Renting a spare room to a student can pay off

The buzzer to my condo rang. I opened the door to Concordia student Nadine Uwimana, who was looking for a place to live. A new stage of my life had begun.

In early August, I had a spare bedroom and I knew it was time to find a student roommate. I’d done this for 15 years when I lived in Vancouver. This would be my first attempt here in Edmonton.

Having a roommate, preferably a student, has many advantages. The rental income is a plus. If I’m out of town, there’s someone to pick up my mail. Then there is the intangible advantage of having another person to share an occasional meal, or like last night, a cup of hot chocolate.

I live a 25-minute walk to Concordia University of Edmonton, so the institution was the obvious place to start searching. The “how to” was surprisingly easy. Gone are the days when a hand-printed note on a bulletin board was the way to go. When I called Concordia’s student services, I was told I could list my room on their website. I read other postings, and created mine accordingly. A few clicks on the keyboard, and I was ready to go.

A few days after posting my ad, the phone rang. “My name is Nadine,” she said. “Are you still looking for someone to rent a room at your place?”    

Uwimana dropped by a few days later. A human resources student, she wanted a place that was safe and secure.

As a recently-arrived Rwandan immigrant, finding a place to live in Edmonton was challenging. Uwimana recalls, “I don’t know Canada that well. In Rwanda, you don’t rent a room but a whole house. It was a strange feeling.”

Uwimana thought she would live in residence, but rent was high. A student advisor at Concordia helped her to access the university’s housing website. I was the first person she contacted.

After a short visit, Uwimana said she would like to move in. I showed her around, plus wrote three pages of do’s and don’ts about my place, such as how to run the washer and dryer, the heating system, garbage bins, and guidelines for bathroom use. A few weeks later, she was settled in and started school.  

If you want to find a student renter, be prepared to allow some adjustment time. As a first-time renter, Uwimana was frightened one evening when I didn’t come home until after midnight. She thought I had been kidnapped. I learned later that this reflected her troubled past in Rwanda. Now I leave a note to say when I’ll be back. It’s a small action that I’m willing to make.

If you’re considering renting to a student, Concordia University of Edmonton is an obvious choice in the Rat Creek Press area. NAIT and MacEwan University are also relatively close. The University of Alberta is on the LRT line, easily accessible by way of Coliseum and Stadium LRT stations.

Unlike Concordia, many schools don’t offer a direct way to search for a student with online listings.

MacEwan University, for example, focuses on its campus housing. Students who don’t live on campus find another place to live.

Neither NAIT nor the University of Alberta offer a housing registry. Instead, they direct students to, an online rental listing service. Students can post a free listing if they are looking for a roommate. If you are an owner or a renter looking for a roommate, the fee is $25 plus GST per month. Once your month is up, an email from will arrive, asking if you want to continue.

How easy is it to find a roommate? And what are the best times of the year to look for one?

Juliana du Pree, president and owner of Whitematter Developments, which coordinates, said the faltering economy is having an effect. “The rental market is soft; we see a lot of students staying at home. The market is taking a hit right now. Some institutions of higher learning are down in admissions.” Lister Hall at the University of Alberta still had rooms available in October, she added, which is unusual.

If you want to find a renter, the peak months are July and August. “It peters off fast after that. Get your listings in early in the summer before the big drop by mid-September,” du Pree said. A little pickup for the January semester might happen, but Christmas and exams get in the way.  

Another possibility are short-term NAIT students taking apprentice and trades programs for six- to eight-week cycles and training and upgrading for professionals for short-time periods. These more mature students want a furnished place to sleep. “Turnover is frequent but they can be really good roommate fillers,” said du Pree.

Once you place your ad with, students will contact you directly. If computers make you uncomfortable, call the service at 780.432.6610.

Rental Resources (provided by the Students’ Association of MacEwan University)

Renting Spaces

Off-campus housing listing. Call 780.432.6610 or visit

Rent Seeker

Search for houses, apartments, and condos to rent or find roommates.

Rent Board

Student housing in Edmonton.

The Edmonton Rental Guide

Search for Edmonton apartments and houses for rent.


Search for roommates or room rentals near MacEwan University.

Student Accommodation

Student accommodation through landlords and leasing.


Search for housing using location, price, post-secondary institution, and date.

Renters Online

Search for apartments, houses and townhouses for rent in Edmonton.

Rent Edmonton

Search for apartments and houses for rent, sorting by price, bedrooms, and rental type.

The Canada Homestay Network

This organization serves students of all ages from around the world.

Rent Faster

A comprehensive listing of homes, apartments, condos, townhomes, duplexes and more.

Student Housing

Student housing located close to post-secondary institutions.

Gotta Rent

A list of places to rent.

Home Stay Finder

Connects families and international students.

Sublet – Renters Direct

Short term and long term, furnished and unfurnished rentals.

Edmonton Furnished Suites

Specializing in fully furnished executive rentals.

Featured Image: Writer Constance Brissenden is renting a room to student Nadine Uwimana. | Rebecca Lippiatt