MONTREAL -- The content director at the website has seen a lot of interesting promotions over the years, but one listing for an apartment near Concordia University’s downtown campus really stood out.

“[I’ve seen] tickets for tandem skydiving and helicopter rides along with 2 months free rent,” said Paul Danison.

The team at says incentives for downtown rentals in Montreal and Toronto started about 6 months ago in a bigger way than they had ever seen.

“In Toronto, along with a month’s free rent, there’s a landlord offering a fully stocked wine fridge if you sign a lease for a year,” says Danison.

In 2019, a study by the website found the average rent for Downtown Montreal was up 37 percent year over year as the vacancy rate hit a 15 year low, and many rentals units previously available for long-term renting were now being rented for short-term on sites such as Airbnb. This year, says rents have fallen on average 3 percent, and in some cases drastically more.

"It used to be a pretty tight market where the landlords were in control, it’s a tenants’ market right now,” said Danison, “and landlords are competing for the best tenants.”

“Basically, downtown lost its appeal,” says realtor Amy Assaad, who pointed out that with less international business travel, fewer foreign students and more people leaving the city for the suburbs, downtown landlords are struggling.

“More than ever, we’re being hired by public companies and big developers to assist on their rental market,” she said, adding she’s seen many landlords offering two or three months free rent, and even one who offered a $1,000 gift card for the Apple store if someone signed a one year lease.

In the last year, Assaad says her business has been largely driven by people wanting single family homes.

“We had to restructure our marketing because the reality is the suburban markets are very strong right now,” she said. “We used to advertise to office towers. Clearly, that doesn’t work right now.”

But Assaad believes downtown has already started to rebound, and she’s not alone. Gabriel De Paz is the co-founder of First Stays, which helps landlords find qualified tenants. He says, while he’s seen rental incentives that go as high as 20 percent, he feels it’s temporary.

“I think in the future the price will be even higher than it used to be because of massive immigration in Canada,” he said.

While Danison says it’s still too early to say if all the incentives are the result of a structural change where people no longer need or want to be in crowded cities, Assaad feels downtown will soon be back to its former glory.

“Now that the weather is getting better and that the retail stores are open in downtown and centre city, we’re seeing a lot more action even in the condo market downtown,” she said.

“The market keeps on changing month to month.”