It feels like forever since I have done a blog post as the New Year period has all been a little bit of a blur and this hasn’t been due to an alcohol induced coma.
We got the keys for our new apartment and have finally moved out of our temporary, short stay accommodation after 9 weeks. We sold our house back in Australia in June and after 6 months of bouncing around in temporary digs, we are ready to call a place home. We hit the post-Christmas sales and purchased new electrical appliances that we needed to replace as we couldn’t bring these items from Australia due to the different power outlet plugs and voltage. We have been camping out in the Apartment on new sofas until our beds and the rest of our worldly goods arrive in our container. Our new apartment included the fridge, washing machine and dryer so these were one less thing we needed to replace. It is common for these things to be included when you rent or buy an apartment or house in Canada.
The good news is the container has arrived in Toronto and cleared customs the bad news is we just don’t have a date for when it will be delivered.
Our current decorating decor consists of such luxury items like this cardboard chic coffee table.
It’s so good to be in our own place and we are loving the building we have moved into because it’s so central and amongst the action of downtown Toronto.
We have opted to rent an apartment for our first 12 months to see if
1/ We enjoy living downtown.
2/ See how we go living in an apartment with a child compared to a house.
3/ Get to know Toronto and work out the areas we like before committing to purchasing a property.
The process of finding a place to live was slightly different to back in Australia.
When we started looking for an apartment I discovered that there are two types of apartments. Apartments and Condo’s, the main difference between them is that Condo’s will have a door person or concierge, tend to have more rules, strong security presence with cameras and staff and a high level of maintenance with staff cleaning common areas on a daily basis.
Unlike Australia that has Domain.com and Real Estate.com as the major resource tool for buying/selling/renting real estate, here many properties are put on Craigslist, Kijiji (both kind of like Gumtree) and Realtor.com so it was a little all over the place researching them. They also tend to be advertised with the street names as the location so instead of searching for say Surry Hills or Holland Park in Australia you need to search by either the Street names or the closest major cross streets to the street the property is located. We found this really tricky as we didn’t know many of the street names so would have to go by the pictures of a place and then look it up on the map. The Realtor website was a little easier to use as you can search by areas on a map.
We decided on a budget and pinpointed the area that our temporary apartment was located in, we chose this area because we have enjoyed being in the precinct and also because the 8-year-old has started school and you need to live within your school district and only just having started school we didn’t want to move him again. We then phoned or emailed inquiries trying to make appointments for viewings. Agents either didn’t return our calls or emails or did but then drilled us with questions where have we been living, our credit scores and life history BEFORE agreeing to meet us. Feeling a little disheartened, we then spoke to an agent who made an appointment to meet us that afternoon to view the apartment he had advertised.
We had thought it was strange that the same apartment seemed to be advertised several times with different people on different websites but after our first viewing, we had it sussed out. In Australia when renting a property the owner of the property will more likely engage the services of a real estate agent who will advertise the property with viewing times and you turn up to one of the advertised viewing times, if you are interested in the property you put in an application with the agent and the owner will then select the tenant from the applications. Here some owners will advertise a property themselves and look after the advertising, viewing and then management of the property themselves but it’s also common practice for ads to be placed by an agent that doesn’t even have the listing for the property but knows that it is for rent and they are seeking to get you on board as a client so they can show you properties and then they handle all viewings, dealing with the owners real estate agent and paperwork when you find a property you like.
When we met Sean to view the apartment he was one of these agents, we liked the first apartment we viewed but didn’t love it and so he then asked us questions and getting a feel for what we are looking for
like somewhere closer to a bottle shop and offered to put together that afternoon a list of potential properties we might be interested in and we could narrow it down and he would arrange viewings. As promised that afternoon Sean had sent through an excel spreadsheet with pictures and details of each of the properties and a map with each properties location pinned on it. Fan bloody tastic!
The following day we went from one apartment to the next with him over several hours and at the end of the day, we loved all but one of the apartments we saw so it made it tough to pick.
Sean’s payment for this service comes from the owner of the property as one month rent is split between him and the owners agent (so really it’s us paying as it would be built into the cost of the rent) and boy do they work for that commission. I couldn’t believe the amount of hoo-har involved in trying to secure the place as ours for the next 12 months.
First of all, you have to sign a contract that you have engaged the agent (Sean) then you sign a contract of offer, it is pretty much exactly the same as a contract offer to purchase a property. This offer includes all your details including pay slips or letter of a job offer, financials, a copy of your credit score (in Canada and the USA you are given a number out of 850 and if your score is low
you would be considered a dead shit you basically have no chance of finding a decent rental) when you would take the lease from, the rent, what’s included, what’s not included and a deadline they have to either accept or decline your offer. It was all kind of nerve-racking because we didn’t know if we would get rejected as we are new to the country, we have not rented in 10 years so don’t have rental references back in Australia let alone Canada and don’t have any personal reference in the province in Ontario. They came back and forward wanting us to make the move in date earlier and wanting us to provide a copy of our Canadian Bank Statement and then asking for a copy of a Bank Statement from one of our accounts in Australia. We stood our ground about not wanting an earlier move in date due to our container being MIA and we got accepted!
Sean then prepared a lease with the other agent, brought it over for us to sign and the deal was done. We then needed to pay 1st and last months rent as the deposit and prior to getting the keys we had to hand over a key deposit and 10 postmarked cheques for each months rent. This part kind of blew my mind and was like stepping back in time. I have not owned a cheque book or written a cheque in more than 10 years because everything is done via internet banking or direct debit …… no not in Canada, they still love a cheque.
We are grateful that Sean was so enthusiastic and willing to help us because I suspect we got the 3rd degree from other agents on the phone because we could have potentially got knocked back by owners having arrived from overseas so not easy clients to work with and more work involved in earning the commission. I’m also thinking this whole one agent for the owner and one agent for the tenant deal only happens on higher dollar value rentals because the owner is more likely to be fussier about the potential tenants and more willing to pay the months rent to the two agents.
We ended up having to up our budget from what we first thought to get the location and amount of living space we wanted and we ended up going with a Condo. Our building has heaps of perks such as free movie nights in the buildings 50 seat cinema and you can also book the cinema for your own private use once a week if you choose, gym that includes free scheduled yoga and workout classes (these really appeal to me NOT) indoor heated pool and spa, massage rooms, library, business centre (I suspect this won’t get any use by us) and rooftop bbq’s.
The building also has 2 guest suites that can be booked and are available to friends and family of tenants exclusively to stay the night for the very fair rate of $125 a night. We have already made use of one of these with relatives staying in one over the New year weekend.
Because I’m a convict from Australia, I knicked these pictures of our pool and BBQ area from Google Images.
The only downside so far would have to be some of the rules, especially as we moved in and nobody gave us the rules. It turns out you are not allowed to wear any shoes in or around the pool area. We only found this out when checking out the pool area for the first time and an eagle eye security guard must have noticed and came to remove us.
You also can’t just drop into Ikea and buy a piece of furniture and load it into the lift. You need to first make a booking for a service elevator and use of a loading dock and can only then use it for the allocated time. You would then need to pray to the Ikea gods that when you arrive they actually have the piece of furniture you want.
Same when having a piece of furniture or large item delivered you need to pre-arrange with the courier company the approx time so you can book them use of the service lift. This is all a little painful and as we all know good luck trying to pin down a delivery service with a time. Each time you use the service lift you also pay a $500 deposit against damage.
On the plus you have access to a website that you can request bookings for services like the lifts, cinema, guest suites and BBQ’s.
My favourite plus so far?
Last night as I was cooking dinner and I looked up I was greeted by this.