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How do I find housing in Toronto?

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

It's a question that comes up regularly, finding a place to live is certainly not easy, and there are many options available to you. Here are the main things to know when you start your search.

What types of housing?

Before throwing all the websites that exist at you, it is important to understand the vocabulary used in Canada.

Condominiums: Also called condos in the ads, these are buildings where residents have access to amenities such as a gym, a terrace, a barbecue area or a party room.

The 1 Bedroom: It is an apartment with 2 rooms : a living room/kitchen and a bedroom.

The 1 Bedroom + Den: This is an apartment with a bedroom and a Den (a room that is slightly smaller than a bedroom). It is common for the Den to be set up as a bedroom but have the disadvantage of not having a window. In some ads they are marked as 1 + 1.

The 2 Bedrooms: Be careful because it can be a trap. Some people will not hesitate to pass off 1+1 as 2 bedrooms. If you want to be sure you understand the configuration of the apartment, do not hesitate to ask for the plans.

The Basements: This is a basement of a house converted into an apartment, usually without windows to the outside. When visiting this type of accommodation, always check the ventilation of the apartment, the bathroom as well as the insulation (this could have radical consequences for you especially in winter). I can understand that one can choose this type of apartment because of lack of money but I'm strongly AGAINST this type of apartment.

The Bachelor: It is the equivalent of a studio in France, the bedroom, the living room and the kitchen are one and the same room.

Apartments: Most of the time managed by companies that own the whole building. It is a housing that will be more spacious than a condo, the only difference is that there will be no amenities (such as special toilets, swimming pool...) but also no washing machine. The latter are mostly common in a separate floor of the building (and paid by token or card).

What is the price?

For downtown Toronto, it is possible to find roommates on the east/west side between $700 and $1200 per month if you are lucky. But if you are looking in the downtown area, you can easily reach 1500 / 1800$ per month. These prices are constantly increasing due to the number of newcomers that arrive every year.

The differences with France

  • Here we do not ask for a deposit check. However, in some rare cases you may be asked for one. Be careful to make sure that when you pay a deposit, you are officially certifying it by signing a piece of paper.

  • You almost always pay the first and the last rent in a lease, that is to say 2 months of rent to be paid at once.

  • Here, renting is a commitment, when you are engaged in a "lease", there is no notice period. You must honor your contract until the end. However, it is common and easy to have someone take over the lease.

The different documents that can be requested for an accommodation

Before giving you access to a visit, you may be asked for supporting documents. I will give you a little bit of information about the content of these documents:

Your credit score: you can get it with Equifax on this site for free. To do this, create an account and follow the steps. Once you are on the site and you have your credit score, copy the page of this credit score (right click print the page, then print in pdf).

The last 3 pay slips: I advise you to give the last 3 months because some companies give every 2 weeks and others every week. This will give more consistency to your file.

A letter of employment: the letter of employment indicates when you started, your monthly salary and the end of your contract. Please note that the earlier your contract ends, the less likely your application will be accepted.

Copy of identity card: prefer Canadian documents as much as possible. This will be more meaningful for the owner. For example, I put a copy of my Canadian driver's license. If you don't have yours yet, I explain how to exchange it on this page.

Rental reference letter: this is a letter from your previous landlords attesting that you have lived in a place for a while and that you paid your rent on time. This builds trust with the landlord. If you were not on the document (in case of subletting) you can ask for a letter to be done by roommate. Do not hesitate to reinforce this with proof of payment of rent which will support your case.

Searching for housing by yourself.

Facebook groups: You can post apartment and roommate search ads on many Facebook groups. For that I made you a list below.

Facebook Marketplace: I was surprised to find a lot of things there... you can play with a lot of filters and really find good deals. I found my apartment like that. Be careful though, some apartments on the marketplace are posted by agents. You'll need to build a strong case with them. I talk about this below in my article.

Kijiji: it's a very good place to find a roommate/rental, it's a bit like the Bon Coin in France.

Roomgo: It's the equivalent of Appartager in France, but the activity is much lower than Kijiji.

On these sites you will find most of the condos to visit with an agent. There are a lot of offers but the competition is tough to be able to visit and book apartment visits:

On these sites you will find both condos to visit and offers made by owners:

You may have heard about Craiglist, I personally think that this site should be banned in view of the many scams and more than dubious ads on this site.

My advice: you will have to visit many sites every day. So I advise you to save your search for accommodation on each of these sites and to have daily alerts sent to you with a summary of the new offers.

Where to live?

If you are looking for something in Toronto, life is busier on King/Queen Street than on the West side, but everything is relatively accessible once you are in Toronto (inner ring).

If you're looking for the cheapest place to live, I recommend that you look for a place outside of Toronto, even in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), but you have to keep in mind that you'll have to add the cost of transportation every month (as well as time) if you're going downtown regularly.

With an Agent

In Canada, for most visits, you will need an agent. You will not have to pay him/her, he/she will receive his/her commission directly from the owner by vouching for your file.

My advice: don't hesitate to contact several agents, but don't sign anything with them until you want to rent an apartment you have visited. If you sign an exclusivity contract with them, you will not be able to go and see other agents or visit other apartments without the agent you have signed with. This contract is usually valid for a period of 2 months. However, if you have already signed and do not wish to continue with the agent, you can always ask them to terminate the contract in good faith. They will usually agree to do so in order to maintain a good relationship with you and avoid bad publicity.

The search: once the agent is found, he will present you with a multitude of apartments according to the criteria you have given him. Most agents use the listing, but don't hesitate to ask them to visit apartments that you have found yourself on the Internet.

Submitting your application

The war is about to begin. When you submit your file, you should know that sometimes you are not the only one. They will ask you to do several things:

  • sign a representation contract with the agent

  • sign a lease contract with the amount of the rent

  • your credit score

  • your last 3 pay slips

  • a letter of employment

  • a copy of your identity card

  • reference letter of the previous apartments that you have had

Once your file is submitted, you will have to wait for the validation of the owner If your application is accepted, you will have a limited amount of time to complete the following actions:

  • Pay the first and last month's rent in advance.

  • Pay the key deposit (which will be returned to you at the end of the lease)

  • Sign the final lease

Once all this is done, the apartment is yours!

My advice: when you are a newcomer, you have a very bad credit score. The search for housing is therefore much more difficult with an agent. Some people, in order to gain the owner's trust, do not hesitate to pay between 3 and 4 months of rent at once. This can be a heavy investment, but if you are several to want the apartment, it can give you a head start!

Here is the contact of the agent I used for my apartment search, I can only highly recommend her:



Sutton Group-Old Mill Realty Inc. Brokerage

Independently Owned + Operated

Direct 647 287 5699

Office 416 234 2424

My advice:

Before choosing where to stay: take the time to discover Toronto by yourself by taking an Airbnb, hostel for several weeks, this gives you time and avoids making bad decisions.

The most important thing for you is to choose a place that you like the most, taking into account that if you take an accommodation farther away, you will have public transportation costs amounting to $150 per month. Here's a map to help you understand the areas mentioned in the ads you'll find.

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