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Condo towers dot the Toronto skyline as a pedestrian makes his way through the COVID-19 restricted landscape on Jan. 28, 2021.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

When Meleah Bennett started looking for a place to live in Toronto last autumn, she was hoping to act before rental rates picked up post-pandemic.

She spent the first few months of the pandemic at her family’s home, then picked up a small one bedroom apartment in Toronto’s east-end near a subway stop for $1,200 a month. A year ago, the market value for a one bedroom home in the area was around $2,000 per month, according to Rentals.ca.

But as rental prices inch up again in line with Canada’s vaccination effort and an eventual economic re-opening, Bennett said she’s glad she locked down the apartment in November.

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“I figured as vaccines became available and restaurants and city life became a thing again there would be more people returning or moving out of their parents’ house,” said Bennett, who is 22.

“So I’m definitely glad I got it when I did.”

Real estate experts say time may be running out to capitalize on the rental market and that now is the time to act if you’re thinking about moving back into downtown areas.

Paul Danison, content director with Rentals.ca, said rental prices in major Canadian markets have turned a corner and are starting to pick up. He expects a full upswing by 2022.

“Rents are down, and there are still incentives out there for downtown, like months of free rent, free parking, gift cards,” Danison said.

“We haven’t seen the incentives that we’ve seen in the last couple months in a long time... so I think now would be a great time for people to take advantage.”

In Rentals.ca’s report on national prices for April, the average listing for a two-bedroom apartment in Toronto rose 1.5 per cent compared to the previous month — although it still was 10.4 per cent lower than the previous year.

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There were similar statistics in other cities, with the price of a one-bedroom rising three per cent over the previous month in Ottawa and 4.1 per cent in Montreal.

“Month over month, almost all of the major markets saw an increase,” Danison said.

“People will want to get back downtown where the action is, with restaurants and entertainment and businesses. That’s what happened historically with pandemics, and it’s just a matter of how quickly and when we’ll see it.”

In Vancouver, where prices stayed more level when compared with other Canadian cities, experts still expect prices to rise with a re-opening, especially with companies like Amazon looking to hire in the city.

Tirajeh Mazaheri, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Canada, said prices haven’t started to increase noticeably yet, but the indicators are there for a future rise.

“The inventory is definitely becoming less for rentals,” said Mazaheri, who added the market hasn’t quite caught up to that change.

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“I do see this definitely changing but more in 2022, or when at least everyone in Vancouver or Canada has had both doses of their vaccines.”

She said now is not the time to play the waiting game and see if things will dip further, and that prospective renters should try to land a place sooner rather than later.

Bennett said the drop in prices didn’t mean actually finding a home was easier. She said there was lots of competition at showings, and her search took two months.

Still, she acknowledges it was probably easier than it will be by next year.

“I think people will probably have a lot more trouble in the future than I did.”

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