and House Hunting in Toronto
to canada and Looking for an apartment. Here's some
you're new to Toronto, there are a few things you should
keep in mind when looking for an apartment.
most important thing is to do your research: how much
can you afford (not just rent but other costs, including
travel time), what kind of neighbourhood suits your
lifestyle, and what the market is like. You will find
a place to live, but the more effort you put in, the
better your chances of landing a great place!
A word about timing
be warned that it can take a number of days, even weeks, of
searching to get a place. Therefore, it might be best to try
to come for a couple of days, perhaps 4-6 weeks in advance
of your move, and try to secure a place prior to moving. If
you don't find something, you will at least be more familiar
with the areas. If you come here with a truck full of your
belongings and hope to find something within a day or two,
you are taking a much greater risk (if for no other reason
than the cost of late fees on the moving truck) and you may
be pressured into settling for something you don't want.
can't come to Toronto, you can start right away, especially
with high-rises, because the office might know of April/May
openings but hasn't advertised them yet (a big advantage).
High-rises are frequently the first home of those new to Toronto,
because they are easier to find (one phone potentially call
gives you a crack at many units, rather than just one in a
house) and if you've seen one, you've seen them all.
Landlords tend to begin advertising apartments about 4-6 weeks
in advance of the available date, but there are exceptions,
both early and late. If they say "avail. imm.",
then it is empty right now and they want you in as soon as
possible - this may or may not be what you want.
$$$ and The Market
can be an expensive and competitive rental market. The vacancy
rate in 2000 was 0.06%, meaning only 6 out of 1000 apartments
are available at any given time.
you must act quickly when you see an apartment you like. Apartments
rent in just a few days. Also, when you go to see a place,
you will probably be in competition with at least 20-50 other
prospective tenants. If the place looks good to you, you have
to pounce on it immediately.
are benefits to this frenetic rental climate: (1) because
apartments are in such high demand, it is generally easy to
break a lease and move out if you want to; and (2) many landlords
are spending money on their apartments again (new appliances,
to the CMHC, average monthly rents in 2000 for the Toronto
these figures are deceivingly low. Anything along the subway
line tends to be more expensive: a 1-bedroom apartment is
usually at least $1000 and even bachelor apartments can be
over $800. Where are all the cheap apartments then? Away from
the subway line, of course! Generally, you are paying for
convenience - e.g. being able to walk out to parks, shops
the Ontario government repealed the Landlord and Tenant Act
and brought in the Tenant Protection Act. The main impact
of this was to change the way rent control works. Previously,
the government set a yearly maximum rent increase (usually
around 3%) and this applied to all apartments (except for
renovations, etc.). The current legislation applies to occupied
units only. This means that a landlord can ask whatever price
they want for vacant apartments, but once you are a tenant
you are protected by the government's maximum rent increase
for as long as you rent the unit.
Where to live
this comes down to how you want to live. Big building? Quaint
flat in a house? Walk to work? Family life? Entertainment?
The Infosys office is located in an area that is relatively
easy to get to, with satisfactory amenities in the immediate
vicinity. If amenities are important to you, Toronto has many
more interesting neighbourhoods, each with their own personality.
There are people working at Infosys who live in almost every
part of the Greater Toronto Area.
are areas with lower-density housing and the major mode of
transport is driving (vs. walking and transit). If you have
a car and you don't mind Toronto's rush-hour traffic, you
can drive or bus to work and may be able to save money on
your rent (note, you will always have to pay $50-100 per month
for parking at work). You can live 4-8km north, east or west
of Yonge and Finch and probably find something for a few hundred
dollars less than something along the subway line. Look for
clusters of high-rise buildings around Bathurst/Finch, Bathurst/Steeles,
Don Mills/Finch, Don Mills/Sheppard, 401/DVP. Beyond that,
most of these areas are suburban homes and as such, single-person
rental stock is quite limited. If you have 2 or 3 roommates
you can look into renting an entire house as a cost-effective
way of living.
the 8 km range, the suburbs are almost entirely homes and
rentals become hard to come by. Closest to furthest, approximately:
Thornhill, Downsview, Rexdale, Agincourt, Scarborough, Richmond
Hill, Etobicoke, Markham, Mississauga, Vaughn.
can't or don't wish to drive, you have to account for walking/biking
or taking public transit (the TTC). I recommend staying within
2km of the Yonge subway line, since it runs through North
York Centre, right inside our office building. Taking the
subway to work is fast and convenient, as well as cost-effective:
tokens cost $1.70; a monthly pass is $88.50 and gives you
unlimited use of the entire system - handy for weekend shopping
the change in rent control, rents along the Yonge line have
risen 10-20%. However, units slightly removed from Yonge have
not increased so severely and some good deals can be had.
The neighbourhood descriptions below are based on personal
observations. They are the more common places for young professionals
to live. These neighbourhoods are generally safe and each
has a unique character. Further descriptions can be found
on the Toronto Life Real Estate Guide and other sites (see
and Eglinton (a.k.a. North Toronto or Sherwood Park)
Also known as "young and eligible", this is the
home to many recent graduates who have moved to Toronto. It
is a vibrant, bustling area built up around the Eglinton subway
station. Taking the subway from Eglinton to Finch (5 stops)
will take about 15 minutes. The area features cinemas, bookstores,
fine dining, pubs, shopping, cafes, fast food. The housing
stock tends to be high-rise, low-rise and some houses. There
are also a number of condos recently/being built in the area.
It is generally quite safe and clean, and has more parks and
quiet streets than downtown.
the popularity of the area, rents can be higher than average.
As of November 2000, one-bedroom apartments at Canterbury/Berkshire
House (high-rise attached to the subway - go to work without
putting on a coat!) go for $1000-1200 plus parking. The largest
building in the area (88 Erskine) is advertising 1-bdrms for
$1395, and another large building (500 Duplex) had some 1-bdrms
for $1095. Bachelors can be found in this area as well, usually
for $800 or more. There are dozens of high-rises and low-rises
- you can find them on the web and in the papers, and by driving
past and calling the phone number on the sign. Street names
with lots of high-rises: Eglinton, Roehampton, Holly, Broadway,
Montgomery, Orchard View, Erskine, Keewatin, Redpath.
something cheaper in this general area you have to go somewhat
further (2km+) east - Bayview and Eglinton, Leaside. Note
there is very frequent bus service along Eglinton, that will
take you right into the subway, and Mount Pleasant and Bayview
avenues have a lot of shops and restaurants as well.
This is the next stop south of Eglinton. Similar neighbourhood,
although a little quieter. Lots of high-rises, same prices.
You can probably just walk or drive around and look for "vacancy"
signs - but look on the RentCanada site as well and make an
appointment or two. Street names with lots of buildings: Lacelles,
Balliol, Davisville, Merton.
Core: Bay & Bloor/Yonge & Bloor/Yonge & College/Bay
& College/Church Street
Most people consider Yonge street, south of Bloor, to be the
"core" of downtown, with lots of offices, shopping
(Eaton Centre), subway and entertainment nearby. There is
also a lot of quality cheap fast food along Young between
Bloor and College. Though Yonge street may appear seedy in
places, it is generally quite safe because of the volume of
pedestrian traffic at all times of the day. Grocery shopping
can be found at a new 24-hour Dominion store at Church and
Dundas. This urban area is home to people of many backgrounds
and careers; professionals, students; rich and poor. Church
street is also home to Toronto's gay and lesbian community,
and is more relaxed than Yonge. Further east, one finds some
run-down areas along Jarvis, Sherbourne and Parliament streets
which are probably best avoided.
