Friday, September 30, 2011

Looking for an HDB flat to rent - Part 2

I have started to look for an HDB for rent as I have previously wrote in Looking for an hdb flat to rent: part 1. On Thursday I had a message from one of the property agents about 2 units available within my budget: "Hi, There are 2 units available within your budget. 4 room HDB flat blk ... at Tampines. Asking $2,300 nice unit. Do you wanna see it tomorrow morning?" I have agreed to see both of them yesterday evening.

As I have written in part-1, we have abandoned 3 room flat search since all the units we have seen in Bedok and Tampines were old and in bad condition while asking prices were so high. As we have covered in Cheapest places to rent an hdb flat in Singapore article, 2011 2nd quarter transaction prices in Bedok and Tampines were around $1,700 and $1,800. The units we have seen were starting from $2200 per month. Of course, the HDB transaction prices are mean prices, which means half of the units rented out are above the mean price. But if these units were the upper half, I would even not want to see the lower end. Do not get me wrong, I am not trying to insult the people who are trying to rent them out. Of course they will charge as much as they can, they are already paying very high prices to buy them but there must be a fair match between what a unit offers and a rent asked for it.

Anyway, first unit was really nice. Well kept, well renovated. But the hit came immediately when we stepped in. The owner is not locking a room so the asking price is 2,600 SGD per month! I have written the full message from the agent above. Does it give any hint about this price increase? Room locked? No mention of room lock. But there it is, the price jumps to $2,600 on the spot.

This unethical practice is very common nowadays. Take a tenant to a house by telling him that price is i.e. 2,300 SGD per month but then once he/she is there the price becomes 2,600 SGD per month. I think they believe once you are there and if the unit is nice, you will accept. Even if the unit was OK I would not accept since this is absolutely unethical behavior and more it just insults you. But there they are, tenants with less self respect, accepting this play so it is executed a lot.

I have told my agent, who also behaved liked she was surprised with price jump, that I offer $2,200 SGD per month. The unit is well kept but still it is in an older style HDB, not walking distance to MRT and asking price of a condo unit in a nearby condominium is 3,000 SGD.

One thing you should know as a foreigner here in Singapore is, Singapore in Asia and in Asia we bargain. They offer something and you offer your price until you reach the middle price. My offer was only %15 percent down the asking price. I think the unit is nice and deserves more than $2,100 SGD per month (mean transaction price of last quarter in Tampines for 4 room flat).

I do not expect the owner will consider my price. There were 4 more couples there all brought by the same agent ("tenant shepherd"). I am quite sure one of them will jump into $2,600 SGD per month for 2 years lease where economy is slowing and rents are expected to come down.

Anyway, second unit was a double blow. Its asking price was $2,500 SGD per month not $2,300 SGD per month. And it was not 4 room lol! It was 3 room flat. I am not sure what these property agents are thinking. Do they think that we will say "OK, the prices are higher than you have told us but we have came and spent our time so we should rent. We are idiots with no self-respect anyway". Actually flat was quite OK but again this on the spot rise.

I have asked my agent, who looks like a very nice lady, why did she brought us to view 2 units whose prices were higher and room sizes were less that she has messaged us? I told her my budget and what I am looking for clearly anyway. And I told her I am not desperate to move out. She told us the other agent (landlord agent I guess) told her that the units were 4 room and the price was 2,300 SGD per month. I told her, it was OK for us to see units, it gives us more opinion on the market but she has just wasted her evening and fuel (she takes us to the place by her own car).

These kind of things are quite common I guess. But now the reasons are more unacceptable. I have seen many agents who has increased the price on the spot because "there was a couple who are already willing to pay the increased price". Now, they even do not bother to use that excuse.

Update: 2 days later my agent called me and told me that the landlord asks 2,500 SGD per month but one room locked! I offered 2,300 SGD per month but in fact I will not get it anyway. I won't accept since I am sick of this agent, landlord tricks in Singapore who are simply toying with you. But it was 2,500 SGD because another couple wanted to go for that price (a common tactic used by agents. It may be true or not but when bargaining skip this comment). I said "good for them, I offer 2,300 SGD per month".

It is also time to abandon online famous property sites. The agents there have so many supply of tenants that they behave as they wish to the tenants. I have worked with enough agents from these sites to conclude that none has a proper business attitude towards their customers.

Unfortunately to be continued ...
Update : 2 months after this article, I have managed to rent a nice BTO flat in Bedok which is 5 minutes walk away from Tanah Merah MRT Station. And did not pay an agent fee :)

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