The first time you rent in Singapore, you will learn three things: everything is expensive, few neighbourhoods stay constant, and leases are basically prison terms that you also have to pay for. To save you the steep learning curve, we’re going to do you a favour – we’re going to tell you to go for a shorter rental lease, and here’s why:
You may think you understand where you’re renting, but you probably don’t
This one is especially true for expatriates.
You may think renting in Singapore is straightforward. Most of our residential districts look the same, and seem to have the individuality of one chip in a tube of Pringles. But there are deep differences, and it takes time to get to know them.
Katong is lazy and laid back, Jurong lacks a sense of humour, and Yishun wants to straight up murder you. Besides the different vibe of each area, your taste in amenities will change. For example, we know you’re a new expatriate when you do most of your shopping at Jason’s, and think $9.90 is the correct price for a plate of Hokkien mee.
As you grow more localised, you start to move away from the gourmet delis and step into the coffee shops. You develop the native Singaporean disdain for places like Orchard Road, and move into our non-tourist nooks and crannies.
At that point, you may realise the “convenient and central” location you found just leaves you stuck in a gigantic tourist trap.
For locals, you probably know the different neighbourhoods quite well. But even so, don’t jump to conclusions: you might find out your neighbours are psychotic, for example, and think the common corridor is their private balcony.
For this reason, first-time renters in Singapore should try to have a shorter rental lease. That leaves you free to move to somewhere more appropriate, once you’ve adjusted.
You will have fewer problems with a job that’s outside the area with a shorter rental lease
If you sign a two or three-year lease, you’d better hope your job stays in the area (or if you haven’t found a job yet, then you’d better find one that’s close by). Singapore is a tiny country, but it’s still a fairly big island. If you need to go from Bedok to Jurong, expect to waste at least an hour on the commute.
Now if you’ve just signed a shorter rental lease, this is less of a problem. It’s troublesome for maybe a year, but after that you can always find a new place. If you went ahead and signed a two or three year lease though, then you’re stuck with the inconvenience.
When the rental market is bad, you can re-negotiate for a lower price sooner
Landlords scramble to secure longer leases, when they see the rental market dipping. As a tenant, you should do the opposite.
At present, rental rates in Singapore have been on a decline. This is likely to continue, given that housing allowances and pay packages are shrinking across the board. Now if you have a shorter rental lease, there is a good chance that at the end of the year you can find a cheaper place (that’s just as good), or re-negotiate for a lower lease.
If you get a two to three-year lease, you’ll be paying that same price even as rental rates plummet around you.
Singapore’s landscape changes fast
Singapore is a small country, which means there’s a lot of constant re-development. It’s also a country of high rental rates, so a café that stays open for five years is practically like the Pyramids of Egypt to us.
While your rented unit may have a lot of amenities you like now, it really can undergo a dramatic change in a year. Suddenly, a new MRT stations is in the works, and now your morning walk has the air quality of a tear-gassed demonstration. The mall that’s “right next door” undergoes a one year renovation, so your retail options now involve walking six blocks to buy toothpaste.
If you’re from a more spacious country, where it’s not necessary to demolish and rebuild every 10 minutes, you will be shocked at how quickly an area can change. With a shorter rental lease, you’re better able to adapt.
Check out other rental related articles here: Top tips for establishing a harmonious relationship with your housemates and Here’s why renting in Singapore isn’t as expensive as you think
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