Moving to Toronto? This guide is a great primer for anyone relocating to Ontario's beautiful capital.
Here's what you're getting into:
- Not a BuzzFeed listicle. This relocation guide is not a BuzzFeed-style "15 Things You Need To Know Before Moving To Toronto" listicle. I've found those offer no actual insights for planning an entire move.
- Actual guidance. This guide will offer helpful insights, tips and resources about planning and making the move to Toronto.
- What's inside. I'll cover everything from the cost of living in Toronto, how to find an apartment, best neighborhoods and tips on moving your stuff from A-to-B.
- Relocating from the States. There's also a special section on moving to Tornoto from the United States, that will be helpful for anyone relocating from Canada's southern neighbor.
Full disclosure, this article is really geared towards anyone who will be looking to rent an apartment (versus buying a home) — that's my area of expertise. And of course, you can always reach out to [email protected] if you have specific questions and I'll get back to you personally.
If that all sounds useful to you, then read on!
Before you dive in, check out this awesome time lapse footage of Toronto from Stéphane Legrand!
Let's start with a high-level overview on Toronto's rental market.
The #1 priority for most people who are relocating for work or school is to find long-term housing. Here are the broad strokes of the rental market in Toronto:
- Toronto is the most expensive city in Canada by cost of living. And we won't sugarcoat it; it's also one of the priciest cities in Canada to rent in. So while it may not be the most exciting ways to begin your search for an apartment, really understanding what your "must haves" and "nice to haves" will be important for setting a sensible budget.
- There are 140 neighborhoods officially recognized by the City of Toronto and upwards of 240 official and unofficial neighborhoods within the city's boundaries. We just wanted to prepare you if you're not familiar with the area, so you can start to understand where in Chicagoland you'll want to live.
- Summer move in dates are popular, which can make searching then hectic. The demand for apartments is really high between the months of June and September, meaning applications can get way more competitive. If you can swing it, renting "off season" can offer a less stressful search experience. If you're relocating for work and don't have much say on your timetable, that's totally fine and you're going to find a great apartment.
Let's jump into the main sections of this guide:
- The cost of living in Toronto: a look at what everyday costs will look like for you.
- Average rent prices in Toronto: examining rent prices in Ontario's capital. This will help with monthly rent budget setting.
- Best neighborhoods in Toronto: exploring the most attractive neighborhoods for people in different life stages (recent grad vs. young family).
- How to find an apartment in Toronto: checking out different approaches and costs to finding an apartment in Toronto.
- Moving to Toronto from the US: some useful resources for all United States citizens about to embark on their exciting journey to Canada!
Cost of living in Toronto.
The EY personal tax calculator lets you plug in your anticipated annual income to see the tax rate and take-home pay you can expect when living in Canada. Row 5 is Ontario.
Average rent in Toronto.
According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, these are the official average prices for renting in Toronto as of 2015 in Canadian dollars:
- $942 per month for a studio (called a "bachelor" apartment here)
- $1,110 per month for a one-bedroom apartment
- $1,301 per month for a two-bedroom apartment
Convert that to American dollars and it’s around $725, $855, or $1,000 per month respectively (depending on the exchange rate). That’s comparable to some of the cheapest big cities in the U.S. Non-official sources report somewhat higher prices, however.
Click the image below for better resolution and the full infographic that includes pricing for studios, 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom apartments.
Source: Toronto Life
Best neighborhoods in Toronto and where to live.
As mentioned above, there are 140 official neighborhoods in Toronto, divided amongst 6 "boroughs" — Old Toronto, Etobicoke, North York, East York, York, and Scarborough.
Look no further for the best information possible on all 140 of Toronto's neighborhoods than Toronto Life's "Ultimate Neighbourhood Rankings" guide.
I'll let their own introduction to it do the introducing: "We present a ranking of Toronto’s 140 neighbourhoods—a definitive document that separates the great from the good, the average from the awful. We teamed up with the urbanists, economists, sociologists and information scientists at the Martin Prosperity Institute, a think tank at U of T’s Rotman School of Management. They crunched every stat they could drum up: census data, community health profiles, the Fraser Institute’s school report cards, the Toronto Police Service crime figures and independent studies."
Click here or on the picture below to access the interactive map. You can customize the output by adjusting what matters most to you in a neighborhood (housing affordability, crime rate, transit, etc.).
I'll also direct you to check out the page specific to housing, which has a wealth of information — everything from which areas have the highest concentrations of renters to the best neighborhoods for home value appreciation.
How to find an apartment in Toronto.
Finding and renting apartments in Toronto is both much easier and much more difficult than normal because of the government’s involvement in the process. Rent is somewhat controlled, but on the other hand, the vacancy rate is low. What are some of the top tips for finding apartments in Toronto that are reasonable in both rent and living situation? Check it out these awesome resources below!
