Moving away from home can be a big step. You will gain much desired independence. Yet there are so many other things to consider, it can be overwhelming. Where will you live? How you will get by on your own? Where you will get your morning coffee?
But, if you play it smart and plan ahead, moving into that first apartment can be one of the most exciting experiences you will have. Here are some things you should know before you start.
How to find an apartment or home to rent
1. Make a list of your priorities. Ask yourself:
- What is your budget? How much can you afford to pay for rent?
- Where do you want to live? Do you want to be close to school or work?
- Will you need access to public transit?
- Will you be living alone, or will you have one or more roommates?
- How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need?
- What amenities do you require? What can you live without? For instance, it may be nice to have a gym in the building. But can you find other ways to exercise?
- Do you want a furnished or unfurnished place?
- How long do you plan to live there?
2. Start browsing. Look at rental ads in the local newspaper or online in places such as Viewit.ca, Apartmentscanada.com, or Craigslist. Or, a quick search online will lead you to other sites. While you are searching, always keep in mind your list of priorities and your budget. These will help to guide you to the best place you can afford. Tips:
- If you are going away to school or moving out of res for the first time, most schools provide great resources for finding off-campus housing. They can also provide you with knowledgeable support throughout the process.
- If you are moving out of town for a new job, use the Internet to look for rentals. Start with the local real estate board or newspapers online.
3. Go and look at many places – especially if it’s your first rental. Once you come up with a list of potential apartments, call the owners or rental agents to arrange a viewing. This is a very important step. There may be places that sound great in an ad, but are just not right for you. Be sure to check the apartment is as advertised. Use this checklist to help you cover off the key points:
Is everything working?
- Do all the appliances and plumbing work?
- Does the heat and air conditioning work?
- Are the hot and cold water working?
- Does the water run clear and taste OK?
- Will the apartment be cleaned before you move in?
Is it safe?
- Is the fire escape accessible?
- Are locks on the door and any windows secure?
- Is it in a safe neighbourhood?
Is it a good location?
- How far is it from public transit and parking?
- Is it on a busy street?
- What businesses and services are nearby?
You can also use this detailed planning tool from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to help you plan.
Don’t forget: this will also be your first meeting with your potential landlord as well as their first meeting with you. Look for someone who seems reasonable, easy to talk to, and not too bossy or strict. Some landlords can be sketchy. Try to speak with other tenants in the building to find out if they have had any problems.
Tip: If you are moving out of town, plan a trip to visit and look for places to live. It will give you a chance to get to know your new town or city better. This is even more important because everything will be new to you.
4. Choose the best option that fits your budget. Review your priorities. Don’t place too high a focus on things like décor and architecture. Little things like paint colours can be easily changed for a fairly small cost.
Remember: there is no such thing as a perfect place.
What is most important is getting a place that will meet your needs, in a safe area, for a price you can afford.
Content in this section is provided in partnership with the Investor Education Fund, a non-profit organization promoting financial literacy to Canadians. To find out more go to GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca.