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Flashback: Skinny Dip goes Apartment Hunting

To celebrate Skinny Dip’s two year anniversary, from now until the end of September, every Wednesday I’ll be revisiting one of my favorite posts from the past two years. Here is my first flashback post.

Why I chose it: I’m once again helping a friend who has just moved to the city find an apartment. After going to see a place with her last night (a bizarre bachelor pad that looked like it had recently been victim to an underwear bombing – SO. MUCH. UNDERWEAR. EVERYWHERE. I wish I had taken a photo), I realized that this post still rings true. Enjoy!

Do you know what’s scarier than the dating scene in Toronto?!


I’ve had my share of bad dates but I’ve also moved 8 times in 10 years. I should know. I’m now in the process of helping a friend find a new place to live in the city. While helping her go through listings, I’ve been reminded of what a freak show it is out there rental wise.

Over the past ten years there have been so many times where I have optimistically headed out into the city, apartment listing in hand and found myself on a pretty tree lined street hoping to meet my new home. Walking down the street, I’d say to myself “This looks lovely!” then, I would see IT. The one building on the street that was sketchy looking it made the Bates Motel look like the Ritz. I’d double check the address praying to myself that this wasn’t the place (“Please don’t be it….Please don’t be it…wait, are those TWO couches on the porch?”) but it almost ALWAYS was THE PLACE.

I like to think of this as the real-estate equivalent of showing up for a blind date, seeing a few cute guys sitting in the restaurant & saying to yourself “Ohhh maybe it’s him…or HIM…Ohhh, he’s cute” only to have the guy with the weird haircut who’s wearing a mesh shirt & leather pants, stand up and wave enthusiastically to you.

Here are my top three apartment hunting horror stories:

1) The Crack Den:. When the landlord opened the door to the “apartment”, I found myself standing in a small windowless room. The room included a fridge and beat up sofa. Lying on the sofa was a tiny Asian woman who seemed to be semi-unconscious. The room smelled weird but, I think she was alive because she twitched and mumbled something when we came in. The floor around the sofa was littered with video-cassette cases for adult films.

Me: “Ummm, where would I put my bed?”

Landlord: “No room. You’re gonna have to make do with the sofa like this gal”

The killer was when the landlord said, “If you’re going to look around some more, I’m going to need you to take your shoes off”

Right. Because the carpet is really what we should be concerned about here.

2) Rub a Dub Tub: The apartment was really charming & located in a turn of the century apartment building. The only problem was when I poked my head in the bathroom I noticed that there wasn’t a bathtub or shower. When I asked the landlord about this, she said

“Look behind you…. in the kitchen”

I turn around and see a medium sized WOODEN BARREL with a hose attached. IN THE KITCHEN. I didn’t even know these kinds of things existed…outside of movie sets.

My boyfriend at the time was with me that day. When he saw the barrel, his eyes lit up. He turned to me and said:

“This is SO cool…and rustic. It would be like camping everyday!”

Reason #597879808034232536438 why we are no longer together.

3) Paper or Plastic?: When I got to the “apartment” I realized it wasn’t an apartment. It was a storefront, with curtains hung haphazardly on the front windows. In fact, you could tell that the “kitchen island” had been the cash-desk because you could still see the outline of where the cash register had sat (probably for many years). What happened next was the following conversation:

me: “This isn’t an apartment its a STORE”

landlord: “No, its apartment!”

me: “Its a store”

landlord: “APARTMENT!”

me: “STORE!”

What I’ve learned about Toronto landlords is that they will literally rent ANYTHING. And just like Dating Profiles, apartment ads lie. NOTHING IS EVER WHAT IT SEEMS. Please see below for a few “translations” :

-“Apartment” could mean = storage room, walk-in closet, unheated warehouse, garage, STORE, creepy room in attic where you have to share the bathroom with an old-man who only wears a bathrobe. True story

-“Located in a great family neighborhood: safe and quiet!” = Just like you should be weary of girls who wear T-shirts & pants that say “HOTTIE” on them, you should also be weary of any apartment that mentions how “safe” it is multiple times in the same ad. Most likely, the only “family” you’ll run into are your neighbors, an organized group of methheads who will try and steal your bike for scrap metal.

-“bright and cheery!” = subterranean basement suite with no windows. Possibly painted bright yellow.

-“Cozy!” = the place is so small you’ll bump your head on the stove when you wake up in the morning.

Kitchen” = hot plate stacked on-top of pizza boxes in the middle of the kitchen floor. No joke, I’VE SEEN THIS. “Fully Furnished” = comes with a broke-down card table, covered in a plastic table cloth. If you’re lucky this will clash with dizzying 1960’s patterned linoleum that’s in EVERY ROOM.

Just like I am always surprised to hear about what people post in their online dating profiles, I’m always surprised to see what people post in their online apartment ads. For example, I’ve seen photos that include broken furniture, clothes on the floor, unmade beds, hot-plates, half-eaten food, totally bizarre decor & ANIMALS. Over the years I’ve saved a few of the gems I’ve found via my online searches on my hard drive (because I’m weird like that). The photographic evidence:

1. Low and behold, the ubiquitous card table & plastic table cloth I was talking about. This photo says to me “If you lived here, this is where you’d eat corn-flakes every morning….on a broken chair”.

(This photo kind of makes me cry a little on the inside. I want to move in, just so that I can buy them a new chair)

2. If the apartment you’re trying to rent is SO SMALL that THIS is the only place the TV could possibly fit, don’t advertise it. This is the real estate equivalent of sitting down for dinner with someone and letting “Yo, I’m broke!” be the the first thing you tell them about yourself.

3. The ad says “Funky Backyard”. Skinny Dip says “Rickety patio furniture in alleyway”

4. “Chic Loft Space!” aka “Warehouse with mattress in corner”

5. A couch that stares at a yellow wall (door?). I love how they switched paint colors MID WALL. I think this one speaks for itself.

6. Wait, is this an apartment or a storage locker?! Oh no, it must be an apartment-there’s a card table in the corner. I’m glad that’s cleared up.

7. Nothing says “homey” like a barren sofa frame tucked away in a corner. Don’t worry, I’m sure this sofa has cushions. They’re just being fumigated.

8. This apartment looks really nice, except for the fact that there is a random man sitting in the living room. I wonder if he comes with the place?

9. Yes, that’s not one but TWO furry friends in the photo. Its kind of hard to tell but, I think one of them is wearing a cone which is both horrible and awesome. MEOW.


Just out of curiosity, if you had to make one of these places your new home which would you choose? I’m going to go with either the unheated warehouse (and pray there isn’t a serial rapist lurking in the dark shadows) OR the place that comes with the guy in the black suit (and hope that’s he’s friendly and doesn’t hog the remote). Now its your turn.

Any apartment horror stories you’d like to share?


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