property management

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!

 

 

9 ways to make finding a new apartment in Toronto easier

tips for finding a great rental condo in Toronto

 

Finding a rental condo in Toronto

While you may be looking forward to your new rental home in Toronto (because Toronto has a lot to offer), you probably aren’t looking forward to actually looking for that new home. It’s time-consuming, it’s stressful, and it can involve more dead-ends than you’d hoped.

But it doesn’t have to be this way! A little preparation means you can narrow down your choices in advance, which means you have a better chance of finding your new dream apartment in less time (really).

Here’s what to do:

Our top 9 tips for making apartment-hunting less painful:

  1. Take some time to think it through. Sounds obvious, right?  But many people, when they realize they have to find a new place, get overwhelmed and start to panic – and then either waste a lot of time looking in the wrong places or end up in a new place that doesn’t really work for them. Making time to think about what you need, where you need to be, and talking it over with whoever you plan to live with will save you a lot of time, and heartache, in the long run.
  2. Get your financial ducks in order. Most landlords are going to require a credit report, a letter from an employer, possibly a reference from a previous landlord, and first and last month’s rent. You’ll be in a better position to negotiate or move quickly on a suite you love if you have all these things in order before you start looking at potential new homes. (If this is your first rental, or you have a less-than-stellar credit history, you may want to consider lining up a lease co-signer as well.)
  3. Make a list of your must-haves – and write it down. It’s almost impossible to narrow down your search if you aren’t really sure what you really want – and what you could live without. Do you need easy access to public transit, or on-site parking? Could you live without a bathtub if the neighbourhood was really fantastic? Would you trade a small kitchen for a huge bedroom? The more you know about what – exactly – you’re looking for, the easier it’ll be to find it.
  4. Set a budget and don’t be tempted by some dream penthouse condo. The truth is that rents in Toronto tend to be high enough without you starting to contemplate whether you really could afford that super-deluxe condo if you just ate ramen noodles all month. There are plenty of great places out there at lots of price points, so set a budget you can live with and stick to it. No one can eat ramen noodles all the time.
  5. Be realistic. Like most big cities, Toronto has perennially-expensive neighbourhoods (Yorkville); super-hot neighbourhoods (the Junction); and up-and-coming neighbourhoods (East Danforth). Knowing which is which will keep you from wasting time chasing a bargain that just doesn’t exist.
  6. Consider working with a professional. Sure, sites like Craigslist or Casalova can be good sources of rentals, but they require a lot of searching, constant vigilance, and (often) a lot of dead ends. You might want to consider working with a local property management professional who can do a better job of ‘matching’ you to suites that meet your needs – and who can handle some or all of the paperwork for you.
  7. Don’t be rushed. It’s true that the Toronto real estate market is hot right now, and that goes for rental properties as well. But that doesn’t mean you have to pull out your chequebook and start signing leases 5 minutes after you tour a property. A landlord who pressures you to ‘act now’ may have something to hide – and may be lying about all those other potential tenants who are lining up to take the place if you don’t.
  8. Do your legwork…and your homework. Every property manager and real estate agent will tell you that it’s crucial to ‘walk the neighbourhood’ before you make a decision to live somewhere long-term. Even the most beautiful suite can be rendered unlivable if it turns out to be right behind a fire station whose sirens keep you up all night, every night.But you should also spend some time with Google, checking out your potential landlord and building for red flags, such as bed bug infestations, news coverage of poor maintenance or treatment of tenants, negative reviews on Facebook or elsewhere, etc.
  9. Trust your gut. Sometimes, when you walk into a rental condo, you just know it’s the right place for you – maybe something about the light, or the architecture, or the layout immediately appeals to you. On the other hand, you may get an immediate ‘bad vibe’ from a place or a potential landlord. Listen to your gut feelings. If you’ve done your homework – especially #1-5, above – your gut is probably steering you in the right direction.

Good luck with your search – and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need help finding a new place in Toronto!

 

You bought a great investment condo. But do you really want to be a landlord?

Corporate housing manages condos for owners

 

Congratulations – you’ve just bought a condo as an investment in the super-hot Toronto market!  If you’re not in too much of a hurry (property fast-flipping can be risky), you’ve probably made a good investment, especially if you’ll have tenants to pay some or all of the mortgage costs.

