Where do I live in Toronto?
May 5, 2011 4:06 AM   Subscribe

Where should I live in Toronto, Ontario, and how should I go about looking for a place?

I currently live in Kingston, and I'm moving to Toronto in August or September. I will be working downtown near the St. Andrews subway station, but just as often as not I will be carpooling with coworkers to client sites rather than working in the office. I emphatically want to live on my own. I do not own a car. I'm female.

I'm hoping to find something that's less than a 30-40 minute commute away from my office for around $900 a month in a reasonably safe neighbourhood. I would prefer a non-basement apartment, since I need a lot of natural light and I get really really cold in the winter even in a well-heated above-ground apartment, but I realize that may not be negotiable.

My questions: Whereabouts would you recommend for me to live? How should I go about looking? I've been keeping an eye out on Kijiji and Craigslist for the past couple of months to get a feel for the housing market, but the signal-to-noise ratio seems pretty low, and it's really hard to do more fine-tuned searches. I've also been on MLS, which seems to not find a whole lot of hits. Do you know of any property management companies you would recommend for me to contact?

Thanks in advance!
posted by Phire to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Viewit.ca and Craigslist are still thebest ways to do an online search for places, but you may have better luckif you can come into Toronto for a couple of days to visit the neighbourhood you want. A lot of landlords and property managers don't post online, and instead there will be a sign outside the building or in the window.

I live in the Bathurst St. Clair area and it definitely seems to be a magnet for your demographic. There are lots of young professional women. It's fantastic for transit, safe, and the necessities are all nearby. My wife moved here 6 years ago, and we're still here with a baby, but no car. (There are 6 Zip Cars at the intersection.)

It's probably $950 to start in this area though.

You might also try Little Italy. The residential streets of Clinton, Grace, Euclid, Manning and Palmerston have lots of apartments, and more than a couple of hidden gems. Lots of basements as well though. Transit is not as good, but you're closer to downtown, and there's better nightlife.

I've had good luck finding shared accommodation on Craigslist. Given the cost of living, there are lots of young professionals and grad students sharing 2-4 bedroom apartments and houses. The prices are lower and it's a good way to meet people. It's a little more work finding the right fit, though, as you'll have to visit and meet everyone.
posted by thenormshow at 4:29 AM on May 5, 2011

Best answer: Padmapper.com is a wonderful Google Maps/apartment-hunting site mashup that makes everything so much easier.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 4:46 AM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you're looking for cheap rent, I would definitely recommend the east side (east of Broadview, not any further east than Woodbine-ish). The commute downtown is about 30 minutes (and very convenient if you're on the Queen or Gerrard streetcar line or the elusive Kingston Road downtowner which would take you directly to St. Andrew). You could also live up near the subway--I've heard tell of lovely places for about $800/month in the Danforth and Woodbine area. Lots of people will try to scare you away from the east side, but it really is very safe (outside of a few mildly sketchy immediate neighbourhoods) and your rent money will go a lot further. It's the new hip place to be, especially if you're near Queen. I'm a bit biased, but I did live on the west side for five years (Queen and Spadina, right in the heart of hipsterville) and while it was fantastic the rents are now awfully high and everything has become very commercialized and soulless. The east side is for living--walkable, funky local joints, remarkably close to downtown, lots of transit options.

Seconding coming to Toronto for a few days to check it out. Lots of apartments are still only advertised in newspapers (I'd go with the Toronto Star) or on signs outside. Best of luck, and memail me if you want any further opinions on specific locations!
posted by Go Banana at 4:50 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

In addition to the Toronto Star, it is also worthwhile to look at the listings in NOW magazine (which can be read online, nowtoronto.com).
posted by grizzled at 4:56 AM on May 5, 2011

Finding a place for $900 is probably tricky.

When I first moved out I got a bachelor in High Park Village for around that much. It was right at High Park station. The area is nice and safe. You are close to Bloor West Village, and being right on the subway line it's easy to get downtown.

I live at Blansdowne now. The area is much nicer, but it's still a bit sketchy. I find it fine, as does my wife, but it probably depends on your comfort level with things like sketchy old dudes and the (now very occasional) crack whore. There are a bunch of 70s era apartments closer to Dufferin, and there are lots of houses which are rented out. They are all a bit hit or miss.

Viewit.ca and Craigslist are the only two places i'd bother looking. It also might be good to see if friends know people vacating awesome places. You don't mention how you feel about sharing a place. You could be much closer to the city splitting a place for well under $900.

My cousins advice when I first moved out was: don't live in basements, don't live above shops. I think that's the way to go.
posted by chunking express at 5:41 AM on May 5, 2011

Response by poster: Yeah, I realize the budget constrains me by quite a bit. I could go up a little bit maybe, but then it would get really tight.

I definitely do not want to share a place, and I'm willing to trade a longer commute for the freedom of being on my own.

