Mistakes to avoid when renting in Singapore
Needing to find an apartment for rent in Singapore definitely falls into the category of “Good problems to have”.
You may even consider yourself an “expert mover”, having hunted for a place to live plenty of times before. Even still, even seasoned expats can make miss things when moving to a new country, so we’ve listed a few things we think you should keep in mind.
Using a Bad Agent
No matter where you go in the world, people love to complain about real estate agents! We think the problem is definitely exaggerated in Singapore, but we listed this here because it’s the most common warning people will give someone moving to Singapore.
When we say “bad” agents, we simply mean agents who are either not the best at their job, or not doing their best to help you for whatever reason (maybe they’ve taken on too many clients at once, for example).
We’ll write more on this in future posts, but here’s some helpful do’s and don’ts:
- Don’t feel forced into whichever agent your company assigns, unless there are colleagues who can tell you personally that they did a great job. It’s actually likely your company probably isn’t paying them anyway, because agents usually get their commissions from landlords instead. They may even be paying your company, for the referral!
- Avoid using an agent if you found them when you inquired about another apartment which was “unfortunately” unavailable. Enticing but unavailable apartments – some of which may not have existed even in the first place – is a common way to attract leads like yourself, so best to avoid this method of agent discovery.
- Don’t think you’re stuck with an agent – this is not a marriage! Find another one if you’re not happy, assuming you didn’t sign any exclusivity agreement with them in the first place (usually this should only extend to apartments they’ve introduced you to, anyway).
- Find an agent that someone you trust can recommend from personal experience
Not Using an Agent at all
Yes! This also can be a mistake. For most people, having the services of your own agent won’t cost you more, because they get paid by the landlord for helping him/her find you, if the total lease value is high enough (typically anything over $3000/month with a 2 years lease). So for zero direct cost, you can have someone who:
- Knows Singapore and property landscape very well – as me (yeah, I know, am not being modest here!)
- Knows rental prices of apartments and can negotiate on your behalf
- Makes appointments, checks apartments meet your requirements before taking you
- Drives you from viewing to viewing
- Helps check the lease paperwork
As we mentioned earlier, a lot of people have negative experiences with agents or even recommend against them – we disagree with that advice.
Find a good agent and take advantage of all of the above. We love real estate and researching things for ourselves, but we’d still use an agent if looking for a rental apartment in Singapore.
Fixating on Districts and Areas
As soon as you start talking to anyone about Singapore real estate, it won’t be long until you’re overwhelmed by talk of “Districts”, “Planning Areas” or localities.
Convenience to workplaces and/or schooling should usually be far more important criteria.
Not checking Commute Times
You know you want to live somewhere convenient to your workplace(s), and you’re probably looking in locations that are fairly close on the map, but are you paying enough attention to how long it will really take you to get to work?
Most people forget to check this type of thing carefully when deciding on apartments, but it’s important because even two condos at different ends of the same road could have a 10 minute difference in commute time depending on where the MRT (rail) or bus routes go.
Did you know that just a 5 minute increase in commute translates to about 40 hours a year? So that 10 minute difference we just mentioned is like two extra work weeks a year!
Taking Friendly but Narrow Advice
Although it’s great to get the opinion of friends or colleagues, don’t forget that most people are only familiar with a small fraction of Singapore’s condos.
So even if you ask 5 people, you might still only have heard of 5% of all the places you could choose! Be sure to cast your net widely – including the dozens of new condos which may have launched since friends arrived.
Forgetting that Singapore is Different
It’s easy to forget that living in Singapore probably has some significant differences to where you’re moving from. Things like:
- It’s hot and humid. Just don’t overestimate how likely you are to walk to work from wherever you choose!
- It’s not really a “driving city” and most expats don’t drive to work anyway. If this is your first time in a while not having a car, don’t overlook how different that can be and the importance of public transport plus walkable amenities like groceries.
- Space comes at a premium. Singapore is not usually the type of country where you keep a spare room just for 1-2 times a year when you think someone might visit.
- Speaking of space, don’t search by bedrooms alone!