Looking for a place to rent in Toronto? Get in (a long) line.
“Times are tough,” said Alexis Gabrielle as she and her boyfriend Graham Post recently waited behind more than a dozen people to view a two-bedroom apartment in the tree-lined Dufferin Grove neighbourhood in the city’s west end.
The landlord said she intentionally hadn’t posted a “For Rent” sign on the Rusholme Road building because she didn’t want to attract too many prospective tenants to the Saturday showing.
Those who came out had spotted the $1,400 a month listing online a couple days before. And now they were all sizing each other up. Post confessed the element of competition only made him want it more.
“It went from them trying to convince me to give them money, to me convincing them that I’m a good person,” he admitted.
The 30-year-old has been eager to get out of his “wildlife”-infested rental in Kensington, a hot spot with students. He likens the unit he shares with a roommate to “if Mary Poppins were a horror movie.”
“One time I was eating popcorn and heard a scratching around. I thought it was squirrels. But then the corner of my ceiling started vibrating and I saw a paw punch through and then it shoved its head out.”
The “it” was a raccoon. His girlfriend also had a run-in with a rat in his kitchen. She said the rat lunged at her out of the trash bin when she went to open it.
“It was kind of f***** up.”
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So the prospect of landing this seemingly rodent-free and reasonably-priced rental would be a major step up for Post.
“I feel I should’ve brought like a gift basket — something to bribe them. Sort sort of ‘character’ proof.'”
A bribe is how a family friend of his landed her apartment. She apparently showed up to the viewing with a bottle of champagne and the cheque already signed.
Post, unfortunately, walked away empty-handed from the viewing.
Kris Osborne also lost out on a dream rental in trendy Roncesvalles when it turned into a bidding war.
“We didn’t win the bidding war because another couple offered to commit three years.”
“That, at least, felt like a legitimate thing we couldn’t compete with. But the not knowing how much to offer, what cards to reveal … was challenging,” she said.
The rental ended up going for up to $300 above asking price.
Landlord Edward Roseman, who manages over 80 rentals in Toronto, sees people offer $100 above asking price sometimes.
The lines to see his properties can stretch 50 people long, he says, but usually only 15 might apply.
Real estate agent advantage
“It’s a landlord’s market out there,” she said.
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Roughly 80 per cent of her business comes from acting as a “matchmaker” between landlords and tenants. She’ll often get renters to write up a bio of themselves and send her a family photo that she uses to “sell them” to prospective landlords.
For her services, landlords pay her the cost of one month’s rent which she splits with the listing agent.
It’s “quick, fast money” that pays the bills, she says. But if she doesn’t find you a place on your third shot, “you’re on your own.”
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The average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Toronto is $1,269, according to the latest numbers from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
That’s still less than what you’d pay in Vancouver and Calgary.
In the latter, though, landlords are dropping rents and throwing in all kinds of incentives for tenants like free TVs, housecleaning and groceries.
An alternate reality, it seems, from the somewhat depressing situation for Toronto renters.