Tag Archives | housing

Everything You Need for a Comfortable First Apartment

Image courtesy of the author.

Getting your first apartment is an exciting experience, but it can also be a little overwhelming. Most people think about the bigger things they need, like a couch, bedroom furniture, or a television. But many don’t stop to consider some of the other things that will make them feel happy and secure in their new place. Below is a list of four things you may want to consider before moving into your own place.

Kitchen Items
So you have the plates, the silverware, and the glasses. You may even have a few pots and pans and that’s a great start! But there may be a few things you will want to consider purchasing before you move in because it’s no fun not to have things when you need them. Some to consider would be a wine and bottle opener, hot pads, a can opener, and any other kitchen tools you think you might need. It may help to take a trip to the store and peruse the kitchen utensil aisle and pick up anything you didn’t consider when first making your lists.

Cleaning Supplies
If you’re moving into an apartment that was previously occupied, you probably want to get some cleaning supplies before you move in so you can give it a once-over before moving your things in. Things that are often forgotten are mops, dust pans, scrub brushes, and different cleaners for different purposes around the house.

Organizational Tools
It’s always great to get off on the right foot by organizing your first place from the beginning. Purchasing (or making) some easy organizational features such as shoe shelves, spice racks, and a mail center can help prevent your place from getting cluttered. Items such as a silverware drawer organizer are often forgotten but end up making a big difference.

Home Security and Rental Insurance
Moving into your own place after having lived with someone your whole life can be scary. It is also a big financial responsibility. You don’t want anything to happen to you or to your belongings, so it is a good idea to look into rental insurance, which can help replace your items in case of a loss. Without rental insurance, if there is a fire or other catastrophic event and your belongings are destroyed, you will most likely have to replace them on your own. If your safety is a concern to you, you might also want to look into getting an affordable home security system.

Moving on your own doesn’t have to be an intimidating experience. With the right tools, you can make it an exciting and easy transition to life on your own.

This article was contributed by guest author Eileen O’Shanassy.

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How to Search for Off-Campus Housing

Image by Terrah Holly, Unsplash.com

Image by Terrah Holly, Unsplash.com

Finding the right off-campus housing is an additional challenge to the transition period of a freshman in college. To help ensure you make the right decision, here are some guidelines to make the search easier:

Start early
Although more rentals become available within the university area in June and September, keep in mind that more people will also be searching for housing at this time. You may begin your search about 4 to 6 weeks prior to your move-in date. The earlier you start your search for a place, the higher your chances of finding one that meets your needs. It helps to contact the residential services department of your university so they can provide information on off-campus housing – most departments have a database of room providers to help you find a suitable place to stay.

Ask for details
When you find a place you like, take the time to ask important questions to the landlord first. You should settle and clarify the rental rate, what it covers, the deposit, and utility fees. Before you sign anything make sure you understand what you’re signing. You can also consult an expert to evaluate the lease or contract of the unit. Inquire if you can sublet the unit for the summer, if you take a leave, or what happens if you leave early to study abroad.

Inspect the unit
Set an appointment with the landlord for a day to visit the unit. You might want to bring a tenant’s resume along for an easier transaction. Personally visiting the unit will help you assess its safety and accessibility. Check if the unit has been properly inspected by asking to see a copy of the certificate of occupancy.

Find a roommate
A roommate will help curb your rental expenses, but keep in mind it will affect your happiness in your living environment. You’re lucky if you already have people who’ll move in with you whom you trust and get along with. But if you are still searching for roommates, social media is a great way to connect with potential roommates. You can also check out www.roomdock.com, whose security features and matchmaking system make them one of the safest, most reliable ways to help you connect with room providers that match your lifestyle.

Keep in mind that maintaining open communication with your roommate is important. This will help set rules on chores, payments, visits, and even the borrowing of things; you can also address other concerns regarding your set-up freely. Lack of open communication could lead to resentment, which might destroy relationships and affect your living conditions.

Below is a list of reliable websites where you can search for safe off-campus housing. You can also read the comments and testimonials on each site to help with your decision. Some of these websites will even assist you in looking for a roommate within your area.

This article was contributed by guest author Smith Tanny, a founder at Roomdock.com.

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Financing Your First Off-Campus Apartment

Image by iris, Flickr

Image by iris, Flickr

Many students arrive at their freshmen year of college with focus and drive. For some it’s as easy as high school. Perhaps this is because much like home, dorms can provide a calming environment that allows focus for study and day-to-day life. Without interruption, your workload can be taken with ease and met with success. But what about life for those who choose to live outside dorms? In fact, it might surprise you that between 2009 and 2011, 25% of enrolled students over that period (about 5.8 million young adults) lived off-campus in non-family households.

