Make a personal budget
Before moving into an apartment, it’s a good idea to make a personal budget. Budgets are a bit like roadmaps (or GPS apps) that guide you to your destination.
Your budget will give you an idea of how much you can afford to spend on housing and various costs (monthly rent, furniture and appliance purchases, moving, electricity, home insurance, etc.). By taking all your monthly expenses into account, you’ll have a better idea of how much financial leeway you have and what kind of apartment you can afford. Once you know, you can start looking for housing.
Need some advice on budgeting? Read our article.
Our interactive tool can also help you budget more effectively.
Determine the details and costs of an apartment or student housing
The average cost of housing varies greatly from city to city and neighbourhood to neighbourhood. Rents are generally more affordable outside of cities than in major urban centres. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to live in a big city, you just have to look in neighbourhoods outside of popular areas; they tend to be less expensive.
A little online research will give you a better idea of the price range. Don’t forget to check social media sites – you might see an ad for your dream apartment at a reasonable price.
The price of rent isn’t the only thing to consider when deciding whether a place is right for you. Here are some other things to keep in mind:
How big is the space and how many rooms are there?
Start by assessing how much space you need. Think about your furniture and belongings.
You should also consider whether you want a closed bedroom or a studio apartment. You can save money by lowering your space expectations.
Don’t forget to check for storage space, which is particularly beneficial when you live in a small home. If you travel by bike, consider where you’ll keep it. The same applies if you have boxes to store.
You may need a parking space if you own a car, which often results in higher rent. In some cases, free or low-cost parking options, such as parking permits, will better suit your budget.
What type of housing should you choose?
Most of the time, living with roommates gives you access to larger apartments. This also means you can split overall costs (rent, electricity, internet and more). The key to successfully sharing a home? Set clear rules for living together (shared expenses, use of space) and communicate your expectations.
Are you a student? Have you considered student residences? Most of the time, student housing is more affordable than an apartment and is generally located close to educational institutions, saving you time and money on transportation. On the downside, soundproofing is usually poor and they can be very small – a single bedroom, sometimes a bathroom – meaning the kitchen and living room are shared. The upside: If you’re moving to a new city, they’re a great way to meet people you could one day share an apartment with.
To find out about prices and conditions, visit the website of the educational institution you’re considering.
Where should you live?
As a rule of thumb, the better an apartment’s location (close to the city centre, universities or public transit), the higher the rent. This means you may have to compromise and live in a neighbourhood that’s less central, but more affordable. In this case, consider the distance between your apartment and your university or workplace.
You might prefer to pay a little more, opt for a smaller apartment or share accommodation to cut down on your travel time.
Calculate utilities, furnishings and moving expenses
On top of rent, there are several other costs to consider when moving into an apartment.
Heating and electricity: Although these costs are sometimes included in the rent, most of the time they’re the tenant’s responsibility. This means you have to pay a monthly fee to utility companies. Is your building heated by natural gas? If so, your heating bill will be separate from your electricity bill. Look into this before choosing somewhere to live.
Telecom and internet: If internet isn’t included in your lease, you’ll have to pay for it through a provider. Shop around, compare plans and negotiate. You can get interesting discounts by taking advantage of what the competition has to offer. Don’t forget to include the cost of subscriptions to streaming platforms or cable when budgeting.
Parking: This includes the cost of parking your car in your building or on surrounding streets (permit fees).
Furnishings and appliances: Some apartments and student residences are furnished or semi-furnished. In this case, these items are included in your rent. When they’re not included, you need to think about saving money to buy them. To avoid spending too much at once, buy only what you need at first. And don’t forget to ask around: Your family can be a goldmine of used furniture.
Moving: Using a moving company can be expensive. The good news is that you can cut costs by borrowing a friend’s truck and moving your own furniture. Need to rent a truck? Take the time to compare available options.
Don’t forget home insurance
Even as a renter, it’s important to take out home insurance. Your landlord’s insurance protects the property itself. Yours protects your personal property and civil liability should anything unexpected happen.
- It protects your property in the event of theft, fire or vandalism.
- It covers your civil liability if you cause damage to others (e.g., if you flood your neighbour’s apartment because your bathtub overflows).
- It also protects you if someone is injured in your home (e.g., by slipping on stairs that haven’t been cleared of snow).
- Your possessions can even be protected outside your home (e.g., if your computer is stolen from your car or university).
Know your rights and obligations before signing a lease
It’s important to know your rights and obligations as a tenant. Know what is and isn’t included in your lease, and find out what your landlords’ responsibilities are. Landlords may ask for your credit report before agreeing to rent to you and could require you to have a guarantor – someone who’d pay your rent should you no longer be able to. Of course, you can research landlords too. In fact, it’s a good idea to do so.
Government sites are full of useful information about renting an apartment, including this page from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.