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Educational article for asiahomes realtors. 

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The expat pushed the envelope

"I am fed up with realtors showing me $9,000 homes," Mr Norton said. "My rental budget is $7,500 and it includes maintenance of the air conditioners and pool." He had emailed to me his housing specifications. I like expatriates who know what they want, saving lots of time. I am sure Mr and Mrs Norton must have seen lots of homes with multiple realtors. This was common practice with expats already resident in Singapore for some time. 

Negative Mental Attitude. However, I had a negative mental attitude after so many years of looking for the elusive dream bungalow with pool for expatriates with rental budgets of less than $10,000 per month. I emailed to him as to whether he would like to live in District 20 which, of course, was not a Caucasian enclave area. Caucasian wives don't really like to live in such areas as they do need the network with others since their husbands usually are overseas much of the time.

Where do you get a house with a pool for $7,500 in the expatriate favoured districts of 9, 10 and 11. I am sure all seasoned rental realtors in Singapore would chorus "No way." This may be July 2002 and Singapore is in recession. But decent bungalows with pools are in short supply and demand is great.  They are even rarer in districts 9, 10 and 11. Don't waste time.

I knew he would like to live in the Newton area although his children studied in the Canadian School which was located around 30 minutes away from downtown Orchard Road. Could my associates be more positive? Well, I emailed to all my associates Mr Norton's email.  

Mr Norton had stayed in Singapore for 2 years in the Newton area which is a 5-minute drive to downtown Orchard Road and a 15-min drive to Changi Airport where he worked.

Competitors or members of a team?  At least 4 associates contacted him. Mr Norton phoned me to ask whether the associates are competitors and how did they source their listings?

Two had shown him a semi-detached with a swimming pool. One particularly high performance new realtor thought of showing but did not do so promptly since he was too busy and probably had concluded that this was mission impossible. It was the same house as the one shown by Realtor Ann and I told him not to think but do. It was now too late to contact Mr Norton, I said, thinking that Ann had a winner and would surely close. I was infected with her optimism. 

I said to Mr Norton, "My associates are independent operators and are self employed. They have their personal contacts, network and sources of house listings. I would say they are competitors."  It is not possible to be a team when each associate had different styles of working, different temperaments and energies. 

Give what the prospect wants, not what you have. It would be nice to work as a team but the realtor who put in the long hours and time would just subsidize the others who want to spend time with the family and become de-motivated. In real estate, as in other business, success is simply the long hours you put in handling prospects, besides other things like being able to give what the tenant wants.   

Right time, wrong location. Mrs Norton was very interested in Ann's semi-detached with a pool, near the Canadian School where his children would be studying. However, Mr Norton did not sound keen to me and phoned me to ask whether I had others. I had not called him since I passed this case to all associates. This was an open case to all asiahomes realtors as I normally don't compete with my associates.

To help Ann, I told Mr Norton that it was important to rent the house as there were so few of such houses with pool within his budget. This was an expatriate area and though he said he did not see any Caucasian in this small plot of residential area beside thousands of condos, I assured him that there were thousands of Caucasians in this Maplewoods -The Blossomvale condo neighbourhood.

He said he would a drive from this house to his office to see how long it would take him to go to work and back. 

Positive Mental Attitude. "I am closing the case," Ann told me confidently on the first day she showed this one house to Mr and Mrs Norton. I was glad she had this Positive Mental Attitude although she was wet behind the ears in Singapore residential rental real estate but had more boundless energy and enthusiasm than I have encountered in any housing agent in Singapore over the past ten years. In any firm, a PMA agent is very rare with so much rejections encountered and I am fortunate to have two.  

"Get the letter of intent signed and the good faith deposit," I said, restraining her exuberance. "Better still, get the tenancy agreement signed by both parties within the next 24 hours."

Any Landlord willing to wait 2.5 months?   I had this feeling that the battle was won by Ann,  but the war would be lost as only the wife liked the house. There was a two-and-a-half month period before their present lease expired and would  there a Landlord in Singapore who would be willing to wait so long? Time was not on Ann's side.  

Experienced but jaded.  Would an experienced and hungry realtor do the mission impossible?  Mr Norton phoned me again to say that he was keen to look at other houses although Ann had shown him a nice house.  He did not need a house till two and a half months away.  I posted his email again to associates and to one full-time outside realtor who was experienced and I thought hungry. A $7,500 rental case was no small fish. He did not respond as he probably judged this case as a waste of time since the commencement of tenancy was a long time away. Definitely, no Landlord with a house and pool will wait so long. And for such a low rent, he must have concluded. 

