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Where should I live while studying at VIU?

June 15, 2021

5 tips to find the right housing fit

So you’ve registered for your classes and now you’re looking forward to having a bit of fun and down time before you start university. Great! But before you head out on your summer adventures, there’s one more thing you should be thinking about now – where are you going to live?

The housing market in Nanaimo can be a challenge to navigate – for example, right now, there is a very low vacancy rate. The sooner you start your search, the better. On top of that, there are various types of accommodations to choose from, like single-unit apartments, secondary suites, condos or even private homestays. Finding the right housing fit can take some time. While it is a lot of work looking for housing, the more listings that you look through will help you narrow down what a good housing option for you is. Here are some tips to help you secure a place that’s right for you*.

Take an inventory of your needs.

The first thing to do is consider your unique needs. Do you plan to use transit, or will you have a car? If you have a car, where are you going to park it? How important is it to you that you are close to campus? Do you have a pet? For more info on needs and preferences you should take into consideration, visit Renting it Right in British Columbia. After you have identified your needs, this will help you either restrict your search or expand it. For example, if you know you will be using public transit, you will probably want to look for housing options near a bus route.

What type of housing suits you best?

Different types of housing come with various perks and detriments. Some of your unique needs that you identified in your inventory will help you determine which options are better for you. Do you want roommates to keep costs down, or do you want a place of your own? Is living in a house with a yard important to you, or do you prefer a condo?

Do you want to try living on campus and getting the the full residence life experience? While VIU does offer housing to students on campus, room offers are already in progress, with priority given in the order of application and those applying for the full academic year, so if you haven’t applied yet, you may have to focus on other options.

If you are an international student, there’s also VIU’s Homestay program, where you live with a Canadian family. There are many types of housing to choose from – even at the VIU Residences. Check out the Housing Experience of VIU Students video on the Off-Campus Housing page to hear what other students have to say. Also check out this recent webinar on housing for international students, which has relevant info for domestic students as well. 

Figure out how much you can afford.

Your budget may rule out some of the options listed above, but it is important to ensure you’re not getting into a rental situation that is unsustainable. To figure out how much you can afford to pay per month, you need to have a budget. Fill out a monthly budget worksheet (courtesy of to get started. Typically, you’ll want to spend no more than about 33% on rent out of your total per-month income. Review what is included with the rental property. Does it include things like utilities (heat, hot water, electricity bill, which in BC is called your “hydro” bill, etc.)? If it doesn’t, then you will need to budget for these expenses in addition to your rent.

Avoid rental ad scams.

Rental ad scams are not uncommon. Signs include things like a poorly written ad with bad grammar and spelling mistakes, or excuses about why the landlord is not available or why you can’t view the unit. You should also be careful if someone asks for money in advance, or other personal information like your Social Insurance Number or bank account details. Trust your gut feeling and stay away from something that doesn’t feel right. It is hard to determine the legitimacy of a property listing without actually viewing the property and meeting with the landlord/property manager in person. A good rule of thumb is to never send money to someone you have yet to meet, and never pay a deposit before you have viewed the rental unit. More tips, including a list of questions you should ask yourself before committing to renting a place, are available on the Off-Campus Housing page.

Begin your search.

Armed with knowledge about your personal needs, budget, the types of housing you are looking for and how to be wary of scams, the next step is looking for a place. Again, while many may be legitimate, you need to be wary of the scams. Some platforms to get you started on your housing hunt journey include:

  • Places4Students – an online listing service that specializes in providing rental housing options for students.
  • VIU Students’ Union app – lots of students use the community board to search for roommates on this platform.
  • Facebook groups, Craigslist, Kijiji or similar platforms also have rental listings. One popular Facebook group is Nanaimo Rentals.

Still not finding anything that meets your needs? Temporary housing is also an option. Here are a couple options:

All of the information above is a lot to take in! More information is available on the Off-Campus Housing page and you can always email with any questions.


*Please note that off-campus accommodation options are not verified by VIU for quality or legitimacy, and that any private accommodation is solely the renter’s responsibility. VIU is not a party in any off-campus housing agreement. Students must read the agreement carefully, understand the terms and be fully responsible for the terms of the agreement before they sign any documentation. 

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