Help An American Find A Good Place To Land In Montreal
November 1, 2011 2:16 PM   Subscribe

American moving to Montreal for work for a few years looking for advice on where to try to land in the city. Probably won't have a car, would prefer more urban to suburban, and doesn't want to pay through the nose.

The guy I live with is taking a job in Montreal to try to get him out of the drought of employment which is currently everywhere. His office will be at basically the corner of Rue Rachel O and Boulevard Saint-Laurent. He's really not keen on trying to move his car into Canada for the years he'll be there, and he'd like to be someplace which affords quality urban living options without necessarily being caught up in the full-on hustle-and-bustle of being in a big city.

He's not afraid to walk a few blocks to catch public transport, but he'd like to live more near good connections to his office and back than a 2 hour bus slog into the urban core.

He's also hoping that it won't be a money sink, as he's trying to round out the years he has left until retirement with this job so he'll hope to sock away some bucks while working.

Does anyone have good advice on neighborhoods he should be looking at for his housing search? Plus any random native-known tips he should know about living in that area?

Pretty much any good information (that can't be easily Googled) about the Montreal area will be appreciated, but he's mostly concerned with housing and transportation right now.

Since he lives right here, he can provide more information if needed for clarification.
posted by hippybear to Society & Culture (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
His office is in the Plateau, which is the most well known neighbourhood in Montreal. It is also right near Mont-Royal, the "mountain" in the middle of the city. The Plateau is a busy neighbourhood, with lots of shops, offices, restaurants, clubs, students, tourists, residents....

Depending on his salary, and where he lives in the US, he might find rent in Montreal quite cheap. If you could give a range, that would be helpful. But it might be that he can afford to live on the Plateau, in which case it would be very easy to walk to and from the office. If not - his office is close to Blvd St Laurent, which is a one way street running, very roughly, north. The 55 bus runs very frequently "up" this road, and then "down" rue St Urbain, which is the next major street west of St Laurent, which is one way, running roughly south. A little further west is Parc, along which the 80 bus runs, also very frequently (in both directions mostly, though there is a lot of construction along Parc right now) So, living either north (perhaps in Mile End) or south (perhaps in the Latin Quarter) of his office, roughly along these streets, would make for a very convenient commute, with the options of either walking or riding in the summer, and catching the bus when it is cold and snowing. The metro, the underground subway system in Montreal, is also very good. The orange line is not too far away from his office - Mont-Royal station would be the closest. So again, looking for somewhere to live along the metro line could also be an option - the area around Jean Talon metro (a hub for the orange and blue line) is quite affordable and the area is fun and includes the amazing Jean Talon market.

Craiglist is used in Montreal but I have found kijiji better for finding housing. Some ads with be French only, whilst others will be bilingual - if he has no French, then choosing a bilingual ad to respond to would probably be the way to go! Leases run from July 1st to June 30th, mostly, so depending on when he is moving, he might find it easier to sub-let somewhere, and then either take over the lease, or move again come July 1st (although I would not recommend this, as moving day is pretty crazy and moving vans/companies can book out months in advance)

I hope this helps!
posted by unlaced at 2:41 PM on November 1, 2011

If he lives near a metro, he'll be fine. (His office is a few blocks away from a metro stop.) What kind of lifestyle is he looking for? How is his French, and how much does he hope to improve it? The usual recommendations are Plateau (expensive), Mile End (semi expensive), St Henri, NDG, Rosemont. All of these are fine places to live, but have really different atmospheres. NDG is probably the most English, and also the longest commute, depending on how far west he goes. Rosemont -- near the Jean Talon market -- is likely to be the least expensive, but also the most French. The Plateau will have the most of the hustle and bustle.

