BP103
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BP103: Living in Canada

How to Find Your First Accommodation in Canada?

Discover essential tips for international students seeking their first accommodation in Canada, including options from on-campus to off-campus housing, steps to find the perfect place, and understanding rental costs.
Written by: BorderPass Corp.
Last updated:  
April 2024

Studying in a new country can be both a transformative and daunting experience for students. But out of all the potential challenges, housing is one of the top concerns for many international students moving to Canada. 

If you’re looking to study in Canada but unsure where you’ll live, read this article because we’ll explore everything about finding student accommodation in Canada. Moreover, we’ll provide an extensive rundown of available housing types and outline each step to secure the ideal place!

This article covers:

  • Accommodation options for international students
  • Ways to find student housing in Canada
  • Cost of rent for international students in Canada

Let’s get into it!

Types of Accommodation in Canada for International Students

Canada is home to upwards of 600,000 students from all around the globe! From shared apartments to campus residences, here are the different types of student accommodations in Canada: 

On-Campus Accommodation

Most colleges and universities in Canada provide student housing options on or near campus. These accommodation options come in the form of residence halls, dorms, townhouses, and apartments. Often separated by gender, you will most likely share a room with one or two roommates.

Over time, we found that on-campus housing is ideal for first-year students. On-campus housing is an excellent way for first-year students to get involved in student life and meet new friends. 

Off-Campus Accommodation

There are several off-campus housing options available to international student renters. 

A house can be too expensive for a single student to rent alone. As such, multiple students usually choose to rent a house together. You can also opt for apartments that contain one to three bedrooms. 

Most of these rental properties are unfurnished. You will need to purchase your own furniture, keep the premises clean, and repair any damages caused by you or your guests. 

Homestay

Homestays are the best choice for international students who want an authentic Canadian home experience and would prefer staying with a family. At a homestay, you will receive three meals daily, board in a private room, and gain a first-hand understanding of Canadian culture. 

It’s one of the safest options for housing since the family you live with can assist you with any concerns. However, colleges and universities are typically far from residential areas. So expect to have a commute time of around 30 to 50 minutes daily. 

Short-term Furnished Rentals

Short-term rentals with furnishings are available for shorter periods than long-term apartment rentals. A short-term rental can last anywhere from a few days to an entire four-month semester. 

Try getting a short-term rental in or around the neighborhood you plan to live in eventually. You can familiarize yourself with the area’s layout, local establishments, amenities, and transportation options. 

How to Find Housing for International Students in Canada

Once you have determined where to study in Canada, the next thing you need to do is decide where you will reside. You could stay on campus or live in a private residence. Either way, here are the essential tips you need to follow to find suitable housing: 

Determine Your Budget

The first step is to search for available listings and determine how much accommodation typically is in the city you’re moving to. After that, factor in the cost of living for that city.

Consider your expenses and income, then determine how much you can spend on student housing. The National Bank of Canada provides numerous resources on how to start a budget for your student residence.

Research About the Neighborhood 

You can ask your student center or classmates when finding a place to rent in Canada. If you are already in Canada, take note of the areas you enjoy the most. Here are some of the most important things you need to keep in mind when researching a particular neighborhood: 

  • Safety
  • Affordability
  • Privacy 
  • Parking 
  • Stance on pets 
  • Community size
  • Noise level of the neighborhood
  • Accessibility to public transportation
  • Proximity to amenities (pharmacies, grocery stores, etc.) 

Look Into the Type of Housing You Prefer

Most international students pursuing education in Canada either live on-campus or off-campus. Student residences are housing offered by many Canadian universities and colleges. 

Student residences provide convenience and easy access to campus amenities. You can live within walking distance of cafeterias, student centers, gyms, libraries, and classes.

Remember that your monthly costs will depend on your school, the city you study in, and if a meal plan is included. For example, Toronto's cost of living can be higher than other less prominent Canadian cities.

On the other hand, off-campus student residences give you the freedom, independence, and privacy you may require as a student. However, you will be solely responsible for chores and living expenses. You should also expect to arrange utilities and internet services on your own.

