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I've found it!

  • 3rd Apr, 2005 at 10:53 AM

Housing in Montréal has not been easy to find. I started looking for a new place in mid-February and it has been a long and arduous search. Housing prices are apparently very high, so I walked around only to find a surfeit of "À VENDRE" signs and very few "À LOUER".

Fleeing the rain
Originally uploaded by sfllaw.

Now it is with great regret that I move out of this wonderful flat I'm living in. It's a sunny, spacious upstairs apartment in a very lovely neighbourhood. All of the people here are so middle class, anglophone and suburban that I can close my eyes and imagine that I'm back in North York. There are three spacious bedrooms and a wonderful bathroom (oh, what a tub!) with an equally excellent kitchen. I will truly miss it.

But it has become impractical to live here because it is just too big for me, and I've been having difficulty finding enough roommates. So I decided to find lodging before the lease ran out. I have been looking in the Hour, on Craig's List, and in the Concordia Housing Bank.

I'm rather nervous talking to people so I was biased in contacting people with e-mail addresses. But whenever I got up the nerve, I did call people to make appointments. And appointments I did go to. I saw places in the day, I saw places in the night. I saw places in the rain, I saw places in the snow. It was miserable.

Rainbow staircase
Originally uploaded by sfllaw.

Early in the game, the only people renting out places were the desperate. In Montréal, rental contacts typically start on 1 July, which is sort of amusing if you're not part of the crazy moving crisis that happens every summer. Since, in February, snow still falls heavily over Montréal, people really don't want to move then. Vacant apartments were all to be let immediately. As the days got warmer, the advertisers grew more brave and started charging more. So you see, there was quite the delicate balance there. Plus, I had the additional concern of moving into a place before 1 May, as I did not want to live in a cardboard box for a month or so. I wouldn't survive at all, since there are people out there who permanently reside in cardboard boxes, and they would quickly deprive me of my worldly goods.

I spent a lot of time seeing flats and I got to see all kinds:

The Tiny

The first flat I visited was a nice little ground floor place on Roy, just next to Parc Lafontaine. I arrived late and stood outside for a good while as the snow blew fast me. Eventually, the landlord showed up sporting a couple of grocery bags. We went inside the flat and it was quite compact. The front door opened into the living room, step right a metre or so and you were in the dining room. Next to that was a thin closed bathroom and in the back was a rather large bedroom. Where was the kitchen, you might ask? Well, it was the hallway between the dining room and the bedroom. Very nice, very homey, but very very small.

The Slummy

Clark St. is actually very nice for most of its length, so I thought good things when I was walking to see this place. As I walked south on Clark towards Prince Arthur, the buildings started to get boxier and boxier and the graffiti got more and more dense. I knocked on a door whose green paint was weather-beaten and peeling. A curly-haired young man opened the door and showed me in. He told a sad story of an argument with his roommate and his girlfriend, and the subsequent moving out. He brushed off the half-painted windowframes as something the landlord was attending to. I noticed the waterstained ceilings and the rusty sink and the uneven carpeting. This set off alarum bells in my head but what really shocked me was the second bedroom, which looked wide enough to be a hallway, not a chamber. I politely declined to sublet from him, but wished him the best of luck.

The Desperate

I contacted a nice Concordia professor and he was interested in showing me his place on Mont-Royal. It was a gorgeous space that had skylights and wonderfully large bedrooms. The bathroom was large and the kitchen was huge. I had some concerns, since the place was rather far from public transit and there were no appliances at all. The poor man had been paying an obscene amount of rent for a couple of months, and he didn't seem to be able to rid himself of the place. He even offered to pay for some used appliances to sweeten the deal. This led me on a little adventure to some used appliance stores. I really did like the space but I didn't want to pay double rent for a couple of months myself in addition to arranging for appliances to be delivered.

The Bizarre

3931 Colonale, Montréal
Originally uploaded by sfllaw.

There was one apartment where I arrived at the same time as another woman, and we went upstairs to see the place. At that time, the tenants there were cooking lunch: chicken parmesan. The layout seemed all wrong. A tiny living-dining room, a massive office, a closet of a bathroom, and a massive bedroom. The bedroom and office took up over 60% of the available floor space. But the kitchen was the worst. The kitchen and stove and sink took up the entire area, leaving a square metre of countertop. So the couple that was living their installed a fold-out board for extra counterspace. This is great, except for the fact that this board blocked the entrance to the bathroom and the bedroom! The woman who came in with me apologised and said that she was looking for something with a generous kitchen.

