Today’s reader question:
I’d love a guide for renting accommodation somewhere for the season, perhaps some faqs about what to ask potential room mates, landlord, damage deposits bills etc.
Alright so I’ve gone over very briefly about what you need to do when planning a ski season, but let’s go more in-depth into accommodation because that’ll be one of the most important parts for planning a ski season.
Step 1) When are you arriving?
Ideally you want to arrive just BEFORE the ski season begins to get your pick of the best accommodation.
That said, you can still arrive once the ski season has already started, but be prepared to pay slightly more for the decent rooms/rentals that are left.
Generally, I’ll always try to arrive about a month before the lifts open unless I have my accommodation sorted out before I get there.
Step 2) Are you willing to pay more for convenience?
There are options to secure accommodation long before you arrive (ie – season room rental companies like Seasonit.co.uk), however, these options can be up to 2-3 times more expensive than finding a room yourself when you arrive in town.
For example, a non-shared room rental in Whistler might cost you $500-600 a month, but through a company like SeasonIt, you’ll be paying anywhere from $1300+ up to $1700+ per month.
You’re basically paying for the convenience of not having to search through classifieds and online ads.
If you go through an accommodation company like Seasonit.co.uk, your accommodation search is done and you don’t need to read further… but since most of you will be on a tighter budget and won’t be going this option, let’s continue.
Step 3) Sort out your short term accommodation
Firstly, you’ll want to pre-book into a backpackers/hostel or save enough money to stay in a cheap motel at the resort for a week or two while you search for more long term accommodation after you arrive.
You can skip this step if you’re willing to rent a room without checking it out first, but in most cases you’ll want to have a look at the house and room before you commit to renting a place.
Photos can lie and I usually prefer looking at a place in person unless I know the person renting the room/house.
Step 4) What type of accommodation are you after?
Your basic options are:
- Private suite / 1 bedroom apartment (more expensive but you get more privacy)
- Shared room in a house/apartment (cheapest option)
- Non shared room in a house/apartment (ideal option for most season visitors)
Private suites and apartments are nice, but they’re usually a fair bit more expensive (1k+ per month minimum) and it’s hard to find one without signing a 1 year lease.
For a large majority of season planners, you’ll want your own room in a house or a shared room. This gives you a bed to sleep in and you get to socialize a little with your housemates during the season.
If you’re on a really tight budget you’ll be looking for a shared room, but if you can afford it I think the ideal choice is your own room because you get a little privacy, but still get to socialize with your housemates.
The monthly rent cost for a room is different from resort to resort and it also depends on how new/luxurious the house is.
From experience, the average is about $500-800 per month for a non-share room or $350-600 per month for a shared room (prices in US/Canadian dollars).
Step 5) Finding local accommodation and rental listings
There’s 2 places I always look when I’m searching for long term accommodation:
1) Local classifieds
Every ski town has some sort of local paper. These days, you’ll be able to find a lot of them online, so you might be able to start looking at them before you actually get to the ski resort.
For example, in Whistler the local paper is called ‘Pique Newsmagazine’ and in Wanaka NZ it’s called ‘The Messenger’.
Ten minutes of google searching will usually tell you what the local paper is called, but if you can’t find it I recommend asking on a popular snowboard forum such as SnowboardingForum.com and someone will usually be able to direct you to the local paper.
The first thing I recommend is finding out what day of the week the local paper releases each issue because you’ll want to pick it up the morning of each new release to get a jump on any new accommodation listings.
2) Craigslist (US/Canada)
If the resort you’re visiting is in the US/Canada, you should check out Craigslist.com as well. For those outside of the US/Canada, Craigslist is basically a giant online classifieds board that’s insanely popular in N. America.
It’s divided into cities and sections so you’ll be able to search for things like ‘Rooms/Apartments for Rent’ that are specifically in the ski town you’re visiting.
One thing to note is that while Craigslist tends to have the most accommodation listings, there are also scam ads you need to be careful of.
If anyone on Craigslist ever asks you to wire them money for accommodation before you arrive, don’t do it.
Step 5) What to look for and ask when calling/emailing possible accommodation
Alright, so now let’s look at some things you want to look for in your winter accommodation.
1) Relaxed or strict?
Some home owners/roommates are more relaxed than others. You’ll notice some listings talk about wanting ‘professional’ tenants, while others will ask for someone relaxed and fun to hang with.
Know which category you fit into.
Don’t expect to be drinking and partying non stop if you rent a room in an apartment asking for professional tenants. Likewise, don’t rent a room in a place asking for chilled/relaxed housemates and complain about noise when they get together for drinking games.
2) Smoker or non smoker?
Every listing will usually list smoker or non-smoker. If not, make sure you ask.
On craigslist and most local classifieds, the code for non smoker is ‘n/s’ and it means they don’t want someone who smokes.
For the most part if a place allows smoking, they’re fine with you smoking whatever you want, as long as you do it outside the house.
Obviously if you end up renting a place in a family home, don’t expect them to be okay with you smoking weed in front of their kids.
3) Lease or month to month?
Always find out whether the accommodation is being rented out by the month or on a set lease.
If it’s month to month, make sure the accommodation is available for the entire length of your stay and check to see if the monthly rent fee stays the same for the entire season.
If it’s being rented on a lease, make sure you know the duration of the lease. Obviously if you aren’t staying for more than the winter season, don’t sign a 1 year lease unless you want to pay for the room 6 months after you’re gone.
The standard winter seasonal lease is about 6 months.
Once again, make sure you know the monthly rent payments for the entire duration of your stay because you don’t want to suddenly get to December and find out your monthly rent just went up $300 per month.
4) Security deposit
Basically every accommodation will require a security deposit. Make sure you have extra money set aside for the security deposit and remember to ask how much it will be.
The security deposit amount will depend on the person and place. I’ve found about $500 to be a rough middle ground, but I’ve seen it go as high as $1k-1.5k.
5) Initial rent fee
Make sure you ask how much rent is required when you move in. For some places it may be your standard 1 months rent to start with, but for others it may be 2 months rent when you first move in.
Some places will require a reference from a previous landlord, some won’t. In most cases it’s better to have a reference or two prepared from previous or current landlords.
Do note: In my opinion, this is the most bs part of renting any accommodation because it’s almost impossible to actually check most references.
Most places won’t even call your references and even if they do, it’s hard for them to verify that your reference isn’t just your friend answering the phone.
Most listings will tell you whether utilities are included with the monthly rent fee or whether they’re seperate. Always check whether utilities are included with your rent fee.
If they state that utilities are included, make sure you ask which utilities are included. Are they talking about just electricity and hot water or does that include internet as well?
If utilities are not included, feel free to ask for a rough estimate of what your share of the monthly utilities would be.
8) Distance from lifts
You’ll want to know how far the accommodation is from the lifts. Is it walking distance? Will you need to take a bus?
If you need to take a bus, make sure you ask how far the house is from the closest bus stop and how long the bus ride will be. You don’t want to have to walk 25 minutes to get to the closest bus stop every single day.
Bonus tips for emailing/calling accommodation listings:
Here’s a few additional tips for when you do email/call the rent ad:
1) Always be polite and professional
You don’t have to be overly professional and start addressing them as Sir/Madam, but don’t start talking about how you got so high and drunk on the weekend when you first talk to them.
Even if their ad was looking for relaxed housemates, you don’t want to be coming off as someone who might cause problems or someone who might trash the place.
2) Keep it short and sweet
Keep everything quick and to the point, especially if you email them. You don’t want to write a 1000 word email to them because no one wants to read that.
If you email them, keep it simple.
Direct subject line:
“Interested in Single Room Rental Whistler Village”
Friendly greeting and body:
“Hi there, I’m saw your ad in the soandso. I’m interested and have a few questions.
<insert questions here>
Do you have a phone number so we can talk and arrange a time to check out the room?
You don’t get to do much more. If they reply and you get talking then you can go into details about yourself like any references you have and what you do for income.
3) Add any references if you have them
If you have references already, feel free to attach them in any following emails or mention that you have them.
It tends to puts people at ease when you volunteer references without them asking because it makes you seem like someone who has their stuff together and someone they can trust to not wreck the house.
4) Employment and income
Mention any job you have lined up or if not then mention that you have a big stash of savings saved up already. People renting out rooms/suites want to know that you’ll be able to pay rent on time.
5) Don’t delay with calling listings
If you find a listing you’re interested in, get calling. You’ll often find that the best accommodation gets snapped up quickly in winter and the person listing the ad will call back/answer emails in the order that they were received.
This means if you delay you may find that the accommodation you were interested already has 5 people ahead of you to check it out.
The main thing to remember:
At the end of the day, if you’re willing to pay the rent they’re asking and you don’t seem sketchy, you’ll get the room.
All the person renting wants to know is that you’re someone who pays bills on time and won’t be a pain to live with (if they’re living with you).
Hope that answers all your season accommodation questions. Let me know if I missed anything and I’ll be sure to add them in.