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Whether you’re moving away from home for the first time, or moving closer to a new job, finding an apartment you love can be a time-consuming and challenging experience—especially in big cities where the rent continues to skyrocket. Here’s what you should be aware of before you sign a new lease.

Is it big enough for my needs long-term?
You might think you can handle living in a shoebox when it’s just you, but if you decide to get a pet in the future, if you want to have friends over, if you need to host your parents when they’re out of town—is it really big enough? It’s tempting to settle on a smaller apartment when rent is so expensive, but consider how likely you are to grow out of it and need to move again.

Is the lease reasonable?
This is a big one. A lease is a binding contract, and sometimes, owners will try to throw in clauses that are illegal. It’s up to you to ask them to strike these policies before you sign on the dotted line. While in some provinces, having a no-pets rule wouldn’t stand up legally, in other provinces, they can get away with it so long as you signed the lease with that rule listed. Leases are long and wordy for a reason. Don’t just skim or mindlessly sign, because there might be rules that you would never expect that you are agreeing to. That’s why renting with the help of a real estate agent is so beneficial.

What are my priorities?
If you have a dog, you definitely want to find a pet-friendly building, ideally near a dog park if you’re in a dense city. If your job is right downtown and you hate commuting, location might be more important than size. If you’re on a tight budget, you might have to forego location expectations and look outside your ideal area. Be realistic about your lifestyle, and figure out what you can and can’t live with long-term.

What is and is not included?
The biggest benefit of renting is not having to worry about repairs, as it’s typically on your landlord to fix issues immediately. As nice as it is, that doesn’t mean everything is always included in the rent you pay. If all-inclusive is what you’re after, make sure your agent knows this, and make sure to look for it when you’re searching listings. And be aware, sometimes it says all-inclusive, but that means certain things (water, hydro) are included while others (cable, internet) are not. Always ask for specifics and, if it’s not all-inclusive, ask for approximations on how much you should expect to be paying on top for utilities.

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