Identify Your Needs
How flexible are you about where you will live? Generally, your rental choices are limited to whatever is available and affordable, but there may be trade-offs you will have to consider. Do you need to have public transit within a short walk of your new home? Like most renters, you'll probably have to make a few compromises between what you want or need and what you can afford. Before you start a search, drafting a list of your rental requirements may help. The Rental Search Worksheet will get you started.
What is Included in the Rent?
When looking for a rental home, cost is often a key consideration. What you can afford on rent depends on a number of factors: household income, outstanding debt, utilities and other living expenses. Consider how much debt you are comfortable with, how important your lifestyle is to you and how much you want to put aside for the future.
The basic monthly rent is an obvious cost, but many less-visible costs add up as well. Don't forget to consider the following:
- Are utilities, such as heat, electricity, water, cable television and Internet connection included? If not, these costs may come as an unwelcome surprise. Find out which utility companies provide services to that building and contact each company to see if it can provide an average monthly cost for the rental location. The exact usage will vary from tenant to tenant and costs fluctuate, but these estimates will give you a good idea of what to expect as monthly fees.
- Don't forget to estimate the cost of extras such as laundry and parking, where these have not been included.
- What about transportation costs? Will your monthly travel costs increase, decrease or remain about the same at this new location?
- You may need to provide your own appliances. If you have to purchase or rent these, include them into the total cost of renting.
- Is any form of provincial/territorial rent control in place? If not, what are the landlord's plans for future rent increases?
FactAffordable or Not?
As a general rule, monthly shelter — including rent, electricity, heat, water, and municipal services — should be less than 30% of before-tax household income. However, there will be circumstance and/or markets where it is difficult to find rental accommodations that accommodate this. The cost of property insurance, parking, cable, telephone service, and Internet connection are not included in this calculation.
Location will often drive a rental search. Prime locations cost more, but they often offer advantages, including reduced commuting time and expense. Proximity to work, school, public transit or other amenities helps pinpoint ideal locations. Other important considerations are safety and proximity to family and friends. Prepare a list of locations that best match your personal needs and then, add secondary locations that you would also consider.
When you begin to look at possible rentals, it's important to evaluate the location as well as the building and living space. Remember to consider the following:
- Crime level in the area.
- Distance to work and/or school, friends and family.
- Access to public transit and major roads.
- If you have children, are parks and play areas nearby? What about schools?
- Local amenities: entertainment, recreation facilities, shopping, library, restaurants.
- Traffic: are the roads busy? What about heavy traffic at rush hour or seasonal times?
- What is your impression of the general air quality?
- How are the noise levels in the area at different times of day?
A basement apartment is a basement in a house that has been converted to an apartment. It may have a separate entrance. The apartment may have its own bathroom, kitchen, laundry room and heating system, or it may share those amenities with the rest of the home. Low rise apartment buildings also have basement apartments.
A detached house is not attached to any other building and is usually one or two storeys high. A detached house is also called a single-detached or a single family dwelling. A one-storey is called a bungalow, which come in many styles. A ranch-style bungalow is a large, spread-out one-storey house.
A high-rise apartment is located in a building that can range from 6 to 30- or more stories high. High-rise apartment towers have elevators and often have security systems to monitor entry and exit. They often have laundry facilities, sports and recreation facilities and other advanced amenities. High-rise buildings usually have efficient electrical, heating, sewage and plumbing systems.
A rooming house rents rooms by the week or the month. A refrigerator is often located in the room to store food. Usually, roomers share the kitchen and bathroom(s). A single person is the most likely tenant for a rooming house.
Semi-Detached or Duplex
A semi-detached house (or "semi") is attached to another, similar house. The common wall is generally thick enough to prevent sound passing between the units. Semis can be either one or two storeys and usually have backyards. In some cities, such as Montréal, semis are called duplexes. In other parts of Canada, a duplex is a two-storey house with separate dwelling units on each storey. If a yard is available, it is usually for the first-floor residents only.
Single-Room Occupancy (SRO)
A single-room occupancy is similar to a rooming house, but with a kitchen and a bathroom in each unit.
Townhouse or Row House
Townhouses, sometimes called row houses, are several homes with common walls between each house. They are usually two storeys. A stacked townhouse is one townhouse sitting on top of another. Each townhouse is two storeys.
Walk-Up or Low-Rise Apartment
A walk-up or low-rise apartment is located in a building that does not have an elevator. Generally, monthly rent for a walk-up is less expensive than monthly rent for a high-rise apartment. Walk-ups are usually older buildings less than five storeys high. They may have only a few conveniences, such as laundry rooms or storage lockers.