When you’re looking for a new place to live, it can be very nerve-wracking – whether you’re racing the clock to find a new place before your lease runs out or you’re in need of a new place for your growing family. One of the first places that tech-savvy people check is the internet, of course, but navigating through the chaos of the online rental market can be incredibly time-consuming and exhausting, so we’re going to go through a few of the best websites that showcase rentals, and talk about the pros and cons of each.
Number one in the market has to be Craigslist. It is something of a mystery how such a simple website became such a titan of classified ads, but it’s hard to argue with the blunt simplicity it offers. Free rental ads and a huge userbase make it your number one place to check, and there is a section of the site specifically for Calgary. When I was searching for my last rental, I kept 5 tabs open for a month, each displaying a different search term in the craigslist rentals section. Then I’d simply click ‘search’ a few times a day to get the most up to date listings possible – because there is such a huge userbase, places get rented out quickly! But there is a dark side to being popular as well – scammers are often attracted to Craigslist because of the number of desperate people involved. There are a few key things to keep in mind when avoiding scammers, and you’ll be able to have a safe and productive renting experience. Most importantly, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If the place you’re looking at is far cheaper than similarly-equipped homes, that’s the first red flag. Secondly, if the landlord claims they are out of the country and need to ship you the keys via courier, this is DEFINITELY a red flag. While I was applying, I went through many great listings, that wound up being from someone pretending to be an Anglican bishop in Zambia, who had a “rental application form” included within the email. Even if they don’t successfully scam you with the rental, they are still collecting information that could be later used for identity theft. Report these people to craigslist as scammers, and help out the community. If you’re careful, Craigslists is a great tool – just be on your guard.
Second most popular is ViewIt – although I really am at a loss to explain why. I guess it’s because they are one of the few rental sites that has an offline component – as a landlord listing a property, you can get a sign placed outside the property, which has great sticky power. While the site covers rentals Canada-wide, the website is a nightmare to use, and seems to have been designed in the mid-1990s and never updated. Far too few listings appear, and the site is slow to access its database and display the listings you’ve searched for. Additionally, you’re unable to search by keywords, which is of prime importance for those of us with a lot of rental experience. ViewIt is really best for finding a place run by larger landlord companies who own high-rise apartment buildings (or a string of them). If you’re looking for a place for rent by the owner, then be sure to check out Craigslist, but you can occasionally get lucky with ViewIt.
The other decent thing about ViewIt is that the listings must be approved, so there is a greatly reduced risk of being scammed. Don’t let your guard down completely, but it’s not as much of a Wild West as Craigslist has become.
Finally, the other big player in the Calgary rental market is RentSpot. This site is Canada-wide, but also features a ‘zoomed in’ section on Calgary specifically. It has a decent number of listings and search filters, but again it doesn’t let you narrow down your selections the way Craigslist does using a keyword search. Savvy Google users will know about the site: operator, but if the company can’t bother to design a decent user experience, they don’t get my business. Filters were a good option, but not quite enough. One good thing about RentSpot is that it allows you to build up a ‘favourites’ list that can be very useful when you’re not sure what places you want to investigate further.
So there you have it – Craigslist is the clear winner, with Rentspot coming in a distant second. Don’t bother with ViewIt unless you’ve run out of other options – remember, there’s always the Calgary Sun!