Hello Canada- Part-2- Accommodation
Surveys do not lie, when they say cost of living in Toronto is high, yes they are. We can compare it to Tokyo or Singapore to feel good about it, but otherwise rental cost here is insanely high. GTA is a big area called Greater Toronto Area and covers Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, North York and others. Downtown, midtown, uptown all are costly, variation is in the newness of the building. What costs you 1500$ in midtown would cost you 1800$ in uptown. You cannot escape cost factor even if you go farther in suburbs. Cost of living would catch you anywhere you move in Canada like a cold. You can adjust with groceries or clothing, but never on accommodation for it is where you spend your most time.
Pictures speak a thousand words, and the above picture speaks a million words. It has become a norm that homes are sold so high over the asking price and people are skipping the inspection part and bidding the home. In a nation like Canada, which is the second largest country in the world, homes cannot be built on will.90% of the population live within 100 miles of the US border, implying all big cities like Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa are situated in the vicinity of US border. Much of the land is permafrost, for houses cannot be built and Canadian winters are more harsh in some areas. Wildlife, lakes are still part of the beauty landscape, hence high rise residential living has to happen in the GTA area. Even with the new homes being built, immigration numbers are high, hence the imbalance in living and buying cost.
Will the soaring prices crash? I do not think so, for Canada will continue to attract population in significant numbers and all of them need a place to reside. Current numbers do not do justice to rectify the imbalance, and even with so much construction, home prices would continue to stay high. Most newcomers do not think of buying a new home, and if so settle far from the GTA or go as far as Alberta province.
Another striking feature when compared to living in USA, is number condos available with the individual buyers. In USA, much of the negotiation, at least in big cities happen between apartment societies or property management firms. Big firms hold up massive units and manage the properties and everything is centralized. There is a leasing office, you sign up a lease, and rent is paid electronically, and then you dial up for repairs or service requests. Here in Toronto, we sign up leases between individual home owners and you are taken in for a toss. Lease conditions vary, home conditions vary, and sometimes rent varies between one unit and another. Lease duration are enforced strictly. We have no option to be out of the lease. There is no exit clause in the lease. We serve up the entire lease duration.
I resorted to kijji, facebook marketplace, renters.ca, rentcafe and other websites to look for affordable rent places. I know affordable and Toronto do not go together, but another new aspect is leasing agent. We have to engage leasing agent, who get a cut of 1 month rent as commission from the seller. Buyers do not have to pay up for the apartment. Lease agents act as liaison between home owners and renters. There is no fixed price, but something called as bid price and ask price and you could be turned down, if your price is not above other prices received. Homes have been sold 600,000 CAD above the bid price in many localities. Suburbs are less expensive, but commute to Toronto would be harder, Toronto would be expensive but the commute would be shorter and apartments small in size.
Sharing is caring: The number of people sharing a place is very high. Couples choose to rent their other bedroom for other guests for rent purposes. Individual homeowners, rent their basements for a cost. Big 5 bedroom apartments are sliced and diced among 10–12 people to serve equality. Basement living is another concept which is highly prevalent here. I have not had the experience, but people living there complain of more cold during winters, pest issues, sound issues during the night due to constant walking, poorly insulated basements and lack of sunlight or windows a constant worry. Many people resort to basement living in the initial stages and then move to other high rise living. Many of them stay as families and college going students find it affordable. Basement living tend to be less expensive than other floors as they are embedded with disadvantages.
First month and Last month rent is given at the start of the lease. Lease duration are of typically 1 year with 2 months of notice. Some landlord seek for employment letter, previous landlord report, bank statements, but many do not. Bachelors go in for sharing options in 1BHK or in 2BHK. Many of them are put up in dens/dining rooms as temporary or permanent living. Some of the apartments come furnished, others need to be fitted with mattress, table and others. Mattress is must, as winters are cold even inside apartments. 100% of the apartment is temperature controlled, but still we feel the cold, if the winter chill is high. A better option would be to avoid basement living if you can afford.
Always make sure to visit and inspect the apartments before renting. Pictures shown in the ad would be at the time of construction 20 years back. Verify the restroom, parking, lift, common areas, Washer/Dryer facilities. Individual homes are spacious but we have to own up the snow clearing mess. You know that is number of times in Canada. Individual homes are also not update with repairs or appliances are out of date. Better to perform a quality check before signing the lease. Most of the kitchens do not come with microwave, so make sure to buy one, if you are keen on using. Also Washer/Dryer are not standard in-unit feature of many apartments, so common places are the norm.
There are number of rental scams like in all countries. Make sure to verify the listing, inspect the property, and avoid money orders for rent. Always make sure to use interac email transfers as they can be tracked in a bank. Western Union money transfers cannot be tracked, and checks are costly here in Canada.
Happy House Hunting !!!