The school year may begin in September, but many students begin renting their housing accommodations in the summer. If you're looking for a great rental, here are our best tips for finding your first apartment.
Decide if you'll have roommates
Having roommates versus living alone as a student are two very different experiences. If you're not sure what the right path for you is, this article may help you find your answer.
Consider the pros
Living with roommates can be a great decision for a first-time student renter. You'll be able to share the costs and responsibilities associated with your rental (rent, utilities, chores, cooking etc.) which could save you a lot of time and money. You'll also potentially meet more people than you would if you lived alone.
Moving out of your family home is a huge lifestyle adjustment. Going through that transition with roommates can feel fun and exciting while living totally alone for the first time can feel a bit lonely and even frightening or overwhelming.
If you want to live with someone, it's critical to search carefully for a roommate. You'll want to find someone reliable and respectful to ensure that you don't wind up paying the rent late, losing your security deposit at the end of your lease due to damages, living in a messy space, or losing sleep because they are inconsiderate and loud.
Living with someone you know might be your safest option. Use your social media to let your network know about your roommate search and send an email out to your friends and family who will be attending the same school, or who will live in the same city, to see if anyone you know is looking for a roommate.
If you'd prefer a fresh start with a stranger, there are tools to help you find a roommate. RoomSurf.com, for example, is a tool that lets you search for roommates who attend the same institution.
Determine your budget
Most students don't have much, if any, income. If you don't have a lot of money to spend, determining a budget you can manage will be crucial and help you avoid incurring debt from your rental costs. You'll most likely be stretched financially, especially if you're paying for food, tuition and books etc on your own. This student budget calculator from RBC is a great tool to use to determine your budget. Once you calculate how much you can safely spend on rent, you'll be able to narrow down your apartment search results.
Your budget may determine whether you need a roommate or not. Check out this rental cost report for major Canadian cities to see what's typical city-wide. If you cannot afford the average rental cost for a one-bedroom apartment in your city, you will need to share your apartment with a roommate. It's generally much more affordable to rent with roommates than solo. Talk to your roommates to determine what you can afford together before beginning your rental search.
Pick a neighbourhood
The area where you live matters. As a university or college student, you can expect to spend long days on campus -- so living nearby is ideal. Living close to your institution will ensure that you won't have to endure a long commute to and from school.
Do your research to determine what nearby neighbourhoods you can afford, discover their amenities, and determine if they are safe for students. Walkscore.com is a great resource when it comes to choosing a neighbourhood and rental. It shows you how walkable the neighbourhood and rental is when it comes to things like shops and restaurants. A walkable neighbourhood is ideal for a first-time student renter as relying on public transportation or a car can be quite expensive for students.
If you're going to rent in a major city, there may be several neighbourhoods near your institution. Research the average cost of a one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartment in each neighbourhood to determine which areas you can afford.
Search rental listings
Once you've determined your budget, ideal neighbourhood, the average cost of rental units in that neighbourhood, and your roommate situation, you can begin to search for a rental unit. For your search you'll need to indicate your maximum budget; your desired neighbourhood(s); the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you'll need; and if you want amenities like an elevator, fitness facility, onsite security and air conditioning etc. Sites like viewit.ca and padmapper.com can be very helpful when it comes to finding a rental with a detailed search.
If you're intrigued by rental units in rental properties like apartment buildings, rather than apartments within houses, you may be able to research what other renters think of living in the buildings that catch your attention. Google each building by name or address and keep your eyes peeled for any red flag search results like bed bug complaints or bad reviews. If the results look good, book a viewing or tour. If they look bad, keep looking.
See what your institution recommends
It never hurts to explore your institution's resources. Your university or college may advise its students on where they can find good housing options. UBC has a neighbourhood guide, for example, and University of Toronto has an off-campus student housing service that helps students find roommates and nearby affordable housing options.
We hope these tips help you find a great first apartment!
It never hurts to rent with a trusted property management company. Hazelview Properties has served Canadians for over 20 years. We offer student apartments for rent in Canada across six provinces and over 30 cities. To find your home with Hazelview Properties, please visit our Home Finder.