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What I Wish I Knew About Renting in First Year

We’ve passed the halfway point of the semester, which means it’s time to start thinking about where you want to live next year. For many first year students, this means moving out of residence and into a house or apartment. If this is your first time renting your own space, the process can be extremely overwhelming! Here are some tips for first years that are on the hunt for a place to live next year.

1. Don’t feel pressured to sign a lease as fast as possible

One of the mistakes I made in first year was getting caught up in the November rental-season rush to find a house. Everyone else seems to be signing leases, and it feels like you’re doing something wrong if you don’t have a house locked down before exam season. Relax! The majority of leases in Guelph start in April, and some don’t even start until September; there is plenty of time to find a place to live before the new school year. There are more rooms available in Guelph than students to rent them to, so there will always be plenty of options to choose from, no matter what time of the year it is. Take your time, and don’t sign anything until you feel completely comfortable.

2. Don’t feel obligated to live with the first friends you meet

Looking back, the biggest housing mistake I made in first year was signing a lease with the very first group I became friends with. Before frosh week had even ended, I had promised to live with my new-found “friends” (and as we all know, frosh week friends rarely last forever). Less than three months later, I had signed a lease with three girls I barely knew, which I ended up regretting before I had even moved into our new home. I’m not saying that you should immediately turn down offers to live with friends you meet in residence, but give yourself a couple of months to really get to know people before you make a year-long decision.  

3. Don’t sign a lease for the first house you like

Another mistake I made in first year was signing a lease for the first decent-looking house I saw. My roommates and I had toured about five houses before that were all absolutely filthy, so when we found a student house that was actually clean, we thought we hit the jackpot. However, there’s more to a house than whether or not the previous tenants knew how to sweep their floor. There were a lot of problems with the house that we overlooked because the landlord seemed nice and the kitchen was clean. If we had searched for a house for a little while longer, we easily could have found a nicer house with cheaper rent, but we were too caught up in signing a lease as fast as possible.

4. Ask the right questions

My roommates and I were so anxious to sign a lease right away that we forgot to ask a lot of basic questions about things our landlord conveniently “forgot” to mention to us. For example, we had no idea that our house had no air conditioning, and the temperature would stay at 30 degrees looooong into September that summer. We also had no idea how hard Guelph water was…until our water softener stopped working and our landlord refused to fix it. If we had asked these questions at the right time, we probably wouldn’t have been so eager to sign our lease right away. Asking questions is also a good way to get to know your landlord – if they seem agitated or won’t give you clear answers, something is probably wrong.

5. Do your research

If you’re new to Guelph, you probably have no idea what the different neighbourhoods are, how much the average cost of rent is, or where any of the bus routes bring you to. These are all very important factors when choosing a house. For example, it makes sense for a house that is walking distance from the school to cost a little bit more than average, but you shouldn’t be breaking the bank for a house that’s a 20 minute bus ride away. Do some research before contacting landlords to save yourself some trouble. Ask yourself questions like: is the rent for this house comparable to other houses in the neighbourhood? Where is the closest bus stop? Where is the nearest grocery store? How long will it take to get to school? If you spend most of your time on campus, you likely aren’t familiar with the city outside of Stone Road. Do some research and save yourself the trouble!

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