Renting in Canada [#1]: furnished or unfurnished

Before we arrived to Canada we were not quite clear what type of apartment we’re going to look for. Our initial plan was to look for some furnished apartment for the first year and then either go for unfurnished one or buy our own apartment. However… we have changed our plan and here is why.

In Russia, people normally rent furnished apartments. The exact reason for this is not quite clear for me, but I suspect it has something to do with immaturity of the rental market in Russia.

The most typical case in Russia is when the owner of a particular flat tries to extract some extra income renting it out and he owns a bunch of furniture and doesn’t want to warehouse it somewhere else. In this case he or she just offers the flat with furniture and refuses to remove it. Therefore tenants have a little choice. I don’t know exact number, but I suspect 90% of Russian rentals are furnished.

The situation in Canada is the opposite. Almost all apartments are offered unfurnished. Even if you see an ad with photos where you have tons of furniture, there is a very good chance that this furniture will be gone before you move in. Or the furniture is there just to make good pictures for the website, yet the offering itself is unfurnished.

Why it is so? Many rentals are operated by real estate management companies and they don’t bother themselves dealing with furniture. Their managers show you an apartment and suggest to look for unfurnished ones. Our experience confirms that this is a way to go.

First of all, furniture is often in a questionable condition. People eat, sleep, keep their stuff, have sex and do all kinds of other things on their couches and they don’t look like ones you want in your home. Sometimes previous tenants offer leaving some of their most crappy furniture items for a little money, but we have never felt a desire to buy it.

Second, those landlords who offer furniture are charging quite a sizable extra for it. Basically, renting a furnished apartment for a year will cost you sometimes more than buying furniture yourself (depending on your furniture needs). It only makes sense if you rent it for a couple months. In this case you don’t want to fully furnish it yourself.

What landlords also do before you move in is cleaning and repainting apartment. Usually they do this right before you move in by hiring a team of professionals. This is their expense and they don’t want doing this every couple months, so they want you to stay long-term and therefore they know that people will be expecting unfurnished offer.

Finally, the hardest thing is to find a good furnished offer in a place where you want to live. I haven’t seen any in a price range we’re willing to pay for long-term rent. So the bottom line is: if you come to Canada long-term, you don’t want to limit your choice by looking for furnished apartments. The same for landlords: they don’t want limiting themselves to only short-term tenants and repaint apartment too often, so they choose to offer unfurnished apartment as well.

This is how we got a new item in our task list: research furniture shops in Vancouver πŸ™‚

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9 Responses to Renting in Canada [#1]: furnished or unfurnished

  1. IKEA is your best friend. We came there several times after arriving, because the same situation with rental market in Seattle. Only one of my friend rents a furnished apartment. Btw, when my grandma was looking for an apartment in Russia, she rented unfurnished one because it was with big discount – somewhat 15% of market price.

  2. There are few other options here, in Vancouver. This one for instance: http://www.jysk.ca

  3. Alex Korostov says:

    Couple of notes:
    – all (including unfurnished) apartments have kitchen furniture and major equipment (oven, microwave, dish washer, washing machine, etc). Sometimes washing machine is not in the apartment, it is a deal breaker for my wife πŸ™‚
    – apartments usually have bathroom furniture too.
    – most of the apartments have carpet
    – sometimes unfurnished apartments have a flat TV on the wall πŸ™‚

    So most of the most expensive furniture (kitchen) and the equipment will be provided by a landlord. If you are single, you can buy a mattress (or a couch), a table with chairs and you do not need anything else. Therefore unfurnished in Russia is not the same as unfurnished in Canada or US

    • Yes, exactly. We haven’t seen washers in apartments yet, they place them at the basement almost all the time.

      No TV usually, but we don’t care about TV =)

      We have found a great rent today, I’ll be writing about it some time soon.

  4. Another convenient way is to rent a short-term apartment for a month or two (for example, via airbnb.com) and in meanwhile look for a good place in Vancouver and a good renting option there.
    Do not forget to check if there is a washing machine in the apartment and whether bicycle storage and parking spot are available (and whether they are included into the price). Also, in most cases only water is included into the price, but there are also options with everything already included into the price, so it usually make sense clarify this as well.

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