Renting an apartment in Toronto can be like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Every one of its 140 neighbourhoods has something to brag about: Etobicoke has a low crime rate, the schools are superior in Rosedale, nothing can beat Scarborough’s lush green parks, and Yonge and Eglinton have some iconic bars and businesses.

How do you decide where to rent? And once you find a few places you like, what’s the next step? Below are some tips that can help you find your next Toronto home.

1. Confirm your budget

Budget is arguably the most significant consideration when deciding where to live in Toronto. In Yorkville, you’re looking at an average rental price of $2,919 for a one-bedroom apartment, while Liberty Village and the Annex have similar-sized properties available for $1,671 and $1,744, respectively. Knowing your financial limits will prevent you from wasting time apartment-hunting in areas that are too expensive for you.

2. Define your preferences

Once you’ve narrowed down your neighbourhood choices by budget, it’s time to consider what’s important to you in a living space. Do you need an elevator and parking? An onsite laundry? Does your new home need to be close to a subway station? Once you’ve itemized your must-haves, think about your ideal neighbourhood. Do you prefer quiet and leafy streets or trendy and vibrant surroundings? Do you want to be within a ten-minute walk of an organic food store or coffee bar? The answers will make it easier to find a Toronto apartment that meets your needs.

3. Check out some older properties

If you want to live in a particular neighbourhood but it appears to be beyond your price range, look at buildings built before 1991. Unlike the sleek glass condo towers in downtown Toronto, older properties like low-rise apartments are subject to rent control. There won’t be any nasty surprises like this person received when her rent shot from $1,650 to $2,600/month.

4. Use a realtor

When your goal is renting an apartment in Toronto instead of buying a home, you don’t need a realtor to help you find a place to live. It still doesn’t hurt to check in with one, as they may be able to show you some condo listings or rental homes that are within your price range.

5. Research

research online listings

Have you come across a few online listings that look promising? Now it’s time to do some research. Many apartment complexes are reviewed on Google and other public forums, and checking out these reviews can give you an idea of what to expect. If most of the negative comments appear to be from a former tenant or other parties with an ax to grind, take them with a grain of salt. Repeated complaints from different parties should be taken more seriously.

Another recommended resource is the Bed Bug Registry, a free public database of user-submitted bed bug reports. The last thing you want is to move into a building with a serious infestation. If you know who the landlord is, you can also see if they’re listed on LandlordWatch, which lists the 100 worst landlords in Toronto.

6. Come to showings fully prepared

Don’t miss out on your chance to get the apartment of your dreams. When you attend a showing, bring everything you need to fill out an application on the spot if you like what you see. This includes:

  •     Cheques
  •     Pay stubs
  •     Contact information for your last landlord
  •     Personal references (let them know to expect a call)

Be prepared to agree to a credit check too. When you arrive with everything necessary for making an application, you stand a better chance of getting the apartment.

7. Measure your large furniture items

Before heading out for a showing, measure your large furniture items like the bed, sectional sofa, and bookcases. If you like an apartment, you want to know where your antique four-poster bed will fit in the bedroom or if the living room is too small to accommodate your massive leather sofa. Some older apartments may have narrow doorways, and the last thing you want is to discover on moving day that most of your furniture won’t fit through the door.

8. Inspect each apartment closely

You’re entitled to get nosy when viewing an apartment. Open closets to confirm how much storage space is available. Look in kitchen cupboards and under the sink to check for mold or any signs of cockroaches. You should also:

  •     Open and close the windows to make sure they don’t stick
  •     Test the plumbing by flushing the toilets and running the water in the shower and the kitchen and bathroom sink
  •     Test the thermostat and central air

If you really want to rent the place but notice some minor issues like windows that occasionally stick or chipped wall paint, ask the landlord to confirm in the lease that these problems will be corrected by a certain date. Identifying minor damage in writing before you move in can protect you from having to pay for dents or nicks that you didn’t create.

9. Take notes

If you schedule several apartment visits in one day, it can be difficult to remember which one was which after the showings are over. Take some pictures of each unit and record your observations in a notebook or one of your phone’s note-taking apps.

10. Sign the lease

You’ve heard back from the property manager of a building you especially liked. Congratulations! Now it’s time to sign the lease, provide cheques for the first and last month’s rent, and call the movers. Be sure to get receipts for both payments as well as your copy of the lease.

People often wonder how to find an apartment in Toronto. The secret is to set realistic and sustainable expectations. Know what you can comfortably afford, and don’t reject a great place because it might not have your desired city view or you have to walk 10 minutes to the closest TTC stop instead of five. Be willing to compromise, and you could find an apartment that where you will enjoy some of the best years of your life.