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As I mentioned in the post 13 tips to choose the best place to live in Canada, there are many factors when choosing the city or town where you want to live. Let's think you have already overcome that challenge, but now you must find accommodation.
You wonder how you can find accommodation right after arriving in Canada. How do newcomers rent apartments in Canada? How do you get a long-term rental when you have no previous history with a landlord in Canada?
In this post, I will share some tips to help you find your first home in Canada in the best possible way.
Table of contents
If you are coming to Canada soon, this information will help you know how to find accommodation for you and your family.
1. Research from your country
If you are still unsure which city to choose, check out these 13 tips to choose the best place to live in Canada.
If you are planning your trip, and you have already decided on a particular place, it is good to start researching on the internet in your country so that you have an idea of the prices, the places and the market in general.
At the same time, you can prepare and reserve the budget for what you will have to pay when you arrive in Canada.
To do this research, I recommend going to sites like Kijiji, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, and if you include the city, you will have a range of options to compare.
Indeed, when you start checking, you will realize that there are different types of accommodations; here, I will define the most common ones:
Houses that can be:
Detached: regular homes with property around them.
Semi-detached: share a wall with another house.
Townhouses: each house shares one or two borders with another place; from the outside, they look like small buildings.
Basements are apartments under the second floor of a house; they are usually almost entirely underground and may have a separate entrance. They are common in Canada and are generally cheaper than a condominium.
Condominiums or Condos are apartments in buildings with shared amenities, such as swimming pools, exercise rooms, etc.
It is also possible to rent a room within an apartment where another family lives.
2. Sites to find accommodations
Once you know what city you want to get to and what type of accommodation you would like to rent, you need to find the place.
If possible, I would recommend renting at least two weeks in a short-term accommodation in Canada, such as Airbnb, Booking, or staying with family and friends. This way, you can physically be here to visit the accommodation and wait an extended period.
In short, these are my recommendations:
Short term: AirBNB, Booking or family/friends.
Long-term: Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, Craigslist and Real Estate Broker (Realtor).
Other: Facebook groups of immigrants in Canada or the city where you live.
The way I did, it was with a real estate broker. If you contact a real estate broker, make sure you share at least this information about what you are looking for so you avoid emails going back and forth:
Type: Condo/apartment (with sunlight)/basement/house
Budget: Up to X CAD
3. Visit the place
Sometimes the pictures are pretty, but that doesn't mean the neighbourhood is what you expect; there is smell, noise, etc.
In my case, I looked for accommodation in all these places mentioned above, but it was slow, and I had to place by location because I had to contact the owner, wait to hear back, plan the visit, and then go again with the next one.
So, finally, I looked for a realtor. I shared with him the specifications I was looking for, and he presented me with over ten options in the area I was looking for; he accompanied me on a given day to visit one by one until I found the right one. He then represented me to the owner, and the process was seamless.
I did not have to pay for his services because the commission came from the owner.
4. Gather the documentation
Once you visit the place and decide which one is the right one, you have to send the documents requested by the real estate agency to apply to be the tenant of that place.
If you use a realtor, these are the documents you probably would have to submit or complete:
Tenant representation agreement authorizing the real estate agent to represent you.
Tenancy application form, the standard form in Ontario, with all your personal information, the two previous landlords, employment information, etc.
Employment letter with proof of annual income
Credit score report
References: Name and cell phone of previous landlords, employers, etc.
Last three pay slips
On the other hand, considering that you will not have a history in Canada, I would recommend bringing proof that you can pay, like a bank statement showing you have savings to cover the rent since you will not have a credit score. I also brought an Equifax report from my country, just in case.
Once you apply and the landlord accepts you, yey! You have to pay for two months (the current and the last one also known as a security deposit), the charge is with a bank draft that you ask your bank for (like a cheque), and then you have to deposit in an account that your real estate agent will give you.
Then you will receive another official form, the Lease Agreement with all the data you and your landlord have signed. All these documents are digitally signed through your email.
As I mentioned, when you arrive in Ontario and look for a long-term stay, you must pay a minimum of two months of rent (first and last month).
After that, you should consider the following:
Rent payment monthly
Tenant insurance, if requested - We pay around 25 CAD monthly.
Hydro (Electricity) - We spend about 50 CAD monthly
Optional: Internet - We pay about 90 CAD monthly.
Optional: Cable - We don't have it.
This could be different if you rent a house, basement or bedroom.
6. Additional tips
In our experience, these are additional recommendations:
Do not send money to anyone before visiting the place. Unfortunately, there are scams where the house never existed, the person who contacted you was never the owner, etc. Some examples of something being a scam could be that the monthly rent is much less than the current market rate, being asked for a deposit without a formal rental agreement or lease, or being asked to send a deposit to an out-of-country owner. As I mentioned, the payment, in my case, was super formal in a bank to a specific brokerage company account, not to a person; perhaps this is different when you contact the owner directly.
I would recommend this as a last resource; if you want a place and other people are applying for it simultaneously, offer more than two months as a deposit beforehand, but do it only if you feel comfortable doing so. I had a previous experience where I was forced to pay six months upfront to be accepted, and it didn't feel right, so I switched realtors, had no problem, and paid what was legally correct for the apartment where I live.
Please consider that what I have described is based on my personal experience living in Ontario; other provinces may have different processes.
I hope this information has been useful and that you can find the perfect place for you and your family. I wish you every success in your search process and if you have any questions, send me a DM on Instagram.