‘It’s a great time to be a student’: higher vacancy rates, lower rents benefit Calgary students

FILE: A photo showing the University of Calgary campus in the summer. June 2010. Riley Brandt / University of Calgary/File photo

Post-secondary students head back to class in September, which means time is ticking for those who have yet to find a place to live. The good news in Calgary is there are still many apartments available in prime locations — and for prices that won’t break the bank. It’s the one silver lining to Alberta’s badly bruised economy.

Vacancy rates are up about eight to 10 per cent in Calgary, according to Mark Hawkins from That’s compared with three per cent last year.

Meanwhile, rental prices have decreased. Of course it depends what kind of property you’re renting – and where it’s located.

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Rent near Mount Royal University is down about 16 per cent from last year. By the University of Calgary, it’s down about 18 per cent.

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The number of available units is between 10 and 20 per cent higher near these schools.

“I’m just starting to get those panicked phone calls from landlords who would usually have their apartments rented by now,” Hawkins said.

“There’s a glut of supply and students aren’t going to absorb that.”

Hawkins said with so many properties on the market, many landlords have had to lower their prices to stay competitive.

Arthur Kupper has had his property listed since mid July, and just signed a lease with a student at the end of August. He said he had to drop the price three times before he received any real bites.
It was originally listed for $1,500, and over time he was forced to lower the asking price by about $200.

“I’d rather drop the price a little than have it sit empty for months,” Kupper explained.

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Stephen Spangenberg, a student at SAIT, just found an apartment. His rent is $1,600 and is shared between two people. But the landlords had originally been asking for $1,700.

“I guess they couldn’t find a tenant and they dropped it,” Spangenberg said.

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Adam Dullum is another SAIT student who just ended his lease and is moving to Victoria. He said finding an apartment near the school used to be tough. Not anymore.

“There are ‘for rent’ signs everywhere compared to before,” Dullum explained.

More selection and lower prices means post-secondary students have more bargaining power.

Watch below: Navigating the rental market for post-secondary students
Click to play video: 'Navigating the rental market for post-secondary students' Navigating the rental market for post-secondary students
Navigating the rental market for post-secondary students – Aug 28, 2016

“A lot of younger individuals, a lot of students, don’t know that it is a negotiation. You can negotiate any parts in this agreement,” Hawkins said.

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That could mean convincing the landlord to include the cost of utilities, or maybe negotiating a shorter-term lease. Kupper says that’s something he’d prefer not to do because of the difficulty finding another tenant.

“I’d rather take a hard line on that and be willing to negotiate the rent,” he said.

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But Spangenberg said he got some flexibility on the terms of his lease.

“I was able to negotiate a lease for eight months instead of 12 months.”

For Hawkins, the best advice is to determine what’s most important to you – whatever it is – and negotiate on that.

“There’s definitely more choice out there for students, there’s better pricing. It’s a great time to be a student.”

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