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Housing options in Toronto, what you should know

When it comes to housing, it's not uncommon to hear expatriate families express their desire for a large apartment with at least 3 or 4 bedrooms in Toronto. However, I'm afraid I have to disappoint you, as such accommodations simply don't exist here. Housing in Canada often differs significantly from what you might be familiar with in your home country!


This article aims to guide you through the various options available for finding accommodation in Toronto. Your choices will, of course, depend on your budget and the size of the residence you're looking for.



The Reality of the Real Estate Market in Toronto


The real estate market, whether for buying or renting, has been extremely competitive for over a decade in the Toronto region. The recent rise in interest rates has slightly slowed down the sales market but has simultaneously increased pressure on the rental market.

On average, the Greater Toronto Area welcomes over 100,000 new residents each year. This substantial demographic growth is only partially matched by the construction of new properties. As a result, there is more demand than available supply, leading to fierce competition among prospective tenants. It's crucial to know your budget from the outset and be prepared to submit a rental offer (*) on the first day of viewing.


Specifics of the Toronto Market


  • Housing advertisements specify the number of bedrooms. Floor areas are sometimes indicated in square feet (divide by 10 for an approximate value in square meters), but these details are neither mandatory nor contractual. The area (very approximate) is generally calculated by multiplying the total length by the total width of the property.

  • Prices are negotiable, both downward and upward. You can attempt to offer a lower rent if you feel the displayed price is not in line with the market. Conversely, don't be surprised if a landlord comes back to you asking to increase your offer if a rental listing has garnered a lot of attention.

  • All appliances, such as the refrigerator, stove, oven, microwave, washer, and dryer, are included with the accommodation. However, for some apartments or duplexes, it's possible that the washer and dryer are shared with other tenants through a basement laundry.


Types of Available Properties


When moving to Toronto, navigating the rental market can be challenging. Here's an overview of the different types of available housing.


Apartments


These are an excellent option for couples without children or small families (2 children). They are available throughout the city but are more scattered in the suburbs. Here are the types of apartments you can find in Toronto:


  • Condo

Condos are the most common rental option. They are private properties within a collective building, involving the sharing of certain common spaces (lobby, elevator, terrace, etc.) and shared expenses with other owners (condo fees). Renting a condo provides access to modern facilities, often in or near the city center. The surfaces are generally smaller, and it's very rare to find more than two bedrooms.


  • Apartment

Apartments are located in buildings owned by a management company. All residents are tenants, and the rent includes the maintenance of common areas. Apartment buildings are often older than condos (built between 1960 and 1980), but in return, the spaces are larger. It's not uncommon for washers and dryers to be shared with other tenants in the form of a basement laundry.


  • Duplex

A duplex/triplex is a house that has been divided into several units (often one unit per floor), each unit having its entrance, kitchen, and living spaces. All tenants have the same private owner. It happens that washers and dryers are shared among tenants.


  • Basement

A basement is a living space on the lower level inside a private house that is leased for occupancy. It tends to be more humid and darker compared to other living spaces, but it often offers a cheaper rent.



Houses


For families looking for more than 2 bedrooms, the option is to turn to a house. Rental houses in Toronto are often quite old. They are built differently from Europe. Being in the city where space is limited, they are often elongated, and the distance from neighbors is not usually significant. It's not uncommon to see houses that are much less bright than those in France. Below are the types of houses available:


  • Detached House

In Toronto itself, these non-attached houses are the holy grail of real estate and are rarely found for rent at reasonable prices. In the outskirts of the city, they are a bit more common.


  • Bungalow

A bungalow is a single-story house, usually independent, with a living room, dining room, kitchen, bedrooms, and bathroom on one level. Bungalows are often accompanied by larger gardens.


  • Semi-Detached House

There are often no significant differences between semi-detached and detached houses, except for the proximity to neighbors and a generally narrower shape. They generally have the same layout: a ground floor with a living room, dining room, and kitchen in the back, a floor with bedrooms and a bathroom, and a finished or unfinished basement. They often have a garden or a backyard at the rear. Garages are relatively rare, but a parking space is generally present in front or on the side of the house.


Deux maisons mitoyennes à gauche et une maison indépendante à leur droite.


  • Townhouse

Townhouses are quite modern as their construction is recent. They are peculiar in being attached on both sides, with no separation between the houses. They are smaller than semi-detached or detached houses and do not (except in exceptional cases) have a backyard but may have a terrace on the top floor. They are part of a residential complex and often have underground parking.


Rental Price


I intentionally avoid going into detail about prices because what is true today may not be so in six months. The housing market in Toronto and its surroundings is competitive, and prices tend to increase regularly. It's not excluded that they could also decrease significantly in the event of a real estate bubble bursting.

However, I provide you with some price indications valid at the last update of this article (November 2023):

  • A 1-bedroom condo in the center rents for between $2500 and $3500.

  • A 2-bedroom condo in the center rents for between $3500 and $5500.

  • A 3-bedroom semi-detached house in residential areas


*Making a rental offer means submitting all the necessary documents for lease signing. Legal documents include the rental application form (provided by the real estate agent), your pay stubs, your credit score, and the first and last months' rent paid in advance. If you've just arrived in North America and don't have a credit score, you'll need to provide a letter from your employer and sometimes be prepared to bid higher on prepaid rents. Keep in mind that the landlord can still refuse.


Note: All the descriptions I've provided in the article are generalities; there can, of course, be exceptions.*


 

Simple Relocate is your relocation partner in Toronto. We can assist you in selecting accommodation (either remotely or in-person with you), establish the lease agreement, and provide a range of other services to ease your settlement in Ontario.

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