5 insider tips that’ll help you get a fantastic new apartment

What the pros look for when assessing a new rental home

Tips from the insiders for finding a great apartment

It’s funny: Most of us, when we transition into adulthood – or at least sometime during our 20s – seem to get all kinds of advice about things like how to buy a new car, how to get our careers started, even what to look for in a potential life partner.

But we get a lot less advice about how to choose the right rental apartment, even though a person’s home is, in many ways, every bit as important as their career or their car – and definitely has the potential to make day-to-day life almost as unhappy as choosing the wrong life partner.

In a city like Toronto, where high real estate costs mean more and more of us are choosing to live in rental condos well into our 30s and 40s, choosing the right unit becomes even more important. We all want to find an apartment that will allow us to settle in and feel at home, even if it’s ‘only’ a rental.

5 secrets the pros use to find great places

You know what it’s like when you’re hunting for a condo to rent: You do some research online, look at a lot of pictures, and then line up a bunch of viewings one afternoon. They all look pretty good – but how can you tell which will let you feel like you’re ‘home’, and which have issues that’ll drive you crazy once you’ve been living there a month or two?

Here’s how the pros separate the good suites from the great ones.

  1. Research the landlord.  Most experienced tenants will tell you that in the long run, a condo that’s handled by a property management firm tends to be a better option: Good property management companies tend to have specific responsibilities and are invested in maintaining high standards, they are fully compliant with relevant legislation, and in many cases they’re well-known in the condo building. Renting directly from the owner doesn’t have to be problematic – but it’s worth Googling your potential landlord’s name before you sign a lease agreement.
  2. Look under all the sinks. The cupboards under the kitchen and bathroom sinks tend to be places where plumbing damage or bug infestations will be most evident. Taking a couple of minutes to quickly open the cabinets can help ensure you don’t end up with a unit which has bugs, water damage, or mold problems that could cause problems once you’ve moved in.
  3. Are the floor tiles straight and plumb? Good contractors often say that builders who can’t lay tile in a straight line probably don’t know how to install a toilet or wire a socket. Sloppy floor tiles in the kitchen, hall or bathroom can be an indication of cheap or shoddy construction that otherwise isn’t evident.
  4. Make a call on your cellphone – and walk around the whole unit while you talk.  There is nothing more frustrating than moving into a unit, only to find that you have a mobile phone dead zone in the living room or bedroom. A quick phone call to check reception can rule this out.
  5. Ask to speak with the current tenant. The current tenant is your best source of ‘real’ information about what it’s like to live in your unit on a day-to-day basis: Are the neighbours helpful? Are the walls soundproof? Are the common areas well-maintained and safe? Are the utility bills reasonable? These are the kinds of little things that can make a huge difference to your quality of life. (If you’re not able to speak to the current tenant, consider approaching another resident in the lobby, either during your viewing or on another occasion. You might be surprised to find just how helpful an existing tenant is willing to be.)

Of course, you should combine these ‘insider’ tips with our previous advice on how to make apartment hunting in Toronto easier.

Good luck – and don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like to learn more about renting condos in Toronto and the GTA!