Monday, April 20, 2009

Getting an apartment

Well, its been 3 full weeks since I arrived here. I wrote an earlier blog about my first impressions. I am going to carry in the same spirit except that a few more things happened and it is about time I noted them down.

I progressed on to take an apartment on lease. In general, Singapore has two kinds of apartments - HDB or Condos. HDB are basically built by Govt. agency - housing and Development Board and the apartments are broken up into estates - one in each locality. HDB flats are generally pretty good - neat construction quality, as clean as rest of Singapore, green as well and contains good lift facilities.

Condos on the other hand are the built by private developers. The biggest advantage of Condos are that there are internal facilities - tennis courts, swimming pools etc and of course, there are generally considered upscale. The other big advantage is that these are structure around western designs - with attached bathrooms and the like, whereas HDBs are built in traditional Singaporean lifestyle. The key factor is that condos are quite expensive, adding easily 50-60% to your rental cost.

I settled for something in between. I took a HDB flat a little away from city, but one that had an attached bath. It was an apartment of an acquaintance of my school mate (my networks seem to work well now and then :-)

One thing that strikes you here is the omnipresence of agents in all deals. They charge you 1/2 months commission per year of lease. Note that you are forced to pay more if you negotiate a longer lease. You are also forced to pay that if you switch next year. This essentially means its a 4% surcharge on your rent. From what I have heard, the agents play a more active role during your tenancy and hence makes it a better experience than say dealing with Indian property agents who pretty much disappear from the equation once you sign on the dotted line.

Finding a furnished unit is the norm in Singapore meaning you can travel light. Also, houses generally bear a reasonable amount of electric equipments and hence makes that easy too. All you have to do is move in, purchase consumables and get on with your life (while also making sure you keep everything in good condition.)

My house is located in Simei, where the MRT plies and hence moving in and out of the town is pretty easy. Its also only 3 stations away from the Changi airport (interesting the end of one of the runways is visible from the kitchen and hence you can see a take-off/landing every few minutes from the kitchen). Trains ply from 5.30 in the morning to about midnight and hence thats well taken care off. Access to a most facilities are good, but the one that impresses me most is the presence of a community centre pretty close to my apartment where there are a host of facililties including free wifi, newspapers, TV and for-payment Internet terminals, Badminton courts, classes for a wide variety of hobbies.

So, the few things I learnt:
  • You can find furnished, almost ready-to-move-in apartments.
  • You need to keep paying agents all the time, adding about 4-5% to your rental amount.
  • HDB units are good enough, but condos are better and costlier.
  • Simei rocks.

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