So lately I’ve been pondering what my future is going to look like as I get set to graduate in…. 8 weeks, 2 days, 8 hours, 32 minutes, and 12 seconds, 11, 10… But who’s counting?
Regardless of how excited I am to graduate, the end of the school year always means big changes and challenges. And the biggest item on my agenda at the moment, is where I’m going to live for the summer and beyond, as my four longtime roommates prepare to move on with their lives: to grad school, back home, and in to their new condos financed by their first real paycheques. Of course, I, like many current students and recent graduates still need to find a decent and more importantly, affordable apartment, hopefully with a landlord that doesn’t ignore me when I’m locked out, or when the heat’s on the fritz in the dead of winter.
In any case, here are some tips on how you should go about finding your next dream home (read: reasonably-priced-beer-ponging-student-palace):
Check Early, Check Often
The most important thing to be when you’re apartment hunting, is first. Start looking for a place well in advance of your proposed move-in date. Most listings go up about two months before their move-in date – that’s how much notice current tenants need to give their landlords if they plan on moving out — but I’d recommend you start looking a month before that. This way you’ll beat most students who will undoubtedly also be looking for a place to stay from May and/or September.
The next thing I’d suggest is that you check online housing databases often, and by often I mean obsessively. If you really want to find a great place, you don’t want to miss anything.
When you a see a listing that you fancy, give the landlord a call (you know, on the phone) and arrange a viewing. Forget emailing, real estate agents and landlords get a lot of emails so you’ll be lucky to hear from them within 48 hours. By that time, it’s not unlikely that the listing may already be on the way out. And if you see a place that you like, make sure you get your application in as soon as possible. I had a situation when I first moved out of residence where my roommates and I found a great new renovated place, close to campus and with all the amenities that we could hope for. We stalled, took a week to get our stuff together, and by then, it was long gone. It may even be beneficial for you to get your documents together before you even start looking. Landlords will usually ask for a job letter and your last two paystubs (if you support yourself), or proof of financial support from your parents or guardian (they’ll also need to cosign the lease), a credit check, and first and last month’s rent.
The Best of the Rest
So as I take it you already know about apartment hunting goldmines on craigslist and through housing services at U of T, I’ve found a few extremely valuable websites with a different approach to the house-hunting game.
This website is a review-based room finder that focuses on the performance of landlords. Although this may seem obscure, it’ll only take having one landlord who consistently “misses” your phone calls about your mice problem for you to think otherwise.
- Viewit.caViewit is a photo-based apartment finder. This is where I found my current apartment, and I can’t even explain to you the value of being able to cross fifteen places off your list of rooms to see because you already have seen them.
In the end, as difficult as it is to find a good place in this city, finding a clean, functioning apartment, close to campus and with a good landlord is invaluable, and it’ll make your time here at UofT and your life in general so much better.
And if you ever feel frustrated, remember that it could always be worse, you could be looking for a place to live in NYC…