Each fall, thousands of new students flock to Hamilton, Ontario to attend McMaster University – one of Canada’s most prominent public research universities. While many first-year students opt to live in residence on the university campus, many students, especially those in their upper years of study, seek housing off-campus at McMaster University. In this guide, we’ll be covering how to find your perfect off-campus rental home, which neighbourhoods McMaster students should consider, and how liv.rent can help you find your perfect rental home quickly and safely.
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McMaster University off-campus housing overview
Types of accommodation
The area surrounding McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario has many types of rental properties suitable for students. Here are some quick links to help you start your search:
Looking for a place to share
If you’re looking for a room in a shared space that’s perfect for students, then your first place to look should be liv.rent’s listings. You can use the map tool to find a place that’s close to campus and use the search filter “Room” under “Housing Type” to look at all the available places in the area.
FREE Roommate Agreement Template: Download Here
Looking for a roommate
Students living off-campus at McMaster University who are looking for roommates can post their available rooms for rent on liv.rent for free. Plus, the 100% digital platform means that you can connect with a roommate online. McMaster also offers their handy McMatch service designed to connect students living off-campus with suitable roommates in order to fill vacant rooms faster.
Average rent in Hamilton, Ontario
Below is a breakdown of the current average rent prices for different unit types in Hamilton as of April 2022. For the latest numbers and data for other Ontario cities and municipalities, be sure to check out our latest rent report.
Transit in Hamilton
Many of the neighbourhoods we’ll focus on here are easily walkable to the McMaster campus, but when you’re running late for class, Hamilton has an excellent transit system to get you to school quickly. There are four bus routes with stops at or near McMaster University: the 1, 5, 15, and 51 routes all pass by campus from different areas of the city and run quite frequently – especially during typical classroom hours. If you’re browsing listings in Hamilton on liv.rent, you can easily see the different bus and transit lines nearby, as well as the walking distance to each so you can plan out your commute before you even move in.
Tips for saving on rent in Hamilton
While Hamilton’s average rent prices are much more budget-friendly than in larger cities like Toronto, it never hurts to know how to save a bit of money on your monthly rent. Here are a few quick tips and guides for making your rent cheaper and getting the most out of your annual tax return as a renter.
- Tip #1: Negotiate your rent – Knowing when and how to negotiate your rent is a great way to help save yourself some cash each month. Be aware of the time of year and keep track of the average rental rates in your area.
- Tip #2: Look for places with rental incentives – Rental incentives are a great way to get more for your monthly rent. Especially if you’re renting during the off-season, landlords may be willing to offer things like included parking, a free month’s rent, or other incentives to help you save on expenses.
- Tip #3: Boost your tax return – There are a number of benefits, deductions, and helpful tips renters can take advantage of to get a bigger tax refund. Don’t forget to include these on your annual return!
Best neighbourhoods for renters near McMaster University
There are plenty of great neighbourhoods offering excellent student housing near McMaster University, each offering its own unique appeal depending on what you’re looking for. Here, we’ll be breaking down some of the most popular areas for McMaster students who are looking for affordable, convenient properties for rent in Hamilton, Ontario.
Ainslie Wood borders the McMaster University campus to the west and southwest, centred around the sprawling Alexander Park. Its boundaries are defined by Main Street to the north, Cootes Drive and Dundas to the south, Highway 403 to the east, and Dundas and Ancaster to the west. Many of the homes within Ainslie Wood are rented to students, who make up the majority of the neighbourhood’s population – especially with recent developments adding more options to the area.
Types of accommodation in Ainslie Wood
Ainslie Wood is largely filled with single detached homes with two or more bedrooms, although the growth of McMaster’s student body has brought larger apartment buildings and multi-unit developments to the area.
Transportation in Ainslie Wood
Estimated commute to campus: 10-15 minutes
Located just next to the McMaster campus, Ainslie Wood allows residents to get to class in just 8-10 minutes on the 51 bus line, or you can opt to walk – it’s only about a 15-minute stroll.
Ainslie Wood amenities
Ainslie Wood has plenty of student-friendly spaces to gather with friends like the central Alexander Park, coffee shops, and breweries and pubs nearby.
Westdale is another popular neighbourhood for students thanks to its proximity to campus, rich history and urban feel. The neighbourhood is built around the Westdale Shopping District, which has tons of unique shops, local restaurants and cafes, and great walkability to anywhere in town. Technically speaking, the neighbourhood is bordered by the Cootes Paradise nature reserve on its north end, Main Street and Ainslie Wood to the south, Highway 403 to the east, and shares its western boundary with McMaster University itself.
Types of accommodation in Westdale
One of Hamilton’s most popular rental destinations, Westdale has a bit of everything in terms of property types – there are plenty of apartment buildings for students looking to live alone or with a single roommate, as well as detached homes.
Transportation in Westdale
Estimated commute to campus: 5-15 minutes
Depending on where you are in Westdale, you may not even need to worry about public transit. The neighbourhood is just adjacent to McMaster to the west, so it’s a quick jaunt to class. If you do need to take the bus, the 1, 5, and 51 routes will all take you to campus in short order – in no more than 15 minutes during peak hours.
Though it’s a residential community first and foremost, Westdale is also one of Hamilton’s main shopping districts and offers students all the convenience that comes with that. There are both local and large businesses, trendy restaurants, cafes, bookstores, and so much more to discover within the neighbourhood.
Kirkendall is a tight-knit community in Hamilton with a diverse assortment of residents ranging from McMaster students to young families, and everyone in between. The tree-lined streets and abundant nature nearby offer a nice escape from day-to-day life, and there are plenty of unique shops, coffee shops and more within the neighbourhood. Its boundaries are defined by Chedoke Civic Golf Club and the Niagara Escarpment to the south, and Highway 403 to the east. From Main Street to Beckett Drive and Queen Street is the eastern limit of Westdale.
Types of accommodation in Kirkendall
One of Hamilton’s most constantly in-demand neighbourhoods, Kirkendall has plenty of rentals up for grabs for students, including larger houses, condos, and older apartment buildings.
Transportation in Kirkendall
Estimated commute to campus: 25-30 minutes
Kirkendall’s a bit further from McMaster to the university’s east, but it’s still not too bad of a commute. The 6 bus route will get you closer to campus, from which point you can either walk or take the 1, 5, or 10 routes. If you’re feeling brave – it’s about a 45-50 minute walk from Kirkendall to McMaster’s campus.
Kirkendall is a nature lover’s dream with its escarpment setting and plentiful trails, as well as more urban amenities like trendy boutiques and hip coffee shops.
Dundas is actually a separate town from Hamilton, but it’s just to the east of McMaster University and readily accessible by bus or car. Dundas is a quaint community that’s popular with students, families and locals alike thanks to its gorgeous scenery, small-town feel, and complete package of amenities and convenience options.
Types of accommodation in Dundas
As its own small town, Dundas offers a little bit of everything. Bordering its main street and downtown core are more multi-unit buildings, and there are plenty of detached residences and condo buildings spread throughout the town as well.
Transportation in Dundas
Estimated commute to campus: 5-30 minutes
Despite being its own distinct town, it’s actually much easier to get to McMaster University from Dundas than certain parts of Hamilton. The 5 bus route can get you to campus in about 20 minutes, and the 10 takes about half an hour. By car, it’s only about a 5-minute drive along the highway.
For those that appreciate the unique appeal of a small town, Dundas is the perfect place to call home. Quiet streets, plenty of local dining options and shops, and a picturesque main street make for a well-rounded community.
Hamilton’s bustling Strathcona neighbourhood is on the western end of the city’s downtown, bounded by Highway 403, the CNR rail line, Main Street, Queen Street and York Boulevard. The area is full of history with plenty of local landmarks and modern businesses alike, and the community’s vibrant population is constantly expanding as younger renters and homeowners flock to its cozy streets.
Types of accommodation in Strathcona
The Strathcona neighbourhood is known for its stately Victorian-era multi-bedroom homes, but there’s something for everyone in this diverse community. Detached homes and condo buildings are common options for renters, with lots of each available.
Transportation in Strathcona
Estimated commute to campus: 15-25 minutes
Strathcona’s a little bit further from campus than other areas on this list, but it’s still fairly easy to get to campus in a hurry. The 1,5, 10, and 41 bus routes all go by McMaster University so you’ll have plenty of options to get to class quick.
With its rich history, just walking the impressive streets of Strathcona is a sight to behold. Aside from this, Hamilton Harbour is within walking distance and the many shops along King Street offer all the convenience students need within their own neighbourhood.
Tips on how to find & secure off-campus rental housing
How to avoid rental scams
No matter where you’re looking for housing, rental scams are an unfortunate reality – particularly in areas with lots of students and renters searching from abroad. Thankfully, there are some easy ways to protect yourself when renting online. Know your rights as a renter and use a trusted rental platform. Here are some of the most common scams to look out for:
- Scam #1 Rent is too low
If the rental rate seems shockingly below the rental average for the city, it could be a fake listing.
- Scam #2 Urgent cash demand
Renters don’t have to pay for anything until a lease is signed. So, if someone’s pressuring you to send cash now, don’t do it.
- Scam #3 Too much info
Until you’re 100% ready to move forward with a lease, you’re not obligated to share your bank account or SIN number.
- Scam #4 Not enough details
While some smaller landlords may withhold unit numbers for privacy, you should know the exact address of the unit you’re looking at. without that info, it could be a scam.
Pro tip: rent from ID-verified landlords on liv.rent to avoid scams.
Be smart with your rental search
- Tip #1 Know your needs
List of your priorities: pricing, location, amenities, lease duration, pet policy, etc. Use liv.rent filters to narrow your search.
- Tip #2 Do your research
Find out the average rent in your target area. It’ll arm you with the necessary info to negotiate terms & rates.
- Tip #3 Google the property
See if there are any complaints online regarding building management, maintenance, noise, neighbourhood, etc.
- Tip #4 Video tours first
If possible, view video tours first. Then, narrow down your selection and book viewings only for places you’re seriously considering.
Tips to improve your search
- Tip #1 Don’t be afraid to check
Have the landlord demonstrate that all appliances are working – run faucets, check thermostats, flush toilets, turn on stoves, etc. Also, check cellphone reception.
- Tip #2 View in daylight
Viewing a home in daylight will give you a better sense of the living space.
- Tip #3 Prepare questions
And ask the hard questions (e.g. how much interest have you had for this unit) to uncover info not in the listing.
Stand out when you apply for your rental
Completing your liv.rent profile, or renter’s resume, is the easiest way to stand out. You can also go the extra mile and pre-submit your application before your viewing if you’re pretty sure you want to rent the unit. By introducing yourself upfront, it shows that you’re serious about the unit – leaving a strong impression on your landlord.
Pro tip: on liv.rent, we use Trust Score to rate renters trustworthiness and credibility — it’s free for students to get theirs with their profile!
Another way to stand out is by using your renter’s story in your renter’s resume to give landlords more information about your credit score. As students may not have strong credit histories yet, use this space to provide more context to a landlord to help them trust you.
How to secure a rental before arriving in Canada
It’s easy for McMaster University students who aren’t yet in Hamilton or even in the country yet to rent an off-campus apartment safely and securely.
Once you have filled out your liv.rent profile completely, you can use it to apply to listings on our platform.
In your profile, you can select whether you are a first-time renter and whether or not you’re renting from outside Canada. That way, a landlord can accurately assess your profile and help you secure a rental without having references in Canada.
Pro tip: watch our friend Tobi Adekeye’s YouTube video that explains exactly how to use liv.rent to easily secure your Canadian home from abroad.
Look no further than liv.rent for all your Ontario rental resources. Especially if you’re an international student, moving to Ontario from out-of-province, or just new in town — it’s important to know the ins and outs of renting in Ontario in order to protect yourself from scams and get a fair deal.
Check out our guides on everything from renting and leases to tenants’ rights and relationships with landlords.
- Ontario Standard Lease Explained
- Data Privacy And Renting: How To Protect Your Information
- What Information is a Landlord Allowed to Ask For?
- VIDEO: How To Avoid Rental Scams
- VIDEO: Finding The Perfect Match: Landlord-Tenant Relationships
FAQ: The best off-campus housing at McMaster University
Are first year students guaranteed residence at McMaster?
According to McMaster University’s student housing page, residence is not guaranteed for all first-year students, but every student is welcome to apply. However, students entering directly from high school with an average of over 90% are guaranteed residence.
How much does it cost to live on McMaster campus?
Residence fees vary greatly depending on the type of room and the term(s) you’ll be attending campus. For the latest information, it’s best to consult McMaster’s residence fees page.
How do I find a house near McMaster?
The best way to secure off-campus housing near McMaster University is to use a safe, trusted rental platform like liv.rent. This Canadian rental platform manually verifies both landlords and listings to ensure you’re protected from costly rental scams during your search.
Where do McMaster students live?
If they’re not living on campus, the neighbourhoods on this list are all popular neighbourhoods for McMaster students to live in, but there’s a sizeable student population in practically every area close to campus.
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