Moving cross country
May 12, 2016 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Where should I live in Vancouver? And how do I find an apartment?

I am moving from Toronto to Vancouver in September for school (UBC). My plan is to sublet/Airbnb a place in Vancouver in August while looking for a long-term rental. How long should I sublet for (i.e. how long will it take me to find a long-term apartment)? A week? The whole month of August? I worry that the rental market combined with the September move-in will make it difficult to find anything.

Also, what neighbourhoods should I look in? I hope to pay $1000 (give or take a couple hundred) for a studio/1-bedroom. I have seen this question, but I am an outdoorsy sort and am not too concerned with the cafe/bar scene. I do want convenient access to grocery stores/pharmacies, and a half hour or less commute.
posted by rebooter to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
$1000 rents = roommates or a really crappy place out somewhere in Burnaby or Surrey or Port Coquitlam. Burnaby is (barely) commutable (maybe an hour), but you'll not want to live in Surrey if you're commuting to UBC. My lab manager lived in PoCo and she'd be driving 2.5+ hours every day, and that's leaving home at 6am and leaving the lab before 4pm.

I live in Kitsilano and the bus trip to UBC was fantastic (<20 minutes from my door to the lab) - but these days you're looking at $1500+ easily. Fairview and City Hall (or basically anywhere along West Broadway) areas are also great commutes (somewhat over 30 minutes), but the rents are in the same bracket. Point Grey is likely outside of your budget. Dunbar (esp. along 33rd) or Kerrisdale (esp. along 41st) are also ~30 minute bus commutes. Commercial is also popular, less expensive, but you're looking at 45 minute bus rides.

The bus commute time to/from UBC in September up through October can easily be doubled.

Kits, Fairview, City Hall, Commercial are all incredibly walkable and have every amenity you'd want.

You might also consider South Marpole near a skytrain station (take the skytrain to City Hall, then a 99 to UBC), but you're looking at 45+ minutes. Elsewhere, pay attention to if there's an express bus stop nearby so you don't have to take a trolley bus to an express station, then an express bus to UBC/home.

There *is* housing on campus, a little/somewhat more than $1000 for tiny tiny tiny places, but there are amenities and other people. There might be a waitlist.

For on-campus housing, there should be links on the UBC website. Otherwise, Craigslist is common for apartment rentals. Because the market is so hot, a lot of non-management rentals don't even bother advertising; they put up a 'Vacancy' sign and it'll be gone inside of a week. Walking around neighbourhoods where you want to rent and calling/texting the number on the 'Vacancy' sign is a time-consuming but viable strategy (and you get to explore neighbourhoods). Bring your documentation (previous rental history contact information, references information, bank statement/work stubs) and blank cheques with you.

August is a terrible time to try to find an apartment, especially with a good commute to UBC - you'll be competing with every other student in your position. Vacancy rates are <1>
Best of luck!
posted by porpoise at 11:58 AM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

When my son attended school in YVR, we used this service and it was great.
posted by angiep at 3:01 PM on May 12, 2016

You can absolutely find an apartment within 30 minutes of UBC for less than $1000. It will not have a view, and it will either be a studio or a *very* small 1 bedroom, but they absolutely exist. I can't promise it will be easy to find, especially for a September move-in, though. You want to look at old low-rise walkup apartments, roughly in the area bounded by Arbutus, Broadway, Fraser and King Edward. Definitely look outside that box too, but in general further West = more expensive, further East = cheaper, more options but longer commute, further South = less options and less walkable neighbourhoods, and Dowtown = lots of options but expensive.

The further East/South you go the more important it will be to live directly on a bus route to UBC if you plan on taking transit. Biking to UBC year round is pretty easy (that's what I do), but as a point of reference it takes me about 30 minutes to get to campus from Broadway+Granville and there's a big hill.

As for how long it will take you to find a place... at the very least you'll want a short term place for all of August. If you can find a place and sign a lease in early August you almost certainly won't be able to move in until Sept 1st anyways. Watch craigslist like a hawk, call to arrange a showing as soon as a post goes up, and show up with your checkbook and references and ready to commit.

Personally I'd try to arrange a sublet for a couple months so you aren't trying to find a place during the September rush, but I don't think it's absolutely stupid to aim for Sept 1st.

(Source: I've lived in a half dozen rental apartments all over Vancouver, and just recently moved out of a $800 studio near VGH and into a more expensive 1 bedroom nearby)

Good luck! Feel free to message me if you have questions.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 3:03 PM on May 12, 2016

Can you move earlier? You'll have a lot less competition for a move in date of July 1 or August 1. Mid month moves are rare here, by the way, most leases start and end on the 1st. and at least with roommates, it's not uncommon for a vacancy to be filled by the 15th. So you may need to allow close to the full month, because you'll have the most options at the start of the month.

The other recommendations about neighbourhoods are pretty solid. Will your commute be on transit or car? If you'll be bussing, the major lines are on Broadway and 41st, but there are lots of other buses headed to UBC.
posted by Banknote of the year at 5:05 PM on May 12, 2016

Agreed on it being way easier if you could somehow arrange an August move-in, and that the earlier you start searching the better. (I moved into my current place last August; I have housing-related correspondence in my emails dating back to June)

In addition to craigslist and just walking the neighbourhood, another handy resource for finding housing in the UBC area is uvrentsline (formerly AMS rentsline). If the August sublet is unavoidable, there are usually a lot of students who want to sublet their residence units for the summer (and not many who want to only rent for the summer, so not all of them get filled), so that might be a good way to get cheap short-term housing.
posted by btfreek at 5:18 PM on May 12, 2016

I endorse what no regrets, coyote said above. :)

The 99 B-Line, an express bus that runs along the Broadway Ave corridor, is probably the main public transit route into Vancouver. It's about a 30 minute ride from Cambie St to UBC on that bus, depending on traffic. This map (PDF) shows other bus routes in Vancouver; the "UBC Loop" box at the left lists the routes that end up at the main UBC campus. Other routes are likely to be a bit slower than the 99.

One thing to note is that buses to UBC fill up during peak morning hours. If you are close to campus (e.g. in Point Grey), you might end up watching several full buses go by without stopping before one picks you up.

For reference, I live near Fraser St in East Vancouver, have always used Craigslist to find apartments, and have never paid more than $1100/month for a 1-bedroom. It would take about 45 minutes to get to UBC from my place. You will have more options if you're willing to be a bit more flexible on your commute time.
posted by Gerald Bostock at 4:02 PM on May 13, 2016

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