The title should be “Apartment hunting in Montreal… in your late twenties” or “... as a grown-up”. I wanted to write about this as I just found my grown-up place in Montreal, after 3 months of searching! 😀 If you have a pet, know that you’re going to start with a handicap. For all apartments listed on Kijiji in the Greater Montreal area, there are around 17k listings that do not allow pets and 6k that allows them. Cats are generally more accepted than dogs. If you have a pet, especially a cat, ignore the “No pets” in the ads and still go visit, I think it’s always kind of negotiable.
If you’re looking for a temporary stay, I’d recommend hostel, AirBnB or hunting for a sublet. When I first arrived in 2013, I stayed at La Cité apartments. I don’t recommend it: it’s expensive; however, if you’re in a hurry, have a pet, and can afford it, it’s a good option for temporary stay. It’s also pretty well located if you’re new to the city, and especially if you’re a McGill student. The rent includes everything, including access to La Cité gym. Laundry is on a separate floor. Elevators go directly to Les Galeries du Parc, where there’s a Metro supermarket.
For a long-term rental, there are plenty of options, divided into two categories:
- Rentals by owners or current tenants: Craigslist, Kijiji, FB rental groups
- Rentals through real estate agencies that are grouped on sites such as realtor.ca or centris.ca
- Padmapper and DuProprio are kind of in-between.
I would say that Craigslist and Kijiji are perfect to find places to share, student room shares, etc. Rentals through agencies are usually slightly more expensive but better maintained. If you have high standards, it’s going to take a lot of digging on Craigslist and Kijiji, and I would recommend checking real estates instead. There’s also the good old method: walk in the area where you want to live and look for “for rent” signs. My advice would be to keep an eye on all those websites, even if it takes time. We saw good apartments on all websites.
- Be careful about rent prices and read about regulations around rents in Québec. Some landlords will apply unfair rents. Know your area price range (i.e. Plateau is expensive...).
If you’re looking for a sunny place, pay more attention to apartments with odd numbers located on streets parallel to St Denis or St Laurent (i.e. 3455 Something Street). Do not eliminate even numbers as the main room might face South West.
On Hydro Québec, you can have an estimate of the yearly cost of electricity at an address, this is super useful.
Signing a long-term lease is usually ok as it’s pretty easy to assign the lease if you want to leave before the end. However, be careful. At my current place, we signed 2 years, thinking that if one of us leaves, the others will just take other roommates. This was a mistake, we all wanted to leave at the same time so we needed people to take over our lease. We gave a notice to the landlady to discuss that with her. She didn’t want us to advertise the place on Kijiji or Craigslist or any site like this. How were we going to find people to take over the place??! She also didn’t want people with dogs or young kids. The story ends well as we found people to take over, but be prepared for possible conflict if you ever want to leave your place before the end.
Use filters to narrow the search. Put a minimum rent price (for example, with our criteria, it was unrealistic to expect a place below 1000$/month) and a maximum price. For the max price, put a hundred above your budget as you may be able to negotiate.
Ask friends about streets and neighborhoods. They may know things you don’t. Tell friends you’re looking for a place, maybe they have heard about a good deal.
The landlord can ask a lot of personal information but you don’t have to give them your SIN!
How we found our perfect place
Browse places to know each other style, find a compromise. In my case, I was lucky as my boyfriend liked the same style: modern/contemporary BUT not in a condo building.
After knowing each other’s style, we made a list of criteria and attributed points to each of the criterion. For example, the price, size, and locations were very big factors. I think it would take a whole other post to explain our rating system, but I’ll skip that for now. Just list and know what factors are non-negotiable and which are negotiable.
Make a budget. What’s the max rent you can afford? How are you going to split your finances? We opted for a % of our net salary to cover all the spendings in common (rent, groceries, utilities) instead of 50-50.
Start early, visit a lot. We started our search very early: January to move in the Spring/Summer. Regularly looking at apartments ads gives you an idea of the price range of apartments in the area you want to live in, also, it will allow you to recognize good deals. The competition starts in March and it can really feel like it’s Hunger Games. Visiting during the winter also allows you to check if the apartment is well insulated, and how sunny it can get.
Pay attention to the environment: is it on a busy street? Close to bars? We wanted to stay on the Plateau but move away from student bars, middle of the night drunken fights, and post-party vomit. Use Google Maps to see how close the supermarkets and pharmacies are.
Be patient. After two months of searching, things were getting a bit stressful and it was tempting to apply to “ok” places just to be settled. Places that weren’t bad, not great, but ok. Do not do this! Eventually, the perfect place showed up.
