Finding a place to stay that meets your requirements can be daunting and exhausting. On the surface, it may seem quite simple but is it truly the case? As you will learn, the process goes beyond shortlisting and contacting agents through property portals.
In this guide, I will walk you through each step, and hopefully, you’ll find it helpful and perhaps better understand the value we agents bring to the table.
There are a lot of criteria to match with (consider this as a pre-step)
A partial list of Requirements:
- Budget (how much you can afford?)
- Number of rooms
- The size of the Apartment (In Singapore we use square feet)
- The Amenities
- Proximity to office/school/transportation etc.
- The location
- The layout
- The look-n-feel
- With or without furniture?
- Pets friendly?
To better understand the type of listings in Singapore, we normally categorize them into three types.
This means the property will have no furniture or appliances. Other fixtures such as lights, and air-con, will still be available. This is suitable for those who own every essential item one may need in their homes.
Perhaps the most common category which will include white goods (appliances) such as Fridge, Washer/Dryer. It may include Over/Microwave and some other furniture. Dishwashers aren’t as common but can usually be found in larger/luxurious properties.
Such listings will normally include a sofa, dining table + chairs, beds, some cabinets, and other movable items. They will be included in the inventory and can be used by the tenants. Items such as bedsheets, utensils, and cookware will still be needed to be provided by the tenant.
Now that you understand the type of listings and what’s included in each, it’s time to review and understand the process from beginning to end. Again as with other advice, it is strongly recommended that you’ll engage the services of a Realtor (me) to assist you throughout the process.
Step 1: Requirements
Prepare a list of your requirements
The more you understand/describe your needs and wants the easier it will be to perform the next step of shortlisting. Take another look at the list above and make one on your own.
It will be a good practice to split between needs – which are those things you can’t do without, to wants – which may be nice to have but are not deal-breakers. Do your research and learn about the essentials such as:
– Singapore Districts / Regions HERE
– Type of Housing in Singapore HERE
– How Agents Commission works HERE
You should check out any of my other guides which can be found on this website.
Step 2: Tenants Profile
Let the landlord/agent who you are
Now that your requirements are listed, it will be a good time to prepare your tenants’ profiles. This is just a summary of who you and the other tenants are. Landlords can be very picky on who they agree to rent out to, so you’ll need to be honest.
Things to include in profile:
Nationalities, Occupation, the number of tenants, what furniture you’ll require? What type of pass/visa do you hold? the lease duration and preferred move-in date? do you smoke or have any pets?
The budget is also crucial to match as usually negotiation will be in the range of a few hundred dollars only (subject to supply/demand)
Step 3: Shortlisting
The search begins
If you appointed an agent to represent you, sit back, relax, and let them source the property for you. You can still share listings of places you like, but it would be advisable to leave the task at hand to your agent. The more focused you are, the easier it will be to narrow down the search. (most of the time)
Tip: Use Only One Agent
Most property portals share duplicate property listings. Therefore use only ONE agent at a time. Suppose you approach many agents at the same time. Very likely that they will show you the same property. Much confusion and embarrassment will arise if you engage many agents.
Using one agent will save valuable time for yourself and the agent. They will then understand your needs and requirements better after a few viewings. If they are incompetent, unresponsive, or not showing the correct property you wanted, then start looking for another agent.
Remember, it is ultimately a question of availability (supply), budget, and other criteria which may make the search easier/more difficult to conclude.
Step 4: Viewings
Seeing is believing
The fun part begins when you get to view the actual property. As you may already guess, photos don’t always do justice, and it is best to see the place with your own eyes before deciding.
It may become increasingly complex to secure a viewing depending on market conditions, popularity, or maybe you’re not in Singapore yet. When the market is hot, properties tend to fly off the shelves like hot cakes (even before you can view them). If the place is relatively new, has good reviews/photos/video, or you’ve seen a unit in the same dwelling before, it may be less risky to commit to it without viewing.
Here again, an agent will be able to explain more about the property, the community, the surroundings, and anything which may be essential for you to know before making the decision.
Step 5: Make an Offer
Letter of Intent (LOI)
When you’ve finally found the place of your choice, it’s time to move in and present an offer. Named the Letter of Intent or LOI, in short. In the LOI, you may include certain conditions/requests you would like the landlord to consider. Now is your chance to get the owner to address your concerns before things proceed further.
The type of items you can find in the LOI would be the particulars of all the tenants, the preferred move-in date, the monthly rental amount as well special requests like:
Add/Remove certain items, fix/touch-ups on things you noticed during the viewing, etc.
The longer your list of requirements is, the less desirable you become as a tenant. Remember always to strike a good balance.
One crucial aspect of the LOI is putting forward a Good Faith Deposit. This deposit will equal one month’s rent and will be utilized for your first month of the lease later on (subject to the tenancy agreement). In the event you won’t be able to come to terms with the landlord, the deposit will be refunded to you in full.
Do note that this part is tricky. Negotiation from this point onwards must be done in good faith. The landlord will reserve the unit for you and instruct his agent to stop marketing it once you all mutually agree to the terms.
Step 6: Tenancy Agreement
Review, Agree & Sign
Perhaps the most essential yet dull part of the process, the Tenancy Agreement (TA), is a legally binding contract that all parties must sign and mutually agree to.
Now will be an excellent time to read about the Common Clauses found in a TA guide.
This part is likely to be overwhelming if you have never dealt with contracts before. Assuming you went this far on your own, it will probably be the landlord agent who will walk you through it as quickly as possible and enforce specific clauses by saying things like: “it’s a standard clause.”
Yes, there are some templates the estate agencies and CEA provide; however, nothing is standard about them other than some commonalities. Read carefully, understand and sign only if you know what you’re doing.
Step 7: Move-In
Handover of the Property
Don’t jump for joy just yet. This part is super important and possibly be the thing that will save you from grievances later on.
A checklist that will document anything which is handed over to you. From the number of keys, fixtures, furniture, etc., pay close attention and keep this document safe.
As you walk through and inspect the property. Document and take photos of everything you see. Scatches, stains, cracks, etc.
The property is expected to be returned in the same condition it was given to you less the normal wear-n-tear.
It is pretty standard but not compulsory for 30 days to be given to the tenant to report any issues post the move-in date for the landlord to address. It is best to compile a list instead of sharing something whenever you find a problem unless it’s critical.
If you haven’t done so yet, this will be a good time for you to settle the Stamp Duty tax. If an agent represents you – he will assist you with that.
Congrutionations: If you read through the guide to this part, you now know the process of securing a property and signing the lease. As you can tell, there’s much to it than just browsing through property portals and conducting viewings.
Real Estate agents will be able to value add and guide you through every step of the way and will be there whenever you have any issues related to the property. Realtors are very well versed in the type of neighborhoods, the communities, and the amenities around Singapore and can provide you with information that can’t be found in listings.
Whether you’re a tenant or a landlord, the agent you assign to represent you should always have your best interest in mind. Read about Dual Representation to better understand what is deemed a conflict of interest and which side each agent represents in the transaction.
Although many do it all by themselves, some live to regret it later on when things go sideways. Do you know who you can turn to if your landlord is unreasonable? What can you do if you’re having difficulties getting your deposit back? I’m here for you, do contact me, and I’ll be happy to assist you in any way I can.