Despite recent market trends, finding a home in Toronto is still difficult for the average home seeker. While activity has ebbed in the past few months, high prices persist in both the residential real estate market and the headline-making Toronto rental market.
While rental price increases are intended to be mitigated by the new rental restrictions put in place by the Ontario government, these rules don’t change the fact that rental prices had increased at an annual rate of 7.4 per cent for a one-bedroom apartment and 8 per cent for a two bedroom apartment, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board’s January Rental Market Statistics. These increasing prices combined with a decrease in overall rental listings have led to a vacancy rate of just 1 per cent.
The result? Renters in Toronto are becoming increasingly desperate to find an affordable, attractive rental. Unfortunately, this desperation has also made them a target for opportunistic landlords looking to make a quick buck, especially if tenants are searching online.
Despite this increased risk, finding a rental online is still a very popular choice for Toronto renters, and with good reason. It’s quick, convenient, and as long as you take the necessary precautions, it can be an efficient way to find your new Toronto townhouse or condo. Here are our top tips for finding a rental online:
Make a List of Must-Have Amenities
One of the biggest benefits to finding a rental online is the ability to search through a large volume of potential rentals in a short period. By browsing online listings like Kijiji or Craigslist, you can sift through hundreds of potential units in a variety of cities, such as rentals in Ottawa, Toronto, or even Hamilton. If you use a real estate agent, you’ll have priority access to an online listing service like the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), and they can further refine your searches by amenity, which will significantly decrease your search time.
Know Your Rights
When you go through an online service like Kijiji or Craigslist, you won’t be using a real estate agent but instead will communicate directly with the owner. Directly communicating with the landlord or building management company yourself can result in a cheaper rental rate since the landlord won’t be paying a commission to the real estate agent.
But not using an agent has drawbacks. For example, you’ll have to deal with scheduling viewings, yourself and you’ll have to research your rights and responsibilities as a tenant. You’ll have to advocate for yourself when it comes to the rules of the rental and negotiate the lease term and rental rate yourself. If you rent through a real estate agent, in contrast, they’ll help you through the process.
Take Necessary Precautions
Whenever there is a lack of supply in a marketplace, it’s possible to become caught up in a scam. Online listings like Craigslist and Kijiji are particularly popular sites for scammers, so if you’re concerned about whether a listing is legitimate, take the following extra steps to protect yourself:
First, visit the listing in person. It can be easy to make a listing look bigger, brighter, or newer online, which can lead some renters to be seriously disappointed when they show up at their new rental on moving day. To avoid this, always view a listing in person, preferably more than once to guard against more elaborate rental scams. If the landlord has keys to the unit and will let you view it more than once, it greatly reduces the possibility that the listing is not legitimate.
Second, pay your deposit with a credit card if possible. Credit card companies the power to pursue fraudulent transactions if the rental turns out to be a scam. If you write a cheque or send an e-transfer, the money will be much more difficult to recover.
Use MLS or a Listing Service When Finding a Rental Online
While Kijiji and Craigslist are very popular ways to find rentals, they are the “wild west” of the rental market. No one is checking the validity of those listings, and it’s possible that you’ll have to view many listings before finding the right one. Competition on those platforms is fierce, and landlords know this.
In contrast, there is much more oversight when listing a rental on MLS, and by using a real estate agent, you’ll have access to listings as soon as they hit the market. Your real estate agent can then arrange viewings on your behalf and you can be assured that your best interests are represented by a knowledgeable professional.
Resources that list various rentals for comparison can also be a great resource. For example, Rentseeker’s listings can be a great way to find a rental even in the tight Toronto rental market.