Welcome to Hogtown! That's Toronto-speak for "the world's best city for business and family life." Well, at least according to Fortune magazine in 1996.

Although the vacancy rate in Toronto is at an all-time low (less than one percent), it is not impossible to find the apartment of your dreams if you do your homework and, of course, follow our helpful advice. You'll soon be begging your friends to help you schlep your stuff up three flights of stairs to your quaint Victorian-style one bedroom with a view of the CN Tower, or perhaps having your movers load your boxes into the elevator of a spectacular high-rise with a view of the island. Or, for sports fans, you could be moving downtown, within walking distance of both the Skydome and the Air Canada Centre. (Yes, that's Centre with an "re." Canadian spelling has a unique flavour that you will soon have to learn). Yep, there's something for everything in Toronto, and we're here to help you set up shop in the fair city faster than you can say, "eh."


Before you start slogging through on-line and classifieds ads, you need to make an important decision: how much are you willing (and able) to pay in monthly rent? In downtown Toronto, a one-bedroom commands between $700 and $1500, depending upon how upscale the neighborhood is. Even in the suburbs, you won't find one much cheaper than $700. But bargains can be had if you're patient and willing to put in the time.

A good way to find your upper limit for housing costs is to divide your monthly net income (after taxes) by three. Go ahead and do the math in your head at this point. Now, if this figure seems ridiculously low and you are currently imagining life in a broom closet, you have three options: 1) make more money; 2) consider widening your search out to the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), where the rents can be lower; or 3) save money on rent by finding a roommate.

Finding a roommate

Shacking up with a roommate is a great way to lower your housing costs, as long as said roommate doesn't turn out to be a mental case. For the complete scoop on the process, be sure to read our comprehensive article on the subject, SYW Find a Good Roommate.

Here are the basics. To find a roommate, you can:

  1. Find someone yourself amongst your immediate friends and their friends.

  2. Try a roommate referral service (such as MetroRoommates.com).

  3. Just look for ads in the classifieds: "roommate wanted," "apartment to share," etc.

However you find one, you must be careful when choosing your roommate or you will regret it for the rest of your lease. Obviously, not all strangers are going to make good roommates, but less obviously, not all friends do either. There are people you might get along fine with when you see them once in a while, but who would drive you insane if you had to live with them. In an effort to filter out unsuitable persons from your life, you should ask all potential roommates the following questions to assess their compatibility:

  • Have you ever had a roommate before?
  • What, if anything, bothered you about your past roommate(s)? Did you fight a lot? About what? Did gunplay become a factor?
  • Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend or other friend who will be staying here frequently?
  • Are you promiscuous? (Do not be afraid to ask this one. You don't want strange people sleeping over all the time. It will also establish what you consider unacceptable ahead of time.)
  • Do you smoke? Drink? Do drugs? If yes to any, how often?
  • Do you stay out late on weeknights?
  • Did/do you have any credit problems?
  • Do you have any pets?
  • What is your occupation?
  • What do you like to watch on television? What music do you listen to? Do you listen to it loud?
  • Do you know how to clean up after yourself? Do you cook? Do you drink directly from the milk container? Do you know how to clean a toilet?
  • Do you have any referrals to whom I could speak?
  • Can you name all seven dwarfs? Alphabetically?

Whatever you ask, at the end of it all you must feel very comfortable with your future roommate. You're taking a big risk sharing a roof with this person, and you never want to dread going home because of the other body in there.

One last note about roommates: arrange it so that your roommate co-signs the lease. If your name is the only one on the lease, then you shoulder the entire burden of responsibility for the apartment from a financial standpoint. If your roommate loses his/her job (and by extension, a steady cash flow), you'll be stuck paying his/her share of the rent. Then you'd be angry, poor, and kicking yourself for not following our sage advice.