Padmapper is amazing, Schlimmbesserung, thanks!
posted by Phire at 5:47 AM on May 5, 2011

Seconding Bathurst and St. Clair. There are a lot of low-rises with apartments in your price range. It is on the subway (St. Clair West Station), on the St. Clair streetcar, and on the Bathurst bus. There are Blue Night (late night after the subway closes) routes on Bathurst and St. Clair too. Relatively low cost of living. Multi-cultural, mixed income area. Not far from the highway. My only caution would be to check on Google maps whether a place that claims to be at "Bathurst and St. Clair" actually is close enough to the subway/commercial areas for your needs. I found my place on View It.
posted by sarahkeebs at 5:49 AM on May 5, 2011

I live in Bathurst & St. Clair W. as well and agree that there the seem to be lots of 20-something people around. I would specifically recommend you check out the smallish, old apartment buildings along Vaughan Rd. The 90 bus runs the length of Vaughan and takes you right into the St. Clair W subway station. Coming home, you get to wait underground for the bus. Also check out Kenwood Ave. or some of the other side streets close to Vaughan for older walkup apartment buildings like The Maplewood (105 Kenwood). No area can be 100% safe but I've lived in the area for 20 years and love it.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:53 AM on May 5, 2011

Try Glencairn and St Clair West as well. My best friends have a two bedroom on Marlee for a little under 1200, not including hydro. If you need someone to walk you around, memail me.
posted by PinkMoose at 6:49 AM on May 5, 2011

Best answer: Check out viewit.ca too.
posted by boomcha76 at 7:35 AM on May 5, 2011

The Junction isn't bad and is up and coming and close to the Bloor line. The rent is still a little less than other areas of the city. I'd check Now magazine as well, as mentioned above.
posted by juiceCake at 7:42 AM on May 5, 2011

Further to juiceCake's comment: the Junction (Dundas West and Keele) is indeed pretty cheap, considering it's close to High Park (a pricey area). There are plenty of quaint little houses there.
posted by cranberrymonger at 9:05 AM on May 5, 2011

Best answer: The absolute best ways to find places in Toronto, I've found, is to walk around and look for signs. The people who still put a sign out in their yard tend to be the same people who haven't increased their rent in ten years (I found a one bedroom with balcony and fireplace in the Annex for 900).
Second best option is to check the classifieds in the Toronto Star. Again, anyone who still thinks a newspaper is the best place to list their apartment is probably unaware of the going rate for rental suites.
As far as neighborhoods, I'd check the Dundas west area, there's a lot of elderly folks who rent out suites there, it seems. I've found some good deals in the Bloorcourt village area too (Bloor, between Shaw and Landsdowne-ish).
posted by melgy at 11:18 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just popping back in to Nth the east end (where I live) and Bathurst/St. Clair (where my best friend lives). The latter in particular seems really undervalued for how nice it is; my friend has a two-bed there for $1200 and I've seen biggish studios there for $850.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 1:18 PM on May 5, 2011

I pay ~900 for a 1BR above a store in the bloordale neighborhood. It would take maybe 20 minutes at most to get to St Andrew via subway.

The junction is nice but kind of isolated and would probably push the limits of your preferred commute time because you would have to take a bus to the subway.

All the cool people live west of yonge street (just kidding!)
posted by sevenyearlurk at 4:08 PM on May 5, 2011

Yeah, the Junction is nice to visit, but it's in a awkward location because of all the railway tracks. Leaving right next to a subway station is the best thing ever. Taking streetcars or buses is a pile of suck.
posted by chunking express at 6:59 PM on May 5, 2011

I live in the Junction. 15 minute walk to the subway. 5 minute bus ride. Unbearable!
posted by juiceCake at 11:37 AM on May 6, 2011

Best answer: $900 for an above-ground bachelor in Toronto is definitely doable, though it'll take a bit of searching. I agree that sign-looking is a good way to search, since often the best apartments are owned by older people for whom written English, digital photography, and Craigslist may be out of their comfort zone.

Search terms: The list thenormshow gave above is a good start. You could also add:

Neighbourhoods: Little Italy, Kensington, Koreatown, Queen West, Ossington, Christie, Bloordale.

Street names & landmarks: Trinity Bellwoods Park, Drake, Gladstone, Harbord, College, Dundas, Dufferin, Lansdowne, Spadina, Beverly, Dovercourt, Barton, Shaw, Roxton, Bellwoods, Grace, Montrose, Pendrith.

These are generally decent neighbourhoods with good TTC access. Things to note: the Harbord and Dundas buses are slow-ish; College and Queen streetcars are slow-ish but have the benefit of being 24h. The King and Spadina streetcars are pretty good.

Keep in mind that the subway is on Bloor, so proximity to Bloor will make a shorter winter walk in the mornings.

The gaybourhood is also pretty good for highrise housing. Main intersection is "Church & Wellesley", keywords might be "village" and "gaybourhood".
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:43 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

One more thing to consider: basement apartments aren't always cold. Top-floor apartments in old houses, on the other hand, are fucking freezing.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:47 PM on May 6, 2011

Lookit this one!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:09 PM on May 18, 2011

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