Finding the right place to live in Toronto (The Sharkhacks FAQ to finding your dream home)

Shoukri K.
Aug 29, 2015 · 17 min read

Finding where to live once you move to Toronto is an art and a science. There are a few things that are crucial to where you live, and picking the right place.

Single and ready to mingle? or moving with your family?

If you are single then I highly recommend the downtown area for you. A bit pricy, smaller apartments, but you get to experience the city. You can always travel downtown and spend time, but who has the energy and time after a long day at work?

If you are a family then you need to stay away from downtown. AVOID. Unless you are a hipster parent who likes to walk everywhere, have no car, and you work downtown.

What does your ‘daily run’ look like ?

I’m a big fan of being optimal minimal and of Life Design. The best decision I have ever made in the last 5 years is living next to my office. In an awesomely strategic area.

Location location location!!

For me time is the currency of life, money comes second. By living in this location I believe that I have been able to save a great amount of time, and money, and have a great quality of life. It is not a sexy or upscale location but its pretty decent.

Time savings :

All in all this saves me on average 2.6 hours a day. This is around 13 hours / week I get back, to do whatever pleases me. Wondering what can anyone accomplish in 13 more hours in a WEEK.

But Wait!! this isn’t all.

Money Savings :

I admit I’m not a big saver when it comes to dining out, but all in all I think I’m saving around 200–300 bucks / month at least by living here. Wondering what would this money do if it compounds over the years?

But is it ever this simple?

I admit, it has been an awesome 5 years that I lived here. But it doesn’t always work out this way.

Life is never simple.

Condominium (Condo) vs Townhouse vs House? What’s the difference?

Condominium (Condo)

toronto-condo
toronto-condo

a building or complex of buildings containing a number of individually owned apartments.

the system of ownership by which condominiums operate, in which owners have full title to the individual apartment or house and an undivided interest in the shared parts of the property.

What’s in the Box ?

Congrats! You bought or rented out a Condo, so what else comes in the Box ?

By default when you buy or even rent a condo some of the appliances and fixtures come with the unit. Typically the builder of the building negotiates deals and buys appliances in bulk for the condo, which saves everyone money. So the Fridge, Stove, Dishwasher, Washer and Dryer come with the unit, same with Kitchen and Bathroom cabinets. Also keep in mind that in most of the condos the closets are wall-closets. You don’t need separate bedroom closets.

Townhouses

townhouses-in-Toronto
townhouses-in-Toronto

Townhouses relate to Condos and are a bit different.

Houses ( Detached or Semi-Detached)

toronto_detached_home
toronto_detached_home

Houses are the largest of all of the above. They are typically owned by their owners and have no association fees. They can either be standing alone (detached) or there is a shared wall with the neighbouring house (semi-detached).

Houses typically have a basement and backyard, which they may or may not share with neighbours. They also have their own garage which may fit 1–3 cars.

While you don’t have to worry about snow shovelling , lawn mowing, and maintenance with Condos/ Townhouses, if you own a house you need to worry about these things. Additional expenses include Water Heater tank, and a security / Alarm monitoring system. Some of these expenses need to be paid by you if you rent, and it gets worse if you own. If you own you will need to do your own maintenance, re-roofind every x years, plus lots of misc. expenses. Which for me makes home ownership a nightmare!

So which area in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) do I choose to live in?

For our discussion, please consider this zone / area map :

gta-map
gta-map

How Do I find a place?

There are many ways to find a place. You can try to look for a place yourself, but I highly advise against it, specially in the beginning but in case you decide not to listen :

Craiglist — Toronto — Housing Section

Kijiji — GTA- Real Estate section

You can find plenty of places on Kijiji and Craiglist and deal directly with the owner, however I highly recommend you NOT go this route. Your rights and responsibilities are not protected, go the other option as it is also free to you.

Realtor.ca

I can write a book about what MLS, Realtor associations, Realtor.ca is, and why I hate this organized (crime) but long story short. There are governing bodies that control the buying, selling of real estate. There is a National one (CREA), a provincial one (OREA for Ontario), and local ones such as TREB. They own MLS which is a database of all listing of all real estate in the country. These listings are maintained by Agents. Which brings us into Agents. There is a whole bunch of real estate agent types. There are Sales people , there are brokers, brokerage firms, etc.. it is a long story, but you need to know 2 things for now.

There are generally buyer agents and seller agents in every real estate transaction. One representing the buyer / lessee / tenant. And another who represents the Seller / Landlord.