Types of On-Campus Housing 

  • Dormitories or Condos: You typically share single or double rooms with another student. Dorms are usually in a larger building or condominium. These residences have a shared kitchen, living room, bathroom, and laundry area on the same floor or in a central location. 
  • Townhouses or Suites: A townhouse or suite is an apartment-style housing with three to four private bedrooms. There is also a living room and a shared kitchen that you and your roommates only use. 

Types of Off-Campus Housing

  • Shared Apartments: Sharing an apartment with other students offers many benefits. Importantly, they have access to a support system and people who can help shoulder the burden of daily living. It can also help you significantly cut costs and save money as an international student.  
  • Homestay: A homestay is an accommodation that allows international students to live with a host family. Homestays can play a significant role in acting as a home away from home.

Narrow Down Your Preferences

Have you decided on the type of housing you need? It’s time to explore various accommodations available in your city to narrow your selection. 

You can seek advice from a real estate agent, student housing department, or student center. You can also chat with experts at Borderpass, who offer services to help students find housing and roommates.

Pay a Visit

Remember to physically inspect potential living spaces that interest you because photos can be inaccurate when showing the true condition of a rental. If possible, consult existing tenants about what living in the area is like. They will usually be honest and upfront if you run into them. 

If you choose to connect with potential roommates, schedule an interview to determine if they are a good fit. 

Inquire About What is Included  

Check if the internet, furniture, utilities, repairs, and other services are included in the rent price. Remember to enquire about terms and conditions and lease flexibility before you apply for housing. You can also negotiate lease terms and rent with the landlord or realtor. 

Look for Hidden or Additional Costs

Extra costs may not be indicated with the advertised rental price. So review the housing contract before you completely secure the accommodation. 

Check utilities and services like water, heating, Wi-Fi, electricity, and other expenses are included. If you opt for an on-campus student residence, see if the cost includes a meal plan and other additional fees. 

Understand Your Rental Rights

Knowing your rights as a tenant is one of the most crucial steps before you sign your lease. You should thoroughly understand your position as a tenant before organizing the move and settling into the new place. 

Make sure that your potential landlords comply with rules and regulations. You can access this information through your student housing department or your city’s municipal website. If unsure, Borderpass has an expert legal team that can help with any grey areas you might come across when securing your new place. 

How much is the Rent for International Students in Canada?

So, what is the average cost of student accommodations for international students in Canada? 

Eight months of on-campus housing, including meals, can cost anywhere from CAD 6,000 to CAD 16,000. However, remember that the overall price will depend on your university. 

If you live in off-campus accommodations, costs can range from CAD 700 to CAD 3,000 per month. However, pricing will ultimately depend on the location and size of the housing. Here is a table showing the costs for different student housing options in Canada: 

Type of Accommodation

Average Price Range

Homestay

CAD 600 - CAD 1,100 per month

Dormitory

CAD 3,000 - CAD 7,500 per year

Rented Apartment

CAD 600 - CAD 2,000 per month

Key Takeaways

There are many accommodation options for international students, both on and off campus. Students can consider on-campus dorms and student residences for a heightened student experience. Alternatively, rental apartments offer greater independence, and homestays are perfect to help with the transition to Canadian life. 

Remember to consider each type of expense on top of the accommodation charges to identify the exact cost of living in Canada. Choose a safe neighborhood where you can easily access your school. 

Based on our observations, the best advice for international students is to focus on saving time rather than money. This shift in attitude will help you concentrate on your studies. For any more questions regarding housing and moving to Canada as an international student, Borderpass is here to help!

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Can I Find Rental Listings for Students in Canada?

You can check out popular online sources such as Airbnb, Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and more for a listing of available accommodation. These sites will present options in different areas across different cities. Borderpass can also assist with finding housing and matching with roommates. 

Is There a Deposit That I Need to Pay to Confirm My Accommodation?

When you're looking to rent a new place, your landlord might request that you pay a security deposit. This deposit is usually the equivalent of the cost of one month’s rent but can exceed this. After you move out, you should receive a full refund of the security deposit.

When Should I Start Looking for Student Accommodation in Canada?

International students in Canada can begin looking for a place to stay when they receive an acceptance letter from a DLI (Designated Learning Institute). Of course, you can conduct preliminary searches to help with your decision of which school to attend in the first place.

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