For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities…
The principalities I’m talking about here is that of very high demand and scarce supply of decent places to rent, especially in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). Brethren, these early months of settling-in are truly a testimony. So, as soon as I found a job, I confirmed my start date for early June. The job location- Brampton is so far away from Stouffville where I currently stay that it wouldn’t make any sense to commute from there. Also, remember my agreement with my hosts is that I move out to my own place as soon as I find a job.
I initially assumed it was going to be easier than finding a job but didn’t really understand the complexities. First off, places are available for rent on the 1st day of every month or the 15th day of every month in some cases. With my job starting this June, I only started looking for a place on Kijiji on the 21st of May, so time was short. Kijiji is an open marketplace where individuals and sometimes agents advertise various items of merchandise for rent, or for sale. The good news here is that there is diversity in the types of merchandise sold, and the spread by location across Toronto. The bad news is that these items are sold very quickly because of the demand. Something you saw a few hours before might be gone by the time you come around to reaching out to the owner. In fact, on Thursday this week, one of my awesome twitter followers sent me a link to a place at 10 am (local time) and by 2 pm same day, the ad had been taken down, because someone else had rented out the place. Another disadvantage of Kijiji is, if you are looking for a place in a high demand area- like Brampton, Mississauga, North York and Downtown Toronto, the demand is so high that sellers set an arbitrary price. You may find a furnished room in Brampton for as high as 900 CAD (261,000 Naira) per month. When I even visited this particular room, the bed looked old & scraggly and everywhere was dusty and moist.
Another friend- T suggested I connect with realtors to help me search for a place. I’m sure T had good intentions but it wasn’t really a good idea for me. Like recruiting agencies, realtors I spoke to also have their prejudices. You would hardly find realtors renting out stand-alone furnished rooms because the commission paid to them by the owner is not high. When the 1st realtor shared this fact, I opted for a two bedroom apartment/basement with a plan to split the rooms with P- a Nigerian girl who just recently landed Toronto. All the places the realtors found for us were either too expensive or the charges were exclusive of monthly utilities (hydro, water, heat or car parking bills). Secondly, they had a long list of requirements. We had to fill in a rental application form, provide a credit report, pay for 1st and last month of rent, submit two credible references, and our individual employment letters. Most of these requirements you wouldn’t typically have if you are a new immigrant who has just moved countries. In fact, I called one Nigerian realtor who as soon as he heard I was a new immigrant, told me he couldn’t find a house for me. That, I had to get someone with a good credit history to sign off on my behalf. My not having any deep ties with anyone here & also not wanting to be forever indebted to anyone, made me ignore his advice & continue looking for rooms online. One landlord told me she’d only rent to people who spoke Punjabi, another one said she would rent to Hindus only, while a third said he didn’t want non-vegetarians in his house. The most creepy of my house-hunting escapades happened when I called a landlord about his ad on Kijiji. We seemed to have a good conversation over the phone, he sent me the full address of his place & confirmed I could come immediately. I pulled up to his house in an Uber ride and could see him looking at me through the transparent glass window of his house. As I walked up the stairs, the man turned around and walked away from the window. I thought he was going to wear a shirt so he could be neatly dressed when he opened the door, but I thought wrong. I knocked on his door for about 2 minutes (there wasn’t a bell) but still no one came. I started getting a sinister vibe of Criminal Minds- the series, so i jejely carried myself away from the house. Before someone wee go and kidnap somebody and chain the person in their basement (God forbid).
After 5 days of intensive searching & spending hard cash on commuting and Uber rides, I finally found a furnished room yesterday on a similar website to Kijiji called View It. The owner of the house is a family guy, a black Jamaican who explained to me that he typically rents out the rooms in his house to other black people to help them settle in. The room is in a big house very close to my office, and there is a bus stop some 500 metres away from the house. This place works perfectly and once I saw it, I paid for the room (1st & last month rent) on the spot! Who no like better thing?! ???? My landlord even dropped me off in Stouffville in the evening on his way to Scarborough for an appointment.
I am thankful. We move!