Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Finding a rental apartment in Vancouver

Sunset in Vancouver's west end

Time has been flying by. In late October, RD and I started talking about moving in together. The timing seemed perfect: my home was on the market, and he had been thinking of leaving his house as well. I accepted an offer on my townhouse on November 2nd, and we had a 1-year lease signed on a cute little laneway house by November 10th.

If you live in Vancouver, you’ll probably relate to how nuts the rental market is here. According to CMHC, the rental vacancy rate sits at 0.8%. That is a crazy figure, and while it’s always been like that in Vancouver, I never really understood what it meant to have to deal with it. When I first moved here, the woman whose job I was taking recommended me to her landlord. So not only did I take her job, but I took her apartment too. :) Then I moved into New West (where rentals were quite easy to find), then out to Port Coquitlam, and then I bought my townhouse – where I’ve lived for the last 5 years.

Related: How I saved for my down payment

I’ll admit that even though the rental process was stressful, we have had an easier time than most people finding a place to live. Here’s how we did it:

Knowing what you want

We knew exactly what we wanted: a clean one-bedroom apartment with lots of light (no basement suites) in pretty specific areas of East Vancouver. That’s it. We had no sq.ft. requirements, gave up dedicated parking, and weren’t even picky about in-suite laundry (although secretly I was only showing him listings that had dedicated laundry).

There were also secondary things that would be “nice to have.” Like hardwood floors, a quiet tree-lined street, lots of storage, free parking, and I didn’t want to live in a boring, cookie-cutter apartment if we could help it.

Set your budget

Our original budget was $1,400, but we realized after a day of searching that it wasn’t going to give us what we wanted (see point above). Our main must-have was to find a place in one of our desired neighbourhoods. So our budget slowly began to rise. This increased the inventory available to us, and the places got nicer. Not even close to luxury nice, but definitely better. We weren’t sure where to draw the line as we crept closer to $1,700, but I remember RD showed me a listing his friend sent him that was $1,850. We both cringed at the rent and decided $1,700 was the maximum we would pay. I mean, if we’re going to rent, we’d better both be saving money as well, right?

Be quick (really quick)

Since I’m glued to my computer most of the day, I made sure to check Craigslist every couple of hours. This may seem a bit obsessive, but we learned quickly that apartments go FAST. It’s pretty much a given that if an apartment listing has been up on Craigslist for more than 24 hours, it’s already gone. So to get ahead of the competition, I checked online all the time and RD and I were in constant communication.

Get organized

I’ve never had to deal with renting in Vancouver before, but RD knew what was up. So he had printed up all of our information to take to open houses, so that we apply immediately. We lost one apartment because we decided to fill out an application later that evening, so when the laneway house came up and I was out of town, RD went to see the open house and filled out an application on the spot.

Look good on paper

RD pointed out that we are desirable tenants because we look good on paper. We are in our 30’s with stable jobs and comfortable incomes. We have good references, don’t smoke, and don’t have pets. And when you show up to open houses with your act together (see above point) you end up looking pretty good.

Have your finances in order

We had all our finances worked out so that when the house was offered to us, we could sign the lease and put down a damage deposit immediately without having to wait and shift around money. PC Financial, for example, makes you wait until the next business day to access any money from your savings accounts.

What was your experience renting your last apartment?
Was the process difficult, or fairly easy?



My 30 day vegan challenge

IMG_8184Back in September I embarked on a 30-day vegan challenge. I’ve been vegetarian since 2013, and always knew going vegan was something I wanted to attempt. It was an interesting month for sure, and I learned a lot about vegan alternatives for cooking at home, as well as which restaurants in the city were vegan-friendly. Oh, and the Oh She Glows cookbook became my best friend.

I made a few mistakes in the beginning because I’m so used to just making sure dishes didn’t have meat in it, and when traveling I just reverted back to being vegetarian. It was easier than trying to find vegan-friendly restaurants (although I did find a couple excellent ones in Toronto!), or packing food when traveling on business.

On the other hand, I was surprised at how many restaurants accommodated vegans, and got to try a few really great restaurants I had wanted to try for a long time. And I found it quite easy (after a few up-front expenses) to adapt to cooking vegan when at home. I thought it would be hardest to cut out eggs since I used to eat them a lot, but surprisingly it hasn’t been something I’ve craved.

Becoming vegan long-term is something I know I could do. But I’m not quite comfortable with being the person that everyone has to accommodate during social events. It’s especially hard at work events or lunch meetings that are held in restaurants that are not vegan-friendly. So my decision for right now is to stay vegetarian but really lower my dairy intake. I’ll be cooking vegan at home, and will just be vegetarian when going out and traveling. I think this is a good compromise because I don’t go to restaurants much anyway, and when I’m at home I can regulate my food a lot better. :)

Have you ever tried going vegan or vegetarian before?

A week on the Oregon coast

The last few months have been stressful – demanding deadlines at the full-time job, trying to sell my house, trying to find an apartment to rent (that is going to be a whole blog post – the rental market in Vancouver is crazy!), travel for freelance work, and the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. So before I started my new job, I just wanted to get out of the city for a week and recharge.

We ended up settling on a road trip to Oregon because even with the exchange rate, it was a relatively inexpensive trip, and, well, Oregon is awesome.

The first two nights were spent in Portland. Hotels in downtown Portland are always ridiculously expensive, so we used VRBO to rent a little microloft in the Pearl District. The space was the perfect size, and although the location was a bit noisy at night, it was a great location for daytime exploring. My boyfriend (who will now be known as RD on this blog) had never really spent much time in Portland, so we did the Saturday Market, Powell’s Books, VooDoo donuts, and hit up a couple great restaurants and breweries. It was way too rainy to do much else – we didn’t even get up to Nob Hill – so that’ll be saved for next time.

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After Portland, we headed to the coast where we spent two nights at Heceta Beach, just a few minutes north of Florence. This ended up being our favourite stop of the trip because the beaches are way less crowded than further up the coast. The cottage was perfect – super cozy and just a 5 minute walk through the sand dunes to the beach.

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We then headed up the coast and spent 3 nights in Cannon Beach. We stayed in a tiny cottage that I can see being perfect for the summer months. The beach was beautiful – great for running! The only downside was that because of the weather, RD wasn’t able to get any surfing done. But there were so many hikes and walks in the surrounding state parks that we had more than enough outdoor activities to occupy our time.

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We both had a fantastic time, and got really lucky with the weather. When I was monitoring the forecast in the week leading up to the trip, I kind of expected rain the entire time. But it was sunny for 5 days, rainy for 1 day, and didn’t start to get crazy rainy until our drive back to Vancouver.

I also did very minimal cross border shopping while we were there – all I came back with was 5 bottles of Trader Joe’s sriracha, 4 jars of cookie butter, and 2 bottles of Charles Shaw wine. The essentials. :)

As for the financials, we didn’t spend much to be honest. My share of accommodation for 7 nights was about $525 after the exchange rate. We limited going out to restaurants, and made most of our meals in the cottages. I would estimate that including gas and groceries, I probably spent less than $850 in total for the week.

This was my first time doing a trip to Oregon during the winter. Every other time I’ve gone down has been in the summertime, and now that I’ve seen empty beaches and cheap rental cottages, I’m not sure I could bring myself to go during the summer again. :)

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