Apartment Hunting 101

Apartment hunting is right up there with the top stressful life events. To be honest I actually enjoy the online search, browsing through the photos, seeing what kind of apartment you can manage on your budget, but setting up the viewings and competing with other prospects is just no fun.

Thank god for online postings, otherwise I don’t think I would ever move. The days of driving around neighbourhoods looking for the “FOR RENT” signs are now gone (mostly), so at least you can do part of your search at home in your pyjamas. Definitely stick with postings with photos. In extreme circumstances where you already know the building, posting with no photos are worth a look in person, but otherwise I would definitely not recommend it. Adding images is so easy now, that if there aren’t any shown, there is probably a reason for it.

So where to search online for these fabulous rental apartments? After living in Vancouver and Toronto, I have found that the results are similar.


Online resources:

1. Free online classifieds – it may have a bad rap for having sketchy and non-legit postings, but it still is your best bet for rental apartments. Top contenders are CraigslistKijiji.

2. Viewit – primarily for Toronto, it has paid listings, likely from realtors, which are ideal if you are looking for condos that are privately owned.

3. Property Management Agencies – In Vancouver, this was a good way to find rental-only buildings. Hollyburn Properties owns buildings across Canada, also Gateway and Advent have many listings in Vancouver.

4. MLS listings – best for Toronto from my experience, as there are many privately owned condos listed for rent through realtors. Good for condos but there are also houses available.

5. Friends – if you are moving from awesome apartment, it’s great to post it on Facebook so your friends might take advantage of the great space too.

Respond to the ad:

  • Respond as soon as possible, every hour counts. Email with a quick blurb about yourself and the dates you are looking to move in. If calling, be ready to give the same spiel on voicemail. 
  • Be willing to meet during work hours if possible. Otherwise, try to be available for a viewing within the next 2 days.


Viewing the apartment:

  • Treat it like a really informal job interview – they want a responsible tenant, so act professional and ask questions about the space to show your interest. Hint about your willingness to maintain the apartment and your plan to be a long term tenant. Both the owners and agents want someone that will cause the least amount of headaches down the road!
  • Don’t bring a deposit cheque with you – landlords that are willing to take money on the spot are not worth it. They should be interested in doing background checks on all applicants and THEN asking for deposits from their selected tenant.
  • Take lots of photos – you’ll forget about how small that kitchen really is in a few hours. Also, it is so nice to reference these photos later on when figuring out how to lay out your furniture.
  • Check for noise issues – with the windows open and closed. See if you can hear your neighbours or traffic outside.
  • If you see any deal breakers (ugly paint colours, fluorescent light fixture), ask if they are willing to update it prior to you moving in. This might be a diamond in the rough that others are willing to overlook.
  • View all associated spaces – laundry room, shared patio, gym, parking space etc. It starts the conversation of any additional fees, and if there are any issues you are able to bring this up prior to signing a lease.
  • Ask about heating source – electric, gas, oil etc, as this will affect your monthly utilities


  • If you want to reduce the price or the move-in date, be ready to plead your case. Explain that you are a great tenant with good references, and you are looking to live there long term (that worked once for me!). If you want the parking spot to be included in the base rent price, find another building nearby that bundles the costs together. 
  • Floris OosterveldMoving in mid-month typically means you will still need to pay at least half a month’s rent. But take into account that you can slowly move your items in during those first 2 weeks, which might save you on moving costs (use a friend’s van, instead of hiring a truck). It might be worth signing up for the full month to get a stress-free move!


One drama over, and another one begins! Now that you’ve found your apartment, start planning your move right away. Check out my other post on some tips that can save your sanity!

(Image sources:  turkeychik, Flickr | Colin and Sarah Northway, Flickr | Colin, Flickr | Floris Oosterveld, Flickr)


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