I knew coming into university that university life was not going to match Sydney White, especially after the High School Letdown of 2010 when no one sang in the cafeteria on the first day of school like in High School Musical. That changed me. I knew about the downfall of high expectations. Still, my optimistic attitude demanded nothing but, so when my dad announced he was going to invest in a house for me, you bet I Kijiji’ed until my fingers fell off from exhaustion. When I walked into the first house, the smell sucker punched me in the face so hard, I thought Wrecking Ball was Miley Cyrus documenting that moment. I had fallen into “The Filter Trap” (It’s a thing guys, Google it). The outside was stunning and there was one room where if the sun came in just right and you stood with the peeling wallpaper to your back, it looked like a normal room. These were the pictures I saw online, none of the rest of the horror house. Don’t you just love surprises?
House hunting is like an unstable molecule – one wrong move and it will blow up in your face. By learning this the very hard way, I have done some of the handy research I probably should have done in July and delivered it to you fresh out of the oven. For all first years taking the big leap for next year, buckle up and keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times.
- If you’re reading this, you’ve already done my first tip which is toSTART EARLY. You do not want to be that one person who is selling blood to pay their ridiculous rent or who crashes at their friend’s place and don’t even know where their own house key is because they are never going back. Ever. During the Christmas break or even earlier is the best time to start looking, especially since Western is a huge school with tons of students looking for a place to live. This ensures that even if you fall into “The Filter Trap”, you still have plenty of time to find other options.
- When looking, plan a budget and stick to it. This is not your dream home. You have not won the Princess Margaret Home Sweepstakes lottery. You are not getting Jean Brebuf III to envision the place and create a modern take on Victorian design in your kitchen. This is student housing and sacrifices must be made. Cut out the luxurious amenities, not your arm or leg to pay for the place. If you have the money to allow for a lavish floor pad with a scenic view, go for it. However, if you are relying on OSAP or bank loans, skimp out on the indoor swimming pool and the extra debt. Stick to your budget.
- First and foremost, you are a student so school is or should be your # 1 priority. Make sure your house is walking distance or has a great bus route to school, the grocery store, a convenience store. Proximity to a McDonalds should not be your make or break factor. It will break your piggy bank in the long run. Even overpriced convenience stores are better than eating our every night. Plus, saving on car costs is a big bonus that can go towards rent or utilities. If you have to make a decision between a place close to school or close to stores, it is entirely up to you. After talking to many people though, it seems having a place close to school is much more beneficial in the long run. When you’re late for class and you missed that bus, you’ll be happy it’s a quick walking distance. Plus, you usually save shopping trips for the weekend anyway where there’s more leeway on time.
- Look for deals! Some landlords offer discounts on first month’s rent or have bargains if you come as a ready group since they don’t have to look for any more people. Sometimes, you may even be able to bargain or get a discount if you sign a 12 month lease instead of an 8 month. Also, make sure you’re clear on what rent entails. Eg. is it excluding or including utilities? This can be a major factor in your decision making.
Hopefully, these tips will help you find your perfect match for the next year. Happy hunting!