It was around this time last year when I was in first year, that my friends and I began thinking about where we wanted to live next year. We had all lived in residence during first year and although we loved it, we were ready for the change of living off campus.
Looking back now, the entire process seemed daunting. What neighbourhood did we want to live in? Who would our roommates be? What was our budget?
I’m happy to tell you that we did in fact find a place, and that we just recently signed our lease for next year as well – which means we probably did something right! However, leading up to actually signing our lease – the road was anything but smooth. There were fights, tears, and even a dramatic cheque ripping or two.
Going into the house hunt, I think we had a lot of false assumptions. About everything from pricing, to who we would actually want to live with. So in the hopes of helping you with your house search, here are the top 3 assumptions I had and why they were completely wrong:
Assumption #1: Everyone signs a lease before the holiday break
I cannot being to tell you how off-base this assumption is! Despite the stories you may hear from your Laurier and McMaster friends (where housing is a lot harder to find) most U of T students sign their lease between April and August.
The best strategy is to check housing.utoronto.ca regularly starting now, and keep your eyes open for houses that seem to fit your requirements. We signed our lease in April and it started in May, but our friends just down the street signed theirs in August and moved in the first week of September! If you think all hope is lost because you haven’t found a house yet -don’t worry, house-hunting season has only just begun.
Assumption #2: You choose who you want to live with, then find a house that suits you
If I had known how impractical this was before my house search, it would have saved a lot of awkward conversations. Me and 3 other friends had all promised each other we would live together in first semester – but when it came time to actually choose a house, we realized we had a lot of practical differences.
My suggestion would be to have in mind the “core” people you want to live with (i.e. a best friend) and then try to find a house that you love. Once you do it’s a lot easier to fill it with your other friends than to try to hold out for that perfect house for your pre-selected group.
Assumption #3: Your rent will be pre-divided for you by room
Unless you live in a perfect house with 4 perfectly identical rooms, it’s normal for most houses to have a rent variation between rooms. In my house, it’s almost $100. The hard part about this is that a lot of landlords will just give you the total rent cost – and leave diving it up to you.
This can be really stressful as people decide which rooms they want, and then become defensive or argumentative over price. I suggest you determine the cost per room before anyone “claims” it, as it might change someone’s opinion.
For example, my roommate Ainsley was willing to take the room without a window (don’t worry she still has a skylight) in exchange for having the cheapest rent in the house.
You may find it useful to use online tools such as this one by the New York Times, or the one we used by Splitwise. They take the measurements and components of the room, and calculate a fair division.
Overall, finding a house was a very different process than I expected it to be. I think if I was to go back and do the process over again, I would utilize Housing Services a lot more than I did. They can help you with everything from finding a roommate, to settling landlord disagreements. Check out their website or pop into their office in the Koffler Building.
If you have any questions about my housing experience, leave them below. Happy House Hunting!