Ah…tenants.  While you may come across the occasional tenant horror story, the truth is that most tenants – especially the kind of people who want to rent a new condo in downtown Toronto – are good people who won’t leave your unit with holes in the walls or broken toilets.  But even with great tenants, being a landlord can be a lot of work:  Advertising your property, arranging showings, doing credit checks, fixing faucets that always seem to break on a Sunday night – are you sure you’re ready to deal with that?

5 questions to ask yourself before deciding whether to be a landlord:

  1. How much free time do you have? The #1 complaint we hear from new landlords is “I didn’t realize it would take so much time!”  If you (and your spouse, if applicable) have demanding jobs and family commitments, the process of finding, selecting and managing tenants on a day-to-day basis could be a problem.  The irony of great tenants is that they’ll let you know every time anything goes wrong – and they’ll want you to take care of it quickly.
  2. How much experience with finding and assessing tenants do you have? One of the most common issues for new landlords is making tenant decisions based on a ‘gut feeling’. Sure, a gut feeling can help you make a decision, but it’s no substitute for conducting background, credit and reference checks.
  3. How ‘handy’ are you? Rental properties (even condos, and even new builds) always need upkeep.  Light switches, curtain rods, leaky windowpanes, malfunctioning dishwashers – something always needs attending to.  If you’re the sort of person who can fix a faucet without having to call a plumber, great.  If not – or if you have to make 14 calls to the condo management team in order to get something done – you may end up with more headaches than you realized.
  4. Do you live near your investment property? Do you spend significant time out of town? Being a landlord means you’re never really off-duty, because if a tenant calls on Christmas Eve to report their heating isn’t working, you have a duty to drop everything to find a solution. If your investment property isn’t within easy distance of your home, if you’re frequently out of town on business, or if you spend several weeks a year down south or at the cottage, the landlord lifestyle may not be for you.
  5. Are you good with paperwork? This is an important, but often overlooked, part of being a landlord.  You’ll need to keep good records – of tenant information, contact numbers, receipts and repair documentation, etc. – for tax and legal reasons.  If you’re the kind of person who just throws everything into a shoebox and hopes the accountant will sort it out later, being a landlord might not be for you.

What do you do if you don’t really want to be a landlord?

Hire a property manager.  Property managers find, assess and manage tenants; they deal with day-to-day management; they can deal with repairs and tenant requests and the paperwork.  What’s more, in Canada the management fee is tax deductible. You receive a direct deposit in your account every month, and monthly and year-end statements to give to your accountant.  It’s all the benefits of being a landlord, with almost none of the headaches.

Want to learn more about our property management and suite management services?  Click here.

Why corporate housing suite management is a good choice

Why corporate housing is a good choice

It can make good economic sense to buy a downtown condo or two as an investment: Toronto real estate prices continue to rise, so you’re building equity – and in the meantime it shouldn’t be too hard to rent the property to a nice professional couple who won’t trash the place and won’t default on the rent, right?

The truth is that managing tenants can be a whole lot more work – and cost a whole lot more money – than most property owners realize. Even the best tenants occasionally leave holes in the walls or flood the bathroom; nice professional couples tend to move on in a year or two, meaning you have to go through the process of finding new tenants all over again; and while today’s monthly rental prices may seem high, they probably won’t cover the mortgage and condo fees on a new downtown condo.

That’s where suite management can make a real difference, especially when your condo becomes part of a corporate housing pool. Here’s how:

  • Revenue. Rentals are priced on a hotel model, so the monthly rate is higher than you might expect for a regular monthly tenancy. While everyday occupancy isn’t guaranteed, on an annualized basis you can expect to earn more revenue than you would if you had permanent tenants on a year-long lease.
  • Cleanliness. Because all our suites are cleaned regularly (before and after each tenant, plus weekly or biweekly housekeeping while a suite is occupied), the property is maintained in first-class condition at all times and any issues are promptly identified and addressed.
  • Repairs. The provisions of Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant Act say that landlords can’t enter a property without the tenant’s permission, so it’s possible for tenants to do a lot of damage before a landlord is ever aware of the problem. Because our suites are inspected before and after each (short-term) guest, repairs are done quickly – before they have time to turn into something serious.
  • Risk management and administration. Suite management companies like TLG manage the property, handle bookings and payments, and provide you with monthly and annual reports.

Want more information on how your condo can become a TLG suite managed property? Click here.