Finding a place to stay in Toronto, especially if you are coming as a newcomer and without any existing acquaintances, can be quite challenging.
Finding a short term place to stay
Airbnb is the preferred option despite its high costs. Ideally one should start looking at least 2-3 months in advance before the date of moving in. Your first course of action can be to reach out to friends/relatives if they can host you for the initial few days. Join groups on Facebook where existing people in Toronto are searching for flatmates. A good deal would be to get a separate room for $1000 a month.
For a family, getting an entire apartment on rent is quite difficult. It is because Tenant protection laws in Canada are quite strict and it is quite difficult to evict a tenant. Hence landlords are extremely wary to give an apartment on on rent to newcomers without a stable job or income source. Your best option lies with finding landlords who can appreciate your educational and professional background and allow you in. Otherwise, your primary option is Airbnb. If you are immigrating during the tourist season (summers), book well in advance to lock in cheaper rates.
Here are some of the resources that might help you find a short term place to stay:
Finding a long term place to stay
Deciding where to live
Rental market in Toronto can be separated geographically and type of residence. Homes in City of Toronto which is well connected by TTC are quite expensive. Whereas homes in GTA like Brampton or Missisauga are comparatively cheaper. Though it is slightly debatable but in my opinion, if you have to travel to the City of Toronto for work, the extra costs of transportation offset the cheaper costs of housing. In case you use public transit, there is a substantial increase in the time of travel as well. One significant benefit being that the homes in GTA are relatively larger than the ones found in City of Toronto. The area that you plan to stay also becomes important in case you have school going kids. Regions like Markham, Richmond Hill, Oakville and Burlington have really great schools and have a strong preference by parents.
Deciding the type of residence to rent
Type of residences can be further classified into Rental Apartments, Condominiums and Individual Homes. Rental Apartments are run by a commercial oriented management where all the apartments in the entire building are put on rent. Condominiums are apartments/flats individually owned by Landlords and they rent out their units as per their will. Individual Homes are large sized independent houses, typically found in GTA areas outside the City of Toronto.
The type of residence that you would like to rent depends on your preferences. Individual Homes have a large front and backyard which becomes lush green during winters and homes are quite spacious.
A lot of rental apartments can be found in midtown and uptown. Old rental apartments are quite spacious though old in construction. In most such rental apartments, washing machines are located in a common area in the basement and you have to pay as you use.
Whereas condominiums are modern constructions, more sleek and each unit has its own washing unit. As most condominiums are relatively new constructions, space is a premium and most are quite small like 600 to 700 sq. ft. (1 Bedroom). As a result condominiums typically have a price premium of 10-15% as compared to Rental Apartments.
How to find a rental place
Condominiums and homes can be search on publicly listed websites or you can contact a Rental property broker or Realtor. Brokerage is paid by property owners and hence availing the services of a broker is a good idea. You can also search on websites like realtor.ca, condos.ca, viewit.ca, zumper and so many others.
Rental Apartment Managements do not pay any brokerage to realtors and hence you will not find the realtors pushing their case. In my opinion, some good deals lie in this segment. I got a spacious 1000 sq. ft. 2 bedroom 1.5 Bathroom rental apartment in midtown Toronto, at least 20% cheaper than market rates. Most rental apartments have their own website and a rental office in the building. You can either go to a website to find contact number and call or just walk-in. In Canada, typically you would have to spend a lot of time and effort and regularly calling up these Rental Apartment offices to see if a new vacancy has arisen. Really good deals are grabbed as soon as an existing tenant gives a notice to leave in a couple of days. So you really have to be on your foot all the time. The good part, however, is that rental increases are governed very strictly leading to yearly increases like 1%. Hence, once you lock in a place, you are good for years to come.
How much rent can i expect to pay?
1 Bedroom (1 bedroom, living room and kitchen) in the City of Toronto can be anywhere between $1800 to $2200 whereas 2 bedroom can be $2000 to $2500. The more far you go from the City of Toronto, the lower it goes. For example, you can expect to pay $1600 for one bedroom and $1900 for 2 bedroom in an area like Brampton.
Requirement for renting a place
Most owners would require a credit report, a proof of income (Ideally rent should be 40% of your income) and two or more references. Typically first month rent and last month deposit is requested. A Lease is typically signed for a 12 month period with a firm commitment of not being able to break it. After the initial 12 months, a lease is considered to automatically renew for one month as long as a person wants to stay. Thus you can move out after providing a 2 months notice, in most cases.
Other facilities and costs of living in
Monthly electricity charges can be around $50 and water (if you have to pay) $20. Most rental apartments offer heating during winters, the cost of which is included in the rent- hence you do not need to pay extra. Internet connection can be a further $50 a month. Parking is also chargeable in most cases starting from $100 and above. Some condominium owners offer free parking in order to sweeten the deal and be sure to ask for it.
Condominiums also have good facilities like swimming pools and gym and be sure to check these facilities while renting the place. A good gym facility typically costs $300 a month and getting the facility free is certainly a good deal.
Be aware of rental frauds
The Toronto market is flooded with imposters who are there to dupe innocent newcomers out of their hard earned landing funds. Newcomer's lack of awareness of rules and regulations makes them a good target. I remember reading a news article some time back when a person showed an open home to 7 different people and took deposits only to be discovered later that he was not the owner. Read some other rental scams here.
In case you have any questions, or I have missed some important details, please feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for reading.