Tips For Apartment Hunting in Vancouver

Apartment Hunting In Vancouver

I have a love-hate relationship when it comes to apartment hunting. On the one hand, it's super exciting as it means a fresh new place and somewhere that you can make a home. On the other hand, apartment hunting in Vancouver especially can be quite arduous and it can take a while to find that perfect place. 

We've lived in Vancouver for 4 years now and in that time we've had 3 different apartments (and we're now starting to look for apartment #4, which is exciting!), so I've gotten to know the rental market quite well. I also know the stress that comes with apartment hunting particularly when you're brand new to the city and you're not really sure how everything works. It can be quite daunting if it's your first time renting and there are so many listings posted every day so it can be a bit difficult finding something that's right for you.

Thus, I wanted to put this post together to give you a bit of useful insight and a few tips when it comes to finding a place to live, and also share some things that I wish I knew the first time around.  It can feel tough at times and i've had plenty of "Gahhh we're never going to find a place!!!" moments, but trust me when I say that you WILL find a decent place to live and something right will come along... you just have to be patient.

It also helps to be very organised and on the ball, as the Vancouver rental market is known to be competitive and when you find a place you love, you have to act fast. So whether you're new to the city, if it's your first time renting or you simply have no idea where to start, here are my best tips for apartment hunting in Vancouver. I hope you find this post useful and best of luck finding a new place to call home!!

(Updated January 2019)

#1 Think About What You Want

Before you even start to look at places, the first most important step is to outline what you want in an apartment. There are hundreds of apartments listed each day in Vancouver, so it helps to have an idea of what you're looking for to simplify the process and make it easier to find what you want.

Do you want a studio, a 1-bedroom or something bigger? Do you want furnished or unfurnished? Do you want somewhere pet-friendly? Do you want to rent a whole place or just a room? Do you want a newer building with amenities like a gym or pool, or do you not mind? And very importantly, what's the maximum you want to pay per month?

Knowing what you want and what's important to you will help you to filter through all the listings and it'll make apartment hunting a lot easier.

#2 Consider Where You Want To Live

Another important consideration is to think about where you want to live. Vancouver has so many great areas to choose from and the rentals are very different in each. In the most central Vancouver area, your key areas are Downtown, Yaletown, West End, Gastown and Coal Harbour. Apartments in Yaletown tend to be newer and more modern, there are quite a few lofts and many buildings have gyms and amenities. I love Yaletown as it's close to the seawall, it has many park areas and it's close to Downtown yet it still has a community feel. Coal Harbour apartments tend to be the most expensive in the city, the majority of buildings are new and many have incredible views of the North Shore. 

The West End is probably the most affordable area in Downtown, many apartment buildings are slightly older and don't have modern amenities (such as in-suite laundry and gyms), but often they're slightly bigger and cheaper and some are close to the beach and Stanley Park. In Gastown, you tend to find lower-rise buildings and a lot of lofts and heritage buildings. Other great areas which are outside of downtown are Kitsilano, South Granville, Olympic Village, Mount Pleasant, and the list goes on. In these areas, you'll find a mix of houses, suites and apartments. 

Think about what's important to you - do you want to be right in the city among the hustle and bustle, or do you want to be further out? Do you want to have easy access to the Skytrain, the SeaBus or certain transit lines? Do you want to be close to the beach or green spaces? Knowing this will also help to narrow down your search (if you have specific preferences) as you'll have a better idea of where to look.

#3 Start The Hunt!

Now for the exciting part....actually starting the apartment hunt! The key sites to look at are Craigslist, Kijiji, Rent It Furnished and PadMapper.  I'd say about 90% of places are listed on Craigslist so that should be your first point of call. PadMapper is a great site, as it collects all the apartment listings from lots of different websites and puts them all on a map so you can filter through them. In the West End, many buildings also have vacancies listed on the door or just outside the building, so if you'd like to live there then I suggest having a walk around the area and keeping an eye out for vacancy signs. 

Craigslist is very easy to navigate and I recommend using the search tools to filter your preferences, such as price range, number of bedrooms, pet friendly etc. If you know which area you want to live in, the "map" feature is really handy as it allows you to see all the listings on a map and you can choose based on location. Listings are updated every single day so keep an eye out. It's worth noting that apartments in Vancouver are known to be small. Most studios are between 400 - 500 sq ft, most 1-beds are between 500 - 700, and most 2-beds are between 650 - 1000 depending on the area.

#4 Furnished or Unfurnished?

This is another thing to think about when you're looking for a place. If you already live in Vancouver and have a house full of furniture, chances are you'll likely want something unfurnished.

However, if you're new to renting or new to the city then there are a lot of furnished options available. In fact, the market seems to have shifted a lot - when we first moved 4 years ago it was difficult to find furnished, but nowadays 70-80% of listings seem to be furnished, especially in more central areas.

Unfurnished places tend to be a bit cheaper, but then you have to furnish your place. It's not too difficult to do it on a budget if you're savvy. There is an IKEA in Coquitlam and Richmond (both about 30 mins from Downtown) and you'll find everything from sofas to TVs to beds to desks on Craigslist. There are a lot of really well-priced items, some things even for free, you may just need to go pick it up.

#5 What About Additional Costs?

One thing to factor in is additional costs for things like Hydro (electricity + heating), Internet and TV. Most apartment buildings have hot water included, but this may vary depending on the building. TV and Internet aren't cheap (it can be as much as $100 a month depending on your package). In a 1-bed apartment, we used to spend $30-$50 per month on Hydro depending on the season.

Some apartments do have bills included, but the majority don't. Underground/secure parking often isn't included, this is normally $80-$150 monthly but it varies with area. In areas like the West End and outside of Downtown, you may be able to apply to the city council for an on-street parking permit. If you have a pet, you may also need to pay a pet deposit which can sometimes be as much as half a month's rent.

#6 Use Common Sense

Okay, this is a big one. If it looks too good to be true...it usually is. When you find that 2 bed, 2 bath, water view, fully furnished apartment in Coal Harbour for $1,500 a month (which I guarantee, you will), don't be fooled. When the landlord tells you he works overseas so can't meet up or show the apartment, but says he will organise a key drop when you send your deposit, again, don't be fooled.  There seem to be a lot fewer Craigslist apartment scams nowadays but that's not to say they don't exist. I've been asked a number of times to hand over the deposit before physically seeing a place which is obviously a huge huge red flag. It can be tempting especially if you're not actually in Vancouver yet and you find your dream apartment, but just be wise, use common sense and follow all the regular rental procedures. 

If you need somewhere to stay indefinitely when you arrive, there's a great furnished house called House-i in Downtown that's nice and much cheaper than a hotel. We've stayed there twice, all the bedrooms are en-suite and it has a big shared kitchen you can use, and it's a really nice place to stay when you arrive in Vancouver while you're searching for an apartment. It costs upwards of $75 a night or $400 per week and varies depending on room size.

#7 Know Your Rights

If you're new to Vancouver, this will be foreign ground, but it's so important that you understand your rights and what's required of both you and your landlord. 

Take a look at the B.C. Residential Tenancy website for information on deposits, your rights and responsibilities as a tenant and everything else. When you rent a place, your security deposit can be no more than half of the first month's rent, and make sure you conduct a "walk-through" inspection and complete an official Inspection Form to note down any existing damage. This is really important to have, especially at the end of the tenancy when it comes to getting your deposit back and proving damage that already existed when you moved into the unit. 

If you ever have any disputes with a landlord, the B.C. Residential Tenancy website above has all the info you need, as well as a great helpline. In our first rental, we ended up filing a dispute as our landlord failed to return our deposit (we got it back in the end). Know that there are measures in place like that should you ever have difficulty with a landlord. 

#8 Be Patient and Persistent

It can be quite disheartening but trust me, the right place is out there. Keep looking, twice a day, every day. Apartments get added all the time so you've got to be on the ball. We looked at our apartment just 2 hours after the listing went live, and a few people had already been to check it out in that time too, but fortunately they liked us and we got it that afternoon. If you're just arriving in the city, clear your schedule for a week or so and be prepared to look at apartments at short notice. It also helps to get your phone sorted ASAP as soon as you arrive so that you can call up to book viewings.

#9 Keep An Open Mind

Photos can be deceiving, so keep an open mind and don't judge it before you get there. It might look a hundred times better than the photos (and equally, it might look a hundred times worse), but you've got to keep an open mind and judge it when you see it. When you're viewing the house, if you can't envisage yourself living there, or if it doesn't feel right, don't do it. But if your gut tells you yes, then go for it!

#10 View In The Daytime

If you're like me and you're quite particular about where you live, I'd recommend viewing the house in the daytime rather than at night if possible. In dimly lit lighting, it's easy to miss things like mould around the windows, grubby walls and horrible views and an apartment will always look a lot different in the cold light of day! It's also nice to know what kind of natural light the apartment will get and just get a proper feel for the place. 

#11 Explore The Area

Take a quick wander around the block before or after looking at a place. Note where your nearest grocery store is, what the neighbourhood's like and whether there's any construction going on in the immediate area. In our first year, we viewed our apartment at night so we failed to notice the development across the road. It wasn't a deal breaker, but I definitely wish we'd have checked it out more, as it wasn't very nice living across the road from a construction site for a whole year. 

#12 Be Ready

You never know - you might go see a place, fall in love with it and move in the next day, which means you have to be ready to act. And I say that, because that's what happened to us! Our place was already vacant so we signed the contract that afternoon and moved in quite literally the next day so it worked out really well. 

It's so important to have your deposit ready (it's usually a half-month rent) and remember that you'll also need to have your first month's rent available too. 

 Stay Optimistic!

Aaaaand for a bonus point...stay optimistic! Remember, apartment hunting in Vancouver can take time, so stay optimistic and have faith that something will come up! The perfect apartment will likely appear when you least expect it, so don't lose hope and trust that you'll find somewhere that suits you.  

What are your best tips? If you've got anything to add, drop me a comment in the box below! 

15 Comments

  1. cam
    August 4, 2019 / 5:16 pm

    In #5 extra costs – be aware that for many owner rented condos, especially the newer ones, strata rules are requiring $100-$200 in move in move out fees. This is supposedly to cover the wear and tear on the buildings with so many short term rentals and folks haven’t been careful with their moving. The owner isn’t the one charging the fee, it’s the strata. We rent our unit furnished and there is very little furniture moving in and out, and yet, the strata still collects the fee!

  2. June 14, 2019 / 4:40 am

    Thanks for sharing these tips. These tips would be really helpful in house hunting process.

    • Go Live Explore
      Author
      June 14, 2019 / 11:36 am

      Thank you!!

  3. May 3, 2019 / 6:28 pm

    I find it helpful that you suggested that a person should get an apartment room by choosing one that is near certain transit lines and whether they can live comfortably in a studio or in a 1-bedroom suite. Reading these tips will definitely help me find one for my aunt this weekend. Aside from that, I will look for a local buyer’s agent to help us invest in the right single room apartment so that she can downsize while making it easier to go to and from the shopping center.

  4. April 3, 2019 / 7:08 pm

    the facts have been discussed is really important.keep doing that. Keep up the great work!

  5. March 12, 2019 / 3:43 am

    Hi Alicia! Thank you from Dubai for sharing such an informative post. Actually, I was planning to go out anywhere and checking the best places to go for outing as a traveler. Somehow, through google just found your this post and had a great experience while reading what you have shared. Personally, I really love the point that you mentioned as #5 (What About the Additional Costs). Most of the time when I am making my budget list, I just forget to mention these things electricity bills, internet, and so many other things are there. Thanks for sharing a very helpful and memorable post. Loved it and please keep sharing such stuff.

  6. Marcos
    January 31, 2019 / 11:00 am

    Hi, Alicia! Like Anna-Leigh said above, this is hands down one of the most helpful posts I’ve seen on the topic of housing in Vancouver! It’s like you had a list of my doubts when you were writing this. Great job making it so relatable! I was ready to ask you a couple of questions, but then I got a little confused about the dates. At the top of the page, it says January 2019, but the comments are from 2016. So, is it an old or a new post? I’m asking because I guess 3 years could make quite a difference in the scenario we’re talking about, right? Either way, kudos for the great work here on the blog!

    • Go Live Explore
      Author
      February 3, 2019 / 4:04 pm

      Hey Marcos, thank you so much!! I really appreciate that, glad it’s useful 🙂 Ahhh yes – it’s a post I wrote a few years ago but I re-wrote it recently to make it more informative and up-to-date so, the content is all new and relevant at the moment! Hope that helps!

      • Marcos
        February 14, 2019 / 3:29 am

        Thank you for the reply, Alicia!

        I sent you an e-mail a few days ago because I was having trouble posting a reply here… I guess there was something wrong with my browser because the “reply” button wasn’t showing, but now it is. So I’ll just repost the message here and you can just disregard the e-mail. It’s just a couple of questions, the ones I mentioned on my comment above.

        Just a little context first: I’m from Brazil, and I’ve applied for a Master’s degree program at UBC, beginning in September/2019. Should I be accepted, I am planning on arriving in Vancouver in early June. I am interested basically in a 1-bedroom for me and my wife.

        Now my questions:

        1) In your experience, do you think I will find a lot of options in June? Or would it be better to start looking in July? (I can change my ticket flight if I need to.)

        2) You talked about the best areas to live in (you even wrote a great post on it), but do you think there are areas I should avoid (as a newcomer and in general)?

        3) I’m anticipating a monthly cost of living of around CAD$ 2000-2500 (including a 1-bedroom rent, bills, groceries and public transit). Do you think that’s fairly reasonable (just in the ballpark)?

        Thank you so very much for your time and help, and congratulations on the great work on the blog!

  7. August 17, 2016 / 1:16 am

    My boyfriend and I just moved to Vancouver (Burnaby, actually) from Ontario for his work at the beginning of July. We wanted a condo style apartment that would accept our two cats, and looked everywhere from False Creek to North Vancouver to Mount Pleasant to Brentwood. We must have seen well over 20 units. We were shocked at the process to find an apartment here, to say the least. We felt as though as soon as we mentioned we had two pets, we sank to the bottom of the list, regardless of income, job security, past history etc. We were also shocked when landlords would tell us we would be a good fit, but wanted to wait for more applications to come in.

    In Ontario pets really aren’t an issue, and apartments are more first-come first-serve as long as the background/reference check is good. People only tend to apply for one unit at a time, since there is less demand. We were thrown off when our relocation agent advised us to apply to basically every apartment we saw, though in the end we were thankful for his advice.

    It took us a month of what seemed like full-time work to finally find a place, and even though our monthly rent is comparable to what we paid in Ontario, we downsized by half the square footage. Now that we are settled in we are loving it, and have already spent more time outside than we did in the last year in Ontario. The area is great and our place is slowly becoming a home. I guess I am just commenting because having recently done a cross country move into the Vancouver housing/apartment market, I can fully appreciate how different and difficult it can be. It’s upside-down compared to where we came from, and I wish we would have researched more and read more articles like this before hand!

    • February 18, 2019 / 4:18 pm

      Super helpful, thanks for this candid insight!

      • Go Live Explore
        Author
        February 26, 2019 / 1:26 pm

        Thank you so much Vanessa, really glad you found it useful!! 🙂

  8. March 18, 2016 / 7:45 am

    This has been one of the most useful posts I have ever read! Thanks so much for this information! Me and my boyfriend are moving over in August and I am already worried about finding a place. This post has calmed my nerves though! Can I ask in your opinion which are the best areas to live? And what is an average months rent you can be expected to pay for a furnished/unfurnished place? And does most rent include bills such as Internet? So sorry for all the questions. ? xxx

    • Go Live Explore
      Author
      March 21, 2016 / 1:52 pm

      Hey Anna-Leigh, thank you so much that’s really sweet of you! I’m glad that you guys found it useful. Don’t worry now about finding a place – realistically, there’s nothing you can do until you get here anyway. Line up a few appointments for when you arrive, but often you can just email or call & go visit on the day.

      In terms of area, Downtown is great – Yaletown and Coal Harbour are very nice and by the seawall/marina, the West End is really cool and a bit cheaper and near to the beach, Kitsilano is really cute and like a little beach town, then there are areas like Mount Pleasant which is lovely (not in Downtown, but close), and some areas of East Vancouver are nice too like Main Street and Commercial Drive.

      For a 1-bed place in the West End, for example, you can expect to pay around $1100-1400 a month, but it really varies. Unfurnished is obviously cheaper, but usually doesn’t include internet, gas or cable. I think water is usually included in most rentals. For furnished, sometimes electricity is included, cable & internet are usually extra. But it really varies! If you go away from Downtown you can expect to pay less, so it depends if you want to be closer to everything or if you don’t mind relying on transport. Public transport is great anyway and there are tons of buses & skytrains if you don’t live right in Downtown.

      I hope this has helped you a bit hun – let me know if you want to know anything else! 🙂 xx

      • March 22, 2016 / 4:01 pm

        You are a star! That has cleared up so much for me! Thanks so much it’s soooo helpful! Really appreciate you taking the time to reply to me! ? xxx

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