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Housing 101: A Guide to Finding an Apartment in the GTA

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

Does searching for an apartment feel like you’re “a dog looking for a bone in a vast field?” For Amulyaa Dwivedi, a second-year journalism student at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), it does.

Here’s how students like Dwivedi deal with housing in this economy. 

According to the City of Toronto, the average market rental price in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) ranges from $1,708 for a one-bedroom apartment to $2,912 for a five-bedroom apartment. 

Before entering her second year of journalism studies, Dwivedi looked through multiple websites for an apartment, such as Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace, Realtor.ca, and Strata. 

She was also worried about finding a suitable roommate. Previously, Dwivedi lived with roommates she didn’t feel close to and wanted to live with friends she could get along with easily and have a fun university experience with. Because of this, she used roomies.ca to try to find her perfect match. 

However, she lives in her current apartment thanks to a friend who found an apartment and asked her to be her roommate. 

Dwivedi received this offer in the summer after her first year at university while she was back home in India. She was glad to get this offer, as she said she would’ve otherwise needed to hastily choose an Airbnb to live in. 

As an international student, she was previously refused many apartments or representation by real estate agents due to a lack of documentation. Notably, Ontario landlords can legally request a guarantor living in Ontario to sign a lease. For international students like Dwivedi who are entering the city without their families, it’s difficult for them to provide that. 

“It’s hard to find a place,” Dwivedi said in an interview with Her Campus.

Dwivedi said she was ready to beg TMU’s campus residence due to limited options and desperation, saying, “Hey, I’m about to be homeless. Please give me a home or shelter.” 

Similarly, she needed to provide a stabilized annual income from her job to become a renter. However, moving to Canada meant starting new without a job. Due to this, she adapted by showing her parents’ income tax return (ITR) and giving the landlords six months’ upfront payment to prove she was a trustworthy tenant. 

According to real estate agent Kenan Yousef from Strata Brokerage, no student must pay more than their first and last month’s rent — anything more is illegal. However, tenants like Dwivedi can pay more upfront based on their own will.

Due to her lack of privacy and rent increase, she is considering a different living arrangement for the upcoming school year. She has started looking through more renting websites and finding a realtor.

Regarding real estate, Yousef mentions that the main advantage of using a realtor is that they know the renting process, have done it multiple times, and can guide you and advocate for the best offer or apartment possible. 

Using a realtor is also cost-friendly, as the landlord will pay the real estate agent’s fees, not you, as a tenant. 

Before contacting a real estate agent, Yousef recommended knowing your qualifications, having your documentation ready, and knowing what proximity to campus you’re looking for and your budget. That way, you can get the right place for yourself.

Emma Shenouda, a second-year politics and governance student at TMU, shared her fair share of struggles in the housing market. She used a real estate agent she knew through a family friend, which immensely helped the process. 

Shenouda shared the challenges of looking for an apartment alongside many other students arriving at the university. As a result, most listings would be sold before she could even view them.

“I drove up to Toronto [from London, Ont.] one time for viewings, and half of the places were gone by the time I drove up the two hours to get there,” Shenouda said. 

After looking at over 20 apartments, she decided to sign for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit without viewing it and paying a one-year lease — which is again illegal for the landlord to require, according to realtor Yousef. 

Throughout her desperation to find an apartment, Shenouda paid the year upfront to secure her spot. She said, “Their way of making us do it was, ‘Okay, we’ll just find someone else who will [pay one year upfront] and will reject your application.’ So we didn’t really have a choice.” 

Its consequences were present as the apartment was significantly smaller and the furniture was worse than advertised. Shenouda had also found it challenging as it differed from a residence with a meal plan; she needed to cook. 

Despite these issues, Shenouda was glad the apartment was close to campus. 

The housing market might not be ideal, but using a realtor and asking questions when needed or using different resources is an excellent start to finding the perfect apartment and a suitable roommate. 

I'm a second-year Journalism student passionate about fashion, women's rights, wellness, film and the arts & culture! I've written in previous campus publications such as CanCulture, the Eyeopener, and the Society of the Creative School. I have also done some social media work with StyleCircle and the Tall Chair, as well as my summer job at the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition as a social media manager. I love to dress according to how I feel each day! Most of the time, it has to be a slay because every day is a fashion show and the world truly is our runway, as per the famous quote. My identity has always been surrounded by fashion, the arts, and my culture. For reference, I'm French Canadian and Gujurati. Can't wait to write with Her Campus! Yooopidoodles! :)