With half a semester left to go, most students have to face the exciting yet daunting task of searching for off-campus housing options. While the process of apartment hunting is stressful for a person of any age, it can be even more daunting for those with no experience. Here are some common challenges first-years face when searching for their first apartment, along with some solutions to provide guidance.
What should I look for in an apartment?
Things to look out for online:
Before exploring apartment hunting websites, it is a good idea to know what you want in an apartment. Students who plan to host a lot of parties or events, for example, may value having a large common space like a living room or a kitchen. Students who dread the idea of moving truckloads of furniture into their apartment should search for fully furnished apartments, but these may generally cost more. These types of details are often listed online. Other key details to look out for in online apartment advertisements include price, square footage, number of bathrooms, location of nearest laundry utilities, nearby amenities such as grocery stores and transit stations—and whether or not utilities such as heating, hot water, or wifi—are included.
Things to look out for in
An apartment can look great online but fall short in person. Some landlords hire professional photographers to take pictures for advertisements whom can easily take photos from a flattering angle to make a room seem larger. It is highly recommended to see an apartment in person before signing the lease for this reason. Additionally, there could be minor issues with rooms that are only visible in person, including structural problems like holes and other damages to walls, dirty carpets, or chipped paint. These may not be deal breakers to all groups, but if significant, should be discussed with the landlord to potentially be fixed.
Where to find apartment/house listings
Many landlords will also post signs that say “A Louer” outside of an available apartment. Keep an eye out for signs like these when walking through neighbourhoods; they will often have the apartment size and the landlord’s phone number posted on them as well.
However, some landlords do not post advertisements for every single space they manage. Upon seeing an apartment with a landlord, it is recommended to consult them about any other spaces they have of comparable size. This could potentially open the door to several more spaces that a group otherwise would not have encountered if limiting their search to the internet.
Rent will depend mainly on the size of the space and number of tenants it can accommodate. The McGill Off-Campus Housing Survival Guide has a chart with average price depending on size. Prices can also vary according to location and amenities. The standard guideline with location is that the closer an apartment is to campus, the more expensive it will be. Additionally, the nicer the amenities a space has—such as balconies, washer/dryer or nice moulding—the more it will cost.
It is a good idea to discuss logistics of renting an apartment with parents before starting to look, especially if they are the ones paying for rent. Remember to discuss rent budget with parents and get an idea of monetary limits before looking for a space. Many parents have renting experience under their belts, and may have some knowledge to provide with regards to finding a good deal. It is not a bad idea to seek advice from parents and to keep them in the loop throughout the apartment-hunting process.