Mr Norton phoned me again about houses in Barker Road. I told him there was an old bomb not suitable for Caucasians. He had seen it with other realtors too.

"Do you have other houses to show me?" he persisted.  

"Go to this house and see whether you like it or not," I said, giving him an address of a small bungalow with a pool near Stevens Road.  The location was near Newton and downtown Orchard Road. I was quite sure Mr Norton would close on Ann's house since his wife loved it. The Caucasian husband stereotypically rents the house if his wife likes it as she will be happy and will be spending more time in the house while he travels a lot on business.   

The couple fell in love with this Stevens Road neighourbood house. Mr Norton phoned me and asked about the rental. "The Landlord is asking $9,000 rental," I said. 

Another $9,000 house agent!  I had never met Mr Norton so far but I guessed he must be swearing at me as another of those agents whom he had earlier complained to me - the type who showed him $9,000 houses! It was seen by 20 expatriates previously, Mr Norton told me. So, the demand must be there for this house was in a great location. It had an inground pool too and nestled in a corner of a piece of prime real estate seldom visited by the average Singaporean.

"Let me give the Landlord your offer," I said. $7,500 for a newer bungalow with an inground pool in a prestigious prime location? The Landlord had to wait another two months by now since two weeks had passed. The Landlord offered $7,500 without pool and air conditioning maintenance, painting of the house inside and outside and a 2-month wait for him to commence tenancy. He agreed to the new Tenant moving in one or two weeks earlier. I thought this was a good deal. 

Mr Norton wanted the pool maintained twice a week, costing $160 per month as he said there were some government regulations regarding this and air conditioning maintenance two monthly. Weekly maintenance of the pool would get rid of the chlorine, the existing Tenant had told him. I said I would gave the Landlord his offer as this was my job.

Moderating the Tenant's demands.  "Am I asking too much?" he asked me.  "Let us live for the hour."  The Landlord did not respond promptly.
"I want pest control to be done before the commencement of tenancy," Mr Norton said during the second viewing. There are no cockroaches, rats and few mosquitoes as the neighbours fumigate with insecticide twice a week to kill all mosquitoes. The existing Tenant said his Labrador dog died when left in the garden after fumigation. 

"The mosquitoes would fly over to this house," Mr Norton said. He was pushing the envelope and there was a real chance of being rejected for being a demanding prospective Tenant. I persuaded him not to demand this fogging.  There was no more news from the Landlord for the next four days. 

The Letter of Intent and good faith deposit were given to the Landlord within 12 hours, but the response was slow. The Landlord had an agent and she was very busy with other matters. Her car broke down. She had other clients to entertain. The Landlord did not return the letter of intent or give his tenancy agreement although he had accepted the good faith deposit. 

The pestering agent.  "Don't keep on phoning me," she said, angry at me for chasing her for the tenancy agreement which was promised earlier. "I also wish to close the case fast as I spend money on international calls to the Landlord." She had SMS a message to me saying that the signed Letter of Intent would be faxed to me but there was none.  Four days had passed.  

"I have to look for another house," Mr Norton said as he wanted to complete this task before he travelled. The delay from the co-broking agent and/or the Landlord could jeopardise this deal if Mr Norton found another house with another agent.    

The tenancy agreement was rushed to Mr Norton's residence at Chancery Lane. He wanted a clause saying that the Tenant would stay till the expiry of the lease if the Landlord sells the house. "It is no big deal," he said to me when I told him that this was not necessary and a change in the Landlord's terms and conditions would mean that the Landlord's offer to him was rejected and he would lose the house. 

Stress benefits to tenant.  "You will be renting a house with an inground pool in a prime prestigious address for $1,000 less per month than the market rate," I advised Mr Norton. Therefore, try not to demand more and more to kill the deal by making the Landlord think he is a difficult tenant.    

In any case, I asked his secretary to check on the various tenancy agreements of other expatriates in the company. There would be no such clause as it was already explicit that the tenancy agreement would be for two years and there was no condition that the Tenant had to move out once the Landlord or his "successor" sells the house. The sale will need to be with tenancy. "The Landlord will have to give you money if he wants you to vacate," I said to him. Mr Norton took a long time to agree.  

The Landlord wanted $200 for minor repairs instead of $100 and would not paint the outside of the house and Mr Norton accepted my advice not to object.   

"Is the Landlord a good person?" he asked me. I said I did not know but since the present Tenant looked happy and was willing to show the house to him on a Sunday morning, that would indicate that the Landlord-Tenant relationship was good.

The tenancy agreement was signed and the security deposit cheque was issued. 

High pressure and hot tempers.  "What's the cost of waste disposal?" Mr Norton asked me. This needed to be checked. "If the Landlord does not reply soon, I will have to look for another house," Mr Norton said on the second day. So much pressure from an expatriate very experienced in negotiations. No doubt he was interested in the house but the real power behind him pushing for a close was his wife.

The Landlord's agent had by now cooled down her temper since I did not scold her or say much when she exploded earlier. There was no need for an apology as she was a busy and young working mother under some stress. She agreed to expeditiously courier the documents to the Landlord overseas and get back the documents within seven days. I would need to hassle her again.    

Patience & perseverance.  Dealing with expats who pushed the envelope required a lot of patience. The Landlord was not happy with so many demands. He was not in Singapore and was hard to track down.  His agent was furious with frequent check up. Should you be the hot-tempered type, you would quarrel with the Landlord's agent who would then advise the Landlord not to accept this low offer. All the time spent amounted to zero revenue if you could not handle the case with patience and perseverance.

Changing your mindset & co-broking.  Every week passes by so fast and if you close one case of rental per month, you are excellent by the average standard in this declining market after the September 11 terrorist attack. This case illustrated to you to change your mindset. The bungalow I asked Mr Norton to see was listed in the internet and newspaper. 

In this case, Ann and the other two or three associates showed Mr Norton only the houses belonging to the Landlord.  All of them showed only one house in the wrong location.

Do be proactive in showing more than one house. Scrutinise the newspapers for houses suitable and practise co-broking. Earning 50% of the commission, in this case, is better than zero income. Location and time is of the essence if you want to be successful in closing. 

Cheap bungalows in prime districts are difficult to find mindset.  Unfortunately, we all needed to be burnt to gain the experience. It is hard to change our mindset that there are no $7,500 bungalows with pool in prime district 10 and 11 where bungalows with 10,000 sq ft of land and inground pools don't rent for less than $10,000 per month. This case just illustrates that there may be one if you look for it. Its land size, by the way, was around 5,000 sq. ft and the listing was recent, waiting for any of the associate to pick up and show to the prospect. The asking rental of $9,000 was enough to put any agent off and might have put Mr Norton off too.

Otherwise, why would Mr Norton contact since he could easily tel all agents and do it himself. Once he contacted me, I will send the email to all associates. You will have a very short time frame to get what he wants. And to close the case efficiently and patiently. 

Explanation demanded and burning bridges.  In conclusion, do NOT demand, become angry and ask for explanations if the expat avoids replying to your email or does not want to proceed further in your case although he might have expressed lots of interest and taken up lots of your time. 

I get lots of un-replied emails from expatriates whom I have had spent time showing houses free of charge. The battle may be lost but the war is still on, the war to win their hearts to get referrals from them because you are not a pushy agent.  Caucasians dislike hard selling. That's their culture.  

You just create ill feelings and burn your bridge if you demand explanations from Mr Norton if you can't close. Mr Norton does  have friends in the expatriate community  to refer to you.  

But not if you present yourself as a very aggressive hard selling agent. Breathe ten times if you feel like demanding an explanation, let go and continue with the next case.  

Case written to asiahomes realtors on emails sent to all realtors. I am afraid it is open competition to our agents and time is of the essence.

Remember AIDA in marketing books.

A- attract
I - interest
D - desire
A - action. 

For Realtor Ann, AID were there for Mrs Norton, but no action on the part of Mr Norton. The expat will call you if all four ingredients are there and get the tenancy agreement signed promptly.  

by: Sing Kong Yuen,  


Date: 07 Aug 2002

August 7, 2002.  Search "Singapore+bungalows".
first published on July 31, 2001 (Updated below) is
NO. 1 in ranking.



"Bungalow" in Singapore means a detached house without sharing a common wall with neighbours.  It may be one, two or three storeys. Bungalow means different to the Caucasian from the U.S and U.K though. 

