Choosing a place in Singapore

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Once you've viewed a few properties, it's time to make a selection. Here are some things to consider when choosing a place to rent.

* If you're not planning to buy a car, find a place that's commuter friendly. Places within walking distance from the MRT are best for getting around, but that convenience comes at a premium. If you don't mind living a little further away, you can often find cheaper units that are well-served by multiple bus routes. By the way, "walking distance" in Singapore is highly subjective. Check to gauge the actual distance to the nearest MRT station.
* If you're looking at older buildings, be wary of en-bloc potential. There's been a slew of en-bloc sales recently, where condo unit owners band together to collectively sell a building to a developer who then tears it down and builds a new condo. This is a cash windfall for the owner, but as a tenant this could mean you'll be house hunting again a couple of months after moving in!
* Before paying a premium for condo facilities, ask youself - do you really need that gym, pool, or tennis court? Quite a few condos have pools about the size of a large bathtub, and you'll get dizzy from turns before you get any decent exercise. If you don't plan to use the facilities often, you can save some rent and make use of Singapore's extensive community facilities instead. You can query the Singapore Sports Council's list of facilities, although you'll need to register before you can make an actual booking.
* If you’re planning to rent an entire HDB flat (rather than just one room in a shared flat), make sure your landlord has approval from HDB. A common (but illegal) practice is for landlords to rent out their HDB flat without HDB approval, keeping one room locked. The locked room is supposed to be "proof" that the owner continues to reside in the flat, but this won’t save you if HDB officials come to check. Better to be safe than take the chance of losing your deposit or having to move unexpectedly. One of our readers, Vishwadeep, passed along a cautionary story of unscrupulous landlords or agents pressuring tenants to leave the rented flat without refunding their deposit - if you’ve rented the flat illegally, you will not be able to complain to HDB about such tactics.
* An easy way to make sure your landlord has approval to rent out their HDB flat is to ask to see a copy of the approval letter, when you go to view the unit.