of Bloor, and east of Yonge, there are a lot of high-rise
apartments in this area, between Yonge and Church streets
(look for addresses on Charles, Alexander, Wellesley, Dundonald,
Maitland, Wood and Carleton streets). Generally you will find
apartments in this area to be on par with Yonge and Eglinton
with respect to size, price, and features. There are also
a lot of high-rise condos between Yonge and Bay streets, west
of Yonge street. They can be very expensive, but if one has
roommates you might be able to swing it (you might try Horizon
on Bay, 633 Bay at the corner of Bay and Edward). The condo
offices often act as property manager for owners who wish
to rent their suites.
subway at Yonge and Bloor, you are 20 minutes from North York
Centre. Wellesley, College and Dundas stations add just a
minute or two each.
Arranged along the Bloor-Danforth (east-west) Subway line,
the Danforth (between Broadview and Donlands) is a popular
area because of its lively atmosphere: pubs, restaurants,
shops, festivals. It's also easy to get to work - just get
on the subway at Donlands, Pape, Chester or Broadview, go
west to Yonge/Bloor, transfer northbound and ride to North
York Centre. This would take about 30 minutes. The Danforth
is also known as Greektown and there are many Greek restaurants
and cultural events in the neighbourhood.
part about the Danforth is that it's a great neighbourhood
and it tends to be less expensive. The housing stock consists
of units in older houses, and a few high-rises near Broadview.
Bachelors can be had for $725, and 1-bdrms from $850.
The Annex is along Bloor Street between the Bathurst, Spadina
and St. George subway stops. It is home to many UofT professors,
students, journalists, writers and a lot of professionals.
There is a good "cafe scene" and you can walk to
downtown, Chinatown, Kensington Market, the UofT and Little
Italy. Bookstores, sushi joints, student pubs, Honest Ed's.
are old but have a lot of character and the tree-lined streets
are pleasant in the summer. Unfortunately, it seems everyone
wants to live in the Annex and rents have skyrocketed. It
may be possible to find a 1 bedroom under $1000 but they tend
to be basements for $750 or whole floors for $1300+. Parking
can be hard to find. Time to work on the subway: 30 minutes.
(Queen's Quay - on the water)
Pros: living on the waterfront, recreation, party atmosphere
Cons: extremely expensive, cold in winter, oddly isolated
from downtown, tourists.
Italy (College St. between Ossington and Bathurst)
Pros: cafe culture, bars, shops, entertainment.
Cons: not on the subway line and ~50 minutes to Yonge and
Italia (St. Clair between Dufferin and Bathurst)
Pros: Duplexes can be less expensive (~$1100 for 2 ppl). Cafe
culture, bars, shops.
Cons: not on the subway line and ~40 minutes to Yonge and
St. West (Bathurst to University)
Pros: Entertainment district, bars, shops.
Cons: Noisy, not on the subway line and ~60 minutes to work.
Getting expensive due to lots of condos going up in the area.
close to Yonge and Finch
are many new condos along the north Yonge Street corridor
(a.k.a. "downtown North York"), but they tend to
be quite expensive ($1300+ for a one bedroom). The houses
around here will likely rent only a basement suite or the
entire house. But there are always a few high-rises and other
units around. Key areas to try searching: Yonge/Finch, Yonge/Steeles,
Bathurst/Finch, Bayview/Finch, Yonge/Sheppard, North York
Centre. If you are near any of these intersections, you will
be no more than a couple of kilometres from our office at
North York Centre, and all are served by bus lines (Sheppard
and NYC are on the subway too).
and Finch is becoming more "urban" and has most
of the basic amenities (grocery, pharmacy, video, fast food)
but lacks good food and entertainment. It is also 14km from
downtown (Queen Street). Both Yonge and Sheppard and North
York Centre feature clusters of multi-use complexes - apartments,
shopping, dining, cinema, office. The neighbourhoods don't
have a lot of character but are generally very safe and close
to the subway and the 401 expressway.
Toronto apartment vocabulary
city's housing market has its own 'vocabulary', especially
when it comes to heavily-abbreviated classified ads.
