Sunday, May 4, 2014

Renting a Senkang flat and living in Senkang

This January I have left Bedok for Senkang. The landlord of my rental HDB flat was increasing the rent from 2,600 SGD per month to 2,700 SGD per month. I have a friend who lives in a rental flat in Dakota and has successfully convinced his landlord that he would leave the house if he would increase the rent (his rent is 2,700 SGD per month). Mine was not even listening so I moved out.

Bedok is quite far to city and is an old HDB estate. Although it is mature in terms of amenities, the flats are old and expensive. Since the opening of Changi Business Park, more bank offices moved to East and there are many IT professionals with deep pockets. Many also look for a place as a group so it is hard to compete with 4-5 salaries with a family budget. So, rents are quite high in Bedok and we do not have any reason to pay the premium, I work in city center and my wife is at home now looking after our baby.

So we have decided to leave our rental flat and Bedok. After looking at several locations, price and flat quality wise, Senkang shined. Senkang is known to be far away neighbourhood and is definitely a non-mature estate. I was thinking about the area because I am planning to buy a resale HDB and I do not want to pay COV (Cash over valuation). In Senkang and Pungol, COV is zero or negative. I wanted to rent there a year before going for a purchase and I knew the rental prices were lower.

My wife was reluctant to move from Bedok and even to look at HDBs in Senkang. But after we have seen several rental flats, we were not even looking flats outside Senkang! Very new HDB blocks full of condominium like HDB flats with rentals cheaper than mature estates! We have later found a flat for 2,400 SGD per month (3600 SGD per year cheaper than the one in Bedok). But the price is not the only appeal. The flat is new and interior design is just great. Much better than the one in Bedok.

I have been living in Senkang for a few months now and I have lived here enough to see that those so-called non-mature estate disadvantages are highly exaggerated. Senkang is only 10 minutes more to commute to my work place in Tiong Bahru, compared to Bedok. Although amenities are less, there are still plenty and we have everything from hawker centers to food courts. One suprising thing was that we need less taxi from our Senkang place to city center compared to our Bedok flat. We also do not go to city a lot. The reason is the NEX in Serangoon. In Bedok and near Bedok, there is no big shopping mall as NEX.

A warning, we need less taxi here and taxis are also hard to find in Senkang. It is quite a norm here to wait for a taxi for an hour even you are calling.

Senkang Town center and Compass Point Shopping Mall
And the rental prices in Senkang are falling. As I write this, a flat similar to mine was going for 2,300 SGD per month. As months pass-by, large number of BTO flats complated 5-years ago are entering the resale and rental market.  2009 and 2010 onwards, new BTO flat constructions were quite high and they will enter the market by large numbers.

Actually this must be an island wide trend in Singapore. Last time I looked for a rental flat was in 2012 and at that time, agents were taking groups of tenants (I mean an agent was taking groups of tenants at the same time)  to flats and the landlords were not even talking to you if you wanted to negotiate. Now, no more tenant group visits and also landlords are more willing to negotiate 10-15% discounts. Asking prices are also more reasonable.

Here are some tips in renting an HDB flat in Senkang:

- Try to rent near Senkang MRT Station (where there is also a mid-size shopping mall named Compass Point) or near LRT stations. There are many new and nice HDB blocks right next to LRT stations which makes commuting quite easy.
- HDBs near Senkang Sports and Recreation Center are great places to rent a flat. This place is like a water park!
- Try to look for rental in The Straits Times classified. There are more landlord agents and senior property agents there then online sites.
- I usually save on property agent fee when I am renting. When you call the agent, just ask him whether he/she is a landlord agent or tenant agent. Talk further to landlord agents. They get their commission from landlord so you do no need to pay property agent fee if you work with them. I worked through tenant agents before. They just behave as message relay service between you and landlord agent and when there is a conflict, they have little use (they usually behave like they do not have any responsibility on the transaction). And for doing almost nothing they get half the rent every year (even if you extend your rent on the same unit, they still get commission from you).

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