There are many ways to go about taking this step – but finances can be one of the most difficult aspects. If done correctly, this rung in the ladder of adulthood can be easy. Here we’ll cover just four things students should realize about financing their first apartment.

Loans

Do not skip the loan step even if you plan to live off campus. Being a full time or even part time student should still cement the idea that you may need financial help at some point. To get a start on this, and a better picture of what you’re eligible for, file a FAFSA application online. Best news is that it’s free. Make sure you know your deadlines so you don’t miss out. June 30th is typically the last day for submission for the Fall Semester.

Price and Location

Remember that you’ll be paying back every dollar with interest by the end of your time at university. Locating an apartment in your price range is likely the biggest factor in your decision next to location. Walking or riding a bike can save money, but you also want to make sure the neighborhood is safe. Search for a few locations and if possible, go in person. Here are a few resources for finding an apartment:
Finding off campus housing: https://www.abodo.com/off-campus-housing
Local Crime Map: http://www.mylocalcrime.com/
Cyclist route planner: http://cycle.travel/map

Contracts

Read the fine print. You should understand all contracts you come across in your search for an apartment as well as who you’re signing with. If you’ve never heard of the LLC the rental company is using, do a background check on them yourself. Find out what the landlord is supposed to maintain. Will you find your study hours turning into yard care? Be wary of throwing parties if the contract forbids them – in certain states, breaking this rule could leave you out on the street. Similarly, make sure you understand how many days notice a landlord will provide if you are asked to leave.

In some cases, rental contracts have a non-stabilized ledger that states the landlord doesn’t have to have the apartment ready for move-in on a specific date. Typically the term “reasonable time” is provided in lieu of an actual date. Look for this in the contract and if it’s not immediately visible, ask for a write in and signature.

Beware of scams

Sites like craigslist are full of very appealing houses for low-ball prices, and while this diamond in the rough can and does exist, it’s very rare. One modern technique for scamming is to post a picture of a great place, fill out a listing online with inviting information and when someone contacts asking about it, request a deposit, get paid, and disappear. Often the houses pictured are home to residents already. If the rental company or landlord says they are permanently out of town and require money for a key to be made or sent, stop there – you have yourself a scammer.

Consider making some checklists and pro and con lists when picking the places you most desire. Saving money should be at the top of your list, as well as location and safety. Never sign something you don’t fully understand. Happy hunting!

This article was contributed by guest author Ryan De La Rosa.

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So You Want to Rent an Apartment

Image by Pieter van Marion, Flickr

Image by Pieter van Marion, Flickr

Commuting sucks. I would know, as for my first year of university I commuted from Newmarket to downtown Toronto, which on a good day takes an hour and half. After drowning and doing very poorly in my first year of school, I decided to rent an apartment with my friends. It was a taxing process, but after being accepted, knowing that I would be that much closer to campus almost guaranteed me better grades.

Don’t start looking too early.

As soon as you decide to get an apartment, you may feel antsy to start looking and contacting people right away. DON’T DO IT. Usually current renters are required to give their leave 2 months before, so trying to view apartments 5 months before doesn’t really make sense.

Start looking at buildings that seem nice, visit websites and figure out if the location is right for you. Then about two months before, start calling and making appointments to see certain places.

Roommates are key!
Renting alone is a huge financial burden, and that’s why most students who don’t live on campus share with friends. A $3000 dollar apartment becomes under $600 a month if you share with 5 people, so try and find people you get along with to rent with you.

Something important to discuss with roommates is whose name the Wi-Fi and additional bills names comes in. It can be hard to choose – I suggest drawing straws.

Read the fine print
Most buildings make you pay hydro and don’t include Wi-Fi, so make sure you read the lease and ask as many questions as you can to the leasing managers. Make sure you know your budget and look into these costs beforehand so you can save up accordingly and plan your money.

Read the lease really carefully and ask questions before you sign. There can be certain points in the lease that you may not agree with, so make sure there are no tricks. Ask about things like parking, water and power, laundry, rent payments and emergency situations.

A typical application
It’s hard to know what a renter’s application consists of before you do one, but it’s usually an application with your personal information, some kind of credit check or check with your bank, references, and a T4 or statement showing how much money you make a year.

Some places ask for much more or less than this; it really depends on where you apply. Landlords can ask for as much or as little as they want, but never be afraid to ask if you think there isn’t a reason to provide certain information.

