Nine Tips to Help Secure a Rental near Campus

By Sheila O’Hearn, Zoocasa

Your goal of a near-perfect test score at university or college should be applied with the same ambition when looking for a rental near campus. If you fall asleep at your desk in preparation for this competition, you’ll no doubt awaken only to find yourself still at your parents’ in your childhood room. So, roll up your sleeves and be prepared to exercise your left brain to find your best independent-living solution, while attending school.

Be aware of your prospective real estate market


Different cities will have their own market dynamics, some harder to break into than others. But before recommending a number of common prescriptions to help your rental application stand out, you need to identify the fighter’s ring into which you’re stepping.


Edmonton: the renter’s perfect storm


The good news is, if you’re looking to rent in Edmonton, now's the time, with industry experts describing the market as the perfect storm for renters.


A combination of low oil prices and an increased number of new building projects on the market has created some good deals for Edmonton renters, in order to fill the higher-than-usual vacancy rates that are currently sitting at 4.2 per cent, almost double the 2.4- per cent rate in the spring.


Due to the economic slow-down and over-supply of rental housing, some landlords are reducing the prices on rental properties, while others are offering incentives, such as small deposits or free cable TV and internet packages. Even with these incentives, landlords and property managers say it’s still taking them weeks to fill a vacancy. That’s good news for active rental hunters!


A Better Deal Than Other Student Rental Markets


Toronto real estate, for example, is especially challenging, given its astronomical housing prices, scant supply and fierce competition. The result is that rentals are now a red-hot purchase market, and they too have much higher demand than available listings. The real estate board reports that the average rent for a one-bedroom rose 7.4 per cent to $1,776, and the average two-bedroom bumped up to 8 per cent to $2,415. Ouch!


If your hope is to get an apartment or Toronto townhouse near campus, you can increase your chances by looking much earlier for a place to live – as in, months before school enrollment − or buddy up with other students to split on the hefty rent.


For those going to McMaster University or one of the city’s colleges, your chances of finding an apartment or Hamilton condo close to your campus is better than in Toronto. The steady increase in the house-price gap between Hamilton and the GTA is attracting an exodus of first-time and repeat homebuyers from Toronto for more affordable single-detached homes and townhouses. Be cautioned, however, that for 2017, the vacancy rate is expected to tighten to 2.9 per cent, and to 2.5 per cent in 2018. So, invest the time you need to look for what you want.


Nine tips to help you nail that rental


Even though the real estate tales of three cities offer distinct rental footprints, the following nine tips should be adopted no matter where you’re living, to help successfully wow a prospective landlord.


1.     Cut your debt:

You’re wise to eliminate/decrease outstanding debt FIRST, from student loan to credit card. Living without some frills, such as a car, and applying those costs to shrink your debt load, will make your life easier to manage, plus you’ll be amazed at how quickly it can decrease. Once hefty arrears are reduced, the time to rent is opportune.

2.     Polish up the paperwork before approaching a landlord

In today’s rental climate, it’s a snooze-you-lose scenario. Would-be tenants need to arrive with their completed application, including credit score; record of employment; approved school grants, loans or monetary education awards; and easy-to-get-hold-of personal references (A glittering reference from the last landlord, if applicable, can’t hurt!).

The idea is for you to make it as easy as possible for landlords to find the information they need. Delays could cost you the unit.

3.     Apartment-hunt when gainfully employed

Even if you’re going to school, landlords, including those who’ve invested in student housing, need proof you can pay the rent. It’s critical, therefore, to be able to prove you have a steady source of income and a concrete employment history, or equivalent if self-employed, and backed by a willing co-signer, if necessary. A lack of employment stability will be a red flag for landlords.

4.     Broadcast your good credit

Your credit score (ideally above 600) – and your ability to pay bills – will be one of the biggest deciding factors for landlords, and a pristine one can put you at the head of the line.

If you’ve been in some financial hot water before, but have since made amends, get your financial institution to draft a letter of explanation to that effect.

5.     Cash-to-go

If your score is less than stellar, you’re not necessarily pushed to the ditch, but you’ll need to come with more cash in hand. Offering more than just first and last month’s rent can improve your standing, including the security deposit that many landlords want. Some potential renters will actually offer to pay a bit more monthly rent, and they’ve brought the cash with them to prove it.

6.     What does your social media reveal about you?

Did you know your prospective landlord might just seek out your social media platform? You’re well-advised to curb your tell-all preference for wild parties and change up that half-naked photo, in lieu of details that showcase you as a responsible and serious-minded person. Often, little white lies, such as denying a pet or taste for weed or tobacco on an application, are revealed through social media, possibly decreasing your chances for the unit you want. Why take the risk?

7.     Look the part


Do look presentable and make a good first impression. Remember, you’ve got strong competition out there.


8.     Have your answers ready


Make sure you have reasonable answers for these key questions:


·       Why do you want to rent this unit?

·       Where did you live before, and why are you leaving?

·       Do you have any pets?

·       Are you a quiet person?


Ideally, you’ll want to ramp up your desirability as a prospective tenant and, then, honour what you say.


9.     Ask questions


The interview process works both ways. Don’t be afraid to ask about the building, other tenants, the management company, and if the owner personally takes care of the building. You can also ask about parking, laundry, amenities and utilities. If a landlord is less than forthcoming in their answers, you, in turn, may want to rethink living at that address. 


Zoocasa is a real estate brokerage based in Toronto.


Sheila O’Hearn is a freelance and creative writer, and has worn many hats throughout her career, from general staff reporter to magazine editor. She has a keen interest in business entrepreneurship and currently writes for several outlets. Visit her at LinkedIn for more info.

10 things every university student should know about credit scores


We know you always hear the term “credit score” bandied about, but what does it really mean? People talk of it so seriously but how does it actually affect your life?  Here’s everything you need to know:

1. What exactly a credit score is

Lenders want to know how likely you are to pay back a loan before they give you credit. Lenders can include banks, credit card companies, even car lots, gyms and furniture stores. Your credit score is a number between 300 and 900 that tells them how likely you are to repay them compared with other consumers. If you have a high score, you’re considered a less risky borrower who can handle debt responsibly.  

2. Credit scores are different from credit reports

Credit scores are simply a rating system, whereas credit reports are a more detailed history of your credit. Anytime you borrow money, or even sign up for a cell phone contract, the lender sends your repayment information to one, or both, of Canadian credit-reporting agencies: Equifax and TransUnion. Your credit report contains identifying information, payment history and any bankruptcies Checking your credit report annually (free!) is essential to make sure the information is accurate.

3. You can have more than one credit score

Two different credit scores are possible because we have two credit-reporting agencies who use slightly different calculations, and lenders don’t always report to each of them, or, report on different schedule.

4. Your score is based on five main factors

How credit scores are exactly calculated is a state secret. We do know, however that there are five factors your credit score is based on, and they are weighted. From most important to least: how many late payments you have, how much you owe, how long you’ve had credit, the kind of credit you have and how often you apply for new credit. 

5. You can get your credit score for free

Want a free credit score? Only a few years ago you had to shell out cash to find out, but RateHub now offers this info gratis.

6. Checking your own score won't hurt it in any way 

You’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t check your score too much because it will lower it. False! There are two types of credit score checks: hard, which will lower your score, and soft, which has no affect. When you apply for more credit, it’s a hard check. But simply checking your score for informational purposes, like landlords do, is soft.

7. Student loans can affect your score

A loan you take out for a school is a loan like any other. If you make late payments or default it can cause serious trouble for your score. Conversely, paying on time can help build up your credit history and make lenders feel comfortable lending you larger amounts in the future (like for a mortgage). Here’s the full story on can happen if you skip paying your student loans. 

8. Employers and landlords can check your credit

Add this to the list of reason to try to maintain a healthy score: It can affect where you live and where you work. Since a credit score supposedly represents the amount of risk you represent, it makes sense for landlords to check it — they have a vested interest in knowing if you make payments on time. As for employers, reasons vary, but one example is the Canadian federal government. They check it to see if employees could become a security risk because of financial pressure — basically, if they’re susceptible to bribery. 

9. It's actually pretty easy to establish good credit

Having a good credit score is equivalent to being financial responsible: don’t use all your available credit and pay your bills on time.

10. There's no quick fix to bad credit

Just like there’s no easy way to establish good financial habits; building up your credit score will take time. Bad decisions can last up to seven years and it can take a few months of positive changes to see that number climb upwards. But it can be done! Just focus on why you’re having problems with credit and as you work on the basics of budgeting and managing your bills more effectively (don’t throw them in a drawer for months because you’re scared to look at them!) your credit score will naturally climb upwards. empowers Canadians to search smarter and save money by comparing mortgage rates, credit cards, high-interest savings accounts, chequing accounts, and insurance.

Why Every University Student Should Open a TFSA


It’s a conundrum. As a student, it’s tough to save money when you have so many expenses and

so little income. And yet, the best time to start saving is when you’re young.


The reason? The magic of compounding, a simple process that reinvests the returns of an

investment, or interest-bearing savings account, so that it multiplies over time.

In banking terms, it’s generally the interest that’s reinvested, and upon which new interest

gradually compounds as the account’s value increases. When investing in stocks, it’s important

to choose dividend-paying shares (or funds) because the reinvestment of those dividends does

the most to push the compounding factors.


And, it’s even better if you can avoid tax upon withdrawal — which you can do thanks to the

Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA).


There are a couple of minor drawbacks. The first is the TFSA contribution limit, which prevents

savers from bulk-loading the accounts. On the bright side, these annual limits ($5,500 in 2017)

simplify the setting of annual savings goals and are quite generous for a university student.


The second is a requirement that contributors reach the age of majority in the province or

territory where they reside before setting up an account. So, people residing in Alberta,

Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan can open TFSAs on their

18th birthdays. But those residing in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and

Labrador, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, and Yukon have to wait until they

turn 19. The contribution room, however, begins to accumulate at age 18.