Typically buyer’s agent is free to the buyer. Seller’s agent charges the seller when he / she sells or leases (rents) a place to someone. Seller’s agent lists a place, by putting it into the MLS database / system. Buyer’s agent typically splits the revenue with the seller agent if there is one. Typically the fee of the agents who list a place for rent is ONE Month Rent.

Example : if a place is listed for 1800 CAD / month and the seller’s agent finds a tenant for one year, then the seller’s agent takes 1800 CAD. If the tenant is represented by an agent, different than the leasing agent, then the tenant agent and leasing agent split the fee. In this case tenant agent (who brought the tenant) gets 900 CAD, the leasing agent gets 900.

You can go to Realtor.ca and look for properties yourself, and contact the leasing agents directly , however these agents are pain in the ass to catch, very hard to coordinate showings and bookings with. You can do it, its not impossible, but why not get an Agent to work for free for you, to represent you, and take care of your interest. It is free to you anyways.

The Realtor way

You can find any random real estate agent anywhere and ask him to represent you. He would love to. Even though he does not make any money until he finds you a place and even when he does he doesn’t make a lot of money (compared to selling places). Agents work on the principle that now that he helped you, and if he did a good job, then when you buy a place then you will go with him and make him a lot of money. You can find them online too.

My preference is to use your connections to find a good referral. Ask your friends or people you know for recommending/referring a good realtor/agent.

When finding any professional I’d rather go by a friend’s word as opposed to anything else. Professionals include Bankers, Real Estate Agents, Lawyers/Attorneys, and Doctors.

The process

When you start working with a realtor he will first try to gather information from you, what is your budget, he/she will tell you what you can find and what is realistic. You will talk about the areas, etc. then they will usually get your email address and will set you up in their system, which is part of MLS. The system will typically send you first a blast of all existing listings that match your budget, description, then it will send you daily emails with new listings that become available.

Here is an example of a home listing coming from MLS.

MLS_Listing
MLS_Listing

Putting an Offer Once you see a listing that you like, you will contact your agent and try to book a showing, to go see the place. Once you have seen a place that you liked, the next step is typically to put an offer on the place. Documents you need to have for putting an offer:

One of the benefits of having a realtor working with you, who looks after your interest, is that they will put some conditions in the offer to your favour. Example including adding terms to make sure all utilities are covered by the owner (in case the listing doesn’t specify), adding rules in terms of if you can be allowed to break the lease (leave the house to move , etc.) , and other terms. A good realtor will know what terms to put in there.

Things to watch out for in the offer A very important critical piece of information that is typically covered in an offer is what expenses does the landlord pay vs. what things the tenant pays. If you see something unusual then consult with your realtor. A good realtor will typically help you put these things in your favour and will do so without you asking him.

Examples of expenses and sample costs (from my experience)

Rights to represent When submitting an offer, the realtor will typically ask you to sign a right to represent. Which says that he represents you. This is fine, however pay attention to one specific thing.

Some Realtor out there are assholes. They might get you to sign a multi-year , multi-listing rights to represent, even before you doing any offers. This guarantees that you can go no where and cannot work with any other realtor other than them for a number of years. DO NOT SIGN THIS. DO NOT ACCEPT THIS. LEAVE THIS REALTOR AND FIND ANOTHER ONE IMMEDIATELY if YOUR REALTOR ASKS YOU TO SIGN SUCH AGREEMENT.

Another really good piece of advice is this.

NEVER EVER SIGN A PAPER YOU HAVE NOT FULLY READ AND COMPREHENDED 100%. Ask your realtor for help, go to a translator if necessary. Just MAKE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING IN AN AGREEMENT.

Offer closing Typically in the offer you will specify a closing date for the offer and move in date. To close you will need some additional things to get.

Cooling Off Period Generally speaking in north america there is a Cooling Off period concept. The concept is that there is a period where a consumer (buyer) has the option to change his mind about things he bought, specially big/ huge purchases, and that he can return whatever he purchased. This applies typically to houses and cars. In some cases your realtor may be able to put a cooling off clause in a lease, but this is rare. Typically it is done while you are buying a place, but rarely on a lease. Check and discuss with your realtor if this may be an option for you. This can be a nice option, in case you want to change your mind, find a different place, etc.. Not always possible though.

Sharkhacks guide to moving into a new place coming soon.

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Shoukri K.

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