Though common wisdom in Singapore says that one should save up for a BTO or HDB flat instead of spending money on renting, that wasn’t a viable option for our colleague Huy, who first came to Singapore in 2012.
Back then, Huy rented a room in an HDB flat in Boon Lay together with his sister, who was then studying at NTU. More than 11 years later, Huy has amassed knowledge of what to look out for when renting, and he was more than happy to share it with us.
Things to look out for when house viewing
1. Direction of the windows
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When viewing a prospective place, Huy pays attention to the direction the windows face, so as to get the best morning light and avoid afternoon sun. He’s right for that – harsh afternoon sun can heat up your house and cause you to spend more on electricity to keep the place cool.
And though Huy didn’t mention this, there’s also an aesthetic reason behind avoiding the afternoon sun. Keen photographers and videographers will know that afternoon light is particularly harsh and difficult to work with. So if you’re someone who creates content at home, or just want pretty photos for the ‘gram, this is something to look out for.
2. Age of the air-conditioners
You’d be surprised to know that the age of the air-conditioners can drastically affect your electricity bills. Huy and his roommate now pay around $250 per month for utilities, which is a steep increase from the $150 monthly bill in his previous house. The only difference is that he now lives in a place with an older air-conditioner model, so go figure.
If you do end up renting a place with air-conditioners that are older than you, Huy suggests raising the issue with your landlord. Let the landlord know that upgrading to a newer model will make more financial sense in the long run, and that it can make the place more attractive for future renters.
3. Age and condition of the washing machine
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Another thing to look out for is the age and condition of the washing machine. Huy suggests making sure that it’s not too run-down. Again, there’s a good reason for that. Older washing machines, especially top loaders, typically use more water than modern models.
For maximum savings, look out for new-ish front-loading machines as those use up to 70% less water than a top loader of the same capacity.
4. Mouldy and leaky fridge
Image credit: @lisalovesorange
Make sure that the fridge doesn’t have any strange odours or mould on the air-tight seal. Check that the fridge can be shut properly and that there isn’t any leak. Otherwise, you’ll not just be hit with a high utility bill, but also food that goes bad quicker than you can blink.
5. Type of cooktop
Image credit: @sumofussg
If you’re someone who cooks often or plans to do so, then it’s important to pay attention to the type of cooker in the house. Huy personally prefers gas cookers – for the wok hey, perhaps. It helps cut down on electricity and “makes cooking [taste] better,” he said.
Gas cookers can be powered by either piped gas or LPG (liquified petroleum gas) cylinders. Piped gas is supplied by City Energy, and you need an SP account and gas pipes connected to a central network. However, older HDB flats aren’t usually connected to a piped gas network, which is where LPG cylinders come in.
There are a few LPG cylinder suppliers in Singapore, and the most established one is Union Gas. Those with phone anxiety will be glad to know that you can place orders online. Gas tanks usually work out to be cheaper than using piped gas, and Huy says that he only needs to replace it once every 3-4 months.
Induction cookers, on the other hand, are a little less complicated. All you need is electricity, so there’s no need to get someone to install gas pipes or activate the connection for you. That said, induction cooktops won’t give you that coveted wok hey.
6. Mouldy walls
Clean, pristine walls.
Image credit: @ascend.design
While black mould isn’t a common problem in newer estates, you can never be too careful. After all, Singapore is a humid country, and mould loves moisture. And if you’re stuck with a neighbour who insists on using the air-conditioner 24/7, you may be left with condensation on your walls. This can then encourage the growth of mould and mildew.
Our colleague Kim actually went through this. After moving in, she noticed a growing yellowish-green patch on the ceiling, which coincided with her children developing breathing problems.
Professional services to kill mould spores don’t come cheap. In fact, Kim was quoted around $2,000 to $3,000.
7. Thickness of walls
Image credit: @ascend.design
While thin or non-soundproofed walls won’t endanger you, it will affect your quality of life. Do you really want to listen to your neighbours all day long?
When Huy views a new place, he usually gets a friend to tag along with. Then, he’d blast music in one room, with the doors closed, while his friend stays put in another. If his friend can hear the music coming from his room, then the walls are too thin for him.
8. Existing defects in the house
Congratulations, you’ve finally secured your new rental! Now, on the day you move in, make sure to go around the house to inspect and document all existing defects. Take clear photos of every corner of the house – even if there are no defects – and send everything to your landlord or property agent in a document.
This is to document the state of the house when you first moved in. It can be used as evidence in the event that your landlord wants to take your deposit or claim compensation for damages that were already there when you moved in.
Things to look out for when renting for the first time
Moving out, especially by yourself, can be rather daunting. But with the help of Huy and his 11 years of rental experience, it’ll be easier to avoid being blindsided by problems down the road. Make sure to bookmark this page for future reference, or jot it down somewhere.
For more rental stories:
- Is a $3k rental flat worth it?
- Tiny $1.8k/month Katong shophouse
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