Please don't let me live in a box!
August 18, 2008 11:22 AM   Subscribe

Montreal Housing Crunch Filter: I still don't have an apartment and I'm supposed to show up in Montreal in two weeks. How the heck do I nab a place for a single female McGill student, when I'm out of province?

This is moving into panic time. I've scoured the McGill off campus housing and so far found one place that turned out to have only a hot plate and bar fridge for its fridge and stove. Other places I've liked, that I've found on Craigslist, were snapped up before I called, so it's starting to become crunch time.

I'm looking for a place starting September 1st, either walking distance from McGill, or conveniently on the metro line. I can't afford to spend more than $550 a month including utilities, and it needs to have an actual oven/stove and not be a semi basement on a high traffic street (which tends to lead to gentlemen peering in the window). A bonus would be a closet, double bonus, a balcony or a sunny window. I’d like to not get broken into on a regular basis, too.

I have a few problems:

1) I’m not in the city. An overly busy boyfriend can sometimes see apartments, but only a limited number of hours a week and he is hard to schedule with.
2) I don’t have previous landlord references, as I’ve only ever lived at home before. My bosses all liked me though, and would be happy to provide glowing employer references.
3) I only read French and can’t keep up with a conversation with a francophone landlord.
4) I can’t call long distance from work, and I work an 8:30AM to 5:00PM gig five days a week.

So I’m getting pretty desperate. Is there anything I’m not considering? Please help me figure this problem out so that I can start asking mefi questions about how to decorate instead of freaking out about finding a fridge box.
posted by Phalene to Home & Garden (16 answers total)
I don't know if this will be helpful or not, but have you looked at the "Off-Campus Housing" page on McGill's website? I know you said you've "scoured the McGill off campus housing", but I'm not completely sure that means the same thing.

And if it gets down to it, you might want to reconsider your "need" for a stove and such. Take what you can get, see if you can get it on a monthly lease, and search for a better place at leisure. You can survive with a hot plate.
posted by Flunkie at 11:34 AM on August 18, 2008

Do you have any friends in McGill? Do you use Facebook in Canada? Start messaging everyone and ask them if they know of any openings or anyone looking for a roommate. They will not mind; most people will happily keep an eye out for you and your search may considerably speed up with other people on the case, trust me.
posted by Theloupgarou at 11:36 AM on August 18, 2008

What about going through a broker? No experience with reputations, but here's one I found on Google. They've got a studio at $550 that sounds pretty good.
posted by mdonley at 11:37 AM on August 18, 2008

Are you willing to share a room? If so, you should be fine with craigslist and livejournal and such. If not, plan to get to Montreal early and walk the streets looking for "for rent" signs or get your boyfriend to find, visit and sign a lease for a place without you there.
posted by jeather at 11:38 AM on August 18, 2008

Response by poster: Further information:

1) Trying to avoid sharing.
2) Boyfriend is currently my only contact in the city and isn't able to help troll the streets.
3) I tried the off campus housing website and found one lead, which has no stove, just a hotplate.
posted by Phalene at 11:50 AM on August 18, 2008

1) Trying to avoid sharing.

Probably time to abandon this notion. If you're getting desperate, start looking for roommates.

I don't know about Montreal, but even if it's leagues better than Vancouver, $550 for a bachelor that provides easy access to a big university is still a pretty tall order.

I'm also not if this just a function of Vancouver's obscenely low vacancy rate, but a lot of rental units here don't do any kind of listing beyond putting a "For Rent" sign outside. There are so many people looking for apartments, that's all the need to do. If you can, get to Montreal now and stay your boyfriend or at a hostel while you're looking for a place. Good luck!
posted by Nelsormensch at 12:10 PM on August 18, 2008

I live in Montreal, and for $550 a month you won't find anything near McGill without sharing unless it's a real dump (and I mean, like unlivable dump). If you are willing to trot out on the green line (the one McGill metro station is on) then you may find something in your price range. The area around the Monk and Jolicoeur metro stations should be fairly cheap, as well as the area east of Papineau.

My suggestion is to share an apartment for now then spend time looking for something by yourself once you get here. I would also suggest you check out the Montreal Gazette classifieds, a good place to look for apartments.
posted by Vindaloo at 1:13 PM on August 18, 2008

You've got too many restrictions. Either give in and get a room in a shared place or get here a week early and find places with for rent signs. You might want to check the Hour or Voir, but most people I know found places by seeing a for rent sign, and you're going to have a time finding a reputable place via phone when you don't share a common language. Rooms in a larger place generally come with flickr sets.
posted by jeather at 1:17 PM on August 18, 2008

$550/mo is definitely possible - but not in the McGill ghetto, and you will be able to find much, much, much nicer places if you accept sharing a place. Montreal has beauuuutiful old apartments, but most are triplexes with 2-3 bedrooms.

Look east or west along the green line for the cheapest acceptable apartments, or way north to Little Italy.

But my advice is to forget the metro (it closes at midnight) - look for an apartment that's close to Parc avenue, anywhere between Sherbrooke and (way north) Van Horne. The 80, 535 and 365 buses run 24/7 up and down Parc, and during rush-hour there's a bus every five minutes. Even from an apartment as far north as Bernard, you'll still be about 30 minutes door-to-door to get to McGill.

