Finding your first place may not be a glamorous experience, but take it from me, it will most definitely be a great story when you get older. 

When I got my current job almost two years ago, I knew two things: I needed to move out of my parents’ place so I could live closer to work and I needed a roommate because I couldn’t afford to live in Vancouver on my own. Luckily, a friend from university posted on Facebook that she was looking for a roommate, so I ended up moving into her two-bedroom basement suite.

Having Low Expectations at the Start Can Be a Good Thing

When I first moved in, I thought it was the best place ever. Okay, I may have been a bit overzealous because for the first time this place was mine. No more parents asking me where I was going or when I’d be back, no more commuting and no more sisters stealing clothes from my closet.

That being said, after two weeks the coolness factor definitely wore off and what I was left with was a bedroom with no windows (illegal by the way), an incredibly tiny kitchen with no storage and more wolf spiders than I’d ever seen in my life.

Even after stocking up on every bug killer I could get, I still had to wear flip-flops around the house and check the shower for spiders before turning it on. Oh yeah, and our basement suite was also attached to the garage of the house, so we could hear everyone from the other suites do their laundry all day long.

And how can I forget the loud hippies that lived above us. Hmm…maybe hippies isn’t the right descriptive term. They were more like unemployed punks who sat on a couch on their balcony drinking beer all day. Ugh, I so don’t miss that place.

Know When It’s Time to Move On Up to a Better Place

Even though the rent was super cheap ($450/month including utilities), I only lasted two months there. Well, I was actually more forced out because our landlord said he was converting the garage into another suite that would connect to ours. Also illegal.

Not only was it hard enough to find my first place, but to have to move again two months later, I seriously don’t know how I didn’t just throw in the towel and move back home. Luckily, after a couple of weeks of searching my roommate and I found another place close-by and it was a million times better.

Don’t Just Rely on Craigslist When Apartment Hunting

If you are currently looking for your first place, here is some helpful advice I wish I would have gotten before moving out. Don’t just rely on Craigslist. Sure it’s great, but when my BF and I were looking for a place together, we actually used PadMapper to help us out and it listed tons of places we’d never find on Craigslist.

That also goes for your Sunday newspaper classifieds. We didn’t find anything in there, but we know a few friends who did, so I’d definitely give it a shot. Also, if you know the neighbourhood you want to move into, go for a stroll and see what’s available. Lots of places don’t post their listings anywhere besides the sign they put out on their front lawn. That’s actually how my BF and I found our current place.

Another piece of advice, don’t judge a building by it’s outward appearance. When I first saw our place, it looked disgusting. It was eggplant purple, there were bird droppings plastered on the front of the building and the “For Rent” sign looked like it should have been retired at least 10 years ago.

But we called anyways, and it ended up being the biggest and most affordable place we’d seen. Luckily, just before moving in, they gave the building a new coat of paint (beige this time), so it actually looks half-way decent now.

Choose the Right Roommate for You (It’s Okay to Say No)

As for finding a roommate, I’d suggest first talking to your friends to see if any of them are moving out soon. If not, maybe they have other friends who are looking for a roommate. I’d definitely try to move in with someone you know as opposed to a random person, as I’ve had a good experience going this route.

Then again, sometimes moving in with someone you know can also turn ugly, leaving you with a burned bridge and one less friend. Let’s just say, be very careful who you choose to live with and be ready to see sides of people you’ve never seen before (nor want to ever again).

Two more things, then I’m done, I promise. If you do ever encounter a problem as a tenant, either with your landlord or with the place you’re living in, you might want to check out your province’s tenant advisory website. Make sure to also double-check that the suite you are considering renting is not listed on the Bed Bug Registry. Your first place may look like a crack house, but it doesn’t have to be an actual crack house.

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