Tips on finding accommodation in Whistler.

Finding a place to live in Whistler can be difficult.  Some people get sorted pretty quickly, and others (like us) take a bit longer.  Some of our friends only spent a few nights in a hostel before getting a house, and moved in the day after viewing it.  We viewed a few places (okay, ten) before settling on one and signing for it.  It was exhausting, and I think Jay was getting a bit fed up of me saying “no” to every place we looked at.  But I knew deep down that these places weren’t right for us, and I’m not one to ignore a gut feeling.

This is by no means a complete, detailed or comprehensive guide, but I just wanted to share some tips from our house-hunt, and hope that they can be of help to someone else some day :)

1.  Get in early
Whistler is an extremely popular place for transient/seasonal workers from abroad, most of whom tend to arrive in early November.  This means that November is the hardest month to find accommodation, because the competition is tough.  The prices are also hiked way up over the winter months, usually starting from November.  Because of the competition to get the decent places, you need to be fast.  The Pique Magazine comes out every Thursday, you knew that, right?  Did you know that the new issue goes online on Wednesday evenings?  If you’re using the Pique to find housing, this is your best bet of getting in early, before the owner/landlord gets inundated with phone calls.
Craigslist is the other popular place to find accommodation, and it’s updated daily, if not more frequently throughout the day.  Again, you need to get in early.  Be up and ready for 9am, so that you can sift through the advertisements, pick out the ones that suit you, and call the landlords.  If you see a decent ad on Craigslist from the previous day, or even from that morning, chances are it will be taken already.  This is serious business.

2. Be realistic about your budget
Whistler is expensive.  That makes sense; it is a ski resort.  Rent here is going to cost you probably double what you paid at home.  At the beginning of our search, I held out hope that we would find somewhere cheaper but still decent.  I was wrong; there is no such thing.  Even for the shabbiest, tiniest, most grotty of studio apartments, you will have to fork out a lot of cash.  Most landlords require a deposit upfront, worth a month and a half’s rent, so factor that into your budget too.  Living in Whistler is costly, so expect to sacrifice your usual luxuries in order to pay your rent.  I’m not saying you’ll have to scrounge to survive, but just be realistic about your spending.

3. View, and view again
So, you’ve got lucky and scored a viewing at a really sweet house.  When you go to view it, consider all aspects of the place.  Is anyone else home?  If not, what will it be like when everyone is home?  Is there room for all your stuff; is there cupboard/fridge space, somewhere to put your skis/board, closet space, etc?  If you’re going to be sharing your room with someone you don’t know (which is very common here), and they aren’t home when you view the place, arrange another viewing so you can meet them in person.  Remember, you are going to be sharing a room with this person, and in theory they will have open access to all of your belongings; you should at least meet to say hi before you unpack.
You may want to view the house during the day and in the evening.  Houses/apartments often feel very different depending on the time of day, so while it might seem like a quiet, family residential area when you viewed it at 11am, it could be a very different scene twelve hours later.  Double check and double view.

4. Ask questions and take photos
House or apartment viewings are often over within five minutes or less, so when you’re considering your options once you get home, it can be easy to forget what the place actually looked like, especially if you’ve looked at several places in a short space of time.  Take photos as you go around, just quick ones on your phone will do.
Ask the landlord and current tenants plenty of questions.  Anything you want to know, just ask.  Things that you should enquire about include: bills (are they all included in the rent, if not, how much extra can you expect to pay per month?), washing facilities (we viewed a place quite far from the village which had no washer/dryer, and the owner told us we could just take our laundry on the bus.  No thank you), having friends over, how general household things work (like making sure everyone does their own dishes etc), things like that.  Ask while you are there, because it will be harder to get answers once you’ve left the property.

5.  Dress to impress
Maybe not literally (though that wouldn’t hurt), but when you speak to a landlord, or view a property, you need to impress them.  Don’t walk your muddy boots all through their carpets, and don’t talk about partying non-stop.  Do be polite and courteous, and do be friendly to any existing tenants that are there during your viewing.  Treat a house-viewing like you would a job interview, because that is essentially what this is.  The landlord is assessing you, and they won’t say yes to an overly loud, hard-partier who is going to make a mess in the kitchen and keep everyone else awake all night with their music.  A landlord can say no to you, as easily as you can say no to them.

6. Jump to it
Once you’ve decided that this place is right for you, get on it.  Call the landlord immediately and let them know that you want it.  Make sure you are clear on the deposit, payment schedule, and when you can move in.  Don’t hand over any money without signing a contract.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should rush into anything, but once you’ve made that all important decision, don’t waste any more time, because every minute you delay is a minute someone else could be snapping up your room.

7.  Keep looking
You’ve viewed several places and just aren’t feeling it?  Don’t give up; keep looking.  You will find somewhere.  As I said, we viewed ten places before settling on the one we chose.  As we walked around them, I was taking a serious look at what it would be like to live there.  For example, we viewed one house and the landlord said as we walked in, “Sorry about the mess, we had a party last night and haven’t had time to clean up yet.”  The place stank, it was filthy, there were flies in the kitchen, there were two dogs running around the entire house and climbing over the furniture, you get the picture.  Sure, they might have had a party, but what I was seeing was not the result of a few hours of partying.  Another place we viewed seemed perfect, but when we spoke to the landlord to arrange a viewing, she neglected to mention her cat, dog and two children who also lived with her.  We discovered this as we walked around the apartment.  It was actually the cat that killed it for me; I’m allergic.  So we kept looking.  It was pretty boring, and at one point I thought we were going to end up living in a hostel for the whole season.  Our landlord actually told us that come December, when all the places are snapped up, people end up living in tents.  I thought she was joking, but it turns out she was deadly serious.  While I don’t mean to panic you, I’d hate for you to end up freezing (quite literally) in a tent in several feet of snow, so please realise that this is serious.  One of our friends was sleeping in his car, and I was concerned that he was going to get ill.  Thankfully he has found a room now, though I suspect his organs are still defrosting from those below-zero nights.

8.  Go with your gut
If you get an uneasy feeling about a place while you’re viewing it, don’t go for it.  Simple as.  This goes the other way too; if you really like a place and think it’s right for you, then go for it.

That’s all I have by way of advice.  It’s really annoying me that I have seven points; prime numbers are not my favourite. I added in another point, so we’re at an even number now, phew.
As for my house, I am yet to get decent photographs (interiors of houses are really hard to capture!), so for now I’ll just share this photo I took on my phone of the outside:


I hope this was helpful.  If you have any other things you think I should add to this, leave it in a comment and I will add them on.

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