Thursday, December 22, 2011

How to find a good property agent in Singapore

Let me put it straight: in Singapore, the number of honest and good property agents which would service you well is far less than the ones which would not anger or even disgust you. As it is said in moneysmart article named  Property Agents: How to Find the Right One, "for every honest property agent out there, there are two more that make parasites look good by comparison." As a long time tenant in Singapore, I totally agree and the situation for rental market is worse. Most of the agents I have seen are just trying to push the worst of properties with highest of the monthly rent.

But you should also look at the full side of the glass. For every 2-3 monuments of greed with bad service out there, there is 1 good property agent that you can work with. The trick is to know how to find a good or at least normal property agent.

Start searching early. Since majority of the property agents will just waste your time, you need to give a good buffer before finding a new place becomes an urgency. Otherwise you will put yourself in one of those bad seeds outside even if you know what you do is wrong.

Avoid big name Singapore property portals. There are flashy sites here you know, "property master", "tenant guru", "I Find The Best property", etc. You know them. Now if the site claims that it is the best property site in Singapore, try to avoid the agents there. The problem is that all the new comers to Singapore, the most clueless ones, immediately jumps to the agents here so the agents here have a large pool of tenants to torture. I have never seen a good deal coming from the folks here, never. They usually work like "tenant shepherds", herd 4-5 groups of tenants at the same time to the property, the rental price of course is %20-30 percent higher than he has mentioned in the advertisement (a couple is paying high now so please bid higher), etc. There are many tenants who looks and behaves so desperate to rent a unit so these guys get spoiled. And believe me, many do not miss the opportunity to spoil to a point where you walk out of unit without even saying a word to them.

I do not mean avoid internet completely, you can still hunt deals for rent in online classified ads such as Singapore gumtree but big property portals are not a good place to find a property to rent if you have a limited budget (it may be different if you are a condominium hunter with high budget).

OK, avoid property portals, but how will you find an agent then?

The best, and most of the time only, way to find a good property agent in Singapore is word-of-mouth. Ask your friends and colleagues for reference. It is very easy to come up with a few candidates since  most of the expatriates living in Singapore for a long time will have several good agent contacts to guide you.

The second best way to find a good property agent is the classified sections of news papers. In my opinion although this is far less favorable than the best, it is far better than the property portals. I think, more traditional and veteran property agents prefer this medium while more youngsters who did not have time to cultivate work ethics prefer internet. The Straits Times has a daily classified section for rentals.

Also do the following to not waste time on bad property agents:

Avoid the tenant shepherds. I call these guys tenant shepherds since they collect a group of tenants and take them to the property at the same time. There may be other agents and their customers in the viewing or your agent can arrange sequential viewings for his clients but avoid the ones who arrange parallel viewing for his customers. Simply ask how many of his/her clients will view at the same time before even going there. These tenant shepherds will spend more time on to clash his own clients to increase rental price instead of negotiating a lower rental on your behalf. And if you only discover that the agent is a tenant shephard in the view, simply just leave there. Chances of getting a good deal from this guy / woman is zero.

Avoid "bring in deposit or regret" guys. "Bring in deposit with you, most of my units go in the first viewing". This is the typical sentence in their advertisements or they say it to you. Avoid them! You should view, go back and negotiate with him. Although rental market is severely against tenants now in HDB units, private property market is better now since there are many empty units, you can and should still negotiate and should not jump into any rush on the spot, especially if it is coming from a person who should be tenant agent. 

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