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Sarah Crookall with keys. Right: Ottawa rental.

Sarah Crookall with keys. Right: Ottawa rental.

Sarah Crookall | Narcity Media, James Barss Angus

When fall hits in Ottawa, the search for the perfect place to get cozy for the winter begins for many locals.

But the cost of rental units is soaring right now — in September, the average projected price for a one-bedroom apartment in the capital was $1,820, according to That’s up $128 from the $1,692 average renters saw in July.

Ottawa real estate advisor James Barss Angus estimates that rental costs have spiked 30% over the last couple of years. He told Narcity he’s seeing many one-bedroom listings that aren’t studios for around $2,100.

What’s driving that increase? Lots of factors, he says, including market demand and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since 2020, housing has gone up 40%. So for young buyers, or anybody trying to get into the market, it's a lot more challenging, especially now with the interest rates changing," he told Narcity.

The realtor shared some tips with Narcity on how to find affordable digs during a money pinch. In addition to looking for somewhere with a good walkability score and on-site amenities, Barss Angus points out one key thing to avoid, too.

​What's your general advice for finding an Ottawa apartment under $2,000?​

“Most definitely use an agent," Barss Angus said. "Try and find a realtor that is going to help you find an apartment because that doesn't cost you anything.”

Barss Angus went on to say that any necessary paperwork can be done by the agent who is paid by the landlord.

“It's a very beneficial thing to do because if you just went on Marketplace, or Kijiji, you don't know who you're renting from. And there are some scummy landlords out there that will take advantage of the young adults.”

Which Ottawa neighbourhoods are the cheapest and most expensive?

“The most expensive areas to live now are probably Westboro, Hintonburg, New Edinburgh — those are pretty high-end areas to live," Barss Angus told Narcity.

“Living downtown in the (ByWard) Market and Centretown are still, kind of, affordable. I think like living in Centretown is actually an ideal area or even in Dows Lake area. That's pretty good. So, it's kind of, like, Ottawa West.”

What percentage of your income should you be allocating to housing?

James Barss Angus. Right: Ottawa rental.James Barss Angus. Right: Ottawa rental.James Barss Angus

“You’re allocating about 45%, we say, on average, for your living expenses of your wages," Barss Angus said. "That’s a lot of money — it used to be you spent 30%, which is a big difference.

“That 15% for saving money towards a down payment to buy a house and get yourself into the market is becoming more challenging, for sure, for younger buyers and anybody trying to buy their first property.”

Is renter's insurance necessary?

“You probably have to have tenancy insurance with a lease, but even so, it's so beneficial because it's like 15 to 20 bucks a month or something like that," Barss Angus told Narcity.

The Ottawa realtor says insurance is a blessing when you experience theft or damage, like if someone breaks in or you have a fire.

“So, definitely — 100%. And it's pretty much mandatory now in most leases that I do. It may not be for somebody that is renting their own place on Facebook Marketplace.

“You should just do it anyway, even if they don't require it.”

How can you get your ideal place when the market is so competitive?

“That credit check really comes into play," Barss Angus said. "Having good references, and then sometimes, if you really want the apartment, paying a little more than what they're asking.

“It does happen — if you paid 25 bucks more a month, or something like that, that would be something that's attractive, obviously. Money talks, right? That's still an extra $300 per year.”

Is there anything else that's important to consider?

“People shouldn't get discouraged because there are opportunities to find a place that really suits your needs," Barss Angus said.

Again, he said that using the expertise of realtor can help give tenants a sense of different properties in the city and offer their knowledge about Ottawa.

“Say you're coming from another city, and you want to move here. They'll know that an area is not an ideal area for, say, a single woman or even a single male who is trying to live in an area that's really not that nice.”

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