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Asia USA Realty (Singapore) asiahomes.com Pte Ltd
www.asiahomes.com Last updated: 23 Apr 2002


"Thank you John," said Mrs. Lim after she got her deposit and a first-month rental cheque from the New Zealander pathologist.

"My name is Jeremy,"  Dr Hopkins replied in a somewhat irritated voice.

"Always use the surname and you can't be incorrect!" said the Asia USA realtor, trying to ease the tensions and quickly said goodbye to the good pathologist before he changed his mind about renting this apartment.

When Mrs. Lim related the incident at home, her daughter told her that "John" is not a good name for Caucasians but did not tell her why.

"John" is a slang for the customer of the prostitute!

How did this landlady rent her condo so fast, with all debris
outside the corridors and foreign workers hanging around the condo?

  1. Planning ahead. Shop at sales for the cheapest but high quality upscale furnishing. The condo was already furnished with appropriate stuff.
  2. Get the keys and commence interior defects rectification. Do not be too fussy if tiles are slightly cracked as the   Developer will take weeks to rectify. It is difficult to rent an apartment with stickers showing defects everywhere and a dirty not polished floor. Most units will be in same state of getting defects rectified, so the early bird  ready for occupation, catches the worm.
  3. Furnish the apartment immediately while others are still rectifying defects. This was done within 7 days of getting the keys,   while other Owners could show bare dirty units and promise good quality furnishing. Some Owners wanted every crack rectified and this can delay to few months.
  4. Furnishing with upscale branded-name products. The Tenant could see that the glass top dining table with 4 black metallic legged chairs, the glass top oval coffee table, the square glass top side table, the sofa set and the "elephant" wooden chair are quality stuff most landlords will not provide for S$2,300 rental.
  5. Know the rental market decline. Asia USA was contacted directly by her as Owner.  She had asked for $3,000 rental initially and dropped the rent to $2,300 a few days later.
  6. Know what the Tenant wants and provide more than what the market does.   Certainly her unit was much better furnished than the swanky service apartments downtown, with items such as the ironing board, iron, vacuum cleaner, crockery, pots and pans, telephone instruments, television set and stand, retractable clothes hanger, pillows, bed covers, bed sheets, a quality king-sized bed (usually queen-sized provided by landlords) & mattress and little clock, not usually offered by landlords of the new 2-bedroom condos).
  7. Contacting all rental housing agents in Singapore (Asia USA knew of her condo through her direct phone call and her personal request to help find a tenant fast). It requires time and effort for the Owner to do this.
  8. Giving an exclusive marketing right to a well known realty firm. Her accountant husband pestered her to do it, against her intuition. 

    2 years ago, any realtor can get you a tenant for your brand new condo, well located, within 3 days.

    Go for the realty firms doing residential rental housing, not the brand name.

  9. Advertising in the Straits Times as Owner. Probably she did that but she had insisted on co-brooking with her exclusive realtor. This made her property "unattractive" as co-brooking realtors with the Tenant would have to split 50% of the brokerage fee with her exclusive agent and therefore, there would be no special motivation to view her unit since there was a glut of condos. 
  10. Be easily connectable.  Yes she did respond to paging but since she has no mobile phone, it took her some time to do so.
    (In 2000, most Landlords use mobile phones to be contacted.  Only problem is that the battery may go flat and the Landlord cannot be contacted!).

  11. Realising the mistake made and regain the ground lost. One realtor who had a French couple interested in her condo told her she would not co-broke. In other words, she would not show her unit to her prospective tenant. She agreed to pay the full commission. In signing the exclusive marketing agreement, most Owners will have to pay the exclusive agent commission even if the Owner finds a tenant.  You will need to check this out.

    The French couple was very keen and decisive. Mrs. Lam was a mother of a top 3% IQ daughter. She was prepared to cut losses. She had to pay the exclusive agent the marketing fee even if she found a Tenant herself. In this real case, the exclusive was signed on Friday and she got a Tenant from an outside realty firm, Asia USA on Sunday, 2 days later).
  12. Selling the advantages of the apartment as Owner, maximising local knowledge. "Main door faces South East, which in Chinese feng-shui will bring good fortune and prosperity" said Mrs. Lam earnestly. Which prospective Tenant would not want prosperity? That was a selling point.

I was selling more on the panoramic beautiful MacRitchie reservoir and green trees views from the high floor's living room, reminding him of New Zealand. No opposite buildings affecting his privacy as a bachelor  or obstruction of the view.

Investors to note
: The .....-01 units in Block 913, Oleander Towers, high floors, are examples of good rental property investments. However, the  Oleander Towers apartments are hemmed in by the public housing and many Caucasian expats prefer not to reside in a highly dense property area.