: A detached or semi-detached house, although sometimes it
is just an apartment in a house that has been divided.
Duplex : Semi-detached house or house with multiple units,
sometimes as small as 1 bedroom.
Townhome : A rowhouse, similar to a duplex. Often upscale.
Condo : Usually a unit within a large building. The unit is
owned and being rented by the unit-owner, not the building.
Works like an apartment.
Apartment : Self-contained unit in any sized building, from
house to high-rise.
High-rise : A multi-unit building 7 stories or higher.
Low-rise : A multi-unit building with fewer than 7 stories.
Junior 1-bdrm : A small apartment with an enclosed bedroom.
Bach/bachelor : A self-contained apartment that consists of
a principal room with kitchen, and a bathroom. May have a
Bachette/bachelorette : Usually a very small apartment but
Flat : Rarely-used term - may indicate a shared bathroom or
Room : Just a room. Shared bathroom and kitchen.
To Share :People looking for a roommate.
Furnished : Typically includes bed, chest, table, chairs.
Balc : Balcony. The attitude towards barbecuing on balconies
varies by building. Technically it is illegal, but it is more
an issue of the smoke bothering other tenants, or a landlord
who has been in trouble with the city over other regulations.
Bsmt/bsmt ste/basement suite : A basement apartment. Can be
large or small and may have windows. Unfortunately, typically
dark, cold and damp.
Dishwasher : wd,Washer and dryer in unit.
2 appl : Fridge and stove.
3 appl : Fridge, stove and (microwave/dishwasher).
4 appl : Typically: fridge, stove, washer, dryer.
5 appl : Typically: Fridge, stove, washer, dryer, dishwasher.
6 appl : Fridge, stove, washer, dryer, microwave, dishwasher.
no pets : By default, assume you cannot have pets in most
apartments. If you have pets your search will be somewhat
restricted and you should always check that your pets are
welcome before even making an appointment to view.
lndry : The building has laundry facilities but they are usually
brdlm : Broadloom; carpeting.
hw/hrdwd : Hardwood floors. Common, although modern buildings
tend to consider "parquet tiles" as hardwood. Beware
of squeaky floors in older buildings - unless you are on the
top floor, the apartment above you will probably squeak as
phone/cable : Most Toronto landlords do not supply cable or
phone, unless rented as a "room." If the ad says
phone or cable, it may mean you have to share with another
tenant (not good for high-speed internet).
$1000+ : The "+" means that the rent does not include
pool/rec room : Many high-rises try to entice you by advertising
recreational facilities. In my experience, most of these are
not pleasant to use. You're better off with a membership to
an athletic club, such as the Northridge club in our office
solarium : Usually a small glassed-in room. A lot of downtown
condos feature solariums which many people use as an extra
bedroom. This is feasible but remember that the walls are
made of glass and privacy is limited!
a/c : Air Conditioning. Unless you are living in a basement
suite (and even then), you will need A/C in Toronto's muggy
summers. Also, some landlords will not allow you to install
your own window air conditioner, so you should ask before
signing if this is your intention.
hydro : Utilities. This varies from place to place; in some
buildings, you pay for the electricity for lights and appliances;
in others, you pay all costs including heating. Check how
much this is going to be before signing, or you may be in
for an unpleasant surprise!
pkg/parking :Parking is expensive in Toronto. High rises usually
charge an extra $60-100 per month for a parking space. Smaller
buildings may not have any parking at all, and you will have
to try to rent your own spot or get a permit from the City
of Toronto for on-street parking. Note that permits are not
available in all areas, sometimes there are waiting lists,
and there are strict rules about eligibility for a permit.
See the website in the resources below.
It is often wise to make a checklist of what you need and
what you want. Then arrange the two groups in descending order
of importance. If you're really keen, make up a form to use
for each place you contact. At the top, put the phone number
and description, and put this list on it. Print out 10 or
20 copies. Suggested items to put on checklists: rent, hydro,
parking, A/C, laundry, light, room size, water pressure, close
to TTC. Also, put things to avoid on your checklists: aggressive
landlord, evidence of pests, mildew, bad smells, noisy.
