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F.A.Q.: Frequently Asked Questions - Housing PDF Print E-mail
Frequently Asked Questions - Housing

Question: Can anybody tell me what are the standard rules on what a real estate agent charges the tenant? If i'm not mistaken isn't the landlord the one who should be paying the real estate for the commission? What are the costs that need to be covered by the tenant? eg. preparation of the contract, other documentation etc.

Answer: For rentals above a certain minimum figure, usually at S$2500 a month, the tenant does not pay anything to the agent. Otherwise both the tenant and landlord will pay the agent the equivalent of half a month's rental. This should be stated before viewings are conducted. All tenants must pay the deposit, usually two months worth of rent. This is in the event of damages at the end of the tenancy, the landlord's interests are taken care of. Stamping of the tenancy agreement makes the tenancy legally valid, and protects both the landlord and the tenant. The fee is based on a scale fee, in accordance with the gazetted figure. This item is usally negotiable.

My advice is to have a proper tenancy agreement in place. Be careful of the 'standard' agent's agreement, usually used to save the cost of preparing the agreement by a qualified lawyer. There should be a 'diplomatic clause' in there, to allow the tenant to break the lease in the event he is deported, has left the company, or has committed a breach or a criminal offence; subject to the tenant having stayed a minimum period of time before this clause may be invoked. There should also be a small amount of minor repairs of a wear-and-tear nature, for which the tenant is responsible, eg the first $150.00 for any repair is for the tenants account; and repairs that will likely exceed this amount should have the landlord notified (since it is likely to be a major item for which he has to pay, he should be informed and his interests looked after)

Question: We are just waiting to receive a tenancy agreement from our agent to sign for a 2 year lease on a condo. It's the agents "standard agreement" apparently, just wondered if anyone had any advice from rental agreements in Singapore they have signed on things to look out for/things you wished now were in the contract you signed originally/ things you wished now you'd asked more about

Answer: Read it very carefully. Most of the 'standard agreements' that I have seen are full of errors and omissions (some deliberate I am sure) Pay particular attention to the diplomatic clause - should be 12 months +2 months i.e. you are allowed to break the contract should you move overseas because your company transfers you, emergency, etc, etc, after a minimum stay of 12 months, with 2 months' notice without forfeiting the deposit. . Is there an option to renew clause? Make sure you clarify the who pays for repairs and maintenance (usually tenant pays up to a nominal figure of $50) Landlord should pay for insurance of building and any inlcuded furniture. If any other documents are referred to in the agreement. Make sure you get a copy of them.

Make sure the lease says that the landlord has to get fire insurance on the building. The "standard" lease I've got said something like, "The landlord must maintain a policy of insurance for the premises in respect of losses caused by fire OR any risks as determined by the landlord in his discretion." I got the "OR" changed to "AND" before I signed it. Otherwise, the landlord would not have been obliged to get fire insurance. Good idea to read every word of your lease, and don't be afraid to request amendments before you sign it.

Try to have the tenancy agreement cut out in your company's name, not your personal name. This way, you are not bound should you decide to change jobs (and the new employer would love to give you a bigger house - but you can't since you are personally happily bound to stay put until the lease runs out).
Watch for clauses to say the tenant has to pay the agent's commissions - you are not liable unless the monthly rent falls below the agreed figure. Stamp fees are usually borne by the tenant, but it is common now to split 50-50; your share of the stamp fees should be recoverable from your office. There should not be any charge for the 'preparation of tenancy agreement' unless it is a freshly prepared piece done up by a lawyer.

Many landlords would like to include 'Viewings by landlords or agents' clauses. These are fair as long as they have the 'by prior appointment and at reasonable times' added to them.
Finally, watch out for clauses which allow the landlord to sell their property. As the tenant you should be allowed to stay on despite the change of owners. There should *not* be clauses that say 'tenants would quit the property in the event of a sale as long as there is reasonable notice (of 2 or 3 or even 6 months) served by the landlord.

Question: I have been offered a job in the CBD
(Central Business District, Shenton Way). Can
you recommend a good area to live in, not too far
away, with shops and good public transport ?

Answer: I would recommend you consider the Katong area, near East Coast as one strong possibility.  The shops there are good - Suntec City (Singapore's biggest shopping mall, including a well-stocked Carrefour Hypermarket) is situated less than 10 minutes drive away.  There is also the beach nearby and East Coast Park and it is generally seen as a relaxing and pleasant spot.  Condominiums are reasonably priced and as for public transport, there are regular buses into town.  The ECP (East Coast Parkway) is a fast efficient route into the heart of ths CBD, Singapore's Central Business District.