Also, Settlement.org is an extensive resource on the steps to find rental housing in Toronto. Check it out by clicking the image below!
Moving to Toronto from the US?
Again, Settlement.org is a phenomenal resource that answers some really big important questions (maybe even questions you didn't know to ask) like:
- How can I apply to immigrate to Ontario?
- How long does it take to process my immigration application?
- How can I come to Canada as a skilled worker?
- What is Ontario Express Entry?
Definitely check out TurboTax's article titled "How Are Taxes Assessed for U.S. Citizens Working in Canada?" As they mention in the opening sentences of the article, "U.S. citizens have a number of possible income tax scenarios arising from employment in Canada." So it's definitely worth checking out to make sure you're not unintentionally avoiding the IRS in some way!
Some other helpful tips!
Are you planning on moving to Toronto, Canada, from the US? If so, here are some of the most important things for you to know. Have an easier move and take the edge off of all of the culture shock with our pointers. Remember, just as “…one does not simply walk into Mordor…” one does not simply move to Canada; it takes some planning.
How much should I save before I move?
It’s a very bad (and somewhat impossible) idea to move to Toronto with an empty wallet. The government requires that you have a job lined up to move here (or more than $10,000). Because of the high cost of living, if you don’t have a job set up already, you’ll need to prove that you have enough funds saved to cross the border. It depends on the size of your family, but one person alone needs $10,833 (which is around $8,310 in US dollars) saved up to be considered for immigration. For a family of four, you’ll need $20,130 (which is around $15,450 in US dollars).
Taxes are very, very high compared to the US; that includes both income taxes and sales tax. At least Canadian government officials provide somewhat straightforward numbers. If you’re a typical professional who earns somewhere in the range of $50,000 to $80,000 per year, you’re going to be paying 20.5 percent in federal tax and 9.15 percent in provincial taxes. Sales tax is 13 percent. This is possibly the most jarring thing about moving to Toronto. From US cheap taxes and little service to big-government help and a lot of taxes, those moving need to keep in mind that Canada is more like much of Europe than the US. If you have a job with a fair salary, use calculators to figure out how much will be taken out.
Partially due to the high taxes, the overall cost of living in Toronto is very high. Those moving here will see the average rent costs and often get excited at the comparatively cheaper prices, but one must also look at the sales tax, expensive groceries, very pricey phone plans, and overall increase in costs for even basic goods and services before moving. Help Toronto newbies get used to the new prices if you’re moving as a group by creating a budget together before you go and comparing it to the prices available there now.
Altogether, having a job plus a cushion of about $5,000 is not a bad idea.
Image source: telegraph.co.uk
How does one figure out where to live in Toronto?
It’s called “the city of neighborhoods” for a reason; there are so many awesome areas of Toronto. Moving can be hard only because you need to find the best area for you to rent in. Use our online neighborhood guide to find the right area for you to look for a listing.
It’s important to keep in mind that the high cost of living relates to other factors besides rent when moving to Toronto, Canada. In cities like New York or Boston, that’s often the reverse. That being said, you should take the time to find a cheaper apartment in a good area to curb other costs.
Rent is regulated somewhat. Laws are often in favor of tenants in Toronto, and the city has a fairly tight system of rent control, especially for older buildings. The average rent in Toronto is still rapidly increasing and high in some areas. You’ll want to ask your landlord if the rent is regulated and for any important paperwork regarding this.
Toronto is huge, so map out the public transportation system when you’re shopping for apartments. In a sense, the city is more of a system of suburbs, so if you want cheap transportation without having to worry about a car, stick to the central areas. The locals will tell you that the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) services are terrible and that you shouldn’t bother. Don’t believe the locals’ bashing: The TTC is just fine. Just know that the streetcars occasionally do get stuck in traffic.
What should I expect when moving to Toronto in terms of culture shock?
Americans sometimes think of Canada as “America’s hat,” but it’s important to remember that you’re in a different country, with a different culture and set of laws. For instance, locals often use British English writing conventions. When you’re sending emails back and forth with a new manager or client, you’ll see words that may seem misspelled to you: They’ll use “cheques” instead of “checks,” “pay rise” instead of “raise,” and “colour” instead of “color.” Like in British English, these are closer to the French terms. Punctuation rules occasionally differ as well.
Also, there are important legal differences Americans should get used to. There are plenty of differences in the laws, but the most jarring ones for Americans relate to the freedom of speech and the freedom to bear arms, which are more restricted in Canada. This is the most problematic distinction when moving to Toronto from US cities with American sensibilities. For instance, hate speech may land you in court. There are other differences, too, naturally; it’s illegal to smoke in public areas, for example, and drunk driving will likely lead to a felony charge in the Great White North.
And as a parting bit of fun...
...check out this awesome infogrpahic with 50 "insane" facts about Canada: