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To: All First-time Owners
From: Ann Brocklebank of Surfer’s Girl Tips.
January 14, 1998

Oleander Towers, UE Square, Pebble Bay, Palm Springs, Costa Rhu, Harbourlights are brand new condos totalling nearly 2,000 units introduced since November 1997. This article intends to help first-time Owners rent out their investment apartments fast by illustrating real cases encountered by my housing agency.

1. No Exclusive agency unless you are overseas. Do not sign any exclusives with any housing agency as your Agent may not be able to perform. If you are overseas, pay 1.5 month’s rental commission/ 2 year lease to motivate your exclusive agent rather than the standard 1 month’s rental. If you are overseas and do not have an exclusive agent, it is very difficult to get your apartment rented because your family members and friends are not motivated or have the time and interest. My Agency is interested in representing you if you are overseas.

  • Check your Exclusive Agent’s attitude towards co-broking. The Agent who has the Owner’s listing will share equally the commission with the Agent who has the Tenant. In this system, your exclusive Agent may not want to co-broke (check on your exclusive Agent’s attitude) if it means only a small gain at the end of the day. For example, rental of $3,000 for one year lease. You pay the industry’s agency commission of $1,500 for one year lease.

Each co-broking agent gets $750. Your exclusive Agent may reject this co-operation as he might have spent time and money on advertisements on your behalf. My agency has cases where we co-broke a $1,800 rental for one year. The commission was $450 each! Our advertisements wiped out any revenue.

2. Newspaper advertisements. Advertise 3 times a week to catch realtors who really have expatriate prospects. All agents scan the Straits Times Advertisements a few days before scheduling viewings of houses/apartments and contact the Owners direct. You have to promote your own property regularly. 3-line advertisement in the Straits Times will do; costs around $40/3 line advertisement/insert. You will need to spend around $480/month/apartment. If your apartment is "rentable", you should be able to rent it out within 4 weeks, from our Agency’s observations from October 1997 to January 1998. If it is less "rentable" but prices are below market and you are flexible, you should be able to rent it out within 12 weeks. If it is not "rentable" e.g. we had a case of an old Thomson Green semi-detached with lallang grass tall enough to hide our National Service soldiers, the vacancy period was > 6 months.

Keys available anytime. My agency had no exclusive for above Thomson Green house but managed to rent it out at $3,000/month. We spent a lot of money advertising 3 times/week promotions in the Straits Times and were available to show the place anytime including Sundays and public holidays.

  • The Landlord had a novel idea in which the cylindrical house lock had a coded number which any Agent could open. The listing was open to all Agents in Singapore and we rented it on a Sunday viewing when many Agents would want to rest. That was October 1996 and our first-time Agent was wet behind the ears; I doubt this Agent will want to risk his money and time now! It was good learning experience though.
  • Another good idea is to hide your key inside the water meter box. Obviously you do not have the time to open the house for viewings at any time and this idea is excellent if the apartment is new.
  • We collected a key to a 4+1+1 Pebble Bay Condo from an Owner in Suntec City recently but could not open the door to the Apartment. It was a waste of time for the Agent. Nowadays, we become wiser as we cannot afford to spend time returning the key before the end of the day and to surrender our Identity Card to the Owner. The Waterside Condo require Identity Card and the Agent’s card was retained by this Pebble Bay Owner!
  • A co-broking agent for Valley Park Owner brought the wrong key and it was time wasted again. Agents need to be careful too.

3. Internet advertisements. Pacific Internet has a free classified advertisement service at for anybody in the world. Why not use the free service? My agency has an affordable on-line real estate advertisement service at $13.50/40 words/3 months and prospects contact you direct. Prospects check YAHOO or other search engines and do find us and you can test it yourself under "Singapore house condo rent". Please contact (65) 9668 6468 or view website if you are interested.

4. To fully furnish new apartment or not? No. Many expatriates like partially furnished housing. It is better to provide plain beige colour curtains and night curtains and lightings only. Expensive curtains are a selling point but how deep is your pocket?

Do not listen to Agents asking you to fully furnish first because you will not co-ordinate the colours and may need to remove items not wanted by the prospects. These are probably inexperienced realtors.

However, if you need to furnish it first, do not select deep blue and green colours and floral designs if you want Caucasian tenants. Beige colours will be best. In any case, do not furnish the place lavishly because you will become inflexible and ask for above market rentals. Be realistic and work closely with the realtor.

5. Rentability. Basically, location and age of your apartment in Singapore and the unobstructed views from the living room.

6. Follow up on Agents who do expatriate rentals to remind them you still have the property. This is a tedious task but important as each Agent probably has few hundred listings.

7. Pay the Agency Commission promptly. All realtors will remember you and will want to give priority to rent your place.

8. Be an honest Owner. My Agency rented a 3rd floor Parkwing UE Square Condo recently. The Owner tried to sneak in a clause in the leasing agreement saying that commissions will be paid less maintenance fees of $200. This Owner (an auditing firm owner) agreed not to deduct the fees. However, the husband who is the "managing agent" said he would not pay the full 1 month’s commission for 2 year lease secured because of "taxation purpose".

In any case, he said he did not say he would pay the one month’s commission which is the industry’s practice and the Agent should be grateful that he had got the maintenance fees. In this situation, the Owner could pay you $5 for 1998 and then the balance in 1999 because he said he did not promise to pay the standard commission. As far as all his properties were concerned, he was using the industry’s practice.

You can be sure that few Agents would want to refer any prospects to this Owner. However, there are Agents who go bankrupt or who do not refund the pre-paid commissions when the lease is prematurely terminated; however, tell the Agent upfront. This is the real reason.

It is best for first-time Agents to get a written agreement from the Owner to pay full commission on a certain date, before proceeding to close – learning from our bad experience. There are many decent Owners who will pay the full commission but if the Owner has disclosed his practice, there will be goodwill.

Owners with many properties in good locations tend to pay 50% commission. Disclose this to the Agent first.

9. How did you attract your date? Be presentable if you are not good-looking. Apply the same principles as what Developers do to sell their houses. It is already difficult to close with so many choices available to the fewer prospective tenants. Tidy up your apartment and furnish it like a show house. No lady’s stockings, religious idols, junk bed frames and unmade beds. Invest in co-ordinated curtain colours, fully air conditioned your apartment (Melville Park’s Developers did not provide air conditioning in the living and dining rooms).

I hope this article covers most aspects. Write to me if you want to share tips? Good luck.

Anne Brocklebank.

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