Apartment Tips in Vancouver

As part of our recent relocation to Vancouver, for the past 2-3 weeks we’ve been on the hunt for a new place.  We’ve had the luxury of subletting an apartment for 2 months until we found the right apartment for our budget.  I honestly didn’t think we’d find a good place for us until October, but we came across a small condo downtown that we just had to get.

Finding an apartment can be a challenge, especially in a hot market like Vancouver’s.  We established a fairly good rhythm in keeping a close eye on upcoming suites.  I wanted to share a few websites and tips that helped us find the perfect place.

  1. Utilize Google Reader to streamline searches - Both Craigslist and Kijiji seem to have a bulk of the apartment listings in the Vancouver area.  However, repeatedly viewing these sites can often keep you guessing as to which ads you’ve seen and which you haven’t.  Google Reader has the ability to slurp up any RSS feed and both Craigslist and Kijiji searches are RSS friendly.  Simply search the website based on your criteria (rent, location, etc.) and copy/paste the URL into Google Reader.  This also makes it easy to share potential suites via email.
  2. PadMapper (and to a lesser extent HousingMaps) rocks - PadMapper is one of the best websites out there for locating apartments based on location.  Simply provide your city, price range and other criteria and PadMapper will show you apartments using Google Maps.  The ads are pulled from Craigslist, Kijiji and other lesser-known listing websites.  HousingMaps also does the same, but I found that the results just weren’t as good.
  3. Use Google Docs to track places you’re interested in - We came across multiple apartments that we wanted to view in the past few weeks.  When you’re looking at multiple places at the same time you want to make sure that you keep track of each, how much is the rent, when they’re showing, etc.  We used a fairly basic shared spreadsheet in Google Docs to track which apartments we liked and would keep details as to what we thought of them.
  4. Have your shit together - When you go to view a perspective place, you’re probably not going to be the only one viewing it.  You’ll want to make sure you stand out from the crowd, so make sure you have your shit together.  Don’t dress like a bum!  Also bring paperwork that you might want to show your potential landlord.  This includes copies of credit reports, letters of employment, references, etc.  It’s likely you won’t need these when viewing, but it shows that you’re prepared should you want to submit an application then and there.
  5. A good landlord is just as important as a good apartment - We talked to a ton of potential landlords in the past few weeks.  Some were nice, some seemed nice and some might be downright crazy.  Finding a punctual landlord who’s responsive to calls and emails is important, especially if they’re not going to be living in the same building as you (as is the case for most condos).
These tips helped us locate a place in Vancouver in a matter of weeks.  What other websites, techniques or tools do you use to find a great apartment?

Operation Relocation: Vancouver

Whew, what a crazy month August has been!  As noted in my previous post (Migrating North) I’ve recently relocated back to Canada from San Francisco.  Specifically I’ve chosen Vancouver, BC as my new home.

While it’s only been a few short weeks that I’ve been back, it’s clear that this is the right city for me at this point in my life.  Being able to reconnect with old friends and family members has been one of the most awesome parts of the past couple of weeks back at home.  Knowing that these people are within a walk/drive away, rather than a 2 hour flight, is extremely exciting.

In addition, the city of Vancouver is a fast-paced city much like San Francisco but offers more outdoor activities and (in my opinion) a cleaner and safer environment.  It’s clear that the tech scene here is bustling and there is a lot of excitement in the air.  Vancouver is a big city so I have a lot of exploring to do in the coming months.  Returning home during the summer has also made a great impression on me, although I do understand that winter is coming quickly!

Relocating back to Canada was a fairly painless process.  I came across the Moving Back to Canada site maintained by Paul Kurucz which had a wealth of information that was helpful in planning my relocation.  In addition, I wanted to share some tips and things to think about for anyone else in another country who might be returning home to Canada in the future.

  • Hire a moving company - I can’t say enough good things about Atlas Van Lines and their team that helped relocate my things back to BC.  It takes the stress out of having to drive all of your stuff across the boarder, deal with customs, rent trucks, etc.  It’s worth the extra cash to hire movers in my opinion.
  • Do your paperwork early - There’s a bunch of customs forms that you need to fill out and present when you re-enter Canada, and additionally when you go to clear your goods at the border.  In particular Canada customs wants to see an inventory of your stuff.  Having a clear, organized inventory will impress customs officials and will give you minimal headaches when crossing the border.
  • Get travellers insurance - If you’ve severed residential ties with Canada and are returning, there is a 3 month waiting period until MSP kicks in.  If you don’t have a job lined up and aren’t covered, be sure to get travellers insurance to cover you for your first 3 months.  Blue Cross has specific packages for returning Canadians at a reasonable price.
  • Find a sublet - Our timing worked out perfect as a friend of mine was leaving Vancouver for a few months and we were lucky enough to sublet her place.  This took away the stress of finding an apartment before our goods arrived across the boarder, and allows us to explore Vancouver’s many neighbourhoods to see which suits us.
  • Start building credit - When you sever residential ties with Canada you basically wipe out any and all credit history.  When you return it’s important to start building this up again.  Sign up for cable/internet and make your payments on time, purchase a cheap cell phone to use to connect and make sure to pay your bill, etc.
  • Be prepared to spend money - Relocation isn’t cheap, and shaking up your life usually requires you to get out of your rhythm.  Be prepared to pay for hotels, rental cars, etc. for the first week or so until you get settled.  Create a budget and plan ahead to ensure you have enough cash in the bank to get settled.  Use Google Docs to create a spreadsheet of expenses and use Mint.com to track your purchases.
  • Try to have some fun - Moving can be extremely stressful on yourself and on your bank account.  It’s important to take breaks, reconnect with people and enjoy your new surroundings before you get back into your rhythm.

The next steps is finding a house or apartment to call home and a new, exciting company to join.  I’ll be posting about these in the coming weeks.  Until then, time to enjoy the city!

Migrating North

Nearly 2.5 years into my time in San Francisco, I’ve decided to head back to Canada.  This hasn’t been an easy decision for me as I’ve loved my time here.  But, I’m excited for the future and for new opportunities.

I posted a few times when I first arrived about my experiences in SF.  I would highly recommend that anyone who has the opportunity to work abroad to do it.  It’s an awesome way to learn, gain perspective and have experiences you might not have in your home country.

Leaving a great organization like Atlassian is also a difficult choice, but ultimately the right one for the long term.  I’m going to miss working and such an innovative company with awesome people.

San Francisco is an amazing place and I hope to come back and visit regularly.  In particular I’m going to miss the great food and cheap, quality beer here.  I don’t think there’s another city in the world that offers such excellent grub.

Surprisingly, I’m also going to miss baseball.  I never really followed before I came to SF and now I’m a huge Giants fan.  I guess I’ll be getting an MLB.tv account for next summer.

That all being said, I’m extremely pumped to give Vancouver as a try as my new home city.  To be close to friends, family and of course the Canucks is going to be an amazing experience!  I’m looking forward to finding my next professional team to join and to make an impact in a great organization.