A TFSA is a great tool for those who work during the school year and/or summer because it can

help you get ahead of student loans. By putting away some cash from summer or on-campus

jobs, you can let your money grow tax-free, and then use those funds to pay down your loan

after graduation.


It’s important for students and recent graduates to articulate their money goals and allocate

investments accordingly to ensure the investments you choose correspond to your risk profile

and time horizon. Due to their tax-free nature, some of the funds housed in a TFSA should

always be for longer-term goals like eventual retirement. Yet many younger investors get

caught up in a counterintuitive investing mindset.


While a financial professional will look at a student’s lengthy time horizon to retirement — 40-

plus years — and recommend they fill their TFSA portfolios with higher-performing, albeit

somewhat riskier, investments, younger investors frequently resist.


That’s because many young people are surprisingly financially risk averse — in part because

they haven’t garnered sufficient experience with equity markets, but due mostly to the fact

that earnings as a student tend to be low; any short-term investment losses can appear



And that’s bad, because by the time they become comfortable with the ups and downs of the

markets, the window on some of their most lucrative investment opportunities may close.

While such fears are natural, it’s important for younger investors to condition themselves to

step back and take the long view on their savings and investments. Equities that will be held for

a long time, and thus produce outsized growth in real terms, are the ones that most need to be

sheltered from tax.


Meanwhile, money that will be required for monthly bills, textbooks or other short-term

purchases should be kept in liquid accounts such as a basic no-fee chequing account. is an independent financial product comparison site that empowers Canadians to

make smart financial decisions by comparing rates on mortgages, credit cards, chequing

accountssavings accounts and insurance.

Edmonton’s Current Condo Supply Offers New Opportunities

The consensus among realtors is that Edmonton’s condominium market is still flat. The

REALTORS® Association of Edmonton Report on the Greater Edmonton Area reveals that new

Edmonton real estate listings and inventory jumped up in May − the highest levels seen in 10

years. For the first time this year, May finished with more listings than last May did. The first

four months of 2017 showed lower supply and higher demand than last year, but the latest

market statistics now indicate an opposite trend.


For James Mabey, REALTORS® Association of Edmonton Chair, optimism reigns: “We are in

the middle of our busiest season for real estate. More sellers are entering the market and are

motivated to move their properties before the summer months, which provides the best selection

of properties for buyers who are actively looking and taking advantage of the increased number

of listings typical for this time of year.”


The report calculated that the average condo sale price is $250,818 in May, down from $258,494

or a decrease of 2.69 per cent, compared to April 2017. Out of 1,277 condo listings in May 2017,

only 449 were sold. Average prices for duplexes and row houses decreased to $344,406, a 3.75

per cent decline from April 2017, and a 1.52 per cent dip from May 2016.


Inventory continued to increase for May 2017 and is up 10.16 per cent over April 2017, and

increased 4.33 per cent relative to May 2016. New listings increased 16.21 per cent relative to

April 2017, and increased 15.09 per cent, compared to May 2016.


The report notes that average days on the market remained stable, decreasing slightly for most

categories in May. Condominiums increased to 62 days on the market from 60 days in April

2017 and May 2016.


Potential opportunities for students:

One source notes that liberals are anxious to move money faster to deal with Edmonton’s critical

social/affordable housing backlog, but the decreased condo sales and more options to buy might

also garner real estate opportunities for students attending the city’s universities and community



Some industry agents agree that condos are a hard sell, because of the public’s perception of

condo and strata fee escalations, but these scenarios belong to condos that are not well-

maintained and do not apply to the majority of condos for sale.


Nevertheless, condo sales have been flat now for three years. With lower prices and more

selection, sources believe that the market will bounce back soon. It may, in fact, be an opportune

time for parents or developers to think in terms of accommodating students’ housing needs.


Parents might consider a condo purchase for their student-children:

Many parents who want to see their children attend higher education are also burdened by their

children’s housing expenses. Some parents might follow what others have done: provide the

down payment on a condo and have their children rent from them. The advantage is that parents

help their children get into the real estate market and establish credit, while securing an

investment or retirement property for themselves. The decision many parents face is who to put

on the title and how to finance the property, so, consulting with an accountant, lawyer or realtor

prior to any final decisions is paramount.


During the consultation, keep in mind that if the condo is in the parent’s name as a secondary

residence, they might end up paying more than they bargained for in capital gains tax that kicks

in at resale time, assuming the condo increases in value.


In addition, if the child is making rental payments, ensure they can actually afford to do so, and

don’t forget to factor in property taxes, condo fees and utilities.


As part of real estate best practices, consider the condo purchase as a long-term investment and

don’t expect to make a profit after a year or two. While the child is attending university or

college, definitely hold onto the property for the length of time they are in school.


One expert notes that buying the condo as rental property has the advantage that the interest on

the mortgage is fully tax deductible, including the interest on a borrowed down payment, and

condo owners are able to deduct 100 per cent of interest costs against income. The downside: the

treatment of the capital gains tax could impact the advantages. Professional realty help and

answers prior to your decision to buy is again emphasized.


Should a parent go the condo-as- rental-property route, the children could be given permission to

sublet during the summer months, especially for those where Edmonton is not their principal

home city, or they need to move out of the area temporarily for work. In this scenario, subletting

over the summer serves as a practical way to keep rent revenue flowing without interruption until

the child returns to college or university. The summer months prove a popular time for students

to sublet to other responsible students.


Student as principal buyer:

Another option cited is for the parent to arrange to have the child on the title as the principal

buyer and the parent(s) as co-signor. The property is, then, considered a principal residence and

not a revenue property, which means that the interest is not deductible, but neither will parent(s)

need to deal with any capital gains tax.


The future of unique, affordable mini-condos:

Edmonton may well lead in unique and affordable condo concepts, such as The University of

Alberta’s 230-square- foot condo that was built as a model inside its industrial design studio.

In March 2017, the University of Alberta asked for feedback from the public about how such

spaces could fit into the lives of Albertans. The tiny condo was designed and installed by

associate professor and tiny-home builder Tim Antoniuk in the University’s Micro Habitation



The grand opening was held for developers, policymakers, and students wanting to live in the

city’s core, and their thoughts were solicited about the tiny design, featuring a folding bed, a

moveable bathroom wall to create more living space, and tables that could be extended or tucked



A tiny inner-city condo, inspired by Antoniuk’s design, could cost as little as $150,000.

While the tiny-house movement has its foundation in the United States, the actuality of smaller,

often more environmentally friendly homes has recently become more popular with Edmonton

property owners, such as the planned community in Big Valley, population 350 − albeit 220

kilometres south of Edmonton. The neighbourhood intends to build a subdivision containing 22

undersized lots, measuring 30 by 80 feet − considerably smaller than conventional lot sizes in the

village, measuring approximately 50 by 120 feet.


With a tiny home costing considerably less than conventional houses, a build of this type just

might catch on as an alternative to red-hot markets, especially for downsizers, students and new

wage-earning millennials.


Zoocasa is a real estate brokerage based in Toronto.


Sheila O’Hearn is a freelance and creative writer, and has worn many hats throughout her career, from general staff reporter to magazine editor. She has a keen interest in business entrepreneurship and currently writes for several outlets. Visit her at LinkedIn for more info.

5 Tips for Scoring the Best Student Rental Housing

By: Penelope Graham, Zoocasa


The Edmonton rental market, unlike in neighbouring provinces, is relatively affordable – a

slowdown in Alberta’s oil industry, coupled with fewer people moving to the region, have led to

more available listings on the market. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing

Corporation, the rental vacancy rate in Edmonton rose from 1.7% to 4.3% between October

2014 to 2015, with the average rent for a two-bedroom dipping to $1,259 per month. Some

landlords have even resorted to extra incentives like big-screen TVs to appeal to prospective



However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy for students to find rental housing. And, with 38,000

attending the University of Alberta annually, competition for off-campus rentals can be stiff.

While it’s unlikely you’ll come across a rental bidding war like those occurring in the Vancouver

or Toronto real estate markets, it’s still vital to put your best foot forward as a renter, especially

if you have your sights set on an upscale condo or townhouse.


Here’s what you can do to win that coveted rental as a student.


1. Compensate for your Lack of Credit History

Your ability to pay your rent regularly and on time is of utmost importance to landlords, and

they’ll want to know how you’ve handled debt obligations in the past. That can be tricky when

you’re a student, though, because it’s unlikely you have much experience building credit.

Ensure you come armed with great character references such as an old boss you have a

positive relationship with, or even a guarantor who can co-sign the lease agreement for you.

Also be prepared to write cheques for your first and last month’s rent and, if living in a

province that allows them, damage deposits. If you’re receiving student financial aid, ensure

your landlord is aware, as it indicates you’ll have a regular source of money for rent.


2. Rent in Bulk

Rental housing leases are generally 12 months long – but the academic year only lasts from

August to April. That can pose a conundrum to landlords who don’t wish to cut leases short. To

them, a stable tenant who plans to stay in the rental long-term is more appealing than one who

will vacate at the end of the year. If you can, hanging onto your rental throughout the summer

months and for multiple years while at school could give you an edge. If that’s just not a

possibility, and if your landlord allows it, you can also explore subletting your leased unit during

the months you’re away from school.


3. Work with an Agent

Real estate agents are instrumental when buying a home – they can do the legwork for you to

find the perfect property, and help you negotiate a competitive price. Well, this service is

offered for renters too – and it’s usually free. In return, a rental agent will take a commission

(often about one month’s rent), from the landlord. It’s important to note, though that you’ll

need to sign a contract granting your agent the exclusive right to represent you. If you find a

rental without their help, they’ll still need to be paid commission, either from the new landlord,

or out of your own pocket.


4. Prep on Rent Prices

It’s important to educate yourself on what the fair market rental rate is in your region. For

example, units located within walking distance of school, transit, or other amenities can go for a

premium. You may save yourself some cash by looking beyond those areas for your housing

options. Being aware of potential rents ahead of time can also help determine your budget, and

give you negotiating power; if you’re after a unit with multiple interested parties, you may be

able to counter with a higher offer of rent.


5. Be an Informed Renter

Above all else, and especially if this is your first time renting away from home, it’s important to

know your rights as a tenant. Whether or not your landlord can raise your rent, call for your

eviction, or file a dispute can differ depending on your province. Study up on your local

Residential Tenancy Act so you’ll know what to do if you’re faced with any payment or tenant


The 2017 Zoocasa Housing Sentiments and Trends Report

Survey reveals home ownership in Canada a top life milestone

Real estate affordability and supply challenges have dominated the conversation around

Canadian home ownership, but, despite the rising cost of homes in Canada, the 2017 Zoocasa

housing sentiments and trends report shows that those surveyed still considered home ownership

or property investment to be a desirable and important milestone, whether as first-time buyers,

move-up buyers, or downsizers.


The 2017 Zoocasa Housing Sentiments and Trends Report was created from an online survey of

more than 1,100 Canadians from February 2017 to March 2017. It provides insights into

perceived obstacles to ownership and stress factors when purchasing a home. The report also

gathered information from the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).


Foreign buyer ownership

Did respondents feel that foreign buyers were driving up real estate prices in their city?

  • Ontario: 66 per cent said yes
  • British Columbia: 73 per cent said yes
  • Alberta: 39 per cent said yes

Overall, 61 per cent of Canadians surveyed felt that foreign buyers were driving up real estate in

their cities.

How important is home ownership as a life milestone?

  • 83 per cent of respondents said owning a home is an important life milestone.
  • 67 per cent felt that Canadians should own a property by the age of 35.
  • 34 per cent agreed that people should own a home before they have children.

What are aspiring buyers willing to consider to own an affordable home?

  • 32 per cent noted they were willing to add up to 30 minutes each way to their daily commute for an affordable home.
  • 23 per cent cited the ability to earn income from the property as an important factor when buying a home.
  • Six per cent would consider buying a property where a murder was recently committed to help with home affordability.


Canadian housing outlook & sentiment

Recent years have marshalled in considerable change to the real estate landscape with record

prices, new rules, taxes and warnings that have impacted the ability of some Canadians to

purchase a home or qualify for a mortgage.


Synopsis of real estate prices:

Overall, in Canada, homes that were $400,000 in June 2015 rose by approximately $200,000, in December 2017.

In Toronto real estate, homes that were priced at $600,000 in June 2015, continued to climb to under the $100,000-mark in December 2017.


Vancouver experienced pricey dips from approximately $850,000 in June 2015 to over $1,00,000 in December 2015, then

dropping down to $800,000 in June 2016, and levelling off at $1,000,000 in December 2017.


News timelines:

July 2015: Bank of Canada cut interest rates to 0.50 per cent resulting in lower borrowing costs.

February 2016: CMHC announced a 10 per cent minimum down payment on the portion of

insured mortgages over $500,000 to cool the housing market.

July 2016: B.C. announced a 15 per cent foreign home buyer tax; the number of sales

immediately dropped almost 20 per cent.

October 2016: Federal government implemented 4.64 per cent mortgage stress test for high-

ratio mortgages.

March 2017: Toronto home prices increased 33.2 per cent year-over- year to a record high of



Eighty-three per cent of Canadians surveyed felt that the housing market had changed significantly in recent years.

The census clearly shows that, nationally, residents are split on housing market confidence, when asked the following:

In general, do you feel confident in Canada’s real estate market?

  • Not sure 37 per cent
  • Confident 34 per cent
  • Not confident 29 per cent

Despite varying confidence levels in the market, the overwhelming majority of Canadians

indicated that homeownership was still an important rite of passage. Of respondents, 83 per cent agreed that ownership would

be a major life milestone, while only eight per cent felt that it wasn’t important, and another eight per cent felt uncertain.


Home affordability challenges

Both first-time homebuyers and current owners aspiring to buy again indicated that affordability is a barrier to their future home-purchasing goals. Respondents identified that two of the top three obstacles to buying their next property were related to affordability. Out of potential buyers, 54 per cent cited rising real-estate prices as a challenge, and 35 per cent indicated that the concern was saving for a down-payment.

Respondents identified the following factors as obstacles to purchasing property:

  • 54 per cent Rising real estate prices
  • 39 per cent Finding the right property
  • 35 per cent Saving for a down payment
  • 19 per cent Finding the right neighbourhood
  • 18 per cent Employment situation
  • 12 per cent Paying for closing costs
  • 10 per cent Debt or bankruptcy
  • 3 per cent Finding the right realtor


Household income of investors

Not surprising, higher-income households are more likely to own investment homes, as increased cash flow is generally needed to qualify for additional mortgages and finance a down-payment, especially since the financial barrier to enter the market has increased in Canada’s urban centres.

Respondents who own investment property by household income illustrated the following:

  • 4 per cent Less than $20,000
  • 4 per cent $20,000 to $34,999
  • 9 per cent $35,000 to $49,999
  • 10 per cent $50,000 to $74,999
  • 15 per cent $75,000 to $99,999
  • 28 per cent $100,000 to $149,999
  • 12 per cent $150,000 to $199,999
  • 19 per cent $200,000 or more

Not surprisingly, Ontario and BC respondents were more likely to identify rising real estate prices as an obstacle for an upcoming property purchase.

Respondents who cited “rising real estate prices” as an obstacle, by region, are as follows:

  • British Columbia 51 per cent
  • Alberta 28 per cent
  • Saskatchewan & Manitoba 36 per cent
  • Ontario 62 per cent
  • Quebec 29 per cent
  • Atlantic Region 32 per cent

Real estate investment seems to require a team approach. A large majority of investment property owners reported being married or in a common-law relationship, and the Canadian median household income was estimated at $78,870.


Zoocasa is a real estate brokerage based in Toronto.

10 Tips to Subletting your Off-Campus Rental

By Sheila O’Hearn


Subletting your shared off-campus accommodations over the summer serves as a practical way

to “hold” your tenancy until you return to college or university. Subletting you Edmonton condo

or townhouse can spare you that heart-racing scramble year-after- year for a place to reside, study, and

enjoy student life. Subletting involves a tenant with a fixed-term lease and moves out temporarily

from the rental unit, allowing another person to move in for a specific period of time.

The summer months prove a popular time for students to sublet to other students.


Here are 10 subletting tips to ensure a smooth and trouble-free transition.


1. Lease allowance to sublet

This first step is crucial: As a tenant, don’t sign your lease agreement until you read and

understand the fine print, and check for a clause that might disallow subletting. If that item is

included in your agreement, ask the landlord to remove it. Let your proprietor know your need to

sublet short-term. Without the landlord’s agreement or prior knowledge on this point, and if you

go ahead and sublet without proper authorization, you are violating the lease agreement. This

violation could be grounds for eviction not only for you, but also for the tenant to whom you had

subleased your unit.


On the other hand, if you find yourself in the unforeseen position of having to sublet, but you

signed a lease agreement that disallowed this practice, don’t panic. Make a request in writing to

your landlord or property manager, explaining your sudden circumstances.


Note also that maintaining a good relationship with your landlord might place you in good stead

for your request to sublet. If you make it your practice to show you have taken care of your

accommodation inside and out, have always paid rent on time, or if you’ve gone the extra mile

by taking a shovel to your walkway in winter, for instance, and any other little touches you can

think of, your landlord will be more likely to consider your appeal.


2. Check preferred landlords through the university

You might save some time, as a result. Every campus has a Student Housing Office, or Office of

Student Living, where you can find valuable accommodation information. Inquire about

landlords that rent to students exclusively. They tend to understand student needs better than

regular landlords, and may allow for subletting.


3. Accountability

If you successfully sublet, you’re not off the hook for being responsible for rent. In most case

scenarios, the subtenant pays rent to you as the sub-lessor, who, in turn, pays the landlord or

property manager. Sometimes the landlord may allow the subtenant to pay them directly. A clear

discussion with the landlord will help clear up what’s expected of you.


4. Compatibility & pre-screening

Because, you, as the original tenant, are still responsible for ensuring the landlord receives rent

on time, you want to be selective about who will be standing in for you as a sub-letter. You’ll

also want to ensure that the candidate is a good fit for your house- or apartment-mates. Carefully

screen your applicants, therefore; it’s good practice to have the potential renter meet and sit

down with your roomies and vote jointly. You wouldn’t want to be stuck with someone who

doesn’t share the same values, standards of cleanliness, or sense of financial responsibility as you

and your mates. Asking for references and actually checking them out are strongly



5. Fair rent

While the laws can vary from city to city, in most areas you cannot charge the sub-tenant more

rent than you are paying. Greed is never an ethical practice. Be fair and honest, and remember

how much you appreciated any kindness and fair play you received in your efforts to find the

right unit. Pay that kindness forward.


6. Lease splitting

For simplicity’s sake, it’s recommended you keep to the same agreement you had with one or

more roommates, such as splitting rent equally or unequally, depending on whether you used less

or more of a unit’s square footage. Many students who rent and have full access to a house will

tend to pay equally. So, make any stipulations about living arrangements clear to your potential

tenant in advance of short-term lease-signing. Recommendation: What you paid, the new

“tenant” should pay. Simple.


7. Sub-tenant contract 

A signed contract is not a must, but best practices note that the new tenant’s signature means

they agree with clearly written expectations and agreements. That signature protects you, your

sub-letter and your house-mates.