In contrast to the previous tip, if a place feels right/great, even if it’s the first apartment you visit, do not hesitate: apply. We loved the first place we visited but felt scared as it was only the first place we visited. The next apartment we had a crush on? It was 19 visits later… This sounds like a cheesy tip, but seriously, when you have a crush on a place, you will feel it. We visited 20 places and only loved 2.
Be prepared for a no. Maybe other people also applied and their credit looks better than yours. Maybe your application is perfect but something totally unplanned came up. We had a crush on the first apartment we visited and were super excited about it. We thought it was going to be perfect and we were already thinking about how we were going to arrange it. However, the landlord daughter was going through a divorce and he decided to keep the place for his daughter instead: this is not something you can plan/prepare for.
We visited places ranging from 1295$ to 3000$/month and there was good and bad in both the lower and higher priced.
What we’ve seen, heard or read
I have felt angry when apartment hunting on the Plateau because some landlords are renting overpriced shitty places, this is a known fact. A lot are taking advantage of the students, or the French expats who think rents in Montreal = rents in Paris. This is a collection of real stories that I think are interesting to share.
- On why a landlady was reluctant to allow cats: she had a tenant that had a female cat that wasn’t fixed. That cat attracted all the male tomcats in the neighborhood, they made a lot of noise and sprayed all around the apartment balconies. This made the neighbors unhappy. Ouch! People, have your pets fixed, please.
We once sent an email to request a visit on Kijiji. The owner replied that he already has 10 visits scheduled and that he will get back to us if someone cancels. The day before his scheduled visits, he mass emails the group of people interested in visiting his place, saying that he’s increasing the rent from 2000 to 2200$ due to the popularity of his place. I don’t think this is legal; also, nope.
On why a tenant was leaving: the girl told us she moved in with her boyfriend 6 months ago in July but now they broke up so she needs to find people to take over their lease. The ex was nowhere to be seen. I think it was too much information, especially when we’re a couple looking to move in together. Taking over a place that caused the breakup of another couple is kind of weird. This is not the reason we didn’t apply for the place. The place was super nice but the layout was weird, only had one room and it was on the first floor.
Too much religious decoration. I have absolutely nothing against religion, but I must admit it kind of threw me off to see a lot of crosses and Jesus on all the walls in a place we visited. This was not the reason we didn’t like the apartment but still, it kind of stayed in our minds when we left.
On refusing us a visit: landlord said pets are a big nope since the place was rented furnished and a lot of people are allergic to cats and dogs in the building. He told us that if our situation changes, we can contact him again. Hmmm.. nope, I am not getting rid of my cat. One week later, he emailed us again, saying that he might consider a cat but we’ll need to talk about it. NOPE. I have nothing against people refusing pets in their places, it’s their place, it’s their right to refuse that. However, don’t think we’re ever getting rid of our pets to rent a place, or that accepting a pet is a big favor you’re doing for us.
The place was above a doctor’s office, the real estate agent was late and we never met him. We were waiting in the tiny space in front of a clinic, with 2 other couples waiting to visit the place. This left a very bad impression, waiting while seeing a traffic of sick people. I don’t see myself living above a clinic. We never saw the real estate agent, after 30 min of waiting, he texted the code to the digital lock on the door of the apartment and left us to visit by ourselves. The place was modern, but it was very dirty. Nope.
One ad looked nice but there was no address or location. I emailed the owner to ask because I don’t want to waste my time and people’s time visiting a place that is too far away from where I am looking for. The owner doesn’t reply and instead asks for my availability. Fine, I tell them when I am available and they never get back. Almost a month later, they email me again. Nope. Too late. Be nicer if you want people to rent your place.
The apartment you’re rejecting could be another person’s dream place. Once we visited a place that we both kind of thought was good, but the style just didn’t match our personalities. It was kind of like an industrial loft with white wooden walls. While it didn’t fit us, I immediately told my childhood BFF about it as it was HER dream place. She visited it the same afternoon and applied for it 🙂
We visited 20 apartments. I think this is the most apartments I’ve visited in my entire life. It was so much easier when I was younger, in other cities: no money and no standards, as long as the place was clean and well located, I was ok with it. When looking for your grown-up place, just remember that now you have standards, and know how much you can spend.
So yep, we found our perfect place. It is more expensive than what we were planning for but still within our budget. Moving date is July 1st! I just can’t wait! But at least now I can resume my post about our end of year holidays in Paris! 😀