectations and far beyond your price range. Scammers and slum lords are, unsurprisingly, abundant. Be careful.
Ultimately the best advice is to apply in volume and excess to everything. Diligence will pay off.