None of the areas I suggest should have more than an hour commute via public transit (some will have much less).
posted by jeather at 2:46 PM on November 1, 2011

Response by poster: His French is pretty good. He lived in Africa with the Peace Corps a while back, and he was working in French and English there. He's confident he'll be able to pick it back up quickly. The language barrier won't be one for him.
posted by hippybear at 2:50 PM on November 1, 2011

One thing he needs to learn is Montreal's lingo for apartment layout: a "one and a half" is a studio apartment (one bedroom, kitchenette, separate bathroom), a 2.5 means a separate bedroom, livingroom/kitchen, bathroom; a 3.5 typically means one bedroom, a living room, a separate kitchen and a bathroom, etc. Basically the .5 is the bathroom and then you're counting the number of separate enclosed rooms beyond that.

The Plateau is definitely Montreal's hippest neighbourhood--and (mostly) not in a bad way. He should be able to find something within walking distance of his office that's reasonably affordable, and he'll have a great time exploring St. Laurent, St. Denis, Parc etc.
posted by yoink at 2:56 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

He should see what's available on Kijiji. As unlaced mentioned, few leases start except on July 1. Places are rented as 1 1/2 (1 room + bathroom), 2 1/2, 3 1/2, etc, not 1-bedroom and so on. He will want to find a place that comes with appliances, which is convenient.

All apartments use hydro-electric only to heat, not gas. (I guess there must be some that don't, but realistically this is what he will find.) Assuming his place does not come with electricity included, he can go to Hydro-Quebec and find the last year's electricity costs for any address.

Is he planning to come here to look at places/sign a lease first, then move back for the job, or move here all at once?
posted by jeather at 3:01 PM on November 1, 2011

Yeah, given that his work is right in the heart of the Plateau, I wouldn't look in any other neighbourhoods. It's a major residential centre, and at least for most young people, this is a walking/biking city more than a subway/bus/driving city - so it's always preferable to live near where you spend your time. I love Mile End, Rosemont, NDG etc (and live in the former), but if you're just moving to Montreal it's harder to imagine a better location than the heart of the Plateau.

I'd suggest you look for an apartment within the following geographic quadrilateral:

North of avenue des Pins (aka Pine), south of Laurier, west of Boyer, east of Parc.
posted by Marquis at 3:06 PM on November 1, 2011

jeather reminded me of another point. Renters are particularly well protected in Quebec and there a number of laws which he should be familiar with. Details are here
One in particular that I will mention is that there are laws with dictate how much the rent can be raised by, even when drawing up a brand new lease. So, before he signs a new lease, he would have the right to see the previous lease and see what the previous tenants were paying. Just something to keep in mind!
posted by unlaced at 3:10 PM on November 1, 2011

Response by poster: Is he planning to come here to look at places/sign a lease first, then move back for the job, or move here all at once?

He'll be spending a few months in Detroit while the company acclimates him to whatever they need to acclimate him to, and then he'll be moving to Montreal. I'm guessing he'll land there sometime between March and May. It may be that the best option will be for him to find a room for rent or something for a couple of months while he gets situated and finds someplace to be more long-term.
posted by hippybear at 3:16 PM on November 1, 2011

No law mandates that apartment leases end on June 30, but a lot of people move house here on July 1, it's an old tradition. So he might do well to look for a "sublet with option to renew" if he's coming here from March to May. People sometimes have to move before the end of their lease and are glad to get someone else in to pay for those last few months, and then he could see if he liked it.

Marquis gives good boundaries, but depending on your bf's budget he should not be shy about looking around north of the tracks at Van Horne – Little Italy and Rosemont have some nice places at half what he could pay in the Plateau.
posted by zadcat at 3:22 PM on November 1, 2011

I found when renting in Quebec that you have to read the lease carefully. Quebec is a province where landlord/tenent rights lean heavily in landlords' favour. In practice it doesn't matter because rent is so cheap, but it's something to watch out for.

They should try to get a month-to-month. No point getting a contract in Quebec unless they find a place they really love.
posted by Yowser at 5:01 PM on November 1, 2011

I mean, no point getting a twelve-month contract.
posted by Yowser at 5:02 PM on November 1, 2011

Oh, and one more thing, landlord's won't respect what little rights tenants do have. Don't expect twenty-four hours notice or whatever it is, many landlords would come and go from your friends' place as they please.
posted by Yowser at 5:05 PM on November 1, 2011

The Plateau is so great! However, when I was looking for apartments, I found that 1-person apartments (2 1/2s or 3 1/2s) were kind of hard to come by in the Plateau and Mile End. Seemed like they were generally not too nice and expensive. They seemed to be much more available in other areas (Rosemont/St. Henri, etc.).

The Plateau is an awesome place to live, though. When I lived there I never bought a bus pass and just walked everywhere. Recently I've moved to north of the tracks, which isn't too out of the way (I can get to the plateau in 15 minutes by metro). If he decides to live a bit further from work, I'd definitely recommend living close to a metro station / good bus line as possible -- it's really nice in the winter.
posted by oranger at 5:30 PM on November 1, 2011

There is a huge amount of housing within a few blocks of your work, so I would concentrate there -- assuming it's in your budget. That area also has everything anyone would want nearby. You could probably go days to weeks without taking a bus, especially in the summer. If you give your budget for housing, it will help indicate where you should be looking.

My experience with renting and that of pretty much everyone else I know is contrary to Yowser's experience. Rights are in fact very much in the tenant's favour, esp. compared to other locations in North America. I know someone who used to go to the rental board frequently because of a not-so-great landlord, and the ruling was consistently in her favour. Also, I have never heard of anyone getting a month-to-month lease in Montreal.

"Le Roi Du Plateau", on Rachel one block west of St-Laurent, is a fantastic Portugese restaurant. It's frequently full to capacity, but there's a good reason. Mmmmmm.
posted by Simon Barclay at 5:42 PM on November 1, 2011

Here's my list of apartment-hunting links.
posted by zadcat at 6:00 PM on November 1, 2011

"Landing" is a term used in Canadian immigration. Don't use that word. He's "moving" not "landing."

Montreal is incredibly cheap. Vacancy rates are much higher than other major Canadian cities- economy is shit but he has a job so no problem for him there.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:14 PM on November 1, 2011

Sounds like I just had a shit landlord, Simon. I don't think my tips apply then.

And I didn't realize that longer contracts were common in Montreal...
posted by Yowser at 3:23 AM on November 2, 2011

Montreal isn't nearly as cheap as it used to be, and the economy is as strong or stronger than any other city in Canada. Don't know what ethnomethodologist is talking about.

Thought Montreal isn't as cheap as it once was, it's still relatively affordable even in "hot" neighbourhoods like that part of the Plateau. The location of the office is perfect for a new Montrealer - it's pretty much in the heart of a lot of what newcomers (and old-timers) find amazing about the city. Great inexpensive and expensive restaurants, bars, clubs, parks, etc are all just seconds away. (I lived within 4 blocks of his office's location for over a decade). A person could easily both live and work in that area and be extremely happy.

That said, there are options. The best ones are North of Rachel/St-Laurent. Mile End = hipster central, getting expensive, but with larger apartments, a bit quieter lifestyle, more kids around. Outremont = just West of Mile End, arguably cheaper than Mile End (strangely enough) but for much nicer apartments, very quiet, less nightlife directly at hand. Little Italy = perennial up-and-coming neighbourhood, can be interesting but actually kind of expensive because there's a relative lack of apartment "inventory" but people who live there LOVE it - I think the Jean-Talon Market has something to do with this.

Also - the Plateau is a pretty big neighbourhood - it's deceptive if you don't know the city. There are tens of thousands of apartments in the Plateau - basically the whole area along the major E-W streets of St-Joseph, Laurier, Mont-Royal, Rachel between St-Laurent and Papineau is feasible. Basic rule - once you're East of St-Denis, the further East you get the quieter it gets. Sort of.
posted by mikel at 5:46 AM on November 2, 2011

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