When renting a home for the first time, most of us would probably find the most affordable option out there and call it a day. After all, we all have the similar mindset of needing to save for our future, no matter how bleak it seems right now.
30-year-old James Rainier is one of the outliers. His monthly rental for his 807sqft duplex condo is $2,500 – and this is before factoring in his utility bill and other emergency costs. We find out from the man himself on a rainy Tuesday afternoon what motivated him to start his solo rental journey and why this loft.
Before the move
While giving us a tour of the duplex he’s called home for the past year, Rainier tells us that before moving out, he was content living with his parents and puppy Xiao Small in a flat in Choa Chu Kang. Then, good old ‘rona hit in 2020 and like most people trapped in their homes during the months of quarantines and Circuit Breakers, Rainier found himself having a lot of time to reflect on where he was and where he wanted to be in life.
The entryway that first greets you when you enter Rainier’s duplex.
Making the decision to move out
Rainier tells us there were many factors that influenced his decision to move out. For one, the constant WFH arrangements and circuit breaker gave him a severe case of cabin fever.
As a fellow homebody, you know it’s bad when the one most content to stay home is sick of staying home. It was around this time that Rainier realised he needed a change of environment.
In addition, Rainier tells us that he realised he is more productive and efficient when he is at home. Thus, what better way to maximise that by having his own space with little to no distractions? Besides, there’s also that added benefit of not having to make awkward eye contact with his parents in the hallway when he brings a lady friend over.
Most importantly, Rainier expresses that he’s always been independent, and felt like getting some place to call his own – even for just a while – was the next logical step as part of his journey into adulthood.
Why he chose his duplex
After an extensive search, Rainier narrowed his options down to two: A duplex condo apartment in Kovan, or 2-bedroom HDB unit in “a more ulu part of Singapore”. Naturally, the duplex won out due to its proximity to his workplace – like a 15-minute bus ride? There was no contest.
The living room, with a convertible couch.
In addition, both offers Rainier received were about the same price, but the duplex had more amenities. Within his means, Rainier gets to enjoy certain condo-exclusive luxuries such as a pool and gym – which he uses every day. The pool, in particular, is a mere 10 steps from his bed and he even jokes that sometimes, when he does his weekly reports, half his body is underwater. Talk about living the life.
The bedroom, with the pool right outside.
The pros of living in a duplex
When asked what his favourite part about living in this duplex is, Rainier brings us around his complex. The first floor is full of shops and services such as a laundromat, florist and even tuition centres.
The food choices are also very extensive. Four large kopitiams and coffee shops ensure that every single palate is accounted for, no matter how outlandish.
There are also hipster cafés and aesthetically-decorated ice cream joints in case you need something for the ‘gram. We stop at a Taiwanese eatery and get a few cups of bubble tea and one of their classic fried chicken cutlets before continuing the tour.
The dining area.
Rainier also points out a pet groomer right in the premises downstairs, which is extremely convenient in the event of his puppy needing an urgent haircut. For medical emergencies, there’s a vet clinic right across the street.
All these amenities ensure that he never has to be more than 1km away from his duplex except for work. Truly living a homebody’s dream.
More importantly, Rainier likes the clear separation between work and chill spaces: the kitchen, dining area and study are all on the first floor, while his bedroom is on the second floor. Rainier tells us that once he’s downstairs, he’s too lazy to make the trek upstairs again. The stairs are a fantastic deterrent for slacking off it seems.
The modest but well-equipped kitchen.
The stairs to the second floor.
The cons of living in a duplex
Of course, not everything is a bed of roses, Rainier says. For one, he’s realised that his neighbours here are less tolerable to noise compared to his neighbours back in Choa Chu Kang.
He thinks it’s probably because they’re paying a premium, so there’s that certain expectation of silence. Not that he’s that worried though, since he lives alone and is pretty quiet for the most part.
Another complaint he has is that the walk to the nearest MRT is pretty tiring since The Promenade is surrounded by landed properties – so not many sheltered walkways – on an uphill slope. So regardless of rain or shine, it gets pretty tiring, especially since he recently underwent surgery. Rainier appreciates the workout though, especially on cooler evenings.
Lessons from renting and his advice for first-time tenants
When asked if he had any knowledge to impart to first-time tenants, Rainier gives pretty practical advice. Firstly, ensure that you are going to use the facilities and various amenities – like pools, gyms and saunas – to their maximum. After all, you are paying a premium for these.
Rainier says he’s fortunate that his landlord covers these costs and maintenance fees in his monthly rental payments, but do double-check with your own landlord. If you find these facilities excessive, there are always cheaper options available.
The mini cinema in Rainier’s bedroom.
Another thing Rainier appreciates about living alone is the opportunities to cook for himself. As a result, he gets to hone his cooking skills and try out food he otherwise would not have had he continued living with his parents. He also remarks that he’s more conscious about serving sizes and thus, feels himself on the road to healthier living.
Rainier also tells us that the reason his rental journey so far has been so smooth-sailing is due to the fact that he is a planner. So take the advice of someone who’s been there and done that, and budget so that you ensure that you’re living within your means throughout your lease period.
If there’s one disadvantage, though, Rainier says that living on a low floor took some getting used to, and the lack of natural wind resulted in him using the A/C constantly, causing his utility bill to skyrocket.
Most importantly, be brave and take the plunge, even if it’s just renting for a year. Rainier says that in the year that he’s lived alone, he’s learnt a lot about himself – like the fact that cooking gets better with practice. Additionally, absence makes the heart grow fonder, which Rainier says is true now that he’s grown closer to his family and Xiao Small since moving out.
“A lot of people have mentioned that it is throwing away money, but I don’t see it that way,” he says. After all, there is value in having personal space that you just can’t put a price on, be it for mental health or growth, and Rainier feels that he’s living proof of it.
For more on home and living:
- Styling a rental condo in Novena
- Living with a married couple
- A realtor talks about racial profiling in the rental market
Photography by Huiwen Chan.