November marks the start of many Queen’s students’ searches for a house for the second year. With that, I wanted to share some things I’ve learned about the housing market in Kingston, what to consider when viewing and picking a house, and some tips for living with your friends. This is likely a new experience for most people, and it can be a somewhat stressful and uncertain process. So please take comfort in learning from my missteps and advice for renting in Kingston.
1) Don’t worry if you haven’t found the right people to live with yet. If you feel like you may live with different people throughout your university experience, that’s okay! For many people, it’s unrealistic to have an established friend group early on in the semester that you could see yourself potentially living with. Many people who’ve already signed leases for next year knew their future housemates before university, so don’t worry if you haven’t figured it out yet. If you still don’t feel sure about who you are living with when the time comes to find a house, make sure you keep the following in mind! A) Some people switch houses over the years to live with closer friends. B) If you don’t know the people you’re living with well yet, this is an opportunity to make new friends.
2) Once you find some people to live with, set clear expectations and communicate your preferences and needs regarding a house before you start looking. For instance, set a price range after getting a sense of what’s available that makes everyone in the group comfortable. Discuss what aspects of a house matter and what matters less to determine what you’re willing to trade-off or compromise on. It’s important to clearly communicate this before you get caught up in booking house tours so that everyone’s boundaries are respected and understood from the beginning.
3) When touring a house, here are some things to consider and look for:
Are the room sizes/amenities (including closets) relatively equal? If not, it’s important to discuss how this will be dealt with among the group. For instance, will some people pay more for larger rooms? Determining this before you put an offer in on a house will save you from any conflict and miscommunication later.
Consider the number of washrooms and if this will meet your needs. My housemates have found sharing one washroom to be surprisingly sufficient as we all shower and go to bed at different times. However, it’s better to have two.
I also recommend talking to the current tenants about how their experience has been and why they’re leaving. They might provide an honest answer about the pros and cons, and it’s also fun to hear about their time at Queen’s and memories in the house. While their advice will be useful, they might not provide all of the details of their experience, so listen to them while they share about their experiences but do your own due diligence. Consider the pros and cons of things like living in a house with an attached unit of additional tenants. Living connected to other tenants is a mixed bag. For instance, depending on the house’s construction, it could be noisy living so close to others. This poses a risk as they might have loud lifestyles. Having another unit attached to your house can be positive as it’s an opportunity to become friends with the people living near you.
4) Remember that it’s okay to stick to your pre-established criteria even if you see a cute house or feel pressure from your housemates to put in an offer. Although finding a house is time-sensitive and the market is competitive, there are many housing options in Kingston. You’ll still have options if your search begins a few months later, so don’t feel like you have to accept the first house that’s available if it’s not meeting your criteria. At the same time, finding a house can be time-consuming and stressful during the school year. If saying yes to a house means compromising on certain criteria, it’s okay to say yes too.
5) Remember that a necessary part of living with others is making compromises. It’s important that you make decisions that will benefit everyone in the long run and try to focus less on the small things that only benefit some. Have conversations early on about living styles, pets, and other habits that might be beyond your comfort level and could lead to conflict if you were to live together.
Queen’s also has useful housing resources I wish I knew about earlier. There are university-owned rentals available. Additionally, the Queen’s Student Community Relations office also provides confidential guidance to student tenants on matters such as evaluating off-campus housing, avoiding fraud, tenant rights and responsibilities, and resources for moving in or out. For instance, if there is a safety hazard or issue with your house that your landlord is unwilling to look at and resolve, the Queen’s Student Community Relations office can help assess the situation and inform you of your rights as a tenant.
7) While housing can be stressful, please remember that it genuinely does work out better than you think it will. If you got the smallest room or begin to think you chose the wrong house, don’t sweat it. Each house in Kingston is uniquely its own, flaws included. What makes them special though is the memories made in each one and the *character* of some inevitably broken features, weird floor plans, and more. Soon you’ll make it your own and forget in large part about what worried you before moving in. There’s something magical about having room to call your own and I promise you that it will all work out.