For most newcomers, one of the major and most important tasks after landing is finding a permanent place to live. After hearing quite a few horror stories, I decided that information and research were my best friends and was able to secure a condo in downtown Toronto within a week. My reasons for choosing to live downtown were fairly straightforward and simple: I didn’t want to spend too much time, money, and energy commuting to and from work; and I didn’t plan to get a car so being well connected by public transit was key.

Newcomer renter tip : Renting a place in the suburbs such as Brampton, Mississauga, Etobicoke, Scarborough, or Markham, is comparatively more affordable than downtown Toronto. The same rent will get you a larger, more spacious apartment in the suburbs compared to downtown but the cost of commute might not be always worth it.

If you’re looking for temporary accommodation right after you land, read our article on how to make short-term living arrangements.

When should you start apartment hunting?

I moved to Toronto from Mumbai, India, and given the process that we’re used to at home, this was a very new experience based on what I read online so I began my research about 2 months prior to landing.

Notes on rental dates and timing for renting in Toronto:

  1. 2 months is typically the time frame when units or apartments are listed for rent before they become available (for instance, an apartment advertised on August 1st becomes available October 1st).
  2. It might also be worthwhile to note that in a majority of cases, rentals typically begin on the 1st of the month. There are cases where people sign leases in the middle of the month, but those are known to be few and far between.

Create an apartment wish list

I started tracking all the places that fit my requirements, while still in India, and mapped them out on a spreadsheet which helped me stay sane and organized. Good location, square footage, and budget are kind of like the ‘holy trinity’ of renting so I made those columns in the spreadsheet. Some of the other shortlist criteria for me were: walk score, transit score, and which utilities are included in the rent. Most condos include water, some include hydro (which may or may not cover heat and AC) and some very generous landlords may share their cable and internet.

Tips for researching rentals:

  1. Websites like condos.ca will provide walk scores and transit scores with each listing but if you’re browsing other websites where these scores are not listed, you can check the Walk Score site.
  2. If utilities are not included in your rent, you may want to factor in that cost as well while deciding on a place. Air-conditioning and heat is a majority of the cost component, and hydro averages to approximately $50-80 per month, while water is about $20-40 per month. Internet and cable TV connection will cost additional, upwards of $100 per month (internet is approximately $35-70, depending on the service provider and plan you choose, it might be more).

How to find apartments in Toronto

I started my search with sites like ViewIt and Condos.ca to get a feel of what the rent was like in different neighbourhoods. Since I knew my work location, I wanted to be within a 5 to 15-minute walking radius of my office which helped me shortlist the neighbourhoods to target. I also made a decision to use a realtor because I wasn’t familiar with most of the formalities and felt like having a realtor would be very helpful especially to walk me through the paperwork and other requirements.

Tips on finding good rentals in Toronto:

  1. As a tenant, you don’t have to pay the realtor for his/her service, that’s the responsibility of the landlord.
  2. You’ll notice that sites like ViewIt and Condos.ca have a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) number associated with all their listings. Learn more about what MLS means. Some websites offer the option to search by MLS number. The general inference is that if a listing has an MLS number, the rent you see is going to be slightly higher than a non-MLS listing.
  3. To find better deals, it might be worth also visiting sites like Craigslist, Kijiji, Zumper, Padmapper, and Bunz Home Zone on Facebook, most of which have mobile apps. Since these are listing aggregators, they provide a medium where potential tenants can directly connect with landlords. With no realtors or brokerage agencies involved, the rent tends to be somewhat lower than the numbers observed with respect to MLS listings. The downside is that you need to verify the authenticity of the listing yourself (there are many people out there looking to scam you), check if everything is in order, and be prepared to do all the legwork.
  4. Bedbugs are also an issue in cities like Toronto so be sure to check the place thoroughly.
  5. Another good tip to get a good deal on rent is to look at buildings that are slightly older or are just about to be finished. The condo that I rented, for example,  is in a brand new building where the amenities are still not open to residents (at least a month or two more to complete those) which made the condo more affordable.

Which site is best for finding rentals in Toronto?

I liked the navigation on Condos.ca better compared to ViewIt, and so after checking out a couple of additional sites, I decided to stick with Condos.ca. There are various filter and sorting options available which made narrowing things down much easier. The site also allows you to set up email alerts based on your search criteria (most websites offer this feature), so I did that as well. Each listing on Condos.ca has the name and contact information of a realtor that you can reach out to if you’re interested in seeing that listing. I continued tracking the units for rent in various locations and specific buildings of interest. After doing this exercise for 2 whole months, I had a fair idea of the rent I will be paying, and also the building I wanted to live in.

Apartment hunting tip: Here’s a guide about renting in Toronto I found useful during my research, an article that provided helpful renter tips, a step-by-step guide on how to rent, and a few more tips on Finding long-term accommodation on the Arrive resources page.