Upwards and outwards: Toronto's Entertainment District/Harbourfront condo developments seem to keep growing... And growing... Photography by alex_7719.
Putting it simply, some analysts are predicting that Toronto's condo-building boom will introduce more rental units than the city has prospective renters. And, as elementary economics dictates, when supply exceeds demand, cost should (theoretically) plummet.
Whether or not that future is indeed in the cards, the case for renting remains a strong one. No one knows that better than Kimberly Sears, Client Relations Manager at Dash Property Management—one of Toronto's top destinations for rental-hunters. "A lot of it comes down to the flexibility of renting," says Sears. "It gives you most of the benefits of home ownership, without the commitment."
3 REASONS TO RENT:
1. Renting is a (relatively) short-term investment. "It's the difference between a 25-year commitment to a mortgage, and a 12-month commitment to a lease," says Sears, acknowledging that those long-term commitments are more daunting to today's house-hunters than they have been in the past. "This generation is one that considers going back to school and travelling, while not necessarily having the same job security as their parents," she says. "It's at an older age that we're getting ready to commit to a mortgage and take on the higher costs associated with property ownership."
2. Renting allows you to try before you buy. As always in real estate, this one boils down to location, location, location. There's nothing worse than finding your dream digs, only to discover that they're in the wrong place. As Sears notes, renting allows you to sample the flavour of a neighbourhood (not to mention the commute to work, accessibility of grocery stores and local conveniences, availability of public transit and community infrastructure) before you commit to ownership.
3. Renting spares you from fluctuating operating costs. "When you buy a brand new condo, the maintenance fees tend to increase rapidly," says Sears. "Usually between years two and three, there can be a 50% increase in the original maintenance fees—particularly if there's a pool." As these rising operating costs are the responsibility of the landlord, the tenant's monthly rent payments for the initial 12-month lease period remain unchanged. And even at the end of an initial lease period, there's no rule that rents need increase unduly. "If we've got a good tenant who takes care of their place; if they've got very minimal maintenance requests and treat the place as their home, property managers are pretty respectful when calculating annual rental increases."
If you do happen to be looking for the perfect condo rental, keep Sears's top tips in mind:
* Remember that the market is cyclical. "December, January and February tend to be the slowest times of the year for rentals," Sears says. "No one wants to move over the holidays or in the dead of winter." Things pick up in the spring and summer, with July and September tending to be the market's most active months.
* Don't discount "utilities extra" listings. "Sometimes clients want all of their utilities included in the rent," says Sears, "But in all honesty, if you're reasonable with your utility consumption, it's sometimes more economical to have your own accounts and look after them yourself."
* Prepare your paperwork in advance. "It's a really competitive rental market out there, so be sure to have your rental application, a recent credit check and a letter of employment ready," says Sears. It also doesn't hurt to have a letter of recommendation from a previous landlord, as well as a list of any potential questions you might have about the property.
* Consider getting help from a realtor. Realtors aren't just for buying-and-selling. "Realtors know the different neighbourhoods inside and out, and they can look into the specific rules and regulations in each condo building," says Sears. "You might think a building's great, but your 60-pound dog might not be welcome there. You want someone who's looking out for you."
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