Updated: Oct 22, 2020
So you want to find a place in Toronto? Be out of your parent’s roof? Seems exciting, until you realize the apartment/house hunt is like a job hunt. The research, viewings, applications, new roommate ‘meetings’ online or in-person, etc.
There's also a rule of thumb not to spend more than 30% of your monthly income (before taxes) on rent. But that’s often not possible for GenZers who are at the start of their careers, and at more beginner salary levels. Only those who are in finance, consulting, or other corporate jobs are likely to make that ‘rule of thumb’ with Toronto prices. Which is unfair if you’re a creative for example, bearing the brunt of quality of life, just because you’re wired for a different profession or purpose.
As of January 2020, calculated from a report by Rentals.ca, the average rent of a one-bedroom in Toronto was $2300/month, with an expected increase of 3% year-over-year. And it doesn’t help singletons that the rental market favours couples with dual-incomes who can share a one-bedroom. Two-bedroom and three-bedroom places are cheaper, especially in neighbourhoods not in the downtown core. But then there’s considerations like having roommates. Either way, you’ll want to have a life outside your rental. So here, we give you a guide to your hunt for affordable housing in Toronto.
1. Know your budget and what property best suits your needs
Get clear on your budget or range – this filters the options for you already. See if you want to live in a house, apartment, or rent out a condo for your desired and realistic lifestyle. Then, you can open the floor to your priorities and get clearer on your options. For example, if you want to live in a house, have a backyard, and easy access to the outside - you’d have housemates. If you rent a condo, you can live in a place that's newly renovated and modern but may pay more for it.
2. Choose your 3 priorities – it’s hard to have it all
Neighbourhood: what's your desired place to be for your young adult years (or close to it). What’s the block like? Are you close to amenities? Grocery store, gym, park, is laundry on-site or close-by?
Transit: are you close to a subway or bus route to easily get to work, the gym, or social spots like parks and restaurants?
Quality of Space: is it big enough, nice enough, and fits your existing furniture so you don’t have to spend more on new items? Check the water pressure and its cold to hot transition. Open and close the windows, flush the toilets, check the fridge, cabinets. Is it a smoking or non-smoking rental? Pet-friendly? Do you like the way the sun shines through during the day?
Roommates: 1, 2, 3? You’ll likely get a bigger kitchen and living area with a 3-roommate house, but you also want to make sure you have good roommates. And will you be okay if they have pets?
This way, you’ll learn what you can and can’t budge on, as you sift through the scenarios.
3. Plan to move during the off-peak season
Rent bidding-wars exist, too. Great options are hard to come by. So when they crop up, be prepared for an application or competition for the spot. Looking in the off-season will be less competitive and can get you lower-priced options. That's because when the market is in peak season (most people looking), properties & movers will hike up the prices due to demand.
4. Know your market.
Avoid pricey neighbourhoods like the Financial District, especially if you can easily commute to those boroughs to enjoy them (without wasting what savings and life experiences you could have on rent). The following areas are generally more budget-friendly (& still hip!):
5. Search online & speak to individual landlords
Speaking to individual landlords who don't need your credit score to be top notch, and are good with a respectable tenant that reliably pays their monthly rent, can increase your chances of renting out a place. As well, there are Facebook groups out there if you search keywords such as ‘apartment’ ‘listings’ ‘housing’ and you could find your roommates on there! You can even make postings that you’re searching for a place and roommates with a certain budget.
Even on Facebook marketplace people post, and at least through social media you can use common sense to see if the person is non-sketch, and meet-up with them in person. Mutual friends and connections are also great to ask for recommendations and advice.
Kijiji and Craigslist are also options, but can be scary for some to navigate if you’re new to the city house hunt. It’s been the root of some nightmare situations for people in terms of housing (i.e. cockroaches, or roommates who become problematic).
6. Put your safety first – co-living resources are more reliable
Tell someone of your location and viewing before you go alone. Or have someone come with you (and let a connection not going with you know as well)! It’s good to have these precautions in place. Your friend will also make the process more enjoyable! And you’ll get their feedback too. Whatever you do, trust your gut, and never make any upfront cash payments, or hand over personal info like your SIN until you’ve signed a legitimate and safe lease. No matter how much pressure it seems to get a specific place in the heat of the moment. There are scams out there, so make sure you meet the person you’re renting from and attune to the legitimacy of the process.
It’s reasons like these we created our co-living resource – Ryna – for women to rent out homes. We want to offer young women (like us in our 20s) a trusted resource to affordably rent from, where perhaps meeting more than your 3 priorities is totally possible! If you want to check it out for yourself, you can book a viewing for our upcoming Parkdale housing, available NOW!!!
We believe young women deserve a great city life, like the stuff of TV and movies (that magic). And one where, in real life, your rent money doesn’t cost you your life. It’s important to live in your young adult years! That’s how you learn, grow, and make amazing memories. And with Ryna, we want your affordable place to feel like a support network, too. So that you’re not just surviving, but thriving as the empowering, young women in Toronto we know you can be!