Student Housing Tips

Published: June 20, 2024

Your First Student Rental Search: Essential Tips for Local and International Students

Embarking on your university journey is an exciting time, filled with new experiences and opportunities. One of the first major steps in this adventure is finding the right student-friendly accommodation. 

Whether you're a local student moving out of your family home or an international student relocating to Canada, securing suitable student housing can significantly impact your university experience. 

Here are some helpful tips for students to help them navigate finding the perfect student rental!

If you’re deciding between schools and wondering where the best place in Canada to live is? Check out our previous post: A Guide to Choosing Where to Live in Canada: Where should I move to in Canada?

For All Students: Essential Tips

No matter where you are in your rental journey, it is always best to create a checklist of things that you’ll want in your student rental, as well as things you will need and don’t want to compromise on. 

  • Start Early

Begin your search as early as possible. Universities often release accommodation details and open applications several months before the academic year starts. The same goes with off-campus student renals, they will begin to search for tenants months before the school years starts. 

Early planning helps you avoid the last-minute rush and allows for a more thorough search–the early birds not only get the worm but also the best picks in student housing. 

  • Set a Budget

Understand your financial situation and set a realistic budget. Consider all expenses, including rent, utilities, internet, and groceries. Don’t forget to factor in a little extra for unexpected costs. Using a budget planner can help keep your finances on track and prevent overspending.

  • Prioritize Safety and Security

Ensure the neighborhood and the accommodation itself are safe. Check for secure locks, CCTV, on-site security, and well-lit areas. Don’t hesitate to ask the landlord or current tenants about the safety of the area. Additionally, look up crime rates and read reviews from other students to get a better sense of the environment. Boardwalk rentals have 24/7 on-call security to ensure tenants always feel safe.

It is also important to stay safe during your rental search. Make sure you read up on popular rental scams in your area, and stay vigilant during your housing search to spot fraudulent listings.

  • Proximity to Campus

The closer your accommodation is to your campus, the more convenient it will be. Factor in the time and cost of commuting. Sometimes, paying a bit more for a closer location can save you money and time in the long run. Proximity to campus also means easier access to university facilities like libraries, gyms, and support services.

  • Understand the Lease Terms

Read the lease agreement carefully. Pay attention to the length of the contract, the deposit amount, and the terms for getting your deposit back. Be aware of any clauses that might be problematic, such as strict rules about visitors or noise. If you're unsure about any terms, seek advice from a trusted adult or a student housing advisor.

  • Visit in Person (if possible)

If circumstances allow, visit the accommodation in person before signing a rental agreement or lease. Pictures can be deceiving, and a visit can give you a better feel of the place and its surroundings. If an in-person visit isn’t possible, try to arrange a virtual tour. Pay attention to the condition of the property, the amenities provided, and any potential maintenance issues.

  • Talk to Current or Past Tenants

Getting insights from those who have lived there can be invaluable. They can provide you with an honest perspective on the living conditions, the landlord, and any issues they faced. Online forums and social media groups for students can also be great places to gather reviews and advice.

  • Consider the Type of Accommodation

Decide whether you want to live in university halls, private student housing, or shared apartments off-campus. Every option has its pros and cons, and the right decision is up to the student.

University residential halls offer abundant support with teachers and staff nearby, fostering a vibrant social atmosphere through dorm activities, and study groups. Living on campus can be a favored choice among first and second-year students. However, due to high demand, some universities may lack residential space for the entirety of your academic journey, necessitating a transition to off-campus student rentals before graduation.

Private housing can offer students more independence, and can be a lot more affordable for young people and international students. Decide if you’d like a two-bedroom or three-bedroom to enjoy roomates, or if you’d prefer a studio or one-bedroom apartment for some peace and quiet.

Find Boardwalk apartment buildings perfect for students, located near top Canadian Universities here: Living off Campus: A guide to student housing in Canada.

For Local Students: Tailored Advice

  • Leverage Local Knowledge

Use your familiarity with the area to your advantage. Choose neighborhoods that you know are safe, well-connected, and have the amenities you need. Knowing the local transportation system and peak traffic times can help you choose a convenient location.

  • Network

Talk to friends, family, or older students who might have recommendations or know of available accommodations and the best off-campus apartment buildings. Word-of-mouth can often lead to finding better deals and trustworthy landlords. Local community boards and social media groups can also be useful for finding available rooms or apartments.

  • Consider Staying at Home Initially

If it’s feasible, consider staying at home during your first year. This can give you more time to understand your needs and preferences, and save money for when you do move out. It also allows you to adjust to university life without the added stress of managing a new living situation.

  • Check University Resources

Many universities offer resources specifically for local students, including housing services, bulletin boards, and local listings that might not be advertised widely. Take advantage of these resources to find housing options tailored to your needs.

  • Explore Different Living Arrangements

As a local student, you might have the flexibility to explore various living arrangements, such as living with family, house-sharing with friends, or finding an apartment. Each option has its own set of advantages and challenges, so consider what works best for your lifestyle and budget.

For International Students: Special Considerations

  • Understand the Local Rental Market

Research the rental market in your new city. Prices, leasing terms, and rental norms can vary greatly from what you’re used to. Websites, forums, and university resources can be great starting points. Understanding the typical cost of living and the average rental prices will help you budget effectively.

Did you know that Boardwalk is dedicated to providing affordable housing for all? Read about how we are fighting the housing crisis in Canada with other REIT’s, here.

  • Prepare Necessary Documentation

International students often need additional documentation such as a student visa, proof of enrollment, and sometimes a guarantor. Make sure you know what is required and have these documents ready. Having your paperwork in order will streamline the process and make you a more attractive tenant.

New to Canada? Read up on what you need to know about renting your first apartment in Canada here: How Do I Rent an Apartment in Canada as a Newcomer?

  • Consider University Accommodation

Many universities offer halls of residence or dormitories specifically for international students who have travelled far from home. This can provide a more seamless transition, offering a community of peers and support services. University accommodations often include utilities and internet in the rent, simplifying your financial management.

  • Look into Student Services

Universities usually have international student offices that can assist with housing advice, legal issues, and other support services. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them. These offices can also provide information about cultural integration programs and events to help you adjust to your new environment.

  • Familiarize Yourself with the Area

Use online resources to familiarize yourself with the city, transportation options, and essential services like healthcare and banking. Knowing these can ease your transition. Mapping out the locations of grocery stores, hospitals, and public transport stops can be very helpful once you arrive.

  • Join Online Communities

Join online communities or social media groups for international students in your city or university. These groups can be a great source of advice, accommodation leads, and support. They also provide opportunities to connect with other students who are going through similar experiences.

  • Consider Cultural Differences

Be aware of cultural differences that might affect your living situation. For example, understand the local customs regarding noise levels, shared spaces, and guest policies. Respecting these differences will help you build good relationships with your housemates and neighbors.

  • Plan for Emergencies

Have a plan for emergencies, including knowing the local emergency numbers, the location of the nearest hospital, and having a list of contacts you can reach out to. It's also wise to have some savings set aside for unexpected situations. If you’re new to Canadian winters, there are some things you can do to help maintain your apartment during the winter months.

Find your dream student rental with Boardwalk

Finding the right student accommodation is crucial for a successful university experience. By starting early, doing thorough research, and utilizing available resources, you can secure a place that not only meets your needs but also enhances your academic journey. Whether you're a local or international student, these tips will help you navigate your search with confidence and ease. 

Take the time to find a place where you feel safe, comfortable, and ready to thrive. Reach out to our team here at Boardwalk today and we can help you find the perfect student rental, whether you’re new to Canada, are local to the area, or simply need help finding you’re new home!

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