In the best news I’ve ever heard for students: economists have come out and said that it’s more expensive to buy property in Toronto than it is in New York. And it’s that wonderful time of year when all of the first year students are looking to find a place to live! If you’re not able to commute, then you know the stress of trying to find a place to live.
Define Your Needs
Close vs Cool
Would you rather live at Queen and Ossington and have to pay/take a twenty minute streetcar every day, or live in the less hip Cabbagetown but be able to make it to campus in a fifteen minute walk? Is living in the core of your favourite area worth whatever time and money you’re going to spend to get to where you need to be? Weigh your needs versus your wants to figure out what neighbourhood you want to live in.
Safe vs Affordable
Your life is worth the money. Seriously. Living at Sherbourne and Shuter is cheap, but it’s also ranked #1 in virtually every violent ranking in Toronto. If you know you’re going to be getting home at 2 in the morning, then it’s probably worth it to look to other neighbourhoods. Let me reiterate: your life is worth $300 more a month.
Sharing vs Space
Just because you shared a bathroom in residence doesn’t mean you’ll be okay with sharing a bedroom. On the other hand, if your roommate is going to be spending a lot of nights at her home, and you don’t mind being flexible with what time you go to bed, you can save a few hundred dollars a month this way. Bonus: you could get bunk beds.
I’m not saying “settle for bed bugs” or “prepare for an hour commute”, but understand that it’s rare to find a 4 bedroom, detached house, with utilities included and close to Ryerson, for $2100 a month. Where are you most able to be flexible? Is it with the quality of the house – it might get too cold, so you’ll buy slippers and space heaters? Is it with who you’re living with – the 4 of you might split into pairs if you can’t find something that’s what you want? Is it where you’re living – are you ok with being north of Bloor (horror of all horrors) so long as you can get to school in twenty-five minutes?
Make Roommates, Not Friends
It’s easier to make a friend out of a roommate than a roommate out of a friend. I think we all have an idea how living with certain people will be, and so far, my instinct has always been right. When I’ve lived with people I didn’t know that well, we ended up becoming great friends – because we had established a mutual respect for each other as roommates first and foremost, and then we grew our friendship after. I’m still good friends with these people, even though we lead completely different lives. On the other hand, some of my friends I’ve lived with, I’ve completely drifted out of contact with – I just found out one had moved out of the province a month ago.
Instead of scouring Craigslist, Kijiji and other websites separately, use Padmapper to aggregate resources and search all the internet for any place that’s advertising online. Instead of knocking on strangers’ doors in the building and asking if they have bed bugs, check online at the Bed Bug Registry.
Not just to your friends and family as to where you should be looking, but also to whoever is leasing their apartment to you. While it might appear to you the apartment is completely flawless, you can always ask the landlord if they can put you in contact with previous tenants. When you’re checking it out in the summer, you may not be aware that the heater is prone to breaking and the landlord is prone to ignoring you.
House hunting is stressful, and it should be. You’re spending your foreseeable future in this location, so you want it to be the best that it can be for what you can afford. Just make sure to be smart, flexible, and safe. Trust me, once you’re done first year, you’ll be spending more nights in the library than you will at home anyways.