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Tips & Tricks To Securing Your First Rental Apartment

Whether you’re finishing up school or just ready to get away from home, moving into your first apartment is an eye-opening experience. It’s also an extremely rewarding one, but only if you avoid some of the common pitfalls associated with rentals.

To that end, check out a few of our tips and tricks for securing your first rental apartment! There’s of course a whole lot more to the renting process than what is simply laid out here (make sure that you’re fully informed!), but here are a few important things to note when you’re ready to see what’s out there.

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“So many showings, so little time…” Photo by Bora vs. Bora.

Have a fundamental idea of what you even want…

It’s amazing how many people think having no preferences for what they’re looking for make the process easier – as if anything and/or anywhere will do. Wrong. In that case, it’s actually like finding a needle in a haystack. And we’re willing to bet you’ll realize pretty quickly that you indeed possess very specific needs and wants once you see a few crappy options. So please, take the time to understand and clarify your own requirements first. Location, how many bedrooms/ bathrooms, is parking necessary, are amenities important, do you need a 24 hour concierge, what utilities are included, would you like a balcony… that kind of thing.

Consider using a real estate agent…

Well, d’uh… that’s what we’re here for, remember?! Sure, you can always go at it on your own with Kijiji, Craigslist, ViewIt.ca, or what have you. But real estate agents not only have access to MLS—which means listings galore, and usually 24 hours before Realtor.ca gets them—but we can also do a lot of the leg work for you: identifying the best available units, setting up showings, guiding you through the process, negotiating the deal on your behalf, etc. So don’t be shy! (Sidenote: whether you use an agent or not, finding a unit through MLS or at least one handled through a licensed brokerage is always a safe move. Your deal then is ultimately insured in case anything goes wrong, as opposed to most typical direct-by-landlord offerings.)

On that note: Using a realtor costs you zero dollars…

That’s correct: you don’t pay a cent. Believe it or not, the commission is actually paid by the landlord, who traditionally puts up a full month’s rent to be split down the middle by the listing and co-operating agents. Not bad, right? And if you change your mind mid-way through the process and decline to go through with the rental? Same deal, you aren’t on the hook for the agent’s time. Just be nice and treat them to a drink if you appreciated their efforts – realtors don’t get paid by the hour, after all!

Spare yourself disappointment and come prepared…

Whether you are going to use a real estate agent or not, realize this real estate Toronto market is hot. Red hot. And that goes for rentals too, where it’s truly a ‘here one day, gone tomorrow’ landscape. That means, before you even proceed with your first showing, make sure you have all your supporting paperwork ready. We’re talking about your employment letter, proof of income, pay stubs, credit check, rental application, references, etc. All of this is needed to qualify yourself to a landlord and secure your preferred unit. No listing agent will even consider presenting an offer coming their way to the landlord without it. So the last thing you want to do is find a place and then lose precious time gathering all that paperwork because you didn’t have it prepared beforehand. Someone else will beat you to it and you’ll only end up disappointed.

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Streets of Toronto. Photo by Holly Sisson Photography.

Leave no stone unturned…

This is your first rental and, face it, you’re inexperienced. So once you find a unit you are ready to make an offer on, be certain to check everything. Make sure the outlets are operational, that the faucets and light switches work, that the water pressure is good, that cupboards and patio doors close properly, ask how loud the neighbourhood is at night, etc. The last thing you want to do is get burned because you didn’t pay close enough attention to the details of the space.

Be decisive and prepare to be flexible…

Remember: you are renting, not buying. So tailor your expectations to such. This is a place you will spend a couple years living in max, and not carry a mortgage on. So be adjustable! This itself may sound firm—and obviously you want to be happy in the end—but you have to realize that, most of the time, there will be a lineup of people behind you ready to take the unit in your place. Landlords and their agents know this. So if you’re going to posture over price or conditions/clauses or drag your feet, odds are the deal is going to pass you by. Stick to your guns, of course. But never forget, flexibility is ultimately paramount. If getting that extra 100 sq ft you desire means paying $100 over your budget, you may just need to pull that trigger. Or if the landlord wants a higher deposit because he isn’t comfortable with your employment or credit, same goes. Otherwise it could be back to square one with a lot of wasted time to your credit and a whole lot less inventory to choose from.

Understand your rights…

This is perhaps the most important tidbit of all. Get to know the Landlord and Tenant Act and the Residential Tenancies Act. For as long as you are renting, treat them like bibles, because you have more rights than your landlord could potentially lead you to believe. While renting is generally a smooth ride (especially if you’ve gone through organized real estate), understanding your rights will stop a whole boatload of potential inconveniences dead in their tracks.

 

Feature image by Jayeffex.