7 things to consider when renting in Singapore
Singapore is so densely built that there are options galore for the careful renter. Even with a modest budget, you could land yourself a place not too far from the Core Central Region (CCR)—if you can compromise on room size, or agree to some other trade-off. Convenience, price, privacy… what should you consider when choosing a place to rent?
1. When should the hunt begin?
Although the minimum rental period in Singapore is three months for private property and six months for HDB flats, most places will lock you in for a year, or even two years. Which means that you should commit a fair amount of time—possibly four to six weeks—to finding a place you actually like. Keep your options open and don’t rush the process.
If you’re a newcomer to the island, it’s worth exploring shortlisted neighbourhoods to get a feel of the amenities available within the area. There are distinctively different residential sectors, from the cosmopolitan city centre, to idyllic East Coast and West Coast, and some unique ethnic enclaves. If you don’t know where to start, the DBS Property Markeplace features four popular neighbourhoods to set you off on the right foot.
2. How far is it from civilisation?
The distance to civilisation, of course, is the time it takes to get you to your workplace/college/mall/kid’s school/gym/neighbourhood food court, depending on your priorities. A long commute means less deep sleep and more shut-eye while standing in a moving object. Unless you drive a car, or ride a bike around town, you’ll be dependent on Singapore’s extensive network of public transportation. Decide how much you’re willing to pay for the convenience of a shorter commute.
Also, set your priorities right. Quiet, tranquil environments may be a little off the beaten path and transportation might not be that convenient. Conversely, living in a town centre or next to an MRT station means there’s a constant buzz in the immediate vicinity. Either or, to each his own.
3. Humble HDB vs. resort living – how much should I be paying?
From a very local HDB flat, to condominium apartments, terrace houses and bungalows, it is important that you can live comfortably in it, and that the cost of your rent doesn’t take up more than 30-40% of your monthly salary. This should leave you with enough left to save, invest, and fund your lifestyle.
Consider your needs, wants, and the facilities in and around the rental property. The Olympic-size pool may look superbly inviting, but why pay for it if you’re going to be constantly travelling? Talk about your access to facilities in the negotiation with the landlord. If you like hosting big dinners, check if you have access to the kitchen, and that you’re allowed to cook. Also, if the unit comes unfurnished, you’d have to spend extra to make the space liveable.
4. Do it yourself, or get an agent?
A housing agent will help you narrow down the options available based on your preference, arrange for viewings, be your negotiator, and help to navigate the intricacies of the rental process. Appointing an agent will also mean paying a commission for the deal. Standard agent commission is 50% of a month’s rent for each year of contract, with certain exceptions.
Or consider DIY. Armed with a browser and the Internet, check online property portals, such as DBS Property Marketplace. You can search for prospective apartments by categories such as neighbourhoods and nearby MRT stations. You can also easily contact landlords through an enquiry form on the platform. Another important thing to check are the past transacted prices of similar units posted on the site.
5. How long will you be staying there?
As mentioned earlier, a conventional lease term is between one to two years. If you’re planning on a longer lease and discover a fancy for a particular place, it is to your advantage to take the opportunity to bargain the price down.
If you’re an expat, ensure a Diplomatic Clause is included in your Tenancy Agreement, which will cover you in the event you need to cut short your lease and move overseas for work.
6. The art of the deal
While rents have generally come down, individual landlords might be willing to offer better rental rates than what the market is offering. Aid your negotiation by using the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s handy search tool, which shows you completed contracts by condo or post code. By doing some research, you’ll be able to gauge how low you can go with the unit you’re after.
7. Check the fine print
Do note that if you are planning on renting an HDB apartment, there are guidelines for landlords to adhere to. While it can be a cost-effective solution, it is your onus to ensure that the landlord is eligible to rent out his apartment before signing off on the paperwork. Check with HDB for information.
Beware of hidden costs. Go through the documents detailing what goes into the rent, and ensure that you will be paying only for what you rightfully should. Be clear of what belongs to the landlord, and the furnishings that will be included in your tenancy. What are the maintenance that you will be responsible for?
While most Tenancy Agreements would be similar, review each point and clarify with the agent on any uncertainties you might have, especially on topics such as commissions and payments. Also, the landlord should do a one-time servicing of the unit before handing over the apartment, including general cleaning, necessary repainting, air-condition servicing and the likes.
Be sure you are getting what you bargained for, before signing on any dotted line.
The good thing about renting is that you get to try on different neighbourhoods. If you eventually find out a place doesn’t suit you, just tide it till the lease is over, then move. The options are open for the smart renter!