• cell phone, if you have one, so you can call - and be reached
- while out searching
• driver's license (you'll often need to write down the number
on your application)
• bank account info, including home branch address and telephone
• contact info for previous landlords and personal references
• offer letter from Infosys - this is important to prove that
you have a job and are earning enough to afford the apartment
If you are looking for a high-rise building, it's probably
easiest to find them in the Toronto Star's Renter's Guide
booklet and other free booklets found in streetside boxes,
or on the Web. You should call the office directly; they don't
always advertise. If you are looking for a smaller building,
the Toronto Star's website is a great primary source of ads
(see resources below). You must check it as often as possible
- every day if you can - because it only takes a few days
to rent an apartment. If you see something in the area you
want for the price you want, call immediately.
strategy is to look for short-term rentals. If you don't have
a lot of belongings and want to establish a base in the city,
you can probably find something for 4-6 months and then move
on once you have a better idea of where you want to live.
You may find sublet arrangements, but there are also apartment-hotels
which provide temporary accommodation.
have time, check out one or two of the neighbourhoods on foot.
Because it's so easy to rent an apartment, many landlords
(especially in The Annex and many high-rises) don't bother
placing a classified ad - they just put a sign in the front
also consider an apartment-finder service or work with a real
estate agent, though I have no experience with these. You
can probably find something on the web. One company under
"apartment finding" in the yellow pages was Rent
For You - they offer to find you listings but you still have
to call the landlord, etc. (This service might not be worth
the $120 they want to charge you.)
When calling, you will frequently get an answering machine.
This is because an ad can generate hundreds of calls per day.
You may want to say something like "Hello, my name is
________ and I'm calling about the ad for the apartment in
the [Toronto Star]." You will need to leave a number
where they can call you back. But if they don't call you back
within a day, call again. You don't want to annoy them but
you don't want to let them overlook you either. This is where
it's handy to have a cell phone, because if you're out looking
at apartments, it's best to be able to get those call-backs.
get a live human, ask if it's still available, ask them to
tell you about it, and if you like the description, when they
are showing it. Sometimes they give you a range of times,
other times it's by appointment. If you can, it is recommended
to make an appointment because then you won't be viewing the
house with 10 other prospective tenants (a bidding war might
case, make sure the landlord gets your name - you want them
to remember you as being professional.
about days. New ads come out all the time, but by far the
most ads are in the Saturday papers. The worst day to see
an apartment is Sunday because you can't get any banking services
(e.g. certified cheque). The next-worst day is Saturday because
everyone else is out looking for an apartment that day, too.
A landlord once said he placed an ad in the Saturday Star
and received over 200 calls - before noon!
OK, now down to the nitty-gritty. You've found an ad, called
the landlord, made an appointment to see a place. You show
up: ON TIME - don't make them wait, and remember, it takes
longer than you think to get anywhere in this city, especially
if you're driving between neighbourhoods. You should look
presentable; not fancy, but neat and conscientious. You look
the place over, and think you want to put in an offer. STOP.
Think again - have you seen everything? Check your checklist
again. It's easy to get sidetracked during the tour and forget
to ask about hydro, pets, pests, or parking. Also, what about
the lease - what are its terms? (Almost all apartments have
a one-year lease. This is more for your protection than the
landlord's.) Did you check the water pressure, the proper
functioning of the toilet, the condition of the floors, windows,
locks on all doors and windows?!
