by Aparajita Bhandari
Reading week is over and March, with its promise of spring weather to come, has descended upon us – yes, the end of the school year is starting to feel pretty close. This means that the time has come to start thinking about your housing situation for next year, whether you want to live in residence or off campus. I moved out of residence this year and my housing search was pretty stressful – a lot more stressful than it had to be. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through such an experience so I’ve put together some questions that you should carefully consider as soon as you get time to think about anything other than midterms.
On or Off Campus?
The first decision that needs to be made is whether you want to live on or off campus. Both options definitely have pros and cons. Living on campus is obviously a lot more convenient and you save time by not having a commute. It’s also expensive, and many residences require you to have a meal plan on top of the room fees. Off-campus places are generally quite a bit cheaper and allow more freedom and independence, which can be both good and bad. The responsibility of paying for utilities and setting up Internet also lies with you, although some places do include this in the rent price. You also need to decide how far away from campus you are okay with. Rent gets cheaper as you move further away from downtown, but you have to factor in the cost of a TTC Metropass as well as the loss of time from commuting.
Who should I live with?
The next important decision is to figure who it is you are going to live with. It’s very important that you and your future housemates are on the same page about all aspects of the housing search. What’s your price range? What maximum distance are you okay with? Are you okay with sharing a room or is having your own room a priority for you? All of these are important questions that you should sort out before you start your search in order to save yourself a lot of future frustration.
What type of housing?
There are a lot of different types of housing in Toronto, from apartments and condos to townhouses and duplexes. Apartment buildings and condos are good in that they usually have some type of security and things like garbage collection, yard maintenance and utility set up are less your responsibility than they would be in a house. However, your neighbours are very close to you, which might be a problem if you end up with loud neighbours (or conversely if you and your roommates are loud). Apartments also tend to have fewer rooms in one unit than houses, so depending on how many people you plan to live with one might be more suitable for you.
When does the lease start?
Do you want to start living in your new place right after April and into the summer or can you not move in until September? Are you comfortable with signing a lease now and then finding summer subletters? This is a really important consideration to make. In March last year I felt really pressured to find a place before going home for the summer, as many of my friends at other schools were signing leases already. However, the Toronto housing market is very big and new places are always becoming available, unlike some smaller university towns. I know that searching for houses over the summer may be impossible for some students who live very far away. However, if you can, looking for houses slowly throughout the summer isn’t bad idea, especially if you want a lease that won’t start until September.
Some helpful sites
Whether you’re a first year moving out of residence for the first time or a fourth year looking for a new place I hope you find this advice useful.
Some of these sites might be helpful:
- U of T’s general housing site: www.studentlife.utoronto.ca/hs
- U of T Housing Finder: sites.studentlife.utoronto.ca/student/login.aspx
- Really easy to navigate listing site: www.apartmint.ca. Worth a look as well: www.viewit.ca.
- Remember you have rights as a tenant – know what they are: www.torontotenants.org/resources/guide-to-tenant-rights
What housing tips do you have? Let us know in the comments.