Guarantors
You’re most likely going to need a guarantor to sign for you before you can rent because students don’t have a full time income. This can be a huge burden for your parents and can affect their credit, so make sure that you talk to them and explain what they have to do. Most guarantors must sign the lease as well, which means if one roommate doesn’t pay, all guarantors will be notified. Make sure each roommate has their own guarantor so they will be responsible for each other. Guarantors apply as tenants, so they will have to fill out the same application as you do.

Remember your furniture!
When planning expenses, remember that you have to provide furnishings for your new place. This can be expensive, but if each roommate brings a few things or you split the cost of expensive items, the price goes down. www.freecycle.org is a website where people are trying to get rid of their items, so you can end up getting things for free! I also recommend Ikea for furniture; they have great pieces that are good for students on a budget.

Make a contract with your roommates
Sometimes things go wrong with friendships and people don’t behave like they’re supposed to. In order to stop this from happening, make a contract that each roommate must sign in so that the rules are clear. Include things like food, showering and bathroom privileges, room, TV, guests and laundry privileges. Consider setting a fine rate for those who break these privileges.

Here are some more articles that might help with your first apartment:

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5 Tips for Roommate Survival

Image by Matt Radick on Flickr

Image by Matt Radick on Flickr

Moving out for the first time can be intimidating, and for many university students it’s a completely new experience. I remember my first day on residence was nerve-wracking. It was my first time away from home and I would be living with three complete strangers. Would we get along? Would they have bad habits that would cause problems? Could I potentially annoy them in some way? I went into first year residence with an open mind, and I learned many things in the process, especially in regards to dealing with roommates and solving our problems. Here are a few tips that I have for creating good relationships with your roommates.

  1. Clean up after yourself: Whether it’s after cooking or taking a shower, your roommates will not want to see your mess and will definitely not want to clean up after you. Remember that these areas are shared spaces and that it is your job to clean up after you’re done.
  2. Sharing is caring: Don’t be afraid to share with your roommates. It’ll show them that you aren’t self-centred and that you see them as friends. Better yet, they may share things with you as well!
  3. Speak up if you have a problem: In first year, I had two roommates who never spoke about their problems with each other. This caused tension between them for half the year. Don’t let problems fester and boil over. If you have a problem with one of your roommates, bring it up and find a way to solve the issue immediately.
  4. Respect your roommates’ space: Your roommates are sure to have schedules that aren’t similar to yours and have belongings that are off limits. Respect their space and in turn they should respect yours as well.
  5. Divide up the chores: If you’re living in a dorm or a house, chances are you will have to clean the place once a month. Create a schedule where each individual has to clean an area and where the work is balanced between all of the roommates.

If there’s one thing you take away from this article, it should be that communication is key between roommates. You’re going to be living with these people for at least eight months, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure that living with each other goes smoothly. A toxic relationship with your roommates can ruin the residence experience and also affect your grades. If you put in the effort to have a good experience, your roommates will certainly do the same. Treat your roommates the way you would want to be treated, and in turn you will have a great first year with them.

For some more tips on how to get along with your roommate check out this article. 

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Guide to Studying Abroad: Visas and Housing

Image from Jan Natividad

Image by Jan Natividad

Bonjour! I am currently spending the semester studying abroad in Paris, France. Two months in, and it is undoubtedly one of the best experiences I have ever had. As much fun as I may be having right now, the process of getting to this point was very long and complicated. Here is some advice for avoiding the stress of pre-departure. Although some of these tips are specific to Paris, you can use them for practically any exchange location!

Visa Application

Tip 1: I don’t want to bore you with all of the technical information because everything is all laid out very clearly on the French consulate’s website. Just make sure you are getting the visa that best suits your needs. Most students will get the basic student visa that will allow them to become temporary residents for a specific period of time. There is another visa that allow students to work and get paid as well as receive a housing subsidy from the French government. They are two different visas with different requirements, so check carefully.

Tip 2: The process of getting your visa is extremely fast and simple. The process of getting all of your documents for your visa can be a nightmare. Do not leave this to the last minute! Make sure you read over the visa requirements and get the necessary documents as soon as possible.

Housing

Tip 1: If you want a (relatively) hassle free way of finding a place to stay, just stay in the student residence that your host school offers. If the residence isn’t that great in terms of price, location, amenities, etc. you can find places to stay online. Websites like airbnb.com and lodgis.com are great because they’re catered specifically to foreigners. Fully furnished and cheap places are hard to come by and so are highly competitive. Search for places early and book as soon as you find one. Just be careful of any scams!

