The Thinning Toronto Rental Market


5 minute read

July 14, 2009

Despite the torrid pace of the resale real estate market in Toronto, today I choose to write about the ridiculous hoops one must jump through in order to secure a mere rental!

I have stories a-plenty, but here are the trials and tribulations of one of my clients who I advised to take something from Craigslist when I just couldn’t help him anymore…


While I’m sure he had an actual first name, he immediately became known to me as “The Fox.”

The Fox was referred to me by a good friend of mine with whom he attended Western University.  The Fox was so similar to my friend, in fact, that I had to keep reminding myself that they were not one and the same.

The Fox was from Calgary and thus was slightly more laid back.  His stampede belt buckle and non-designer sunglasses was all the evidence I needed…

The Fox and his girlfriend, Laura, lived in Hamilton where Laura was attending medical school, but Fox worked in Markham and commuted every day.  They soon made a decision that they would move to Toronto where all their friends lived, and Fox would have a lesser commute to work in Markham while Laura would take the Go Train three days a week to school in Hamilton.

The property search began in May, and finally concluded last night when they signed the lease for a property in the Queen West area.  I did not represent them in this transaction, however, since our three previous failed attempts led me to believe that it was time for them to simply take anything and not worry about any false sense of loyalty to me.

Our first foray into the rental market was the biggest disappointment of them all.

After viewing so-so properties two weekends in a row, we found an incredible property on Queen Street right across from Trinity Bellwoods Park for a mere $1550/month including parking.  The condo was somewhat smaller than we had hoped at 590 square feet, but it came with a massive 525 square foot patio.  For those of you playing along at home – this is, in fact, larger than my 440 square foot patio that I brag about on occasion…

This property hit the market at about 9PM on a Tuesday, and I called The Fox to tell him that there would be action on it as soon as tomorrow.  Sight unseen, we both knew that this was “the one.”

The property required 24 hours notice to book a viewing, thus we couldn’t actually see it until Thursday morning since there were no showings allowed on the Wednesday.  I had an offer prepared, and on Thursday, The Fox signed it while seated at the kitchen table in the very unit he hoped to one day be living in.

I faxed my offer to the listing agent just before noon, and had her paged.  I left a voicemail on her cell phone, and scaned and emailed the offer to her as well.

I waited.  And, I waited some more…

Maybe I have no life, but realizing this is a 24/7 business, I’m literally available 24/7.

This listing agent, clearly was not.

I got a call back from her on Thursday night at about 8PM telling me that there was already another offer on the table.  Somebody had submitted an offer on the property on Wednesday without even seeing it!

I worried that this offer had been accepted, but she instead told me that she didn’t have time to view the offer(s) until Friday.  Our offer had expired on Thursday night (crazy me to assume that twelve hours was enough time to look at three sheets of paper…), so we re-submitted one on Friday morning.

On Friday night, and after five phone calls and emails, the listing agent called me to tell me that there were now seven offers on the property.

She seemed so elated.  “Oh My Gawd,” she proclaimed like a seventeen-year-old girl talking on her cell on the back of the bus, “This is nutty!  I could totally get like twenty offers if I waited a few more days!”

I asked her why she needed “like” twenty offers, and why ONE wouldn’t suffice.  She said she didn’t need all the offers, but it was certainly “cool.”

She said that she would review all the offers that night, including the one she had received over forty-eight hours earlier, and get back to me on Saturday morning.  She told me that a two-year lease would probably put my offer in a better light, so The Fox & Laura amended their offer.

By Saturday evening, I was beyond fed up.  I had been calling the listing agent all day, and she had yet to respond.

At around 8PM on Saturday night, I finally reached her.  She told me that they hadn’t made a “decision” yet, and that she’d let me know.  I asked her point blank: “Do we have any shot at this, or not?”  She told me, “No.”

Apparently, somebody had offered a three-year lease with much more money.

I asked her why the hell she didn’t call me earlier and tell me this.  Why was she wasting my time?  She said, “Well, nothing is official yet.”

The property was leased for $1675/month with a three year term, while the “asking” was $1550 for one year.

What a *$@# joke.

Fast forward two weeks, and eight potential properties later, and The Fox, Laura, and myself are sitting in my car signing a lease for a unit on Niagara Street.  The property had been on the market for two days, but showings were limited to that Wednesday night from 6-8PM.  There was a lineup of agents at the door!

Planning to drive to Kinko’sand fax the offer to the listing agen’ts office, I called her first to tell her the “great news” – my clients would be making a full price offer with an immediate possession date!

But as luck would have it, she told me that had SOLD the unit the night earlier.

Disheartened, and dissapointed, I asked her why she didn’t call me advise me NOT to waste my time?

Ironically she said, “Well, nothing was official yet.”


Add these two experiences to the attempt to lease a property on August 1st that was seeking a July 15th possession date, and it made three strikes for The Fox, Laura, and myself.

For two very upbeat, positive, and jovial people, they looked like they’d had enough of the Toronto rental market.

Two days later, however, The Fox called me to say that they found a property from Craigslist and they were going to sign a lease.  I told him to go ahead, without question, and seal the deal!

I’ve had what seems like more than my fair share of difficulties within the rental market in our city, but after discussions with my colleagues, it proved to be par for the course.

For every “quality” property that hits the market, there seems to be 4-5 potential lessees lurking around the corner.

The Fox didn’t get a raw deal in the end.  The part-time Realtor who leased him the property from Craigslist made an error on the lease and put $1200 instead of $1550, both in numbers and in words, ie. “A sum of twelve-hundred-dollars and no cents.”

I told him that he has a legally binding contract, and that as soon as he takes possession of the condo, he should hand over post-dated cheques for $1200, and take advantage of the $350 per month mistake.

I told him to get in touch with a real estate lawyer, and be prepared for a fight.  But any lawyer will tell you the same thing – you’ve got a legal document showing a rent of $1200, and the lease is for a period of one year.  The landlord can’t do ANYTHING about it.

The Fox may be from Calgary and may be a little more laid-back, but he’s not about to kick a gift-horse in the mouth…

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

Find Out More About David Read More Posts

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1 Comment

  1. Brad

    at 8:44 am

    Pipes – you are the greatest. I love this story and my heart goes out to that poor lad from out west. Great job exposing those agents who just don’t get it.

    Thanks pal.

Pick5 is a weekly series comparing and analyzing five residential properties based on price, style, location, and neighbourhood.

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