“There were 22 bids on our dream unit. We won”: True tales from the rental crisis
“The landlords knew the stereotype that everyone from Newfoundland is nice and hard-working, which worked in our favour”
Jessica Hynes, a 24-year-old sales and customer service associate, and Chris Kirkham, a 24-year-old associate at a pottery supplies company, moved to Toronto from St. John’s, Newfoundland. The fierce competition to find a rental was unlike anything they had experienced on the island.
In early 2021, my boyfriend, Chris, and I moved into a two-bedroom basement apartment in Goulds, a neighbourhood in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The rent: $800 a month. The landlord was a family friend, so the renting process was pretty smooth. We saw the place and moved in within a week. At the time, I was studying psychology at Memorial University and Chris was working for Safety First, a traffic control company.
But we’d always planned to move to Toronto. We both wanted to try living in a big city. Plus, there were more job opportunities. So, last April, we packed up our stuff and our cat, Peaches, and drove to Ontario. Originally, we stayed with Chris’s dad and stepmom in Aurora. We were going to crash there until we could find a place of our own, which we expected to take a few weeks.
We really wanted a two-bedroom or a one-bed plus den, which would give us room to work from home. Our budget was roughly $2,000 a month. Early on, Chris got a job in Richmond Hill, so we focused our search at the north end of the city. I found a job shortly afterward.
The rental process in Toronto was agonizing. When I wasn’t working, I spent most of my time combing through listings. A lot of the places we liked didn’t allow pets. Whenever we saw something that looked good, I’d reach out right away—every time, the spot had already been rented.
One month passed like this, then another and another. I started to think we’d never find a place. We couldn’t even book a viewing! I was grateful that Chris’s dad had taken us in, but I didn’t want to stay there forever. I worried that we were encroaching on his space.
In Newfoundland, the process is so simple: if you see a listing you like, you go see the place. In Goulds, we didn’t even sign a lease. But we were totally striking out in Toronto. We needed help. So, in June, we decided to hire a real estate agent. Pretty quickly, she got us a viewing at a one-bed-plus-den, two-bath condo near Sheppard and the 404, listed for $2,200.
Because of our work schedules, our agent had to go see it for us. By the time she arrived, there were already 15 offers on the table. She sent us a two-minute walk-through video. At first, we didn’t want to place a bid. Most of the other offers were above asking, and it seemed like a done deal.
Our agent encouraged us to try anyway. She suggested we write a one-page letter introducing ourselves and Peaches. After that, we crossed our fingers and went in at $2,350, just a bit above asking. We still hadn’t seen the place in person, but we were tired of spending hours every day looking at online listings.
The landlords narrowed it down to two candidates, including us. They asked to meet us over Zoom. We were nervous. Chris changed his shirt several times before the call. It felt like our one shot to finally get a place, and we wanted to make a good impression.
During the call, the landlords asked us about ourselves and our finances. They knew the stereotype that everyone from Newfoundland is nice and hard-working, which I think worked in our favour. Plus, we’re really quiet. When I’m not working, I like to read and bake. Chris likes playing video games and watching sports.
All told, there were 22 bids. Some were several hundred dollars above the listed rent. But, somehow, we got the place. We were both shocked and thrilled. We phoned our families in Newfoundland and told them the good news.
We moved in on July 1. The first thing we did was order Chinese food, open a bottle of wine and have a picnic on the floor. The place is perfect for us. It’s about 700 square feet with a big balcony. We even have a dishwasher. Plus, we’re right across from Fairview Mall, and there’s a FreshCo within walking distance.
My favourite part is the two full bathrooms, because I no longer need to share with Chris. I use the den as a home office, and we have space for an air mattress for guests; my mom, her boyfriend and my brother recently visited from Newfoundland and stayed with us. The renting process was stressful and competitive—we’ve never experienced anything like it. But it all worked out in the end.
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