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Accommodation in Canada & Options for Newcomers

Newcomer family searching for accommodation in Canada. Two teens are standing with their parents in the driveway of a residential home.

Finding suitable accommodation in Canada for you and your family is a top priority if you’re arriving within the next three months. And, key success factors will be selecting the type of housing that you prefer, in a city that you want to call home, and at a price you can afford. Understanding the important role that accommodation in Canada plays in your security, happiness, and success is vital even before you arrive. With this overview of accommodation in Canada, you can select housing that meets your preferences, needs, expectations, and budget. Learn more about affordability, availability, options and solutions for your housing needs.

When moving to Canada, newcomers often gravitate to Canada’s largest cities, Toronto and Vancouver, because of job opportunities. However, housing is very expensive in both of these cities. They are Canada’s most expensive cities for housing. But, many cities across Canada offer affordable housing and great career options. With careful research, you can identify these Canadian cities and set yourself up for financial and professional success.

Whether you’re a newcomer or an international student, Prepare for Canada can guide you with vital information, connections, and solutions for your unique housing needs.

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Accommodation in Canada | Exploring Your Housing Options

Based on your arrival stage, your housing needs will change. From finding immediate housing upon arrival to home ownership, the right solution will allow you to build a great life in Canada. Your housing options can include:

    • Short-term (or temporary) rental accommodation

    • Permanent rental accommodation

    • Shared accommodation

    • Homeownership.

Prepare for Canada offers search tips, resources, and pathways to make your search for housing easy and convenient.

Before you begin your search for accommodation in Canada, consider what type of housing would work best for your needs and budget. You can find different housing types that include apartments, townhouses, detached homes, and condominiums. Consider how much space you’ll need and check out rental listings available in the area so you can find suitable accommodation for both your lifestyle and budget.

What is Short-term Rental Accommodation?

A short-term (or temporary) rental is defined as a stay of at least 28 days. This is a suitable housing option when you first arrive in Canada while you search for a longer-term or permanent rental home or apartment.

There are several short-term accommodation options that you can consider including hostels, hotels/motels, Airbnb, and even home-sharing.

Hostels:

Hostels are basic versions of hotels and offer either private rooms or beds in shared rooms. Hostel standards and costs can vary, but they can be a clean, comfortable, and low-cost alternative to hotels. In a hostel, you will share a bathroom and you’ll likely find that there are kitchens where you can cook your meals. But, it’s important to compare the costs and ratings to determine which hostels suit your needs.

A word of caution, if a hostel is very cheap, it may be because of poor standards or it may be located in an unsuitable neighbourhood.

Hotels and Motels:

Hotels and motels are another short-term accommodation option. They tend to be more expensive than hostels. They offer private bathrooms and rooms that are equipped with a telephone, internet connection, and a television.

While hotels and motels seem quite similar, there are some differences. For example, hotels are generally much larger with multiple floors and offer amenities such as restaurants, bars, business facilities, gyms, pools, and spas. Motels tend to be more basic with fewer amenities. Motels are often located further away from more central or downtown locations. However, if a central location is not a priority for you, the cost of a motel may be much more budget-friendly.

Websites like TripAdvisor and Booking.com offer a wealth of information including candid photos and reviews from real travellers.

Are Hotels Cheap in Canada?

The cost of hotels can vary based on the location, quality, and amenities. However, hotels in Canada are usually more expensive than motels. Hotels provide a rating system using one to five stars. A five-star hotel is considered luxury accommodation, while a one-star is almost equivalent to a motel.

A hotel with a one or two-star rating will be less expensive. Many hotels offer discounts when you book directly through their websites at certain times of the year. Don’t be afraid to ask about promotions or discounts when booking your stay because many hotels are happy to help you save money while enjoying all the benefits. You can easily compare costs and get valuable customer feedback at online sites.

Airbnb:

Airbnb connects homeowners who rent their homes to those looking for short-term accommodation. Usually, Airbnb is less expensive than hotels and you can easily book online and view pictures. Be sure to ask about any added fees such as cleaning fees which can add up.

When Do I Book Short-Term Accommodation in Canada?

The best time to book short-term accommodation is four to six weeks ahead of your arrival date. This will help you to secure housing that is safe, affordable, and convenient. Short-term housing offers many benefits and can help to:

    • Reduce your stress: Arranging short-term accommodation will allow you to take care of your immediate needs such as setting up your bank account and accessing post-arrival settlement services. And, you may be able to save money, or at least, ensure you are within your housing budget when you book in advance.

    • Buy yourself time: While in your short-term accommodation, you can take your time to find a permanent rental housing solution that best meets your needs. For example, you may want to find housing that is located closer to work, school, shopping, or other important destinations.

    • Test out a neighbourhood: If you’re unsure of where to live, for example, downtown or in the suburbs, a short-term rental allows you time to explore other neighbourhoods. If your short-term rental is not ideal, chances are you can live with any shortfalls knowing it’s temporary. Relocation and moving costs can be expensive, so take the necessary time to carefully evaluate your housing options.

Tips for Searching for Short-term Accommodation in Canada

    • Book short-term accommodation at least four to six weeks in advance of your arrival date

    • Get the best possible rental price by thoroughly researching rates in advance of your arrival

    • Pay close attention to online reviews and ratings since you won’t be able to physically inspect the location when you book before you arrive in Canada

    • Consider sharing accommodation or renting a room in a home to reduce your costs and manage your budget.

Another good tip is to consider your arrival date. Short-term accommodation costs in Canada are usually higher in the spring and summer months (March to August). So, you can either build these higher costs into your budget or book well in advance to secure a good rate.