If you're really sure you want to take it, the typical procedure
is to fill out an application form which the landlord will
provide you. The purpose of this form is to determine if you
are a worthy tenant. References and credit checks are in fact
the only legal methods that the landlord can use to discriminate
amongst applicants. Typically the application will ask for
references (usually past landlords but perhaps a character
reference) and credit information. As a recent graduate you
may not have a lot of credit history - don't worry - the landlord
is looking for bad credit ratings but it is difficult to tell
a good one from someone without a credit history.
and "first and last" - this is important: The law
states that a landlord can collect a deposit, but it must
be requested on or before the date of signing the rental agreement,
and can be no more than one month's rent. Thus, it is actually
illegal to ask for "first and last" with the application
(the law would have the "last month's rent" as the
deposit, and the first month's rent payable on the first day
of the tenancy). However, in my experience, this is common
and, due to the tight rental market, it is frequently agreed
to. Therefore, be prepared to depart with two month's rent
- that day! (e.g. ~$2000). Make sure to get a signed receipt
for any monies paid.
the landlord will accept the application without money (a
sign that you may be lower on the waiting list), but if you're
serious about the place, offer to come back with a certified
cheque within an hour (if in the evening, then first thing
the next day). However, be aware that by entering an application
you making a legal offer to lease, and if you give the landlord
a cheque you are most likely bound. I don't recommend you
put in an application on a place that is a "maybe."
There are always more "maybe" places out there -
it's the great places that are rare.
can see, this puts you in a bit of a dilemma - should you
go and see more places after putting in an offer on one, just
in case you don't get it? In my experience, you can do this
but you tread a fine line. You should let subsequent landlords
know that you have an offer in on another place, and ask if
would they accept a conditional offer.
landlord has accepted your application and money - wait by
the phone. If you were the first one to put in an application,
and your credit checks out, you should get a call within a
day or two letting you know.
have the place
When you get the good news, you should spring into action.
Arrange your phone and (if necessary) Hydro hookups so you'll
have service on the day you move in. Go through all the people/organizations
that have your address and notify them of the new address.
I also recommend using Canada Post's mail forwarding service,
which costs $36 for 6 months. And be sure to let Infosys know
Relocation Systems : A good website with general info
and ads for moving-related services.
Star Classifieds: A good source of rental classifieds.
Great website that allows searches by rent, area, # of bedrooms,
and Mail Classifieds : Tends to feature upscale apartments
but occasionally one finds a good value. Smaller selection
than the Toronto Star.
: Run by large property managers. Tends to feature only large
high-rises. Useful for finding the going rates in various
Rentals : Contains good descriptions & prices for
a lot of high-rise buildings all over Toronto. Check apartments
for "Toronto Central" for downtown and Davisville,
"Toronto North" for Yonge and Eglinton (Erskine
Ave), Bathurst/Finch (601 Finch W).
Apartments : Operates 3 buildings on Erskine Ave in the
Yonge/Eglinton area. Pictures, descriptions, prices, availability.
hotels : Short term rentals
Neighbourhoods: Great guide to the neighbourhoods of Toronto.
Life Real Estate Guide : Go to --> city guides -->
real estate - then check downtown/midtown/uptown for areas
and Government Websites
Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal: Government authority
that deals with landlord and tenant issues (the Tenant Protection
Act). Good site to inform you of your rights and obligations.
Also has forms for both landlords (notice of rent increase,
notice of eviction) and tenants (notice of intention to vacate).
of Toronto : Lots of good information on this website,
including maps and guides to parks and services.
of Toronto Parking : How to apply for on-street parking,
fines, tickets etc
- Toronto Transit Commission : Maps, fares, hours.
Bell Canada 310-BELL
- dedicated to helping you find apartments for rent
in the West End area of Vancouver BC
Guide .ca - dedicated to helping you with
apartment rental in the greater Vancouver BC area. They
deal in all kinds of residential accommodation rentals
including apartments, condominiums, townhouses, suites,
houses, duplexes, lofts, flats, pads, rooms, sublets,
vacation rentals, furnished rentals, basement suites,
executive suites, appartements and shared accommodation.
- Provides details on rental properties with maps &
photos of apartments, houses, condos & suites currently
for rent in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton.