Eight practical tips for house-hunting when moving to Singapore

Choosing housing for your expat assignment can be quite challenging since it’s often done on a very short house hunting trip.  Doing some prep work before you arrive in Singapore for your house hunting trip can make the whole experience more enjoyable and rewarding.

BE AS OPEN MINDED AS POSSIBLE

This will come in handy, not only for the house hunt, but for your expat experience.  Your housing options may be quite different from those at home.  Communicate your preferences to your realtor but allow them to use their expertise.  You might be surprised at where you end up.

HAVE YOUR PRIORITIES IN ORDER

Take some time to think about and write down those things that you ‘must have’ versus those that are ‘nice to have’.  It might be essential for you to have three bedrooms and a nearby park so your son can play football, but while you would love a water view and a dishwasher, those are things you could live without.

USE YOUR LIMIT WISELY

Some companies specify to the realtor how many properties they should show.  Since Singaporeans tend to follow instructions, if your company said to show you 8 properties, you may only be shown exactly 8 properties.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Remember that this is not a forever house.  But your housing choice may help define where you shop, where you dine, where you spend your leisure time and, even with whom you socialize.  Consider commute times, location of schools, what you like to do for recreation, etc. and include those items on your priority list.

TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS

The MRT is not the only public transportation option in Singapore.  Don’t limit your housing search just based on MRT access.  Expats may discount busses, but they are often the most direct, convenient and comfortable way to get to many destinations.  And, they are easy to use with the right smartphone apps!  There are also taxis, some neighbourhood shuttle busses, and the option to purchase or lease a car.

CHOOSE YOUR REALTOR WISELY

Unlike in some other countries, in Singapore your relationship with your realtor will likely to continue for the length of your lease.  They will be your champion in disputes with your landlord, so choose wisely.  Your employer may recommend a realtor, but talk to individual employees or other expats about their experiences.  They may have additional suggestions.

PAY ATTENTION TO WHO OWNS THE APARTMENT

If your landlord lives too close or too far away, they may either be too much in your business or unavailable if something needs fixing.  If you can, have a conversation with the landlord to see his reactions. Many landlords leave the negotiation to the real estate agent.

NEGOTIATE

The Singapore market, while still hot, has softened somewhat over the last couple of years.  The landlord may not want to lower the rent that you’ll be paying, but it may be possible to have other valuable things included in the rent.  Consider asking for use of some furniture, money toward utilities, weekly cleaning or air conditioning maintenance.

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