Renting my first apartment in Singapore. How do I do this adulting thing?

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Adulting can be tough and scary. Especially so when you're making big financial decisions, like renting your first apartment. You're ready to leave the nest but wary of the future.

Renting property in Singapore can seem very complex for a first-timer. We've heard of phoney real estate agents or false advertising of houses for rent. However, with this guide, you'll be on your way to getting your first crib here in Singapore.

HOW TO START?

1. BUDGET - Firstly, set yourself a budget for monthly rent. Get a calculator and do the mathematics.

Work out a budget based on your salary by including the costs that you will start to incur when you own a house. This means the inclusion of utility bills, furniture and equipment to maintain the house.

2. LOCATION - With the budget that you set for yourself, look for a location. Firstly, you can choose a location based on convenience to commute to work. On the other hand, you can choose a residential location based on your budget. You can find price ranges of residential areas by location here!

WHERE SHOULD I SEARCH?

There are many ways to look for available houses for rent. However, we recommend these platforms to search for the perfect one.

Reliable online platforms with property listings

PropertyGuru - PropertyGuru is the biggest online platform for property listings in Singapore. So if you're looking for the most options, PropertyGuru is the best bet for your rental apartment search.

99.co - This startup has gone big in Singapore and is already synonymous with property search with both Singaporeans and foreigners.

Both platforms include details of the CEA license of agents (to ensure they're not fake agents or impostors) and price trends of house types. This will help you make a more informed decision when searching for apartments.

SRX Property - SRX Property provides a number of services on top of the property listing. You can request for an agent to help you negotiate rental prices. The most outstanding feature would have to be the 360-degree pictures of listings. Property listing pictures can be very misleading and this feature actually allows for better visualisation.

AT YOUR OWN RISK

Ohmyhome - Ohmyhome is a relatively new platform and was designed to facilitate direct transactions between the homeowner and those interested in renting/ buying. Agent fees can be exorbitant in property transactions for both parties. Ohmyhome aims to remove that. There are many unique listings directly listed by homeowners on the platform. However, when I used the platform, I could still see a few listings by property agents.

Carousell - ORANGETEE & Tie, a property agency, partnered up with Carousell to list properties for rent and purchase on their platform. However, Carousell users can also list their properties on the platform. Considering how scams and poor negotiations often take place on Carousell, we recommend against this unless you're truly desperate.

SHOULD I USE AN AGENT?

The use of an agent is entirely up to you. A property agent will know the industry best and will be able to look through the finer details for you. For longer leases (around 2 years), property agents will usually have a co-broking fee and be paid commission by the homeowner. However, usually, the commission/ agent fee will be paid by the tenant (you) after a successful transaction.

An agent would not only have their experience and knowledge to rely on but also the resources of their agency.

The downside would be the commission and also hidden incentives unknown to the buyer. Agents could possibly be incentivised to withhold information for many reasons.

We recommend finding highly rated agents at the expense of price or a reliable recommendation from your close social circle. Always check their CEA (Council of Estate Agencies) License on the CEA Public Register first to see if they're certified and legitimate.

Dual representation

If you ever find out that the agent will be getting a fee from both you and the homeowner, it's a huge no-no. This constitutes a dual representation and is illegal. See reviews of agents here.

DEALING ON YOUR OWN?

If you decide to forego an agent and face adulting on your own, you will not have to worry as well.

Here are a few steps to take note when you negotiate with a homeowner or landlord.

1. TAKE NOTE OF THE SECURITY DEPOSIT

The amount is either 1 or 2 months rent. The deal may be fishy if the homeowner offers an unusual deal of no security deposit for an increased rental fee or other terms.

2. RESEARCH THE ESTATE AND SIMILAR UNITS

Your rental fee should be within a 10 per cent range of other similar units. Confirm that the other similar units are of the same classification. Similar area size does not always mean the same type of unit.

3. INVENTORY OF CONTENTS

Check the inventory of contents thoroughly. The homeowner will catalogue all the items and furniture in the house in case of misuse or loss by the person renting. This is important as overlooking this might land you in trouble in the future.

4. ADDITIONAL FURNISHING OR NO?

If you're afraid of losing your security deposit because you damage an item or lose it, check with the homeowner if they can remove non-essential items. More furniture may also contribute to higher rent which can be unnecessary.

5. HOUSE RULES

Also, check for a strict set of rules within the house. See if you're allowed to cook food, bring over guests etc. Always do this before you pen the deal as bringing it up later lets the homeowner have control over you.

If you're looking to make some passive income, check with the homeowner if you're allowed to sub-let other rooms or recommend other flatmates. This can help drive the rent down.

Forgoing an agent, in this case, would mean self-research on the property market and knowing the legislation very well. We recommend getting a friend or family member who is more experienced to accompany you when you make deals and go for viewings.

SPECIAL TIPS FOR NON-SINGAPOREANS

Diplomatic clause

This clause is super important for non-Singaporeans, mostly expats, who are looking to rent. Basically, you can cancel your lease without forfeiting your security deposit (as long as you give 2 months notice). This protects you in situations such as sudden loss of employment or deployment to other countries for a long term period.

Make sure it is included in the contract.

You may not be used to the noise from constant construction work that goes on in Singapore. Thus, if it really bugs you if a major construction work were to happen near your home, negotiate it with the homeowner. Ask if you can include a clause to cancel the lease if long-term construction work happens nearby.

WHAT IF I WANT TO BRING MY BELOVED PET?

If you're a pet owner and can't bear to part ways with it once you rent your own home, don't be stressed out.

First, double check the property regulations set by the authorities regarding pets in different types of housing. A homeowner cannot change these rules and will be forced to reject your tenancy should you not meet them.

Second, some condominiums set their own additional rules regarding pets. Check with the homeowner and abide by them if there are any.

Third, if all else fails, find if there are any units for rent in pet-friendly estates. There are a few in Singapore which might suit you best.

Lastly, make sure your rental place is convenient. Check if there is a preferred vet clinic nearby as well as pet shops. It's a plus point if there are pet-friendly parks nearby as well.

You're on your way to being a full-fledged independent adult

With this set of tips, you're set to start hunting for a new abode. Just make sure that everything is set out in black and white in not only the Letter of Intent (LOI) but also the Tenancy Agreement (TA).