Tired of high real-estate prices in Toronto? Ready to rent, are you? I don’t want to burst your bubble, but rental properties are flying off the market these days—that Kijiji ad touting a renovated two-bedroom unit off Danforth Avenue for $1,800 a month will probably attract 30 suitors in the first week alone. Bracing for competition is just part of the home-finding game now, whether you’re searching for student housing or grown-up digs to settle down in.
To wit, a couple years back, a former client was interested in an $1,850-per-month unit in Queen West’s Chocolate Factory Lofts. The listing agent said, “I already have seven offers. Please do not send me an eighth.” Of course, I sent him one anyway: a respectable $1,900 with six months rent up front, a handwritten letter from my client to the landlord, and a copy of her bank statement showing a healthy chunk of “family money.” Suffice it to say, we got the property.
If you’re a young renter, your age is going to be an obstacle. The market is competitive, no doubt, but even if it weren’t, landlords aren’t exactly lining up to rent to frat boys. (I once had two twentysomethings show up to inquire about an investment condo I own, both wearing “Tap Out” t-shirts and their hats sideways. “Thanks, gents!” I said. Not a chance.) Sound like discrimination? Yes. Does it happen every day in real estate? Absolutely. Landlords are pickier than ever with their tenants—especially those in or just out of university.
So, how can you make yourself an attractive candidate for tenancy in spite of your once-enviable youth? Look professional when you scope out a property and meet the landlord. Don’t worry about overdressing; demonstrate that you’re an adult. If need be, have a parent at the ready to co-sign the lease or act as a guarantor, and offer to provide three months rent up front as a deposit, instead of the typical two. Lastly, be sure to bring references from your landlords in university, as well as a company letter confirming your employment.
Even if you are skilled, moneyed, and dressed well enough to pass your future landlord’s CIA-calibre background check and actually score a place to live—you’re gonna make it after all!—there are still a host of financial factors to consider.
Right off the bat, you should entertain living with a roommate. A typical 600-square-foot, one-bedroom condo in the downtown core averages about $1,600 per month, but a two-bedroom unit might average $2,200, giving you a second bathroom and quite possibly a parking spot. It’s cheaper to split the cost—that is, if you don’t mind jockeying for shower time. Make sure your roommate has similar personal traits to your own; otherwise, you’ll quibble about everything from kitchen cleanliness to acceptable bedtimes, noise levels, and visitors, which will quickly kill any buzz you felt from securing a home in the first place.
The type of property you decide on can also jack up your costs. A freehold property—a duplex, multi-unit dwelling, or the main floor of a house—is almost always cheaper than a condominium. Remember that $1,600 one-bedroom condo I mentioned? A comparable unit in a multiplex could cost as little as $1,200. Sure, you don’t get the extra amenities, but you get a different style of living: It’s often quieter in a residential neighbourhood.
If you do go the condo route, flashy projects don’t come cheap. M5V Condominiums, a new development on King West, is home to more good-looking 25-year-olds than a Hollywood-area Starbucks, but those kids are paying a massive premium to live there. Do yourself a favour and forget any status and prestige concerns. There’s a reason you’re not buying, after all. (Hint: It’s money.)
One prospective renter might pay $1,900 to live in Festival Tower with their contemporaries, while another would rather pay $550 to split a two-bedroom at Bloor and Lansdowne with a friend—and there really is no right or wrong. What isn’t up for discussion is that, even though buying might break the bank, rental costs are on the rise, too. Consider all options. And when you’re young, you have all the options in the world. Right?