Whether it’s more space for a new human being, relocating for your dream job or just looking to trade up, you’re excited to find your perfect new place. But, even with all that excitement you can still feel a little overwhelmed. There are so many questions and considerations when it comes to moving. How much should you spend? Where should you look? What do you do once you find a place?
Deep breath. Relax. Here are 16 ways to make the process of finding your perfect new place easier and less stressful.
A little preparation before you start searching will make a huge difference.
- Crunch the numbers. General rule of thumb says you shouldn’t be spending more than 25-30% of your income on rent. Start with this number as a basis for your search. Remember, stretching your rental budget here means less money for things like food, entertainment, and savings.
- Make a list of priorities. The idea here is to identify needs over wants, especially if you’re not the only one who’s living in your new space.
- Find your neighbourhood. Looking for somewhere trendy and creative? Or do you prefer some place kid-friendly with lots of green space? A little research can go a long way to finding where you’d feel most at home.
- Organize your search. Save time and leverage the convenience of online sites by filtering listings based on budget, location, size and any other key priorities that are available. Once you’ve started to book viewings, block them in your calendar and add a link to the listing, contact information and add a few notes to help you compare later.
- Prep the paperwork. Having your paperwork ready could mean the difference between signing a lease and going back to the listings. The landlord should tell you what they need, but here’s a basic list to get you started:
- Contact information for current and past employers, landlords and character references
- Your own current contact information
- Credit report
- Letter of employment and/or paystubs
Once you’ve found a place with potential and you’re ready to check it out, avoid renter’s remorse by checking over a few things.
- Keep your eyes peeled. Look closely for things that might cause problems later on such as:
- Evidence of mould, insects or pests
- Leaky pipes or poor water pressure
- Damaged flooring or stained/smelly carpets
- Properly functioning doors, windows and locks
- Poorly maintained common areas (hallways, laundry, yard)
- Now is the time to ask questions, lots of questions…
- When is the unit available?
- What is the monthly rent and when is it due?
- How much is the deposit and when is it required?
- Is there a security deposit and is it refundable?
- Can I sublet and or have additional roommates?
- Do you allow pets?
- What utilities are included?
- Am I responsible for any maintenance?
- Is there parking and is it included in the rent? Where do guests park?
- Is there laundry in the unit or on the premises?
- Are there community rules around overnight guests, parties or quiet hours?
- What modifications am I allowed to make (paint, wallpaper, shelves, pictures)?
- Get to know your landlord. We’re not saying you need to be friends, but you’ll need to rely on your landlord when it comes to things like routine maintenance. See how well you hit it off and try to get a feel for how they’ll handle these interactions.
- Try to meet the neighbours. Whether you’re across the street or sharing the same building, your neighbours can give you first-hand insights on the building and the area.
- Explore the area. If this place has the potential to become your new home, it’s worth taking a walk down the street, stopping by the local coffee shop, bringing your dog to the nearest park to really get a feel for it.
Congrats – you’ve found the perfect place! Just a few more things before you can start packing those boxes.
- Make your application stand out. In this competitive rental market, it can’t hurt to try to set yourself apart from other applicants. In addition to making sure you’ve filled out all the necessary paperwork, consider adding a cover letter sharing why you’d be a good fit for this particular space.
- Read everything before sealing the deal. Don’t sign the paper work until you’ve read it through entirely. Double-check that it includes:
- The correct rent amount
- The day of the month that rent is due
- The name, address and phone number of your landlord
- A list of utilities, parking spaces or anything else that is included
- Building/Tenancy rules and any agreed upon exceptions
- The names of all roommates (if applicable)
- Don’t forget about the money stuff. Once you sign the lease, you’ll usually need to provide your rental and security deposits at the same time. Set the tone for all your future financial interactions, by making sure to have it all ready to go.
- Do a walkthrough on move-in day. Some landlords do a formal walkthrough with their new tenants and make note of the condition of the space. If that’s not the case with your rental, then take the initiative. Document the space on move-in day with photos and notes, paying close attention to any existing damage. This could make or break it when it comes time to getting your security deposit back.
- Keep records. Whether you keep a hard copy or file it in the cloud, be sure to keep any records associated with your rental. These documents can help clear up issues during and even after your lease is up. What should you keep exactly?
- Lease and any updates or renewals of it
- Receipt of rent payment
- Utility bills
- Invoices or records for maintenance
- Documentation of calls, letters or emails sent to or received from your landlord
- Make sure your stuff is protected. While your landlord’s insurance will cover the actual building you’re living in, it won’t cover your contents or living expenses if you have to vacate your place while repairs are made. Your landlord may recommend that you buy tenant insurance to ensure that your belongings are covered. It won’t cost you much – on average, it’s only about $15-$20 a month.