Renting in Canada [#4]: How to look for an apartment?

Looking for a rent in Canada is a quite straightforward process. There are few main differences between what you do in Russia and in Canada.

In Russia, all properties are rented out directly by owners. If you find out that someone is offering you a rent is not actual owner, this might be a scam. In Canada properties are mostly rented out by real estate management companies. Why does this make a difference? Well, because the owner has his or her own life and doesn’t want to bother sitting on a telephone, interviewing applicants, showing you their apartments. In Russia, property owners hire real estate agents who do all this stuff and who charge renters about 1 monthly rent for their ‘services’. This is pretty annoying and costs you money. In Canada management companies who own and manage buildings have dedicated people who screen applicants and process tenancy applications. Usually each building has a dedicated manager who is somewhere around the building all the time and who is happy to show you any vacant apartment. The best thing about this situation is that manager is on a paycheck of a management company and they don’t charge you anything for his/her services.

Let’s say you’ve just arrived and decided to start looking for your first rent in Canada. What options do you have?

Online options: Craigslist, PadMapper, Kijiji.ca

We all love the Internet. Canadians love it as well as Russians do, probably even more. The Internet is one of the best options to go thru many offers and filter those you’re interested in. Most of them have photos, descriptions, list of amenities included, landlord’s requirements & restrictions and of course price. And the price is the real price you will have to pay if you’re approved. People don’t put a fake price and don’t change it based on a number of tenancy applications they received.

What is so good about PadMapper? It is an extension to Google Maps and it actually shows a map of the area you’re looking a rent in with offers on it. Quite a help when you need to go thru as many offers as you can. The second best thing is it imports rent offers from other major advertisement platforms: Craigslist and Kijiji. It still has some certain difficulties displaying photos from Craigslist, but you always can go to an original ad and see them.

Street banners

If you’ve already decided where do you want to live, checked rental rates on the Internet and just want to go and find something, you can do just that! Go to the area and walk through residential streets of the city. Quite soon you will see banners in front of managed buildings suggesting that the building has or has no vacant apartments. This looks like the street sign on a picture.

So you just look at the building/house and if you like both a place and a house, you call the manager (telephone is always provided) and arrange the show. The good chance is that the manager is somewhere around and happy to show you your new home right away. The only issue with this approach is.. They don’t put a price on these street signs. So you might find a nice apartment in a fantastic place, but the price might not be just right for you 🙂

Searching for a rent by street banners is a lot of fun because you don’t know exactly what does the landlord offer. I remember some American film where one character asked some people on a street, where does he find an apartment to rent. At that time I was a little puzzled: how to people on a street know who would like to rent an apartment out? Now it is pretty clear. It is advertised on streets 🙂

If you go for street hunt option, try doing so between 10 am and 4 pm, because managers do not pick up their phones in out-of-service hours.

Assistance from real estate agents

The thing about Canadian rents is that you don’t generally need a real estate agent to assist your search. Since nobody hides that the apartment is for rent, no one hides the price, all the information is available on the Internet.

So we haven’t tried contacting any real estate agents about our search. Paying someone else to do a search for you while you are doing what? We had a plenty of time to look ourselves. And frankly, we would never agree to rent anything without making a personal visit first. Given all the above, a real estate agent doesn’t add much value and we don’t recommend dealing with them.

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2 Responses to Renting in Canada [#4]: How to look for an apartment?

  1. I didn’t know about PadMapper – thanks, it could be useful soon.

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