The Plateau and Mile End - ie north of avenue Mont-Royal - are the best neighbourhoods in the city, IMHO, and the benefits of living up there well outweight the slight convenience of being close to class. There's also the chance you'll find a place that meets your specifications, even solo.

And don't forget Craigslist!
posted by Marquis at 1:28 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't worry about doing it right now... you're never going to be able to fufill all of your requirements from a distance. I've been in situations like this several times before, in various cities (including Montreal), and without fail things always turn out best if I arrive, stay in a hostel/hotel/with a friend for a few days while scouring the streets for "For Rent" signs and check places out. You're more likely to find a place that will be okay with your lack of references this way, too.

Good luck! I know it's scary to just cross your fingers and go, but I'm sure you'll be fine.
posted by drycleanonly at 2:07 PM on August 18, 2008

Just a few thoughts:

1) McGill's Off Campus Housing office is very helpful. They may even still provide phones. Its worth it to go in person.

2) You need to go to Montreal, and walk (or better bike) up and down streets in your target neighbourhoods looking for signs, and calling them right away. I found apartments for two consecutive years on weekends.

3) You should be open to having a roommate. The quality and value of the rentals is hugely better for 3 bedrooms (so called 6 1/2s or 7 1/2s) than for bachelor's places (2 1/2s or 3 1/2s). Seriously. Everyone I knew in Montreal who went to McGill and tried living alone had a terrible apartment that they paid too much for. Meanwhile, the other 98% of us had beautiful, high ceilinged, huge places in awesome neighbourhoods that we paid a pittance for (at the end of my time at McGill, my rent was 275$/month).

But here is the most important piece of information you need to know about Montreal rentals:

The overwhelming majority (like 80% or so) of Montreal's rental stock turns over on the same date -- June 30. This has many consequences for you:

a) The best time to look for an apartment is the first half of April, as leases come up for renewal 60 days before June 30.

b) You are now looking through the lean pickings. Your goal is therefore to make it through until April 1, when you will get a chance to see just how awesome Montreal housing is.


- You can look for sublets. Craigslist, McGill Off Campus Housing, and the Gazette are all sources.

- You are better off looking for a room in a bigger place. Roommates can be good!
Alternatively, you can look for a 5 1/2 or a 6 1/2 and then choose your roommates, which might make it easier to find people you can live with happily.

Actually going to the city, picking up a pay as you go cell phone and a bike should get you a place in one weekend, even during the worst time of the year to find an apartment in Montreal.

And, be thankful you are not going to school in Vancouver.
posted by bumpkin at 2:26 PM on August 18, 2008

Another Montrealer here -- you really need to look futher East or West. I lived in Hochelaga (around Pie IX metro) for five years; rent was very very cheap, and my landlords were often anglophones, or bilingual. I now live in Verdun (in a little gem I found through word-of-mouth), and I can get to McGill in twenty minutes from my place. A lot of students from out of town forget that the city isn't restricted to St-Laurent / René Lévesque / Atwater / Mont Royal !

Kijiji might be useful, but bumpkin is right, if at all possible, you should try to make it to Montreal a week early, rent a room in a hostel, and find a place. It's still possible, my boyfriend's cousin is in your exact situation, and we're all confident she'll find something. You could also send out a cry of desperation on Facebook, and have everyone you know aware that you're looking.
posted by OLechat at 3:38 PM on August 18, 2008

Bumpkin's right - I'm one of those people he cites who tried going it alone and gave up. It is possible that you will find a 1-1/2 in your price range somewhere in the Plateau - walk around and you'll see these places, more often than not advertising a vacancy. But they are sad and depressing dwellings. I remember saying to myself - how bad can it be? - and moved into one (on Hutchison, just north of Mount Royal), but after 3 months of staring at the same 4 walls, of listening to the arguments and hacking coughs of my neighbours, of breathing in the cigarette smoke which infused the entire building, I went back to sharing.
I think that in 4 years there I found places to live either through the off-campus housing list, through friends, or through flyers people had put up on campus looking for roommates. I'm sure that, if nothing else comes up via long-distance, and you accept that you'll be much better off sharing a place with one or two people, you'd find some good leads just from bulletin boards all over campus.
For me at least, it was never too hard - I'd show up at the end of summer and something would fall into place pretty quickly - I wouldn't get too stressed out about it.
posted by Flashman at 5:45 PM on August 18, 2008

If you absolutely can't make it to Montreal before the end of the month, consider subletting a place for a month. But as others have said, you'd be better served by showing up a week or so before the end of the month. You'll probably have more choice now than in a month.
posted by limon at 5:57 PM on August 18, 2008

I wouldn't even consider renting a place sight unseen. Find a temporary place to stay - with your boyfriend, with a friend, at the Y, at a hostel, and look for a place once you get to Montreal.
posted by orange swan at 6:12 PM on August 18, 2008

Response by poster: I have a house now.
posted by Phalene at 5:29 AM on September 5, 2008

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