The Lo-Down On Apartment Hunting
03 Feb, 2012 10:19
Trust me here, I have friends who waited until April to start their search and now live in a far-off, confusing sector of the Plateau that I refer to as Mordor (I have never actually been, but I can only imagine). Basically, if you want to find a spot in the well-known parts of Middle-Earth, start your hunt as soon as possible, but be careful not to rush into anything either. Depending on lease start dates, apartments will not get listed until February or March, so while it is important to get a feel for what is out there pre-midterm season, when you actually have time to do things like breathe and shower regularly, you might have to wait a while before your dream pad pops up.
On finder’s fees
If you have ever been to the adorable McGill Off-Campus Housing info sessions, you will know that they give you this incredibly empowering lecture on how to avoid finder’s fees – they are illegal in the province of Quebec after all – and that you should be informing renters that they are potential felons. It is all very good and dramatic, but are you really going to hold fellow students under citizen’s arrest while you call the cops on a thinly veiled furniture sale? I have heard some people try to charge upwards of $10,000, which is bald-Britney-Spears-level insane, but if the perfect apartment comes with a raggedy old couch and a shady lamp for triple the price of IKEA, consider it a deposit. Someone will be just as naïve as you were next year.
Where to look
McGill Off-Campus Housing’s website is definitely the most reliable place to scope out a new pad. You will deal directly with landlords, you will find apartments in all the best neighbourhoods, and so will the rest of McGill. There is nothing worse than showing up to an appointment to see a potential place and there are 16 other people already there when the landlord rolls in 25 minutes late and demands to know how much your father makes as an accountant (for the record: more than a landlord, you Toyota-wielding menace). It is a true story and needless to say, the apartment was a dive. Keep McGill Classifieds, Kijiji, and Craigslist on your radar (just watch out for murderers – we have all seen the Lifetime movies).
This is where they really get you. Who knew words like “quaint” really meant, “duck before entering,” and “well-lit” was code for “windowless – but the lamps are included!” This is a time when “steps from McGill” is in reference to Hagrid’s steps, and could take you muggles anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes. Beware of the dubious word choice apartment listings have a tendency to use, and try to visit places in the daylight so you can really see where they are steering you wrong.
The McGill Off-Campus Housing office hands out a nifty survival guide for renting in Montreal, with a roommate questionnaire including such gems as, “What my definition of ‘dirty’ is,” “The kind of music I like,” and “How I feel about drugs and drinking…” While I think it is important to make sure you and your roommates get along, these kinds of questions should probably be saved for your e-Harmony online-dating profile. If you survived a year in residence with the psychos that you call friends, chances are that you will make it through another year under one roof.
Essentially, apartment hunting is all about common sense, going with your instincts, and finding some basement hole to laugh at or in with your friends for the next school year.