The central location near downtown and a 5-minute walk to the Toa Payoh subway which is 3 stops to Orchard subway  are extremely attractive positive
factors in investment.

  1. Reminding the prospects he is getting more than value for money. "The dining table with glass top, the coffee table, the side table are from ……. (an upscale furniture shop). All the agent has to do is to confirm.
  2. Be immediately available when the Tenant wants to close. Not waiting till the next day. Mrs. Lam took a taxi to meet us at the Tenant's hotel to close and get the cheques. Not wasting time or offering inflexible terms and to re-type or review tenancy contracts as in the case of many owners.
  3. Somebody wants to rent.  "Somebody wants it if you delay making decision" is a favourite tactic of all good salespersons. Mrs. Lam did say that a French couple would be phoning the next morning.

    "What do you think?" asked Dr. Hopkins. Our agent believed her and the doctor   believed her. He had seen 10 other units but this was the best.
  4. Prompt payment of agency commission without being asked. On the signing of the tenancy agreement the next day, Mrs. Lam invited our realtor to have tea in the condo, wrote a cheque to the realtor without the formality of asking for the invoice first. No realtor in Singapore will forget such a kind gesture.

You can be sure that every realtor in Singapore wants to send her Tenants as she is of the rare and sophisticated breed of landlady to do business with. Some Landlords delay payment of commission as long as possible.

A gem to her husband who need not lift a finger as she ensured that the investment property was rented with the minimal vacancy rate.

The fatal cultural mistake.

"But do you have another unit on the same block?" enquired Dr Hopkins.  He still could not get over the fact that Mrs. Lam had installed a set of 3 sliding doors in front of the breakfast counter (an open concept kitchen extremely popular with Caucasians). This is the fatal mistake. Mrs. Lam wanted to enclose the kitchen (which is already so small that only 2 adults could be inside) so that when the Tenant fries bacon, the oil will not disperse to the living/dining room.

This is where the Chinese culture (enclosed kitchen) clashes with the Caucasian culture (open concept kitchen).

She spent money to erect a 3-sliding door frame to close the kitchen when cooking. Even when opened, the sliding doors would take up one-frame space and there is barely sufficient space for one person to sit at the breakfast counter of the kitchen.

Without the frames, you could seat 2 persons. This is a nightmare for the realtor. During our first visit last week, she did not have this device.

Well, the French couple might not mind. The only way to close was that the glass sliding door frames could be dismantled and kept in storage.

There were no other similar units available as most owners have had their keys only recently. None would be expected to offer above value for money and a caring responsive landlady.

The pathologist could move in with suitcase in 3 days' time and save costs on hotel accommodation. The deal was closed with some objections.


Things ought to be done to provide a good apartment:  

  • There were no day curtains (which should have been installed as most Tenants love it). Prepare for 2-track curtain rails, one for the day and one for the night curtains.
  • Provide pastel-coloured beige curtains instead of a deep blue. The pastel colour suits most Caucasians.
  • Provide light-coloured fabric/leather seats (2-seated will do for the 896 sq. ft 2-bedroom). Do not use hot colours like deep yellow/red.
  • Provide thicker curtains as there may be strong afternoon sunlight.

It was value for money at that time as the rent was $2,300 fully furnished. A 2-bedroom service apartment rents for around $4500/month in downtown although one could not compare apples to oranges.

2-bedroom condos of less than 900 sq. ft attracts a particular category of expats:  the single or couple and should be able to rent out within 4 weeks with active promotion.

As at July 10, 2000, the new Trellis Towers condos have given much competition. Suburban condos owners have a hard time renting their 2-bedroom units above $2000 per month.

Design faults:
Many new condos have design faults.

1.  The UE Square Condos have had air-conditioner compressors located inside the living room (with box and door to shield the noises) or occupying 50% of the small balcony of the kitchen. The compressors are now relocated to the outside the building as at June 1998.

It is extremely difficult for the occupant to listen to music, with the compressor humming away in the living/dining room.

2.  The Oleander Towers have 4 long sewerage pipes running from the top floor downward, concealed inside the store room which is located adjoining the master bedroom of the 2-bedroom units. Now, the flushing noises can be heard easily and interrupts sleep.

3.  Insufficient space for a  refrigerator   is commonly seen in some new 2-bedroom condos. Sometimes, it is even difficult to open the kitchen door after installing the fridge.

It is hoped that the younger architects are more aware of the problems of noises and come out with good  designs.

Subdivisions - Oleander Towers


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