Caucasian expats looking for bungalows expect a very high standard of bathrooms and kitchen.  For $10,000 - $15,000, they can get a brand new Ardmore Park 4-bedroom 2885 sq. ft with its sprawling resort and condo facilities,  downtown location and near the American Club.  The main competitor of upscale Ardmore Park is a nice bungalow with a pool and rentals equivalent to Ardmore Park's quality interiors are around $14,000 - $20,000. 

Some bungalow prices have dropped to less than S$500 per sq. ft in good bungalow areas like District 11's Dalkeith Road.  One 10,000 sq. ft unit was offered $4.5 million but the Owner was not in a hurry to sell it. Valuation was $5 million. This research report gives some tips on investment bungalows, i.e. bungalows you want to rent out fast to generate revenue. 

However, when most Singaporeans and permanent residents buy a bungalow, chances are that they want to enjoy staying there.  Therefore they renovate according to their specifications, without regards to the future.  Later, they may want to upgrade or migrate to greener pastures in Australia.

Be investment minded if possible.

Know what the Caucasian expatriates want and you can rent out your house faster than others.

I can advise the following:

1. Install a big long bath or at least make sure that your bathroom does have space for a long bath.

2.  Shower stalls without frames are more expensive to install but are classy.

3.  Homogeneious marble-like coloured tiles of over 2 feet x 2 feet are anytime better than glossy white or grey ceramic tiles for the living and dining rooms, if you don't want to install marble or granite floored tiles.  Avoid orange-red-black streaky marble tiles - Caucasians dislike this loud colour.  Safer to install neutral colour marble flooring.

Some picture below will illustrate what I mean.

FOREIGNERS are not allowed to buy bungalows, but Permanent Residents (classified as "foreigners"), if given government approval which lasts 6 months, can buy a bungalow for less than 15,000 sq. ft of land for their own stay. 

"GOOD CLASS BUNGALOWS" areas permit only 2-storey bungalows of over 15,000 sq. ft of land to be built. 
Light brown marble tiled living and dining area. Good-sized inground pool with a big sundeck made of pastel coloured tiles.

Many Caucasians appreciate the creatively landscaped contoured pools. INSTALL a pool with increasing depth as tenants may have toddlers and you don't expect toddlers to swim in a deep pool since you are unlikely to have a children's pool and another for adult.

Try to balance the built in and garden area to 60:40 if possible so that you have a house with a good-sized garden to install a pool and a barbecue area. 

You may need to invest in at least 10,000 sq. ft of land to have space for a decent sized pool. 

If you rebuild a new bungalow, devote more grounds to a bigger garden in front rather than at the back so that you will have space for a bigger swimming pool later.

An ideal bungalow pool has a sloping gradient (important for Caucasians with small kids), landscaped rocks and plants and carpet grass and be at least 15 feet long. 

A solid brick wall provides privacy if you have the length of garden e.g. more than 40 feet frontage.  Being on a higher ground helps to provide privacy. 

You may like koi ponds or ornamental lounge (narrow small pools) but Caucasian expat tenants are not particularly interested. 
Position the bar counter in a correct position otherwise it becomes an obstruction to the flow of human traffic.  

If not, install or rent a above-ground pool. Rental of a big above ground pool is $300 per month as at July 2001. Maintenance is $150 per month at twice per week attendance.  Fenced up pools are not mandatory in Singapore unlike Australia.   Toddlers have drowned in pools.

Don't forget to plan for a space for a big American-sized fridge in the kitchen even though most Singaporeans don't use such big fridges!   Plan to have a bright kitchen with natural daylight coming through.

It is good to have a green fence to provide some privacy as the bungalow is surrounded by flats. Of course, prospective tenants don't like the lack of privacy from high rise looking at them all the time.  If you can, don't buy a bungalow surrounded by high rises!

Carpets in bedrooms look clean but it is best to strip them and put in light yellow wooden strips.  Window grilles should be removed as Caucasians do not like the "prison-like" feeling and this gives the impression that the bungalow is in a bad neighbourhood.   The grilles have been installed for child safety and security reasons but if you want to rent out, do remove the grilles. 

Strip away the orange wall paper and paint the whole house white or off white colour. All this attention to what the Caucasian expats love, helps your realtor to rent your house much faster and at a higher rent.

As for semi-detached with pool,  a 5000 sq. ft of land and a good architect can give you a good-sized pool and built in areas of over 3500 sq. ft and a roof terrace too.  

I have seen a well designed ones with an indoor lounge pool at the basement, behind the car park lot at Sian Tuan Avenue. It really takes your breadth away.  All Caucasian expatriates love this unit and it was rented at around $14,000 quickly.