Question: Please give me an indication of housing cost in the Bukit Timah area (proximity to Swiss School) for a 4 bedroom flat or house (between 2500 and 3000 sq ft). What other residential areas are recommended?  What costs besides rent have to be considered (any Government rates, charges?) In addition, what are typical utility bills like?

Answer: Generally, the cost of a condiminium apartment or a house in the Prime residential districts of district 9 (the Orchard Road, River Valley Road areas), 10 (Holland Road) and 11(Bukit Timah) for the size you are looking at may be had for S$6000.00 to S$10000.00 a month. I presume you are looking at living near the school, in which case it will be in the Bukit Timah area. There is an abundance of housing for you to choose from at the moment. In fact, along the stretch of Swiss Club Road and its immediate proximity, you will find there are many gorgeous houses for you to set up home. The price will depend on the condition of the property, and if you are lucky, you may even have a house with a swimming pool if that is what you fancy! However be prepared to maintain the pool, which is not a problem if you also have the budget for a gardener and a house maid. Otherwise, if you have a club membership, then recreational facilities will not be any issue. Alternatively, you may want to consider living in a condiminium with some facilities.

There are no other rates or charges that you have to pay. Landlords pay commissions to the realtors who secure the lease on the unit. There are some small fees you might have to pay such as the rental deposit and the stamping of the tenancy agreement, but these are usually paid for by the company employing you. Realtors will be happy to show you around. So if you can tell them ahead of time what you are looking for, and when you would like to have viewings done, they can do a shortlist and set up the appointments with the landlords.

Utility charges vary, depending on usage. Typically, expect to pay anything from S$300.00 to $650.00 amonth. Most of this is from the airconditioning expats put on - the higher charges from expats leaving the full airconditioning on all day everyday, sometimes with doors and windows open! The monthly bill can then run in excess of S$1000.00 a month.

The other item you might want to consider or negotiate with your employers is transportation. Cars and their running costs are expensive in Singapore. On average, expect to incur S$2500 to S$3000.00 a month to rent a 1600-2000 cc car with some petrol leftover for the car.

Question:  Can you tell me about furniture shops in Singapore? What options do I have when furnishing my new home?

Answer: First, we suggest you go to the magazine stands (Borders will have lots for browsing) and look at the home decor magazines. Local ones are what you will need to look at - IQ Magazine, Home & Decor, And the ID Magazine are all good buys. In these magazines you will find many advertisers with their showroom locations. A lot depends on what you are looking at buying, your budget, and so on.

Upmarket period type funiture, both genuine and reproductions as well as copies, may be found at Le Merciers along Mohammed Sultan Lane, off River Valley Road. You get traditional Victorian to period American to modern comtemporary including Italian one-offs. Monticello at Shaw Centre is well stocked with expensive Italian, French, and other European imports. For something more down to earth you should make a trip to IMM Building along Toh Guan Road (near the Science Centre). You will find a hundred shops, some good, some better, and others that you won't want to bother with. Try Lauuser for simple stylish reasonably priced sofa sets; several highly recommended cane/wicker furniture shops (can't remember their names now - but they are all listed in the magazines).

You might also want to rent some pieces of furniture if you are unsure about whether to rush into buying now. Go to the Anchorage Condominium which is opposite to IKEA. At the shopping area there is a place called Home Essentials. You pick and choose. Reasonable rates. Have fun. Be confused! It's all apart of moving. Forgot to add, there's also Ethan Allen in the Great World City shopping centre near town.

If you like Dutch colonial teakwood style stuff, we recommend Straits Curios in Tiong Bahru and Lim's Arts in Scotts Shopping Centre as well as in Holland Village. One of our readers swears by Interior Effects at the basement of Eastpoint Shopping Center. They design their own stuff and he claims that they are distinctly different from all the other shops that carry teak furniture. All the furniture are from Indonesia and delivery is usually from 2 days to a week. If you are looking for couches and lamps, suggest also Home Ideas which is in the same building as Pennsylvannia House furniture, next to Capitol cinema. The store next to Home Ideas is also worth a look.

Question: For S$2000, can I rent a decent 2-bed room apartment in a nice area?

Answer: Yes you can but it depends on what you mean by a nice area. If you mean residential, yes. But if you mean near town, no. Someone we know just rented a two-bedroom HDB (public housing) apartment for $1,200. It's ok but it's a working class neighbourhood. Safe but common areas but not be all that clean. Also, it's about an hour by the subway to town. (Most people in Singapore would consider that far). I would say that you can get an HDB (public housing) apartment for $1,500 half an hour by the subway from town.

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