This is What it’s Like to Have to Move in Toronto During COVID-19

move during COVID
Courtesy of Emily Hatfield

Emily and Matt had been living in a 2-bed, 2-bath with a roommate at Concert Properties’ Motion building at 570 Bay Street when they decided to move out.

It was time for the couple to get their own place, and, when they gave their notice at Motion, they felt confident they’d be able to find the apartment of their dreams within the two-month window they had until their lease was up on April 30th.

Enter: COVID-19.

Suddenly, time – not to mention never-before-seen restrictions on businesses and properties – was not on their side.

Thankfully, Emily is the Marketing Manager at PSR, a full-service real estate brokerage in Toronto. This means that when it came time to find an apartment she had an agent she could count on to help.

“Everybody is anxious about life as a whole right now, so having to prep clients for what’s going to happen… helps a lot for them to be able to focus on the units rather than thinking ‘oh my god how am I going to be able to find a place,’” says Theresa Laroza, the sales rep who helped Emily and Matt find their new loft in the city’s west end.

But it wasn’t exactly an easy process.

“It was pretty stressful,” Emily says. She and Matt watched a lot of video tours as the narrowed their search down to just four properties. If they liked the sound of a particular rental but it didn’t have a video, Laroza would go and shoot a video walkthrough on her phone for them. From the final four, Emily and Matt focused in on their favourite, a $2100 per month 1-bed, 1-bath in Toronto’s east end.

They signed a form ensuring that they hadn’t been out of the country or had any symptoms of COVID-19 and went to see the place. They loved it and immediately put in an offer to take it. Sadly, the landlord decided at the last minute that they weren’t interested in having a couple live there.

“We were looking at The Beaches and in areas near High Park,” explains Emily. “We really wanted to be close to nature.” So when, after the east end rental fell apart, Laroza suggested they look at a loft near Dundas West Station, Emily was keen.

The unit was a 1-bed, 1-bath in the Wallace Station Lofts, a beautifully restored 100-year-old factory building that houses 38 units and overlooks the West Toronto Railpath.

moving during COVID
Courtesy of Emily Hatfield

Emily and Matt toured the vacant loft with Laroza in mid-April. Laroza mentions that she hasn’t seen any units on the market right now that aren’t empty; gone are the days of having current renters step out for an afternoon so prospective ones are able to come through. Everything is sterile now. Emily and Matt aren’t supposed to touch anything. If they want to see inside a cupboard or a closet, or even open a door, Laroza does it for them using a Lysol wipe.

Another major change Laroza has seen is the almost complete reversal of the rental process. Pre-COVID, potential renters could essentially tour any property they wanted before signalling the slightest bit of interest in actually wanting to move into it. Now, given all the health concerns and market anxiety, Laroza says she’s seeing what amounts to pre-qualifying for renters before they’re even allowed into a unit. That is a drastic change in the renter/potential-unit relationship.

moving during COVID
Courtesy of Emily Hatfield

Emily and Matt’s case was no different. By the time they were allowed in to see the Wallace Station Loft the landlord had already all but agreed to let them have it if they wanted it, says Laroza.

“The loft was a pipe dream,” Emily says. “They wanted pristine credit checks.” The couple had to submit their application and all paperwork before being allowed to see it. But Emily was worried as Matt, who had been bartending, was temporary let go during the pandemic. Still, they loved it, and even though it shot past their initial budget at $2600 a month (+ heat and hydro), they crossed their fingers that the landlord would say yes.

They didn’t have to wait long to find out the good news.

move during COVID
Courtesy of Emily Hatfield

The couple signed the lease for the 950 sq. ft. apartment little more than two weeks before they would be moving in. Emily says renting a U-Haul was generally the same experience it had always been, but ordering boxes online meant going somewhere like Home Depot to pick them up, which meant waiting in long lines to get them. As well, Emily’s parents were initially going to come to the city to help with the move, but given the outbreak, they no longer wanted to make the trip. Luckily, Matt’s good friends, a couple, offered to help out, while doing their best to adhere to physical distancing restrictions.

They say the sign of a good friend is knowing that you can ask them to help you move. Getting someone to help you move with two weeks notice during a pandemic? That’s soulmate level stuff right there.

Speaking of kindred spirits, not even a month after signing the lease, Emily tells us, “We’re very happy now, we love the place.”

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