8. The contract should include the following:

  • Sublet dates
  • Rental amount
  • Method of rent payment and to whom
  • Number of people living in the unit
  • Clear terms for maintenance and chores, or damage to the unit

For guidelines, simply use the original lease you signed with your landlord. In fact, best practices

dictate that a copy of the lease agreement currently held between you and your landlord should

be attached to the sublet agreement between you and your sub-letter. That way sub-renters know

and understand the terms to which they are agreeing.


9. Take your valuables with you

Before you vacate, make sure you remove anything personal or valuable. Though short-term,

your tenant is taking possession of occupancy, so ensure that the room, apartment or your share

of the house, including bathroom(s), are clean and in move-in condition for the next occupant.

This practice is considerate, while demonstrating tenant expectations.


10. Additional information

  •  Landlord Tenant Board

The Landlord Tenant Board directs you to your legal obligations as a sub-landlord and

provides useful definitions and explanations about subletting and reassigning tenancies.


  • Off-Campus Housing Office

Many university websites may link you to a sublet agreement form and provide answers

to your subletting questions.



Zoocasa is a real estate brokerage based in Toronto.


Sheila O’Hearn is a freelance and creative writer, and has worn many hats throughout her career, from general staff reporter to magazine editor. She has a keen interest in business entrepreneurship and currently writes for several outlets. Visit her at LinkedIn for more info.

What Home Do You Expect to Purchase for $1 Million in Canada?

By Sheila O’Hearn, Zoocasa

The short answer: Canada’s vast location, location, location, according to a Royal LePage study,

conducted in January 2017, examining million-dollar homes in seven Canadian markets

(Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax).


In Calgary real estate, the survey noted that, as a result of the province’s recent economic slump,

purchasers wanting to buy $1 million two-storey properties currently realize approximately the

same value they did 10 years ago. In January 2017, the average property that was selling for $1

million provided 3.3 bedrooms, 2.8 bathrooms, 2,477 sq. ft. of living area, and a lot size of 7,004

sq. ft.


The majority of Calgary buyers in this market were 30- to 40-year olds who came to the area to

work in the oil industry. For approximately two years, the energy sector’s downturn has subdued

$1-million sales activity and inventory; however, many buyers and sellers have recently begun to

return to the market, causing homes to sell at a much faster pace.


The report says that, in 2016, Calgary’s million-dollar market segment continued to dwindle, due

to low oil prices, resulting in many homeowners remaining on the sidelines in anticipation of

better times ahead. “However, just before the start of 2017, buyers finally realized that prices

were unlikely to drop any further, leading many back into the market,” says John Hripko,

Realtor, Royal LePage Benchmark. “As a result, we expect some upward pressure on prices and

a shift in value over the horizon.”


A million-dollar home in Edmonton real estate illustrated large variances, in which the report

showed a 10-year- old home in a choice neighbourhood in the River Valley, with three bedrooms.

Another home, built in 1975, near the ravine, featured two-stories, six bedrooms, seven

bathrooms, six parking spaces, and a lot size of approximately 9,312 feet.


Top four factors

Extreme value discrepancies can be seen across Canada, from an ultra-luxury residence to an

entry-level dwelling. The top four influencers in the $1-million price range were location, size,

proximity to amenities, and current condition that differed considerably from region to region

and, sometimes within that region itself, as Edmonton demonstrates.


Canada’s two hottest markets were Vancouver, then Toronto, offering in a less desirable

neighbourhood smaller, more dated two-storey “starter” homes that would require renovations,

when compared to larger, luxurious mansions elsewhere.


A $1-million home in the City of Vancouver offered the least amount of space, with an average

of 1,229 sq. ft. on a 3,134 sq. ft. lot, 2.6 bedrooms and 2.1 bathrooms.


The City of Toronto fetched more, with an average of 3.4 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. But

“Current market conditions have made it increasingly difficult to find value for $1-million in

central Toronto,” says Cailey Heaps Estrin, broker, Royal LePage Real Estate Services Heaps

Estrin Team. “Buyers will always receive more value the further they venture outside of

Toronto’s core.” She cautions, nevertheless, that the overall home-purchasing power of $1-

million across the GTA has been decreased.


Conversely, Canada’s east coast fared better, with a $1-million home in Halifax offering an

average of 3.1 bedrooms, 3.8 bathrooms, and a gorgeous, generous lot.


The Greater Montreal Area has still managed to hold its position as one of the most affordable

major city centres in Canada, despite a substantial price growth in the last 10 years. Purchasers

with a $1-million budget can get a substantial amount of home for their money. In January 2017,

the average $1-million, two-storey abode offered 4.1 bedrooms, 2.8 bathrooms, 2,758 sq. ft. of

living area, and a lot size of 13,040 sq. ft.


A $1-million home in Winnipeg delivered the biggest bang for one’s bucks, such as a 3,505 sq.

ft. luxury home in a desirable neighbourhood, with an average of 4.1 bedrooms and 4.0



Saskatoon offered the largest lot size of all the regions, with an average of 65,838 sq. ft.