You will find it hard to believe this story but it is true.  One bungalow I saw in July 2001 has an air conditioner installed inside the master bathroom.  In order to do that, there must be a wooden partition separating the Water Closet (W.C) and the main bathroom so that the air conditioner unit can hang from the top.  This confines the W.C to a small room of around 30 sq. ft.  Caucasians tend to be bigger in size and this W.C room induces claustrophobia.

Every time the Tenant goes to the W.C, he swings open the two doors, the type you see in cowboy shows at the bars. 

You guess it. It was extremely difficult to rent out this bungalow. Who wants swing doors and a c claustrophobic W.C?  

You will rent faster if you have a house without wall paper, without window grilles, at least one big white long bath tub  and day and night curtains in neutral colours.  Paint the walls white. Remove all carpets and install wood strips in the living, dining and all bedrooms.

The Caucasian Tenants usually love a wooden flooring.  They do not need to figure out what you are going to do and can decide fast.


A modern Singapore bungalow Black and white bungalows have a romantic appeal to Caucasians
Modern Nassim bungalow with 20,000 sq. ft land, renting around $20,000 Black and white bungalows usually have over 40,000 - 60,000 sq ft of land and good ones rent around $20,000 - $30,000
One storey bungalow with 20000 sq.ft land Very big garden. Land is over 20,000 sq. ft. Above ground pool and fencing. One storey. Will not suit Americans who usually love modern houses.
Binjai Park bungalow with big garden but not renovated bedrooms. Big garden and inground pool renting around $13,000
Beautiful pastel coloured flooring, small pool not for swimming outside Plants and natural daylight brighten bathroom. Frame-less shower cubicle. Very small garden as the house takes up most space. A small pond inside the house. 
Modern Clementi bungalow asking $10,000. Bar counter may be positioned incorrectly, blocking traffic flow. Plants in open-air bathroom bring nature into the bungalow.
Big inground pool with beautiful pastel coloured pool side tiles Did not make allowance for big fridge in kitchen. Not much space designed for big fridges.
Upper Bukit Timah bungalow rents lower. $8,000.  Lack of privacy, being surrounded by apartments. Good-sized inground pool but everybody looks at you.   Carpets need lots of maintenance. Replace with wooden stripped flooring. Wall paper to be removed and walls painted white before marketing for rent
Carpeted flooring not suitable for expat tenants Wall paper on wall not suitable for expat tenants
Dalkeith bungalow.  A most beautiful landscaped inground pool Dalkeith bungalow - master with wood floor and faces pool Dalkeith's 2nd bedroom has a small path to pool
Trevose area bungalow 
4+1 inground pool,  3500/10000  $14,000.   One storey. Carpeted grass. A good proportion of pool area to house area, making this bungalow attractive.
Contoured slopping inground pool good for small children. Rocks and trees providing greenery and privacy Wooden flooring attracts Caucasians.  Pebbled path and manicured garden bring nature to the bedroom door.
Dalkeith's large backyard, cow grass & fruit trees Dalkeith's big front garden but concrete backyard. 5 pictures of the type of bungalow all Caucasian expats love. 
Spacious backyard with tiled area for washing machine. Fruit trees Big living area opening into a patio for alfresco dinner.
Namly Gardens bungalow with privacy and big side garden and pool. 9428tn_Namly_bungalow_bigpool13K.jpg (31678 bytes) Watten Estate Road bungalow with 6 bedrooms
Namly Gardens 6+1 4800/12500  $13,000. Suits expats who want space and do not mind not having marble flooring in the living and dining areas.  2-storey.  Long driveway provides privacy.   Many bedrooms. Large side garden with inground pool. Big rooms. Ceramic tiled living area no longer seen in modern bungalows. 
Watten Estate Road 6+1 5000/10000  $12,000. 3-storey. Small above ground pool. Brand new kitchen, light blue ceramic tiled flooring and bathrooms.  Small garden but lots of living areas.  A quiet children's park nearby. Suits expats with large families.  The main complaint is that the long bath tubs are smaller than the usual and may not suit big American expats. 


Pool maintenance twice per week is around $180 per month.  This is usually paid by the Tenant. An above-ground pool rents around $300 per month.  

Please contact Asia USA Realty, tel: +65 9668 6468, 6254 3326 to help you get the best deal.

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