Are you ready for the big move but are wondering how to begin OR whether you can find affordable apartments to rent in Toronto? The key is knowing what you want, where to look and how to avoid scams. Keep reading to learn more.
Toronto is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in – hence why most millennial Canadians still live with their families. For young professionals, who are still building their career, but also want their independence, this can be a burden. As a result, renting is a viable solution that can make it easier to save until you’re able to afford an apartment of your own, or a home.
I’ve moved multiple times (had at least 10 addresses in the last decade) and understand too well the frustration of the hunt and having my time wasted. Sometimes that involves coming across a seemingly perfect place but…
- the commute is long OR
- you get scammed. This has never happened to me (I’m Nigerian lol), but I know folks that have been unlucky OR
- you don’t land the place due to credit or income issues
Overall, the process can drain you, thereby exacerbating the feeling of being unsettled.
How to search for apartments
How then you begin searching for apartments without getting scammed or wasting time or energy on the hunt?
Let’s start with cost. How much are you willing to spend?
As of 2020, the average single occupancy 1 bedroom apartment costs $2300 in downtown Toronto vs $1800 in North York approximately. So location matters. However, if apartment space matters to you, you’re more likely to find better options in midtown Toronto (North York upward) and Scarborough vs Downtown Toronto, and at comparable price.
On the other hand, you can also reduce your rental cost significantly by finding roommates to share the space with. In that case, the monthly cost of a room can range from $600 to $1000 on average, and that can be determined by factors like location and number of roommates.
“I’ve had a lot of success with Kijiji, and the key is recognizing that new apartments get posted every hour, so check back frequently and message as many people as possible. If there is a phone number in the ad, call to speak with the person and make your inquiries. Creating an account and downloading the app also helps with responding to messages in a timely manner, and it helps you stay safe on the site with regards to giving out personal information.”
Typically, you can rent on a month to month basis or on a long term basis – usually 6 months to a year is required by most landlords. A month to month is helpful if you are unemployed or are not yet financially secure to commit to a longer lease (see How To Get A Survival Job).
So, where can you find apartments? Google is your best friend 🙂
The following sites have been most valuable to me in my search:
This is where most Torontonians begin their housing search.
Kijiji is to Canada, as Craigslist is to the United States. There are options to filter based on categories i.e. contract length, location, pets, cost etc. I was a bit confused by this at first, but “offering” indicates that you are looking to rent from others (select this), while “wanted” means someone else is looking for a type of rental or roommate (although I wonder how many people respond to helping someone else look for a place…#adulting101 folks).
I’ve had a lot of success with Kijiji, and the key is recognizing that new apartments get posted every hour, so check back frequently and message as many people as possible. If there is a phone number in the ad, call to speak with the person and make your inquiries. Creating an account and downloading the app also helps with responding to messages in a timely manner, and it helps you stay safe on the site with regards to giving out personal information.
This is the site to check out if you’d like to rent apartments (e.g. condos vs houses) in Toronto. I’m referring to the really tall buildings with many floors that place rental signs around the city.
These are usually owned and managed by management companies e.g. Homestead & Caprent, and they go really fast! If you want to get the most out of this site, create a login and begin searching for apartments at least 1 month before your anticipated move-in date. If you’re looking to rent with roommates, make sure you have identified those individuals before submitting your application. It makes the process of securing a unit quicker and you’re likely to get priority if everything checks out financially i.e. you have a job or savings or good credit to show that all the occupants can afford the rent.
3. Facebook Groups
Facebook is one of the best places to find apartments in any new city. I’ve used it when hunting for apartments/houses in Boston as well as Toronto. You can begin your search from Facebook Marketplace or search for various groups dedicated to housing in your city. Search for groups like Toronto Home Zone, Apartments & Rooms for Rent Toronto, Toronto Rentals etc. and join. Some of these groups will require you to answer a few questions in order to become a member, and you should join as many as possible to respond to the posts in the feed.
This is also the best way to find roommates – send DMs and comment to as many posts as possible to ask more information. It’s in your best interest to see multiple places and not commit to one right of the bat, until you’ve found the best fit.
This site aggregates apartments and allows you search using the map functionality. You can also filter by price, distance and number of bedrooms. By creating an account, you get the best experience as you’re able to add apartments to you favorites and contact agents easily (includes a pre-populated message option).
This is not as well used in Canada as it is in the States, but it’s a good resource to include in your repertoire. When you find a posting you’re interested in, calling is the fastest way to get a response and a chance to view a unit. However, the safest way is to email the person by copying either their provided email address or the contact link provided by Craigslist. You may come across a scammer on this site, so it’s important you know how to identify them and steer clear.
The following are tell-tale signs you’ve encountered a scammer (I have many times) and the kind of messages they send (this is not an exhaustive list):
Tell-tale signs of an apartment scam
1. They begin by asking you to send your personal email to a different email address other than the “reply” email generated by Craigslist
2. The apartment looks too good to be true i.e. price offered does not match the average price of such a space in a city like Toronto
3. They write you a long essay detailing rules and regulations OR how much they value this apartment and how they are looking for someone they can trust to take care of the space
4. They tell you to send money to them in advance without seeing the space
5. They tell you a sob story about the owner not being available due to travel, working out of the province/state or having such huge inheritance that they need someone to manage the apartment.
6. They tell you that you cannot see INSIDE the apartment because they have the keys with them, but you can do a walkthrough of the property from the outside (LOL)
7. They ask you for personal information or to fill out a form right of the bat in the email (this is best assessed in conjunction with the long essay). Note, this is not to be confused with applications with rental companies like Homestead.
8. They close with a sense of urgency – “this apartment won’t last long” OR “it will go to the first person that responds”
How to respond to an apartment scam email
1. Delete the message or report it as scam to Craigslist (this option is at the bottom of all emails or ads placed on the site)
2. If you’re curious, engage them but state that you’d prefer to keep communication on the reply all email. That way they are unable to get out of being reported as scam and have their ad be shut down
3. State that you understand their situation but insist that you are not willing to deposit any money until you see the INSIDE of the apartment
At the end of the day, the key to successfully finding the right apartment is a numbers game. So keep reaching out to as many people as possible and viewing multiple apartments before making a choice. Other factors to consider in your search include safety and crime rate, proximity to public transportation, groceries etc.
You got this!