The academic year is beginning: Do you have a roof over your head?

New Academic Year. If you were thinking of making big changes, chances are you are making them now. If you are a new student (welcome!) and you are not a Montrealer (yet!), chances are you spent the last weeks looking for a place to live. And if you are a returning student, there is still a chance you decided to move to a new place anyway, maybe in a different area. So… do you have a roof over your head for the academic year that is about to begin?

No pressure: It’s perfectly ok if you don’t. Indeed, in a big student city like Montreal, student housing seems pretty flexible. Renting a place for one year is quite common, but renting just for a few months isn’t rare, and of course this is your only option, if you are here as an exchange or vitising student just for a few months.

I am not an expert at house hunting in Montreal, but I felt that a post about this topic was needed, and in order to have some information to share with you beside my little experience, I asked my fellow @gradlifemcgill team members if they had any advice to share. Here are some tips and recommendations from us:

  • Where should I look for advertisements?
    • The websites that came up are:
    • Nobody mentioned these websites, but online they seem pretty popular too:
      • Rentals: https://rentals.ca/montreal;
      • RentMTL: http://rentmtl.com/prepareMap.do;
      • StayHomeSearch: http://www.stayhomesearch.com/;
    • A few facebook groups for McGill students looking for a place:
      • McGill Off-campus Housing group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Mcgill.offcamus.housing/;
      • McGill Housing – Rental – Rooms – Apartments – Sublet: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1155035444541838;
      • MAC Free and For Sale: https://www.facebook.com/groups/369361676516738/ (for students who want to live close to the Macdonald Campus);
    • The old “have a walk in your target neighbourhood and look for adversisements” method is still efficient, as apparently there are some nehghbourhoods, like Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, in which many landlords/landladys only rely on this kind of advertising;
    • The old “have a walk in the university corridors looking for advertisements” is also a recommended method.
  • Is it advisable to rent a place without having visited it beforehand?
    • In someone’s opinion, it is not: If you see the place in person, you can notice many things that you cannot see in the advertisement. For example, you may realize that the place is farther from the metro station than you expected, or that it is more noisy than you can bear, or that your potential future housemates seem to have routines incompatible with yours. Better stay in a hostel or at friends’ for a little while, and look for a place with no rush, giving yourself the possibility to visit, before renting.
    • In someone else’s opinion instead, it is ok to rent a place without having seen it in person, if you have a friend who can visit it for you and you trust their judgement.
  • Any other advice?
    • If you can, talk to the tenants who are leaving, and ask them why they are doing so: It might be an ok reason, like “now I have a partner and I’m going to live with them”, but their decision might also be due to issues with the apartment, with the landlord/landlady, or with a roommate that is going to stay and live with you, and in this case you probably want to know what the issue is, and be sure that it does not bother you.
    • Someone made a warning against the so-called “finder fees”. Here you can find some information about how they work and why you should avoid them.
    • A tip from one of our moms: “First apartments have to have flaws, so that you can appreciate the ones and houses that follow”. However, as the daughter remarks, these flaws must be bearable to you.

Also, one of the main questions for a house-hunting student is “What are the best neighbourhoods, and the ones I should avoid?” that, for those who study at the Macdonald Campus, becomes an even more tricky “Should I live in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, should I live downtown and commute, or should I look for a place between the two?”. In this post I am not addressing these questions: Regarding the first question, there are already plenty of guides on different websites. Concerning the second one, there are students living in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, students commuting from Downtown, and students commuting from elsewhere: All these options can be good ones, depending on whether or not commuting bothers you, and on whether you prefer an urban or a suburban environment.

That’s all from me and from the @gradlifemcgill team members who kindly decided to share their advice! If you have any tips, suggestions or anecdotes to share, feel free to comment! Happy house hunting, and have a great academic year!

Banner photo: Collage of pictures taken by @gradlifemcgill Instagrammers: @manycardigans@na0mirlima and @cluuful

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