We asked the Expat Team at real estate company Knight Frank to give us some insider tips for a home search and to reflect on some of the property trends arising from the COVID-19 situation. What’s the current situation if you want to lease an apartment, and how difficult is it to find a house to rent now?
Where are most of your homesearch clients from?
They’re mainly expats from the UK, Europe, USA and Australia. Either they are newbies arriving in Singapore or they’ve lived here for some time and need to move home.
How is COVID-19 affecting the rental market in Singapore?
Clearly, a lot of expats left Singapore after lockdown ended. Some were retrenched, but many wanted to be with elderly parents back home or to have more opportunity to travel. As a result, we thought there would be a lot of property coming onto the market but, in reality, many overseas Singaporeans returned to the safety of Singapore and took back their properties; also, many people have been moving here from Hong Kong, and there are new expats coming in, too.
All of this means there’s a shortage of good apartments and houses to rent, and rental prices are holding or even increasing. Managing clients’ expectations is key now because so many people think they’ll find a bargain and can make lowball offers. But it simply isn’t the case.
After lockdown, did you see any changes in homesearch requirements?
Yes, many clients wanted to move out of their small apartments in the CBD and instead have an apartment with an extra bedroom as their home office as well as balconies. A lot of families are continuing to move to houses with gardens or by the beach, because they went stir crazy during lockdown cooped up in an apartment. We have never known Sentosa to be so full!
What areas are popular right now?
Staples like Bukit Timah and East Coast are always sought-after due to their proximity to the Botanic Gardens and East Coast Park. Where expat families live is usually determined by the international schools their children attend. But, as mentioned earlier, we have seen Sentosa go from quiet to super popular because, with the travel restrictions in place, resort-style island living has enormous appeal.
What’s the most unusual property request you’ve catered for in the job?
A landlord wanted to rent out his house together with his cat! The cat was noisy and territorial, so it put off all the prospective tenants from renting the place.
And a funny situation you’ve encountered?
We were viewing a house in Singapore and my client opened a kitchen cupboard, and just like dominoes all the cupboards collapsed! It was like something out of a movie! The landlord was there and she simply said, “No issue.” The client asked whether she would put in a new kitchen and the landlord responded, “This one is fine.” We cut our viewing short!
What about the most difficult situation you encounter?
Sometimes nickel-and-diming over the return of security deposits is arduous. We have a 100 percent success rate in getting security deposits paid back in full but this is because we conduct a thorough check-in inventory and condition report with photos so there’s clear evidence of damage. We also ensure that clients do a professional clean, curtain clean and air-con clean before leaving so they don’t get deductions for this. We fight our clients’ corner.
Why do we need our own agent when looking for a house to rent in Singapore?
If you find a house or apartment directly through a landlord’s agent, you need to understand that that agent will always be protecting the landlord’s interests and taking their side in any disputes. It’s their duty to their client. Having your own agent means you have someone representing your interests, taking your side, sorting out issues. This is particularly important when it comes to ongoing repairs and maintenance and the return of your security deposit; having your own agent can make an enormous difference.
What do I pay for having my own agent?
Engaging an agent to represent you doesn’t cost you anything if your lease is for two years or more and your budget is a minimum monthly rental of S$3,000. Therefore, it makes total sense to have your own representative in your corner.
What changes would you like to see in the property industry in Singapore?
We would like mandatory electric and gas safety certificates issued before the start of every tenancy and renewal. Currently, no safety checks are conducted, which is an accident waiting to happen. We would like to see a security deposit scheme managed by a third party to ensure fair return – also, for landlords to pay a monthly management charge, as agents currently handle all the ongoing queries, repairs coordination and issues for free; this is time-consuming and it means we work for free a lot.
To book a homesearch with the Knight Frank Expat Team, call Ella 91551010 or email her on firstname.lastname@example.org. They can help with both apartments and houses to rent in Singapore.
The Expat Team
Jessica Catherine Low R062922J | Maxim Loo R045323H | Ella Sherman R015528H
Which neighbourhood would you like to live in, in Singapore? Have a look at this article on where to live in Singapore for starters.