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Renting a property in Singapore: See our seven steps to making the property hunt that bit smoother

Condo or house? Compile a checklist of your requirements before you head out 

Home is where the heart is, and choosing the right home is part of ensuring a happy experience in Singapore. Most expats sign up for a two-year lease with the option to renew, so it’s worth taking the time to choose a neighbourhood that has the facilities you need. The experts at Expat Realtor have compiled the following information to help you negotiate your way through the property minefield.

7 Steps to Leasing: 

1. Compile a checklist of your requirements

Like anywhere else, money goes farther when you’re outside the prime districts. If you plan to live in a central location, you may have to settle for less space or fewer onsite facilities. While rental prices are still high, 2013 has seen prices adjusting downwards in the higher brackets above $10,000 and the central districts flat-lining. However, good value properties in the outer regions and lower priced units have retained and even seen increases as people generally have been downsizing

2. Choose your agent carefully

Word of mouth is usually best and it is highly recommended to use one agent who will then commit to you 100 percent as agents here are paid on a commission-only basis. Avoid registering with a number of agents: it’s time-wasting and confusing for everyone concerned as they all access the same database of properties on the market. If you do decide to view properties with more than one agent, tell them upfront which properties you have already viewed to avoid duplication. The rule of thumb is that for properties costing $3,000 per month and more, the agent’s commission is paid by the landlord. Otherwise, it is paid by the tenant. The commission is half of a month’s rent for each year of the lease. No rental means no fee.

3. Aim to view no more than six properties at a time.

Tell your agent what you’re looking for in terms of style, price, location and size. Take photos when viewing to review afterwards, and arrange for a second viewing to make a note of anything you might need to request in the Letter of Intent (LOI) such as the replacement of damaged fixtures such as sinks and taps, old hobs, mouldy fridges and so on. Changes not requested in the LOI will be almost impossible to implement after the lease has been signed. Do be reasonable with your requests, as you don’t want to risk your offer being rejected because you appear to be a “difficult tenant”.

4. Ensure you are covered by the Diplomatic Clause

The Diplomatic Clause allows you to break your lease after 14 months (12 months plus two months’ notice) if, for whatever reason, you have to leave Singapore. You may not break your lease on any other grounds.

5. Paying Deposits

Two deposits are required: one month’s rent payable with the LOI, and two months’ rent on the signing of the Tenancy Agreement (TA). The first goes towards the first month’s rental and is called the good faith deposit, or holding deposit. The second is held as the security deposit and returned by the landlord (minus the cost of making good any damage) at the end of the lease. The tenant is also required to pay the stamp duty.

6. Service Charges

For apartments, your rental usually includes the service charge for general maintenance of the common facilities. For landed properties, there is no service charge, but as with apartments, you are responsible for minor repairs and routine maintenance, payment of public utilities, telephone and cable TV services, and servicing of air-conditioning units. All of this is covered in the Tenancy Agreement.

7. Signing Your Contracts

At the time of handover, make sure all your requests have been met. You or your agent should note on the Inventory List and take file photos of any defects such as damaged flooring or broken items. This will protect you at the termination of the lease. Signing your contracts and moving in should not be the end of the relationship with your agent. A good agent will keep in touch to provide ongoing help and advice.