You’ve decided not to renew your lease, your company is relocating you, or you’ve sold your home and are planning to rent for a while. There are so many things to now consider: When do you start looking? What kind of property are you looking for? What can’t you live without? What is your budget? We all have our Goldie Locks property in our heads with a price that is just right and includes utilities AND parking.
Below are some tips and questions to consider as you embark on your house hunting expedition:
- Map it out – If you’re new to town, or are considering switching neighborhoods do some research. Spend a day in the area getting to know it well. Map your commute, kids’ route to school and accessibility to amenities. Will your guests have a place to safely park their vehicle for an extended period of time? Are there some streets or areas in your desired neighborhood that feel a bit dodgy or unsafe? What’s the noise level like on certain streets?
- If it seems to good to be true, it may very well be – Your dream property may very well exist, but there’s a good chance you will pay a premium for it. If it the price seems too good to be true, we recommend reading the listing again, check the fine print and ask a few more questions: Are there hidden fees or caveats? Do you fully understand what the listing is advertising (perhaps it’s just the main floor or parking is not included)? Are there any sort of deficiencies to be aware of?
- A well-managed complex (condos & townhouses) – Before you even book a showing, do a drive-by. Are the grounds free of garbage and debris? Has the snow been removed from the sidewalks? Are there people sleeping in the foyer? Anecdote: I’ve overlooked this detail before for the sake of cheap rent. Looking back now, the red lights were glaringly obvious – the busy sidewalk out front was packed with snow and ice (it hadn’t snowed in over a week), garbage was blown across the entire front of the property because of inadequate storage facilities, and had I passed by in the evening, there undoubtedly would have been someone sleeping in the foyer. Had I heeded these warnings in the beginning, I could have avoided many cold winter nights without heat and unwelcome early mornings where I was abruptly woken by my unsavoury neighbor’s disgruntled lover quarrelling with him from the street.
- Set realistic expectations – A two-bedroom, downtown, new/recently reno’d, South-facing, pet friendly unit with insuite laundry, a balcony and heated underground parking for $1200/month inclusive of utilities would be AHHH-MAZING, but likely not going to happen. Consider some alternatives: There is maybe no balcony but the property is near a lovely park. Maybe the location is not right downtown but is close to transit or a direct route. Maybe the building isn’t new, but it’s been well maintained, is secure, and has a concierge. Maybe it ticks 9 out of 10 of your boxes of criteria. Now that’s pretty darn good!
- Renting privately vs. from a Property Management Company – While it may seem there is more flexibility when renting privately, not all owners, or tenants for that matter, are fully aware of the rules that govern the rental industry, and shockingly can be unaware, or have blatant disregard for Minimum Housing Standards. See aforementioned heatless winter nights. I should mention, after it was “fixed” it was a consistent balmy +30C. Calls, emails, and texts all went unanswered for weeks. Consider the pros and cons of each and always carefully read the lease agreement so you know what you’re fully aware of what you are signing yourself up for.
- Act fast – The rental market is competitive, and depending on the current demand trends, the property you were humming and hawing over that morning could very well be gone by the afternoon. If you know there is a lot of interest, be prepared to make your best offer up front; longer lease terms, no additional requests, and even a willingness to pay slightly over the listed rent are all viewed favourably when you’re stacked up against numerous contenders. Also, be sure to include all the information that is requested on the application. This will speed up processing time and your transparency will stoke the owner’s confidence in you as a well-suited candidate.
It’s never too early to start looking and get a feel for what’s out there and the going rates. Evaluate your needs and have a clear idea of what your budget is. While there may be some wiggle room to negotiate on a rental rate, keep in mind, nobody appreciates a low baller. Good luck on your search. I hope you find just what you’re looking for!