First-year collegiettes, February is more than just a short month or midterm season. It might also be the time when, in your residence, you are starting to partake in “housing drama”. Questions about living together are asked, groups of future roommates are being formed and the stress of finding a new place to live might start to buzz all around you. Living in an apartment is a cheaper situation than first year in rez and, soon enough, you will be seeing flyers of apartment info sessions. No one wants you to undergo an apartment hunt without being properly prepared for the things coming ahead of you. So, here are a few tips from someone who underwent the same situation as you:
Decide What You Want
Before you undergo searching for the future place you will call “home”, you need to figure out what you want. There are two paths to start from. The first starts at you deciding to live alone. If you know you don’t want a roommate then you can skip ahead to the next few tips. The other path starts once you decide to live with roommates. Firstly, discuss with all the roommates you’ve chosen to share a place with exactly what you are looking for in a place and your budget. Keep in mind that the sooner you start talking about what you want, the sooner you can find people who want the same thing and eventually form a good living group (or pair).
Start The Search Early
Once you know the number of people you will be living with, start the search. Leases will either start on May or in August. If you are going to look for places that are free as of May, know that apartment listings will start as soon as Reading Week is over (and sometimes even sooner). McGill has its own subsite about apartments, which I think is always a good way to start. Don’t despair if you can’t find anything on that site, there are plenty of others that will help you. Personally, I found Craigslist or even Kijiji good sites that also have listings posted by fellow students. There are also plenty of Facebook groups branching off of the McGill group where people post that they are looking for roommates.
Call and Visit
Contact as many people as you can, and do it directly. If they leave a phone number and/or email address, always choose the most direct way to contact someone, it’ll ensure that you are talking to the person who posted the ad and can schedule a meeting as soon as possible. Don’t rely on just pictures of the apartment as well, because pictures can be deceiving. Go check out the apartment in person. If you are IN LOVE with the apartment, take it as soon as you and your roommate (or just you) know you want it. Apartments, especially in the Ghetto, tend to disappear really fast, so really there is no second guessing. Don’t fall for the first apartment that looks decent. The apartment should be in line with your standards.
Make sure to get in touch with the landlord if you have any questions about the apartment. Actually, just get in touch with the landlord to see exactly what kind of landlord he is. Some are really kind and want to ensure you live in a good place, others are just typical, barely-there landlords. If you can’t get a good read on the landlord ask the tenants what kind of relationship they have with him or her.
Now, you might think that students will look out for other students. If there’s one thing you’ll learn is that that statement is NOT true. Unfortunately, the students may only want to pass their place onto you. Be wary. Some might sugarcoat things and say that “the toilet always flushes, it’s just today it’s not working” or some might just try and install a Finder’s Fee, which is basically just asking you to pay for the furniture. Buying the furniture might be a good decision, but make sure that you write a list of all the things that are in the apartment and that they will give to you. Some students can just ask you to pay and then leave without actually giving you anything.
All in all apartment hunting is a bit stressful, but it’s also exhilarating. Don’t be afraid of asking your parents for some advice on whatever step you are, they usually have the experience you are missing. Good luck!
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