Tip 2: Make sure you research the neighbourhood of your potential new place very well. It may be cheap, but it’s not going to be worth it if it’s in a bad area. If you know the address, search it up on Google Maps and use the street view function to explore the neighbourhood. Look for nearby laundromats, grocery stores, metro stations, bus stops and restaurants.

Paris Tip: If you’re going to Paris and want to live in the “typical” Parisian apartment (the ones with a beige façade and on top of a boulangerie), you’re probably thinking of an apartment in a Haussmann building. Although not all of them are atop a bakery, they are everywhere in Paris. Just note that they can be expensive, especially considering the fact that a lot of them are very old. Some don’t have elevators and others don’t have toilets inside the rooms! The toilet may be outside of the room and shared with neighbours on the same floor.

How to Visit a Property

Image by gardener41, Flickr

Image by gardener41, Flickr

After a long and laborious housing hunt, the time has finally come for you to tour a prospective home. You’ve scheduled a visit with the property owner, and you’re ready to go! Here is a list of things to keep in mind when touring a property:

  1. Take a friend or family member with you. 
    It’s always helpful to have a second opinion! They might notice things that you otherwise would have missed. Also, if you have arranged the tour appointment online and are not personally acquainted with the person who is showing you around the property, it’s wise not to go alone.

  2. Bring a camera, cell phone, notebook, and pen.
    You want to be able to take pictures and record all the details about the property. You won’t remember all of it later!

  3. Bring a list of questions to ask while you tour the unit.
    Don’t be shy! This is your opportunity to ensure that there won’t be any unpleasant surprises for the duration of your lease.

    • Which utilities are included in the rent? Are Internet, hydro, and electricity included?
    • Do I have to pay a security deposit?
    • What is the method of rent payment?
    • Are the building tenants mostly families, students, or retirees?
    • How safe/quiet is the building? Are there security cameras or personnel?
    • Do I have to pay for parking?
    • Where do I dispose of my garbage and recycling?
    • Who is responsible for apartment maintenance and repairs?
    • How old is the property/when was the building constructed? Have there been any major changes or renovations? (The older the building, the more likely maintenance problems are to result from old ceilings, windows, plumbing, or flooring.)
  4. Examine the property.
    Take your time, and do not hesitate to really scrutinize the space when you’re looking around – this is your potential home. Take pictures of each room. Check the doors, windows, and locks. Flush the toilet, run the water in the sinks and showers, check the water pressure and temperature. Take note of (and photograph) any damaged walls or carpeting, as well as any broken fixtures or appliances. Look in the cupboards and the corners under the sink – this is where the insects tend to hang out. It hadn’t occurred to me or my roommates to check those spaces for evidence of any gnarly sort of infestation, and we were not exactly thrilled to discover a whole bunch of tiny new multiple-legged friends doing the congo in the back of our spice cupboard shortly after we moved in.

  5. Be polite. 
    At the end of your visit, thank the landlord or property manager for showing you around. Be cautious when it comes to making a snap decision or signing the lease on the spot – if you are interested in the property, you can tell the landlord that you are interested, and will be calling him or her soon.

  6. Speak to current tenants in the building.
    Trust me, it’s not weird, and it’s a wise thing to do. If you don’t know any of the tenants personally, hang out in the lobby and see if anyone passes by. Explain that you’re thinking of moving in and ask if they have a minute to answer a few questions. Ask if they feel safe living in the building. Ask if they enjoy living there. Ask if they have had any problems with the building or building management. Ask if the landlord or building manager are dependable and responsive to repair requests. The building tenants do not care if you move in or not, and might be more honest as a result. You won’t regret it!

  7. Visit as many properties as you like.
    It’s good to have a number of options to compare. Once you decide which property best suits your needs, make sure you know everything you need to know before you sign the lease.

    Good luck!

10 Things To Know Before Signing a Lease

Image by jk5854, flickr

Image by jk5854, flickr

Congratulations! You’ve finally found a property that suits your needs, and you’re ready to make it official. Between the dense language of a legal contract and the pressure of an impatient landlord, it can be easy to feel as if you only have enough time and patience to quickly skim the lease before you sign, but remember – your lease is a binding contract. Once inked, you’ve committed yourself to its many rules and obligations. You need to be familiar with each responsibility that you and your landlord will be legally obligated to uphold for the duration of your lease. Here is a list of things you should know before you sign:

  1. What is a lease, exactly?
    A lease is a legal contract which requires you (the lessee or tenant) to pay the owner (the lessor or landlord) for the use of a property over a defined period of time. The lease comprises several numbered sections which outline all of the terms and rules by which you and your landlord must abide for the duration of the lease.

  2. A lease is not the same thing as a rental application.
    If you had to fill out a rental application prior to signing a lease, be aware that the application alone may not be a binding agreement to lease. The rental application is designed to give your landlord some personal information so he or she can screen you and ensure that you are someone they can trust to lease their property (and pay the rent).

  3. Read the terms and conditions of the lease.
    A legal contract is not exactly what one might consider a beach read, but I can’t emphasize how important it is to actually read your lease before you sign it. If you are having trouble with it, sit with a friend or family member and go through each clause together. If anything is unclear, call your landlord. In order to prevent being taken advantage of in the future, you should be well acquainted with your rights and any obligations for which you may be held accountable.

  4. If you are a smoker or pet owner, make sure to be aware of any smoking or pet restrictions in your lease.
    I’m serious – read your lease carefully! My roommates and I had a cat for eight months before we re-signed our lease and discovered a clause which prevented the ownership of pets in the apartment. Oops.

  5. Ensure the full name, phone number, and address of your landlord is on the lease.
    In case of emergencies, or if you need to call someone for repairs or maintenance, it’s good to be able to get in touch with your landlord as quickly as possible.

  6. Visit the property and ask questions.
    Investigate any prospective home before you sign yourself to it. Find out which utilities and services (heat, water, electricity, parking, garbage collection, maintenance and repairs) are included in the rent, and which ones must be arranged or paid for separately. If you plan on subletting your property, written approval of the landlord is often required. Ensure all of these details are written in the lease.

  7. Do not sign a lease with provisions you disagree with, and get any verbal agreements in writing.
    If there is anything that you are uncomfortable with, bring it up with your landlord – legal provisions can be negotiable. If you get any concessions as a result of your negotiations, ensure that everything you agreed to is written in the lease.

  8. Know who is responsible for routine maintenance, pest control, and emergency repairs. Get that in writing, too.
    It’s never fun when the toilet floods the apartment in the middle of the night, and it’s even worse when you have to call a plumber and pay an expensive fee out of your own pocket. If your landlord or management company takes maintenance requests, ask about availability and response times.

  9. Check the termination clause of the lease.
    Your lease may specify the number of months prior to the end of the lease you must provide your landlord before giving notice of your intention to terminate the lease. Otherwise, your lease may be renewed automatically, leaving you with a plethora of undesirable options – being stuck with your lease for another year, having to pay a hefty fee to get out of it, or going through the hassle of finding a replacement lessee to whom you might be able to transfer your lease. Also, make sure your lease conforms with applicable laws regarding the minimum amount of notice you are entitled to before you can be evicted.

  10. Get a copy of your lease, and keep it in a safe place.
    Remember, your lease exists so that you have verifiable proof of the terms to which you and your landlord agreed regarding your tenancy. In case of any problems, it is wise to keep a copy of the lease for future reference. If you have roommates, make copies for them as well.

      

How To Find Your First Apartment

Image by sincerelyhiten, Flickr

Image by sincerelyhiten, Flickr

Finding your first apartment or house out of residence is an exciting albeit daunting task. Here are five basic considerations you should make before beginning your search:

  1. Budget. Figure out how much you want to spend on rent each month. Keep in mind that you might have to pay extra utility fees if hydro and Internet are not included!

  2. Location. Choose the general area or neighbourhood in which you wish to live. Important factors might include proximity to campus, grocery or convenience stores, public transportation (metro or bus stop), laundromat (if there isn’t a washer or dryer in the building), and neighborhood safety.

  3. Furnishings. Some properties come with furniture, some don’t. Decide if you want to find a house or apartment that is already furnished, or if you would prefer to furnish it yourself.

  4. Building facilities. Any apartment perks that might interest you, such as a swimming pool, exercise facility, parking access, rooftop access, or security personnel.

  5. Roommates. If you plan on living with other people, make sure you all agree on the considerations above when looking for a property!

Now that you have an idea of what you are looking for, here are some easy ways to start your search:

  • Classified advertisement websites like Craigslist or Kijiji have sections devoted to housing. Always be careful when setting up appointments over the Internet.
  • Your university website might have a similar classified advertisement page for off-campus student housing.
  • Ask around! Friends in upper years might be moving out of their apartments, or might be able to put you in touch with someone who is.
  • Take a walk in the neighbourhood you want to live in.
  • If you see an apartment building you like, either call or go in and inquire as to whether any units are free.

You are now ready to set up an appointment to visit any of the properties that caught your eye.

Good luck!