How Can Renters Find Rentals?

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Here’s my guide to finding rentals for prospective renters.

Probably the first thing prospective renters are going to do to find an apartment is a Google search. I’ve been using Google searches and online listing services as a market surveyor and mystery shopper for over 15 years to hunt for rental buildings. These days I don’t consider Google searches much use since they turn up a bunch of unrelated links, plus a ton of advertising links, all of it based around promoting whatever Google wants to promote or is being paid to promote. As a prospective renter, do you really care which rental operator has the best search engine optimization? The bottom line is that you simply aren’t going to get an unbiased and comprehensive list of available rentals using Google.

The next thing prospective renters are going to do is use the online listing services. There are several operating in Canada, usually focused on different regions or provinces, and usually provide good, consistent information for each listing. They have one major shortcoming, however: online listing services don’t list everything in a given target area because they only list rentals that their paying customers—landlords, not renters—want to list. (I think I’ll do a review of online listing services in a future post.)

So how do you, as a prospective renter, find good apartments to rent? I think the best approach for the typical prospective renter is to figure out what neighbourhoods you’d like to live in, and then drive (or walk) around and look for buildings. Not only will you find all of the buildings in your target area, not just the ones which are being advertised online, you will be able to assess these buildings and the surrounding neighbourhood and quickly generate a shortlist to contact for more information or to take a tour.

I know many people are going to say “But I don’t have time for that!” Maybe you don’t. But if you were buying a house, you’d find the time. Why not with rentals too?