The Unbelievable

About two weeks ago, I went up to Marie-Anne and saw a wonderful corner apartment. It was a large 6½ with three small bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, and absolutely spacious kitchens and bathrooms. And it was going for a steal because the current tenants had negotiated a lease transfer from the previous tenant. I had to emphasize that it was incredibly affordable. So I talked to Allison about it over the phone, decided to go for it, and faxed in my application letter. And haven't gotten a reply from the landlady since.

Disheartened, I resumed my search for a good place to live. By that time, I was already discouraged, exhausted, and stressed out. I really wanted to find a place to live so that I could do other things in my free time. The human interaction was so tiring, as was running around looking at prospective places and finding their little flaws.

4137 L'Esplanade
Originally uploaded by sfllaw.

So it was encouraging that this week, I got e-mails from two prospective landlords. I went to see the first house on Thursday and was quite enamoured with it. It had nice old hardwood floors, a gas stove, two closed bedrooms and lots of glorious sunlight. Parc Jeanne-Mance would be right outside my door and I could hear the birds singing out the window. Shopping for groceries would be a breeze. However, it did not have a bathtub, a very old fridge, and little counterspace. In addition, I'd have to trek to the basement to do my laundry. So I told the landlord that I'd think about it after seeing the other place.

On Friday, I went to see the other place, which was a 3½ near Berri-UQAM. It was large and long, with a very full kitchen and a very large bathroom. It had a large stove, large fridge, a washer and a dryer. There was a luxurious bathtub with a good shower fixture. Everything seemed newly renovated and in very good repair. Sadly, the bedroom was small and there was really no storage space at all. So I told the landlady that I'd think about it. She was very nice, you know? She lived with three other University students upstairs as they all went to McGill. She studies anthropology if I recall correctly.

1815 St-Christophe
Originally uploaded by sfllaw.

I spent an hour or so pondering my options. Both of those places would be decent accomodation, but which should I pick? In the end, romanticism won out and I went for the old but charming apartment. A couple lives there right now, and they will be sad to leave this place. The boyfriend is going to Victoria to plant trees over the summer and the girlfriend is an fine-arts student who can't afford the place all by herself. So they were all heartbroken and it made me love the place even more. I went back to that apartment and inspected the stove, fridge, and electrical outlets. Satisfied that there were no major flaws, I went down to see the landlord. We chatted for a while and he seemed to like me and then we instantly signed a lease.

It was rather fortunate for all of us that I showed up. I noticed the advertisement on Craig's List and responded immediately. They set up a visit for the next day, which apparently was also the day that they gave notice that they were leaving on the 15th. Boy was the landlord surprised! So he was happy to have a new tenant signed on for May already. The whole thing was quite serendipitous. It gives me a good appreciation for how much luck plays a part in finding a good place to live.

Now I am happy and much more relaxed. I fully expected this weekend to be busy running around the Plateau in search of housing. Instead, I can do something fun. Now that Jeff has come up from Toronto, I can spend lots of time with him running around the Plateau searching for housing.

Hey, wait a minute!


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
3rd Apr, 2005 15:27 (UTC)
I'm glad you were able to find a place. Finding good available housing in Montreal has been difficult for at least the past 3 years now.
4th Apr, 2005 18:35 (UTC)
I know!

I'm really glad too. It was stressing me out for a long time.
3rd Apr, 2005 17:40 (UTC)
So, the charming Victorian flat, is that the one near Jeanne Mance Park? That's a great neighbourhood and the Park Avenue bus runs frequently and late.

What was the cross street of that place in the picture you took on Coloniale? I may have lived in that apartment 18 years ago.
4th Apr, 2005 01:58 (UTC)
Yes, the flat that I chose is across the street from Jeanne-Mance park. It's absolutely wonderful and I do know about the 80.

As for the Coloniale building, it's at Napoléan and Coloniale, just south of Duluth.
5th Apr, 2005 13:26 (UTC)
That's a hoot. I don't remember the address, but I lived in the South East corner building in 1977 for two months. Then it caught fire and was destroyed. It was a two storey apartment and the kitchen wasn't tiny. It was a pretty slummy area at the time. The rent was cheap and I was really devastated by the fire.
5th Apr, 2005 13:38 (UTC)
A lot can change in thirty years.

Now that area is only slightly slummy. More in the student ghetto kind of run-down than any other kind.

I'm sure the area would have been fine for me if the places I saw were nicer. Waldman is in that area and I do like their fish.
3rd Apr, 2005 18:36 (UTC)
Yay! Congratulations! Can I come visit you in your new house?
4th Apr, 2005 01:59 (UTC)
Of course. This is a perfect use for the guest room.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )