A photo of Downtown Vancouver, BC in Canada by Aditya Chinchure (Unsplash License)
Step 1: Learn the Geography of Metro Vancouver
Newcomers to Metro Vancouver, especially those from out-of-province or other countries are often confused by the distinction between Vancouver, Metro Vancouver, Greater Vancouver, and Lower Mainlands.
Here is a related article to learn about where these areas refer to:
- Vancouver vs. Metro Vancouver vs. the Lower Mainland: What’s the Difference?
Step 2: Target the Potential Areas You Want to Live In
“Live where you work; work where you live.”—Easy to say, though hard to do sometimes. If it is at all possible, consider renting as close as you can to where you work or study, as you'd be saving energy and time on commuting, which will definitely serve a positive impact to your day-to-day life.
List the neighbourhood or city you would work or study in as your first choice, and its few surrounding areas as other potential choices you can opt for. Your knowledge in the different regions of Metro Vancouver and/or The City of Vancouver would certainly be helpful here.
Step 3: Furnished or Unfurnished?
Think about whether you would want a unit that is furnished or unfurnished.
An unfurnished place usually has a relatively cheaper rent compared to a furnished one, though you may end up compensating for this by paying for furniture and/or moving costs. If you are only moving to Metro Vancouver for a short term, say, a couple months up to a year, perhaps it would make sense to go for a furnished unit. In any case, knowing that you have a choice for either is a good start. You would definitely want to explore the prices available first before deciding completely whether to go for a furnished unit or an unfurnished one.
Step 4: Sublet or Own Lease?
If you are unfamiliar with the concept of subletting, it is essentially leasing an apartment from an existing tenant who has a landlord. In this relationship, you become the sublessee and the existing tenant becomes your sublessor.
There are several reasons as to why an existing tenant would want to sublet their unit; perhaps they have a travel plan, or they need to work and live outside of the city temporarily for a couple months. In any case, depending on the location of the unit and the existing tenant, you may be able to sublet the unit for a lower price compared to the market rate. This works well if you are looking for a place for a shorter term, and your intended stay matches the sublessor’s intended sublet period.
However, if you are looking to rent for a longer term, it would be more of a stable arrangement to obtain your own lease directly from a landlord.
Step 5: Roommate or Without?
If you are the type who likes having roommates for social reasons, then you’re likely going to be able to pay less for rent, and have some fun with your roommates. Otherwise, you do have to be prepared to pay a little more, as Metro Vancouver doesn’t have the most affordable housing for solo renters.
Step 6: Browse Rental Listings
Now this is the part where you would take the decisions you have leaned towards in Steps 2–5 and begin your search online. There are quite a number of websites where you can browse for rental listings in Metro Vancouver, but here are 3 options you can consider:
If you receive messages from any listing stating that the landlord is out of town, but they're asking you to transfer a certain amount of deposit so that they can mail you the key, please exercise caution and stay away, as it is very likely to be a scam.
Craigslist (vancouver.craigslist.org) is a popular way in Metro Vancouver to search for rental listings. You can easily filter listings by distance from a certain postal code, price ranges, number of rooms, furnished/unfurnished, and sizes of the unit. You can typically contact prospective landlords through email or phone number obtained from the listing.
2. Facebook Groups and Facebook Marketplace
Facebook is a decent alternative to Craigslist in finding your next home, and its popularity is arguably overtaking that of Craigslist in recent years. Simply log into Facebook and search for "Vancouver rent". You'll encounter many groups which you can join, as well as listings in the Marketplace, where hundreds of new listings are updated every day. The upside of using Facebook over Craigslist is that you will be able to easily send messages to your prospective landlords through Facebook Messenger.
3. Rental Companies (not the same as Real Estate Agents)
A rental company is a company that owns and/or manages residential building(s) specifically for tenants. Some people may argue that renting an apartment in a building managed by a rental company is better in many ways than one. This is because a rental company is more likely to:
- Adhere to rental laws
- Provide sufficient notice for anything related to your tenancy
- Be responsive to maintenance and repair requests
- Accommodate rental benefits from the government if applicable
Of course, all of these would depend on whether the rental company is a good or a reputable one. A good individual landlord would also be doing all of the above, so at the end of the day, it all comes down to your choice whom you would prefer to have as landlords.
To find rental companies, you can simply Google them based on the specific areas you intend to live in. Example keywords:
- Downtown Vancouver rental company
- North Vancouver rent property management
- Surrey rent properties
- Granville rent property company
- ... and its permutations
Google should present you with a list of rental companies, and sometimes you would be able to view photos and listings of units managed by those companies that you would not otherwise encounter in Craigslist and Facebook.
Step 7: Revisit Steps 2–6, if Necessary
If you are unable to find a listing within your price range that fit the decisions you have leaned towards in Steps 2–5, revisit them to evaluate if there is anything you can compromise on. Search again with a more expanded parameter, and see if there are listings that would more closely match what you are looking for.
Step 8: Set up a Viewing Appointment
When contacting prospective landlords through email, phone, or Messenger, you should aim to set a viewing appointment with them. This is when you meet the landlord in person and view the space that you might end up renting.
Metro Vancouver is often a landlord’s market—this means landlords often have many prospective tenants to choose from. Just because you have the cash, it doesn’t mean you will always get the unit that you want.
A few suggestions when going to viewing appointments:
Dress presentably. Landlords usually have many prospective tenants to rent their unit to, so making a good first impression is advisable—think of it as if you are going for a job interview.
Bring a measurement tape, especially if you have furnitures that you would like to bring along with you if you move in. Measure around the space and take notes.
Be prepared to answer questions such as "What do you do for a living?"
- Consider scheduling multiple viewing appointments closely together (within the same day, for example) so you can make your choice and notify the landlord of your interest swiftly after your viewing appointments. This is to lock in the unit that you are highly interested in as soon as possible before it is snatched up by another prospective tenant.
Step 9: Contact the Landlord
As mentioned, be prepared to contact the landlord of the unit you are interested in on the same day, or the day after, or just... as soon as possible, really.
Typically, after a viewing appointment and contacting the landlord, you would then meet again with them to:
Sign a tenancy agreementThis is usually the standard Tenancy Agreement provided by the Government of British Columbia.
Sign an addendum to the tenancy agreementDepending on the landlord, you may need to sign an addendum to the tenancy agreement. This is an additional agreement pertinent to the unit you are renting and will outline additional details to the tenancy agreement.
Make a deposit payment
Prior to meeting your landlord, make sure your bank balance is sufficient to make a deposit payment.
In British Columbia, the maximum allowable deposit is half a month's rent.So for example, if your monthly rent is $1,200, your landlord may request at most $600 as the deposit. When contacting your landlord about your interest in renting the unit, they would usually inform you on how they would prefer to receive the deposit, whether by cash, cheque, bank draft, or bank transfer. If you make the deposit by cash, make sure to ask for a receipt from the landlord.
- If the landlord is requesting for a bank transfer for the rental deposit, consider downloading a mobile app of your bank and suggest that you will transfer the deposit payment on the spot through your phone when meeting the landlord to sign the tenancy agreement. Screenshot the payment you made and send it to your landlord.
- Avoid sending any money before a tenancy agreement is signed.
- Sign two copies of the tenancy agreement (one for the landlord and one for you). Alternatively, make a copy of a signed tenancy agreement (photos are fine too).
It takes time and energy finding a house or an apartment to rent, but it'll be worth it if you do it properly and end up with a place you love! Hope this post helps anyone new to the renting game in Metro Vancouver, and if you have any questions, feel free to post them as comments below!