Finding houses or apartments for rent in Metro Vancouver is no easy task. Low vacancy rates have created an ultra-competitive market where rent increases are outpacing wage increases.
If you’ve had to search for rental housing recently, you’ll understand how challenging it can be to stand out from the crowd and secure a rental at the right price.
This article has no silver bullet solution to your rental housing woes, but it offers a few tips and tricks to give you an edge at your next viewing, as well as some useful links to resources that can help when searching for houses and apartments for rent.
Decide what you need vs. what you want
Finding houses and apartments for rent can be overwhelming. To help focus your search, think about your rental needs and preferences: what do you absolutely need, and what would you prefer but could live without?
Consider factors such as:
- distance to work, school, shopping, and friends
- access to transit
- size of unit
- type of property
- type of neighbourhood
- nearby amenities
- smoking/non-smoking rules
- pet policies
- roommate restrictions
- accessibility requirements
Of course, your most important consideration will most likely be price. When searching for your future home, it’s important to calculate how much money you will be able to pay each month. Your basic rent is an obvious expense, but there are still other costs to consider. Will you have to pay for utilities, coin-operated laundry, parking fees, or tenant insurance? What about a moving truck and boxes, new furniture and appliances, and a security and pet damage deposit? Generally speaking, rent is considered unaffordable if it costs more than 30% of your gross monthly income.
Here are four tips to help you budget for your rental.
Leave no stone unturned
Search popular rental websites such as Craigslist, Kijiji, and Padmapper, but also expand your search beyond the internet. Not all landlords are computer-savvy and able to advertise their rental units online, so look out for bulletin board postings at coffee shops, vacancy signs outside buildings, and listings in the classifieds section of your local newspaper.
It can also be wise to get the word out within your network of family, friends, coworkers, teams, and clubs – through social media and word of mouth. Even strangers or acquaintances may have a lead on houses and apartments for rent, so consider mentioning your search when buying groceries, getting a haircut, or paying your bill at a restaurant.
Put your best foot forward
Securing a rental unit in BC can be challenging, as you will most likely be competing against several other applicants for the same housing. When attending a viewing, do your best to make a good first impression by arriving on time, dressing business-casual, and bringing relevant documents, such as a cover letter, references, and credit check. Here is some advice from a landlord on how to stand out.
You may only get one chance to view a rental unit, so consider bringing your furniture dimensions and a tape measure, as well as a friend or family member for a second opinion.
You should also come prepared with questions that will help you make an informed decision about whether to fill out an application:
- Is the rental unit a legal suite?
- Does the place include appliances and amenities, or has it been “staged” for the viewing?
- Is the building soundproofed, or is it common to hear noise from other units?
- Has there been a history of bed bugs, other infestations, or illegal activity?
- What are the rules about smoking, pets, roommates, and accessibility?
- Is there laundry available in-suite, or at least somewhere on the rental property?
- Are there designated parking spots for tenants, or is there only street parking?
- Is storage room available on the rental property?
- Is the heat for the unit controlled from within the unit, or from within a different unit?
Here’s a list of questions every renter should ask.
Get more help
This post only scratches the surface when it comes to finding houses and apartments for rent in BC. For more information on how to find rental housing and safely enter into a tenancy, take Renting It Right – TRAC’s free video-based online course for tenants. Registered students who pass the final exam will earn a certificate of completion endorsed by LandlordBC.