Finding an apartment in Toronto
August 21, 2013 8:18 AM   Subscribe

For someone (and his accompanying elderly mother) who is in search of a good apartment rental in Toronto, what are the best online/offline options to go about it (apart from hiring a real estate agent)? It is difficult for him to roam about the streets looking for posters (although I've read that this is probably the best way to find good deals) because he needs to find it before he arrives. It can be as small as a studio apartment, but it is important that the neighborhood is safe and that the price is somewhat cheap. It is also important that the flat is comfortable for the elderly mother (proximity to subway stations, bus stations, hospitals, stores, ...) since the son will be spending most of his time at work.

P.S: In case the apartment is not furnished, is IKEA the best furniture store for something that's relatively good quality and cheap?
posted by omar.a to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've seen a lot of local apartments with signs advertising but I can't vouch for it.

If you want to narrow your search a bit, I'd recommend the area of Vaughan Rd north of St. Clair West. There are a ton of medium rise apartment buildings and the bus ride is a short direct run to the St. Clair W subway (and the Loblaws).

You might want to mention what area your friend works in, if you'd like other recommendations.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:41 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

nthing BUT primarily old parquet floor apartments are listed on that site, if you're ok with that kind of thing.

Otherwise try kijiji.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:44 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you for your reply. The problem is that he is still applying for jobs there, and I think he will be still looking for a job even after he finds the apartment. That's why it is important for him to be close to some sort of transportation for any sort of potential job he might find eventually.
posted by omar.a at 8:48 AM on August 21, 2013

I've used Padmapper as it combines viewit, kijiji and craigslist postings all in one place and you can filter by price/bedrooms/etc. The St. Clair recommendation is a good one - the prices drop if you are willing to go north of Bloor and west of the annex.
posted by machine at 8:52 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I digress, but are there shady areas that should be avoided?
posted by omar.a at 8:55 AM on August 21, 2013

Craigslist, Kijiji, and viewit are the mainstays

You mention "hiring a real estate agent," but many real estate agents will actually get paid by the landlord, so that could be an option. In my experience, though, often just have lists of overpriced generic condos.

A few cautions:

1) Toronto is REALLY EXPENSIVE. Expect sticker shock. A studio under 1000 dollars is very rare. Indeed, if the place seems too cheap to be true, then it probably is.

2) Not all streetcars are created equal. The Spadina and St Clair streetcars run on dedicated tracks and so can often zip by rush hour traffic. King and dundas lines however are often mired down and take forever. They are NOT air conditioned.

3) A common trap that I've seen newcomers fall into is finding a super cheap place in "Cabbagetown" that is actually in the Jarvis/Sherboirne and Dundas neighborhood. It's misleading because its close to the eaton centre and downtown, when in reality it can be a very sketchy place to live
posted by cacofonie at 8:59 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know what "somewhat cheap" means in Toronto. But I lived at Yonge & Davisville for years. Lovely area. Safe. Right on the subway.
posted by biscotti at 9:50 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I found the best apartment ever on viewit!

"Shady" is a relative term...

Jane&Finch area has a bad reputation, as does Scarborough. I've lived in Scarbs and it was totally fine. I've never lived at Jane & Finch but a school friend did when he was in school, and again, he was totally fine.

I lived in Parkdale a few years ago and know lots of people who live there now. It's a rapidly gentrifying area that's still got affordable apartments, consider it. Avoid Kensington market area, it is absolutely filthy.

IMO, it seems like any neighbourhood that has a high concentration of non-white, or a high concentration of working-class folks, but isn't a specifically ethnic neighbourhood, is likely to be considered "shady" or "undesirable", so take peoples' warnings with a grain of salt. You find what you look for, and Toronto is a very status-hungry, expensive (snobby) town. That said, there are a lot of great things here too, and it is still possible to live affordably if you aren't too wrapped up in that stuff.

Ok, now get a giant map of Toronto.

If you want affordable, you'll want to go east, west, or north of downtown. Let's call downtown south of Bloor, East of Bathurst, and west of Church.

The subway has one line which runs along bloor -danforth, (Bloor turns into Danforth east of the DOn Valley Parkway) one on yonge/spadina (it makes a U turn and goes on both streets). There are others, but those are the main ones that are central. The yonge and bloor intersection is our starting point here. This is how we're going to center ourselves when we're talking about Toronto locations. Cool?

