Student Perspective: Tips for Finding off Campus Housing in Guelph
If you’re anything like me, you have a plan to live on campus for one year, and then transition to off campus housing. It’s important to know that the process of looking for housing is different for each student.
There are some students who are lucky enough to be invited to live with someone who’s done all the heavy lifting in finding the perfect student home. Or you might be the student doing the heavy lifting – searching for, finding, and sealing the deal on the perfect student home.
When I first moved off campus, I was so ignorant about what factors I should be mindful of when finding a suitable house for myself in Canada. Since starting at U of G I’ve now lived on campus and in two different homes, and with each move came many lessons.
I’ll start off by giving you a brief overview of my experience with off campus housing.
During my first year I lived in Maritime Hall, located in South Residence. In my first house, I was one of the lucky students who didn’t have to take on any house hunting stress. My friend invited me to view the house and this was the only ‘work’ I really had in this process. After that, I signed the lease and paid my rent deposit.
The second time around, my eyes were opened to just how much work can be necessary for finding a suitable home as a student. I searched for nearly five months, texted dozens of landlords and went to countless house viewings.
However, I learned a few tips that may be helpful to you as you search for the perfect student home in Guelph.
1. Start searching for off campus student housing early
Most off-campus housing in Guelph has a lease starting either September 1st or May 1st and is available for 8 or 12 months depending on the lease agreement. It is recommended that you start looking a few months in advance of your preferred move in date. For my second home, my lease started in May and I began my search in November. The end of February is when I actually found my home and signed the lease.
It is important that you start searching early to give yourself ample time to find housing in different areas and with different price points. This helps you learn what things are a deal breaker for you and what things you are willing to compromise on. Sorting out roommates can also take some time and patience to navigate.
2. Where to look for off campus student housing
Popular places to look for housing are Places4Students, The Cannon, Facebook groups, Rent Panda, Kijiji and housing fairs (usually hosted early in the winter semester in the UC Courtyard).
Places4Students and U of G actually have a formal partnership, and they even help fund supports for off-campus students.
The Cannon is an online community for U of G students, and is a convenient location for finding used textbooks, rideshares and even housing! You’re able to filter the search results based on the number of bedrooms available, price, the type of listing and more.
Certain pages on Facebook are also good hot spots for finding student housing. Try checking the Facebook group of your graduating year or housing specific pages. For example, I looked a lot in the group called “University of Guelph Class of 2021” and “Guelph Housing”.
3. Set search parameters for your new home
How much are you willing to spend monthly? Do you want utilities to be included in the rent? Do you want to be in an apartment building or shared house? If you plan on living with friends, how many bedrooms are you looking for? If you don’t own a car, how far away are you willing to live from campus or to a bus stop on a direct route to campus?
You will need to consider these things (and more) so you can have an understanding of the type of home you need to search for.
4. Know where you are willing to compromise in your search for housing
Based on the search parameters you determine, you also need to decide on the areas you are willing to settle on. Sometimes it may just not be possible to find everything you’re looking for in one location. Overtime, as you visit different locations, speak to different landlords and future house mates. You’ll get a better sense of the factors that truly matter to you!
5. Be patient and consistent when searching for housing
Patience is an important virtue when it comes to house hunting. There can be a lot of uncertainty and anxiety felt by students who feel they’ve wasted countless evenings and weekends looking online, contacting landlords and viewing homes. I know the feeling of weariness and annoyance that can creep up when things don’t work out with a house you love! I’ve had to walk back to the drawing board many times. I really had to push myself to stay consistent with my search despite my negative feelings! I know there are some students who can have a lease signed within a month of searching, but if that does not happen for you, remember that it isn’t a reflection of your efforts!
6. Ask questions about every potential home
It’s important come to a viewing with a few questions prepared for the landlord or the student showing you around the home. You may want to ask a landlord: How do you handle repairs around the home? What is the amount of the rent deposit?
If a student currently living there is showing you around the home, you may want to ask questions like: Have you had any negative experiences with the landlord? Is there a cleaning schedule you guys follow? Does anyone living here own an animal? Are all the appliances functional?
7. Learn your rights as a lessee from campus resources
It can sometimes be difficult to wrap your head around what is and isn’t acceptable or fair to you as a student lessee. We tend to view ourselves as being ‘lesser than’ when compared to the home/apartment owners we are sending our money to, but that creates the potential for us to be taken advantage of to some extent.
The department of neighbourhood relations and off-campus living at U of G is a key resource to contact if you need support. This department is the primary resource on campus for off-campus students. They do lease reviews and tenant advising for students, as well as run informational events on tenant rights. You can contact them via email: email@example.com.
You can also take a look at the Know Your Rights webpage put together by the CSA to help students become knowledgeable about common misconceptions when dealing with Tenancy. At the end, there is also contact information if you have specific questions or want more information!
8. Secure reliable transportation for move-in day
When you’ve found your perfect student home and finalized your move-in date it is very important to decide how you will be moving your stuff out of residence or your current home.
As an international student, I had no family there to help me with packing or moving. Especially coming straight out of residence, I didn’t have a ton of money or experience with asking people for help. I remember taking three Uber trips from Maritime to my new home, stuffing the car with my boxes of things each time. Looking back this probably wasn’t the best way to approach moving, but it got the job done and it was all I needed. The second time around I was more comfortable with researching movers and reaching out to people to ask their availability in helping me with the move. Thinking about people you can ask to help you with moving should definitely be a priority consideration!
I hope this has been an informative read for those of you concerned about finding off campus housing in the City of Guelph. It may feel overwhelming at certain points, but try not to be discouraged by the process. Every little step you make takes you closer to finding your perfect student home. Happy house hunting!
In this series of blog posts, OAC students take us through some of the ups and downs of their journeys at the University of Guelph.