Sharing Accommodation in Canada 

A great way to stay within your budget and build social connections in Canada is to rent a room in a home or apartment and share accommodation. With housing likely being your largest monthly expense, finding affordable housing can be challenging, especially in cities where the vacancy rates are low. Renting a room and sharing accommodation with others allows you to live affordably. At the same time, shared accommodation can provide everything you’re searching for, including the type of housing, location, amenities, and more.

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What is Permanent Rental Accommodation?

A permanent rental housing option provides you with longer-term housing of at least 12 months. After your first year, you may decide to continue renting at the same location depending on your housing goals and finances.

With a permanent housing solution, you are required to sign a rental agreement or “lease” with the landlord. Typically, you would sign a lease for one year. When your lease ends, you can sign a month-to-month lease that provides you with greater flexibility should you decide to rent elsewhere or buy a home. In many cases, if you break a lease before its expiry date you may have to pay a penalty.

When entering into a lease, landlords will insist that you purchase renters insurance as a lease condition. It may not seem like a top priority, especially if you are trying to manage a budget. However, renters insurance is very affordable and it’s worth the money in case of damage or theft of your personal belongings such as clothing, computers, furniture, jewellery, etc.

A female real estate agent is showing a newcomer couple where to sign their rental agreement or
Landlords will require you to purchase renters insurance as part of your lease agreement.

Permanent Rental Accommodation Options in Canada

When you’re ready to search for your first permanent rental accommodation in Canada, Rentals for Newcomers can provide you with many options. This easy-to-navigate website can help you to search for rental properties in cities across Canada. You can select the type of rental (townhouses, duplexes, semi-detached and single-detached houses), apartment (including basement apartments) or condo rental, that you prefer.

Also, consider your location preferences. For example, consider the proximity to local shopping, schools, public transit, and other important needs. The cost of accommodation in Canada can increase based on proximity to these destinations as well as how desirable the neighbourhood is. While accommodation in the suburbs, or further away from downtown areas may be more affordable, keep in mind additional travel costs and time if you have to travel.

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Before you begin your search, take a look at this helpful newcomer guide to renting in Canada. You’ll find beneficial search tips that cover everything from where to search to what landlords require and your rights as a renter. This essential guide can prepare you to search for accommodation and provide tools and information to help you make smart housing decisions.

Another convenient option is to work with a real estate agent who can guide your search. Working with a real estate agent can also help you to build a solid and trusting relationship with someone who could help when you’re ready to pursue homeownership!

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When Should I Search for Permanent Accommodation in Canada?

The best time to search for permanent accommodation is after you have arrived in Canada. However, it’s a good idea to research the rental market before you arrive to understand costs and build your budget.

Most landlords will require that you are already located in Canada so that they can meet you and assess you as a prospective tenant. But, it also gives you, the tenant, an opportunity to tour the space. With permanent rental accommodation in Canada, the landlord will require you to sign a 12-month lease. So, visiting the home or apartment will ensure that it meets your needs. Relying on photos can be deceiving and you’ll be better able to assess the size of the rental property. If you already have furniture, you can ensure that it fits the space. Or, if you have to buy furniture, viewing the space will help you to determine what furniture (and the size) you will need to buy.

Most rental apartments are equipped with a fridge, stove, dishwasher, and sometimes, a clothes washer and dryer. So you won’t have to buy major appliances for your rental home or apartment.

Searching for housing when you are in Canada, can also protect you from being a victim of rental scams.

Tips for Renting Permanent Accommodation in Canada

    • Work with a trusted real estate agent

    • Identify your “must-have” housing requirements i.e. location close to work, school, and shopping, suburban or downtown location, fitness facilities, etc.

    • Take advantage of free online housing search tools

    • Be prepared to purchase renters insurance

    • Have bank documents ready to show landlords that you are a financially responsible tenant.

Do I Need a Real Estate Agent to Rent Accommodation in Canada?

Working with a real estate agent to find the perfect rental home or apartment is a great idea! Real estate agents have in-depth knowledge of city neighbourhoods and properties that match your budget and housing needs.

Real estate agents can also provide helpful guidance when dealing with landlords. This can be a huge advantage, especially if you’re not familiar with what landlords expect from prospective tenants. With a tight rental market in some cities in Canada and stiff competition for rentals, a real estate agent can help you find the perfect home in a timely and cost-effective manner. Learn more about how working with a real estate agent can help you:

Home Ownership in Canada

After renting a home or apartment and establishing financial stability, you may decide that you’re ready to buy your first home in Canada. For many Canadians, owning a home is a central part of the “quality of life” that attracts many newcomers to Canada. And, for newcomers, buying their first home is an important goal that helps to establish roots and raise a family in a safe and secure neighbourhood.

When the time is right, you may decide that homeownership is the right choice for you and your family. However, buying a home in Canada will likely be the biggest investment you will make. So, it makes sense to learn about the home-buying process in Canada to make the best financial decision.

When buying a home, it’s important to assemble your home-buying team. And, an integral part of that team includes a trusted real estate agent. As a newcomer, you may not be familiar with all of the complexities of the home-buying process. A realtor can guide you quickly and efficiently. Another added benefit is their vast knowledge of city neighbourhoods to help you select the one that meets everything on your “must-have” list.

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Understanding the important role that accommodation in Canada plays in your security, happiness, and success is vital even before you arrive. Identifying your housing needs and carefully researching your options will allow you to find your perfect home in Canada!