TOP 6: Biggest Mistakes When Choosing a Flat Abroad.

  1. Not hiring an agent.  Despite being moved by my company, because I was an analyst, a lower-level employee, basically nothing was paid for, I had to negotiate for my flight to be paid.   They provided my a list of agents, but I learned quickly that all of the agents they provided me only serviced clients with a price point more than double the rent I was looking to pay, so my mom and I were on our own, knowing nothing about rental market, which lead to viewing after viewing leading to disappointment because of failed qualifications.  It was wasn’t until our 10th or so viewing, that a booking agent took pity on us and offered to help us out.

2. Renting a flat that is under construction when you sign the lease.  Red flags!  Construction isn’t fun to live through when it’s your own property, why would it ever be fun to live through if it’s not your property and preventing you from getting settled.  I am one of those people who moves into a new flat, and have everything unpacked and neatly folded as the suitcases roll in.  The pictures get hung up as soon as the furniture is in place.  The décor is completed before the final boxes are unpacked.  Why on earth did I choose to move into a construction zone???   The answer to that question is the cost!  Was it worth it in the end, hmmmm, well….. I only lived there a year and two months of it were in chaos. 

Disaster Zone
A special thanks to my mom for helping me get settled during the first month of chaos in Singapore.
Yes, that WAS my apartment.  Clearly, we had our work cut out for us.  We spent 2 weeks closeted up in our rooms to avoid the dust storm that was my apartment.  It was through much frustration and irritation that we survived those weeks from hell and the contractor from hell, but if it weren’t for my mom, my apartment would still be Apocalypto.
During my days working, Deb was busy shopping for everything essential for an apartment with the help of a great family friend, Ellen, and my amazing realtor Anket
The Toilet became the hot topic because the landlord went out of her way to get this “amazing” toilet that looked like a “Versace” (the need to say “Quote end Quote” is necessary) toilet hahaha.  There was a clear lack of style and judgment used for the apartment decor, from the olive green Arabic tiled kitchen walls to the brand new wood vinyl cabinets and flooring, that compelled my mom to take the situation into her own hands.  Her philosophy “you get more bees with honey” is without a doubt the reason anything was accomplished by workers.   I’m finding that my philosophy of “get it done and get it done efficiently and correctly” is something you can only expect if you’re living here as an ex-pat, as opposed to a “local” (trust me there is a huge difference).  With what I would deem entirely too much effort, she managed to communicate in the most gracious manner (said in my words, not hers) “get this f#$%ing done or there will be hell to pay.” With some miracle, the worst was over about 2.5 weeks into her stay, giving her not much time to enjoy the apartment as much as deserved once it was “complete.”

But alas, despite the “apartment” trials, we still managed to take in as much as Singapore could offer in such a short period of time.

3. Renting a flat with more rooms than you need.  While it’s always nice to have spare rooms for family and friends to stay in if they come and visit, the reality is that the extra bedroom will probably sit unused the majority of the time.  I did have visitors quite often, but the cost to subsidize the extra bedroom was far greater than just getting a hotel for a short time each visitor was actually spending the night.   

India was probably an exception to this rule because there was not really an option of finding single bedroom units, properties are built for families, so expect larger accommodation options.  I will also add, that budget will take you a lot farther in India, and there are no “in-between” properties when it comes to the standard of living.  Either the rent is cheap and you’re living quite rough, or it is more expensive and you’re living well off.  Comfort at home was not something I was willing to sacrifice when I was living in India, so I was paying prices comparable to Singapore or New York, however, I was living in a 3,000 sq ft home, with 4 bedrooms, way more space than I needed.  

I had floor 1, floor zero, and the basement all to myself. Way too much space, but in India the options were limited and the cost was fair.
For one person this apartment was monstrous! I’ve only showed pictures of the indoor living spaces. There were 3/4 bedrooms, as one room didn’t have a full bath off of it so most wouldn’t consider it a bedroom.

4. Always make sure “White goods” are included in the rental. For the westerner, a refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, and washer/dryer are commonplace in an apartment rental. This is not the case in the majority of the world. The last thing you want to end up having to purchase on your own are appliances, and unless you explicitly ask, you may be wasting your time even going to see the flat. If the flat doesn’t have “white goods” already in the flat, many landlords are willing to negotiate with ex-pats to have these included at an additional charge. A fair warning for regarding “white goods,” often this does not include a dishwasher, sorry folks and the washer/dryer is usually a combined unit, so be prepared to have to buy a drying rack, because the dryer generally does not work very well. This has been my experience with EVERY combined unit I’ve used.

5. Not considering renting just a room, with house/flatmates.  Not only will this be a big money saver, but it’s also a great way to meet people right off the bat.  Having lived alone previously, I was pretty headstrong about living alone once I was abroad and in the long run, I would have saved so much money if only I had given shared living a consideration.  After a year of living on my own, I did move in with friends and ended up saving more than half the cost of living alone.

Roommates mean you can meet a whole lot of people a lot faster!

6. Never agree to lease or a contract site unseen, or just having seen pictures.  I would hope you would never do this in your home country, but definitely never do this abroad!  Not only will you not get a sense of what the neighborhood and/or building is like, but pictures can also easily be deceiving and for all you know may not even be photos of the actual flat you are interested in, the age-old, bait and switch technique. It may pain you to go on 15 flat tours in a day, but it will be worth it in the long run. While in India, there were a number of flat that were gorgeous in the photos, but in real life lacked the luster the photo had promised. I dodged a couple of bullets by reigning myself in and waiting for the viewing before I made any final decisions.

All in all, the moving process can be super stressful, don’t make it harder on yourself by making some of the mistakes I’ve made in the past. Be patient, work with the local agents, and don’t be afraid to say no if all your needs aren’t met.