Finding a New Home during a Pandemic

It’s been months since COVID landed in North America and many are growing tired of the constant lock down and restrictions placed on us. It’s no longer the kind of life we used to know. Many of us have retreated in isolation to stay safe and many are out of work. Many were affected economically, that some families have had to move from their homes either because of eviction or because they simply want to move to a more affordable home.

Because of the remote work situation, people no longer have to live in the downtown or city core. In fact, many are even moving to the suburbs for cheaper rent and larger space to accommodate more activities at home.

With the strict protocols around viewing homes, looking for a new place to rent is not so easy. Some only offer video showings while others won’t show at all. In the beginning of COVID, many landlords were showing only photos but with the roll out of new COVID rules, property managers and landlords, once again, can show places with masks and sanitization as mandatory procedures.

So, if you are also thinking of moving to a new home during COVID, here are a few things you need consider:

Because of the remote work situation, people no longer have to live in the downtown or city core. In fact, many are even moving to the suburbs for cheaper rent and larger space to accommodate more activities at home.

Finding the Perfect Location

If you can work remotely, you don’t necessarily need to be living near your office anymore. But you may want to consider still being in the catchment area of your children’s school. Find a location that is still close to many of the amenities like grocery stores, convenience stores, libraries and parks. You will want to be walking distance from some critical services so that you won’t need a car or have to take public transport to access things you may need on a daily basis.

Just remember that when COVID lifts, you will want to ensure this location is still a viable option to live if you have to return to work and kids have to return to school.

Online Search

The best places to look for rent is online. Aside from Craigslist, there are other regional or national rental sites that offer filtering options to save you time. If you have a budget, just input your price range and some even have a map so you can just focus on the area you want to live in. Use sites that offer advanced search tools to save you time with your search.

When you find some good ads, read them thoroughly as some may offer move in incentives. During the earlier part of COVID, landlords were not able to evict tenants so vacancy was low. After the eviction ban was lifted, many were evicted for non-payment, then suddenly there was a large number of rental units available in the market. With higher vacancy and a depressed economy, many property managers were offering incentives like free one month or free internet, just to get their unit rented. So read the ads completely and see if some offer move in incentives that could save you quite a bit of money.

COVID Radar

One of the essential things to consider when looking for a place is whether the area has a high case of COVID. You will want to ensure that you are aware of the situation in that area and be extra cautious and diligent in wearing masks while outside and in common areas indoors. Unfortunately, we never know when one safe area could be hit rampantly with COVID, so a decision to find a “safe” place now may not turn out to be a safe place later. Just be aware and be cautious.

Neighbours and Neighbourhood

Before you decide to rent an apartment or a house, try to talk to a few people living around the neighbourhood. Get an idea of who your neighbours are and the demographic of the people in the area. Are there families living there with kids at similar age as your kids? Are there mostly young single people? Ask the neighbours if there are any problems in the neighbourhood.

Find out about the crime statistics of the area as well. Look around and see what types of shops are in the area. Are there pawn shops, cannabis retailers, drug rehab facilities or halfway houses? Are there suspicious activities happening around the neighbourhood? Drive around a 1 km radius from the home you want to rent to ensure you get a good sense of the community.

When you are a single parent, having a friendly neighbour is a blessing. They can be relied on to keep an eye on your home and even your kids if they also have kids of the same age.

Cost of Moving

Once you find a location that meets all your requirements, you might want to calculate your costs and make sure this move will actually make sense to you.

Factor in the following costs:

1) MOVERS
Professional Movers
– Cost per hour
– Additional costs (miscellaneous)
Self Moving
– truck rental per hour
– dolly and furniture blankets
– ramp cost
– additional insurance
– gas
– additional mileage (if applicable)
2) PACKING MATERIALS
– boxes
– bubble wrap
– shrink wrap

Let’s assume an example for costs (see below) which adds up to approximately net $550 including the first month free rent incentive. Now you have the total annual living expense for year 1.

Annual
Rent @ $1100/month (new place) $13,200
Add Moving Costs $700
Add Packing Materials Cost $100
Add Security Deposit (1/2 month rent) $550
Add move in fees (if applicable) $0
Add utilities and internet install charge $50
Add Cleaning costs for old and new place $250
Minus Incentive Offers (one month free) -$1,100
Total Costs including rent and moving $13,750

After calculating all the expenses, then calculate the potential savings that this move will generate after one year:

Year I Year 2 Year 3
Old Living Expenses (rent $1400) $ 16,800 $ 16,800 $ 16,800
New Living Expenses (rent $1100) $ 13,750 $ 13,200 $ 13,200
Savings $ 3,050 $ 3,600 $ 3,600

You will now get the total monthly costs with the moving expense included in year 1. If this amount is still lower than your current rent, then it would make economic sense. Otherwise, it may take you two or more years to see the savings from your move.

Visiting the Rental

When you view the property, make sure the landlord is following proper COVID procedures and everyone is wearing a mask at all times. Don’t touch handles if possible or at least wear gloves and bring a sanitizer so you don’t have to depend on them for this.

During COVID, you might want to also ensure that the property has not had any occupants that have been COVID positive. You will want to ask the Landlord if the property will be vacant for a few days before move in to ensure there are no lingering viruses and that it will be thoroughly sanitized before move-in. This will give you peace of mind knowing your family will be safe upon move-in.

Moving Day

If you’re ready to move, just keep in mind that everyone should be masked and wearing gloves. Bring a sanitizer with you at all times. Remember that droplets can be transmitted in closed spaces more easily and some wear non-medical masks that don’t offer enough protection.

It might be a challenge to find help from family members but try to get as many friends and family to help during this time who are healthy so you don’t feel as much stress.

Because moving is quite strenuous and may require taking off the mask in order to breathe, remember that movers including your friends, should be in the open if they are trying to catch their breath and need to remove their mask. It’s easy to forget the precautions but set those rules early in the process so everyone remains safe at all times.

Your kids (if younger), may need to be cared for while you are moving. You may want to leave them with a relative or friends and get them after your move is complete.

Settling In

Moving from one location to another is not an easy task in normal times. Then add the complexity of COVID, and suddenly you have to think about the cleanliness of the new place, the proper protocols of moving and then ensuring your old place gets the same cleaning treatment as the new place.

Layer this with the challenge of finding friends to help you move and the difficulty of trying to find reliable relatives who can look after the kids while you move, this can all be too much for a single parent to handle. So ensure that you go back to the numbers and ask yourself whether the move will allow you to get more space and more rental savings while not compromising the comforts of your old neighbourhood. This move needs to make sense in the long term for you post-COVID as well.

At some point in the near future, we will be able to go back to a lifestyle very similar to what we know so keep in mind that this move should still not create a commute stress for you if you had to go back to the office daily or a few times a week.  

 

Chanelle Dupre

Chanelle Dupre is a writer of parenting articles and was a single parent for 20 years to two sons now in their late 20's. She had a column in 3 newspapers and this blog is a curation of old and new stories around the challenges of single parenting and ideas on how to make life easier.

Related Posts