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15 February 2012

Hunting & Moving

We've been on the hunt for a new place to live since just before Christmas.  This has been a pretty consuming and far more stressful (than I anticipated) process for me and my husband but at long last we are finally in our new home.  Albeit in exactly the same condo block as we already were and after having looked at many other places in between.  

Our two year lease was due for renewal or expiry at the beginning of February (I can't believe how quickly that time has gone).  We were more than happy in our previous flat and would have been happy to remain there.  If nothing else to save the time of looking at other places and the hassle of moving.  Unfortunately though our previous landlord wanted to raise our rent by 30% which put it in a price range we just could not afford.  So reluctantly we gave notice of our intention to end our lease and move.  We did initially try to negotiate on the rent with him but he was adamant that he would not come down on his new rental charge per month.  So moving it had to be.

Our set of requirements were really only a desire to remain within the East Coast area, to have a balcony (we love sitting out on it and see it as an extension of our living space) and to be fairly high up to get the best of any breezes and hopefully a reasonable view too.  As time progressed and we began viewing places I also decided that I would prefer a more recently built place too.  Although we looked at one older condo with an amazing amount of additional room for our money it seemed a bit dark and gloomy inside in comparison to our old home and our home now.  The newer builds that I've seen certainly seem more light and airy, though you do seem generally to have to compromise on size unless you have a huge budget to play with.

I came to the conclusion as well with this move that it has been harder to make in a way because we now know the place (and especially as we like where we live) and have sussed out the good and the bad parts.  When my husband arrived he was very reliant on the agent he used then for guidance as he had no extensive knowledge of Singapore and in turn where he wanted to live.  He knew he wanted to be somewhere with a reasonably good commute to the city and as he liked what he was shown in the East Coast area he went for that.  I guess I was fortunate then too as I did not have to be involved in any of that process as I did not join him until six months after he'd made the move and had already found a home for us.  Since then, of course, we've been able to explore here and other parts of Singapore and definitely felt that we'd made a lucky but good choice of location for us personally, hence our wish to remain in this part of the island.

So began the hunt.  I've heard of many others here who have arrived and had amazing agents who have shown them a multitude of properties whilst also showing them Singapore, places to eat, places to go and so on.  Whilst obviously we did not need someone to show us Singapore this time, we seemed to dip out too on finding a really good agent.  Even my husband's agent when he first moved out here didn't do anything extra, as it seems so many others do from experiences I've heard about since, apart from show him various condo blocks.  Though at the time he never even thought about an agent doing that type of thing for us so never considered it a requirement.  In addition my husband's company, that he was then working for, did not assist him in lining up an agent or a contact to help him with the finding of a place to live when he first arrived.  I don't know whether perhaps those who seem to have been lucky with agents have been so because their companies have taken a more active role in the process of helping their new employee with the settling into a new country.  All that said though the one we eventually dealt with regarding the condo we have now moved into has been truly very helpful.  Including coming round to ours in the evening to personally reimburse me out of his own pocket for the cost of an unexpected (but urgently required) visit by an electrician, rather than us having to wait for the Landlord to do so.  Something I really did not expect him to do and was pleasantly surprised that he came and did.

We looked at a few places before the Christmas break but none of them were exactly what we wanted.  The agents all seemed very relaxed and laid back (including in one case never getting  back to us at all when we made enquiries) about the amount of time we still had to find a new place.  Although I'd be told that a lot of the agreeing on and signing of contracts is often done very close to an end of lease date, with landlords being reluctant to sign over a place to someone not intending to move in straightaway.  We also knew that Christmas was approaching and we were due to return to the UK so would lose a week there and that shortly before our end of lease it was Chinese New Year where lots of people would again be away.  So we were very keen to, and felt it was best to start the process as early as possible.

With nothing much happening before Christmas after the break we re-commenced the search with renewed keenness.  We saw a few places, some of which we really liked but each time we seemed to just miss out on them by a whisker, much to our increasing frustration and disappointment.  For example, in one case we were advised we could only view on a certain date and at a certain time as they were not letting anyone view at any other time due to not being able to get access to the place.  When we arrived we were greeted with the news that someone else had already made an offer above what the place was on the market for.  Therefore despite us making an offer with confirmation that we could give them a cheque there and then we, not surprisingly, missed out.  Another place did not come with a washing machine which we asked for in the offer that we made.  Our offer on that place did actually get accepted but we were told if we wanted a washing machine we'd either have to buy it ourselves (not something we really wanted to do) or pay an additional $100 per month rent to cover the cost of the Landlord supplying one.  Clearly over a two year lease that was going to turn out to be a pretty expensive washing machine!

It seemed as well that for whatever reason our precise wish list was proving hard to accommodate and suitable properties were proving scarce.  So we agreed we'd look at places that were lower down in buildings, that we'd look beyond the East Coast area and if really pushed that we could do without a balcony, as much as we knew we'd miss it.

We had looked at a couple of places in our current condo at the very start of our search but at the time felt they were both too low down in the building.  However with time marching on we began to wonder if we should in fact reconsider them if they were still free as by this stage Chinese New Year was fast approaching and the knowledge that there was not long left for us to find a new place was becoming a reality.  At the same time we decided to make another higher offer to our former landlord just a little below what he wanted (he had only had one viewing since we gave our notice so we knew the place was still available) but that too was also declined.  In hindsight perhaps that was no bad thing as even that was stretching our budget somewhat.

So we made further enquiries about the two other flats we knew had been available in our current condo.  Typically the slightly higher of the two had finally gone just that day but the other one was still available.  We'd already viewed it but knew it was exactly like our current place so did not really need to see it again, so we made an offer there and then which was accepted - hooray!  It meant we had managed to stay in the East Coast area and had kept a balcony but were just a lot lower down then we had initially planned.  It also meant we could do the move ourselves with the help of friends for the heavy furniture rather than hire people to do it for us.  Though having now done that and although only over a few floors with lifts as well I really do appreciate the firm who came and packed all our stuff up when it was shipped here, when all I had to do was supervise a bit and read a book whilst they packed!  Another good point is that we are also paying a lot less (and within our budget confines) than what our former landlord wanted (and I assume still does) for the identical one we were in previously.  We have had a rearranging of furniture, just so it does feel a little like we've actually moved and apart from the spare bedroom everything is pretty much in place now.  

This is actually a photo of our previous flat prior to the arrival of the furniture but other than the floor we are on the place we are in now is exactly the same!


The fun wasn't over though.  As is standard practice, after we had moved out of our previous place we carried out an inventory check with our former landlord and his agent where everything was checked, agreed and signed by all parties.  However his agent then later proceeded to indicate their were additional problems with the flat which would also be deducted from our deposit if not rectified.  This was something that did not sit comfortably with our idea of fairness as we could no longer access the property to view for ourselves the additional problems that had now been identified and this extra check had been done without us being present for it.  As it happens we have now received the majority of our deposit back as was originally agreed and without being charged for the additional 'problems', but only with some persistence on our part about the validity of this additional inspection and the querying of where certain things that were being quoted at us were actually written in the tenancy agreement.  With our new place we have therefore gone to great pains to get the agent to note any apparent minor faults.  For example, we have ceiling fans in this flat and the handheld controllers do not work, apparently they never have.  Not a huge problem as they can still be turned on if we do want to use them and actually we only generally use the air conditioning in our bedroom over night, preferring the rest of the time to have balcony doors and windows open to let in natural breezes.  Nonetheless though I got this clearly noted now so when we come to eventually leave here there can be no queries about whether they were at one time working or not.  Likewise there is also a mark on a couple of the bathroom tiles on the floor (again not a problem) which has been highlighted to our agent to note.  Of course I've also been busy taking photos of everything where there is the potential for a query to arise at a later date.

Moving in to the new place has not been without hitch either though, the first night after we moved we turned the oven on which tripped the fuse.  We flicked that back on and all the lights blew.  Fortunately we still had power but no lights no matter what we tried.  The electrician came to look at it and had to replace a part in the fuse box and thankfully everything now seems to be alright.  Although when our agent came in the evening to reimburse us for the cost he confirmed that the exact same thing happened to the previous tenants.  So I hope that the new part has fixed the problem rather than just delayed it from happening again.

Despite all this and initial reservations about being so low down I'm actually pleasantly surprised by, so far, how little I've missed our high floored flat (though I will always slightly miss our previous sea view with Indonesia in the distance on a clear day).  Firstly it is noticeably much quieter lower down in the building, though I imagine when they begin the pile driving on the new condo build up the road it won't matter what floor we are on it will be as noisy as ever.  I can still hear the construction noise but it is a lot quieter and certainly seems more distant and less obtrusive, I guess the buildings and trees shelter us a bit more.  We are also more sheltered from the main road near by, all we get now is the noise of the ramp as cars come and go from the condo.  I can actually hear bird song and am low enough down now to get a good look at all the different types of birds as they flit between the trees and shrubs.  This certainly makes me feel like we are a bit more secluded and less overlooked.  Our new place also has day curtains (our old place did not) which provide a certain amount of additional privacy from our nearest neighbour's balcony.  I'm not sure yet whether we get as much of a breeze as previously but we still get enough to be comfortable most of the time.

I guess you can't ever say moving isn't stressful no matter how much you plan for and prepare for it, though I didn't expect this much but the unexpected will always happen.  So far our new landlord (and the agent) have been more than accommodating with our requirements and hopefully from here on we'll have a pleasant and happy stay in our new home.

UPDATE - June 2015

Since writing this post about my personal experiences of condo hunting in Singapore I've been made aware of this great website which may just be the answer to some of your prayers. Keylocation.sg, whilst not a condo listings site, allows you to search on what matters to you when choosing your new location. You can search on commuting time but also things such as nearby schools and even supermarkets! Enabling you to save valuable time and have a clearer idea of exactly what you want when it comes to arranging viewings. With so many condos in Singapore and new ones springing up virtually everyday it sounds like a great starting point to me.

10 comments:

  1. Great post Laura and will be helpful to others as well.

    We found it quite unfair for the LL to suddenly come up with extra items that were 'not working' or 'damaged' AFTER we had signed and AFTER we had handed the key back. This is what happened to us when we left The Jade in January of last year .... we lost most of our deposit on things that 'were not working' and we couldn't dispute it either.

    This time we photographed everything and gave our agent the full list... so we hope when we have 'handover' next Friday that it will not be so stressful this time.

    Very different here and very unfair to the people leasing these apartments, most times we don't have a leg to stand on.

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    1. It's a shame to hear that we are not the only ones to encounter that problem. There are good and bad everywhere though so I hope your handover this time goes better than the first and that when it comes to our next one it will be a better experience too!

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  2. Oh that sucks you had to move, what a greedy landlord! Glad you found a new home, even with the minor hitches. So glad we don't have to deal with landlord issues, but any home issues are ours now :P

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    1. Yes it is a shame as we'd have happily stayed where we were but we are in now and settling down nicely again. There are times (particularly when all this was going on) that I really wished we'd owned our own property but that too can be just as much of a headache. I'm sure your new place will be fine though and be a wonderfully happy home for you and your husband!

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  3. Your former LL sounds like an asshat. We're actually extending our lease in part to avoid all of that for another year or two...which hadn't been our plan!

    Glad that you were able to work out getting back most of your deposit back..I was keeping up with the saga on twitter. We once had an issue like that in the US and it took hiring a lawyer to get the LL to back down, which was a horrible horrible experience.

    To be fair, Ravi's company did give us a realtor agent to use...who saw expats=$$$ and only showed us places at the absolute end or beyond our budget. She also kept on about nonsense like rooftop gardens when I kept communicating that what I cared about were playgrounds and kiddy pools. We ended up finding our current agent through a referral. I'm not crazy about her, but she also isn't completely clueless/awful. She isn't who I'd want to go to bat for me during negotiations though. Luckily our LL seems like a perfectly nice person who isn't out to get us (yet)

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    1. I'm glad we didn't have to resort to anything more than a few well worded e-mails to get the issue resolved. I remember as a student in the UK we had an awful Landlord who wasn't going to give us anything back. Luckily my housemate's Dad was a Chartered Surveyor and with a few well chosen comments and e-mails about the house and the state of it when we moved in etc. from him amazingly we suddenly all found we got our cheques back!

      I can well imagine that those who do get some sort of help from their companies also can then find they are automatically lumped into the expats = $$$ bracket so I guess there is good and bad in that too when you are trying to make them understand what you really want and what you can actually afford!

      I honestly don't know how good our agent would be if there was a real problem but hopefully we won't have to find that out. For all the less than great Landlords there are also plenty, I like to think, who are decent and if you respect them and their property they will respect you. Hope everything works out with yours when the time comes.

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  4. Our landlord jacked up the rent by 61% after our two year lease in Pasir Panjang expired. So we got busy finding a new place. We found a larger condo in Bukit Batok and signed the papers. Then we got a call from the original landlord, saying that he'd changed his mind - because we were good tenants, we could have the place at 0% increase! Too late...

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    1. Haha serves him right really for being so greedy to start with! I thought 30% was bad enough!

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  5. Glad you found somewhere but it did sound like a bit of a nightmare.

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  6. Yes it was, I wouldn't want to have to do it again any time soon!

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