“There are striking differences in the options available for those who are looking to purchase a

$1-million, two-storey home in Canada,” said Dianne Usher, senior vice president of Johnston

and Daniel, a division of Royal LePage. “From an older starter home in Vancouver to a

waterfront property with all of the bells and whistles in Halifax, the amount of value and space

that prospective buyers receive is largely dependent on the characteristics of the market in which

they are located.”


Who’s buying?

The report shows that the profile of $1-million buyers also varies from region to region:

Developers and first-time buyers dominated the $1-million, two-storey property sector in

Canada’s largest metropolitan areas, while well-to- do, young to mid-life professional couples

with children were the primary purchasers elsewhere.


Zoocasa is a real estate brokerage based in Toronto.


Sheila O’Hearn is a freelance and creative writer, and has worn many hats throughout her career, from general staff reporter to magazine editor. She has a keen interest in business entrepreneurship and currently writes for several outlets. Visit her at LinkedIn for more info.

Softening Economy to Affect Edmonton Housing Sales in 2017

By Sheila O’Hearn, Zoocasa

It won’t be the smoothest year ahead for Alberta housing markets. While the increase in year-over-year unit sales and prices on the Edmonton real estate and Calgary real estate fronts indicate growing consumer confidence for 2017, according to the latest report from REALTORS® Association of Edmonton, the downside is that oil prices, carbon levy impacts, U.S. trade measure uncertainties and anticipated low employment rates could curb that initial optimism.

Reported unit sales for all residential listings in the Edmonton Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) were strong in January, increasing 19.4% compared to the same month in 2016. Relative to December 2016, reported unit sales also increased by 3%.

The CMA shows that unit prices were consistently stable with only modest decreases across each category. Compared to January 2016, condominium prices increased 8.7% and duplex/row houses increased eight per cent. Both categories decreased only slightly, comparative to December 2016, with condominiums down 0.37% and duplex/row houses down 0.4%. The average price of a single family home remained stable at $416,859, which is down 0.49% relative to January 2016, and down 0.9% , compared to December 2016.

Senior analyst Don Campbell (Real Estate Investment Network) acknowledges that Edmonton has profited from a stable government workforce and major construction projects, such as northeast Anthony Henday Drive, the towers in the Ice District and Rogers Place, but building work is almost finished now, and deficit-laden governments won't take on many new employees this year – all of which could lead to a softening economy that isn't good for housing prices, where the market is slowing down for sellers and buyers are stalled.

Campbell forecasts that Edmonton prices will remain flat in 2017, cautioning that Edmonton residents shouldn't celebrate just yet. He anticipates housing in the $300,000 to $400,000 range will be the most popular in the next few years, due in part to new federal mortgage rules, reducing the amount many people can borrow. He views the strongest demand for smaller two- or three-bedroom homes in good condition, smaller lots, and homes within 800 metres of an LRT station, but warns that people shouldn't buy unless they plan to keep their property for at least five years.

Condo lifestyle, on the other hand, is becoming a viable choice for the next generation.

Following is a summary of the Real Estate Association of Edmonton Fourth Quarter Market Report for 2016:


New Single-Family Housing (Edmonton CMA): Single-detached housing starts increased in November by 6.6 per cent year-over-year to 436 units. Most of the improvement came within the city of Edmonton, while the suburban municipalities in total were unchanged from November 2015.


New House Average Prices (Edmonton CMA): According to CMHC, the average absorbed new house price for the Edmonton region decreased in October by 8.7 per cent year-over-year to $539,539. After 10 months in 2016, the average absorbed price declined by 4.1 per cent from January to October 2015 to $580,577.


Multi-family Housing Starts (Edmonton CMA): Multiple unit starts in Metro Edmonton decreased in November by 58 per cent from the year before to 550 units. While semi-detached starts were up by 2.2 per cent from November 2015, both row and apartment starts declined by 67.8 per cent year-over-year to 364 units.


Multi-family Housing Starts (YTD) (Edmonton CMA): To the end of November 2016, multi-family starts have decreased across the Greater Edmonton area by 50.5 per cent to 5,398 units. In 2015, multiple dwelling starts had hit a record level. Despite slowdown, activity in 2016 has remained comparatively strong by historic standards.


The Bottom Line:


The association forecast for 2017 is for real estate agents to expect another listless year, full of cautious buyers and economic uncertainty.


The association also anticipates, however, a small surge in popular duplex sales in 2017, especially due to mortgage qualification rule changes. New stresses on insured mortgages could indicate that some buyers, edged out of the market for more expensive, detached homes, will now be looking at cheaper townhouses in suburban areas offering a higher quality selection that’s expected to keep prices stable this year.


Zoocasa is a real estate brokerage based in Toronto.


Sheila O’Hearn is a freelance and creative writer, and has worn many hats throughout her career, from general staff reporter to magazine editor. She has a keen interest in business entrepreneurship and currently writes for several outlets. Visit her at LinkedIn for more info.