Going west from our center point, I think once you hit Christie and west it starts to get more affordable as long as you avoid High Park. Going east is a bit tougher... there's pockets of less pricey areas from Sherbourne to about Pape, then you hit Leslieville and the Beaches which are pricey, then it gets cheap again as you head into Scarbs. But it's possible to find affordable places in even those areas with luck and persistance. If you're east of the DVP, it's generally more pricey the further south you are and more reasonable as you get north of Danforth.

Going north, it gets less expensive north of Bloor almost immediately if you're on the west side of yonge. If you'e east of yonge and west of Bayview, it's more ritzy- Rosedale, Davisville, Forest Hill. But, if you go east of Bayview, it gets more reasonable again- but you'll be far from the subway. That's all south of Eglinton. Once you hit Eglinton, it starts to get a bit more reasonable again, and as you continue north into North York it gets better.

Now, if you go far enough north, you will hit Sheppard Ave, where there is another subway line. It goes from Sheppard/Yonge to Don Mills. Anything in that area, though not fashionable, should be safe and relatively affordable, compared to downtown. However, the closer you are to the subway station, the pricier the place typically is. Also, as you get out that far, the major intersections become much farther apart. Downtown, the subway stations are often withing walking distance from each other. When you are far out, that stops being true. So if you don't want to take the bus, try not to be more than one major intersection from the subway stop. If you are willing to take the bus, there are busses all over the place. Bear in mind though, that this means that when an ad says "close to the ttc", it does NOT mean "close to the subway".

Encourage your friend NOT to get a furnished apartment! Bedbugs!
posted by windykites at 10:03 AM on August 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

I agree with everything windy says.

For the average guy, the nice thing about Toronto is that trouble rarely finds you unless you're looking for it. For the Mom's sake, I'd look north of Bloor and try to find a place near neighbourhoods and parks. Avoid high-rises north of the 401- most aren't handy to shopping and seem poorly served by transit. Over the last 30 years I've lived around Gerrard/Jarvis , St. Jamestown and Parkdale without any trouble but wouldn't really recommend the areas
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:01 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wonderful answers. Thank you all for all the help!
posted by omar.a at 1:21 PM on August 21, 2013

Best answer: Veteran of the Toronto apartment market here. I always use but the others mentioned are probably fine as well.

You should look at the subway map on and find something within walking distance of a subway station if transit is a concern. North of Bloor (the green line) does sound like a good option. And, like another commenter said, some streetcar lines are great (the ones with a dedicated lane) others are a nightmare, like the King, Queen and College/Carlton lines during rush hour. ASK ME HOW I KNOW (or don't.)

Toronto is not the most accessible city for people with mobility issues, so if that is a concern, looking specifically for a subway stop that has an elevator and/or escalators. Not all of them do, or very often the escalators are not working.

Also check out apartments that are either ground floor or in buildings with elevators - there are a lot of older, charming, but super pain-in-the-ass walk-ups in Toronto that would be hell for someone with mobility issues. For my money, I have found a good, ugly, cement high-rise with reliable elevators to be the most accessible building type in the city, provided it's in a walkable neighbourhood and not out in cartopia. All my other apartments have been walk-ups. And incredibly noisy.

If you find something around $750 downtown, it is likely to be run-down, dingy, and possibly roach-y, in my experience, or else a tiny squat within someone's house. Basic, small 1 bedrooms in actual apartment buildings will be around the $1000 mark, or higher depending how fancy the finishes are and what neighbourhood it's in.

A lot of Toronto neighbourhoods are really self-contained in a cool way - most of them will have grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, library branches, and other basics within walking distance. This is really great if you don't have a car.

I've lived in East York (Danforth Greektown area), Forest Hill, Garden District (near Moss Park), and the Beaches. I've had to call the police at least once in every place, although the Moss Park area was the most obviously "sketchy" by reputation. I've never lived there, but I can confirm the Yonge-Davisville area is nice, though it may be pricey.
posted by Ouisch at 2:26 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Others have covered the first part so I'll just confirm that IKEA is still the best place for cheap but durable.

The North York location is the easiest to get to from the subway, but the Etobicoke one is larger. If you're far enough north there's also one in Vaughn but I've never been so I can't say how it compares.
posted by Kowh at 5:03 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you for all your wonderful answers. You've been a great help!
posted by omar.a at 4:09 PM on August 30, 2013

« Older Tape backups - yes / no? What's my options?   |   Family drama plus holidays = awesome. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.