The Handover

You don’t have to live in Singapore for very long before you hear about the nightmare that handing over a leased property can be. Although leases typically include a ‘fair wear and tear’ clause they also include a clause that states you will return the property in the same condition in which you took possession of it. So, if it was freshly painted or the floors were re-varnished then the landlord may expect these to still be in pristine condition when you move out.

Unlike in many countries there is no independent board or body that holds the deposit/bond that tenants pay to a landlord. Instead, the deposit/bond is paid to the landlord and what they do with it is up to them. And whether they return your deposit/bond in its entirety or deduct amounts for maintenance is up to the landlord.

In preparation for leaving our old place our agent advised us that we needed to remove all picture hooks and to patch and paint the holes, attend to any outstanding maintenance issues (tenants are responsible for the first $150 non-structural issues), replace all blown light bulbs, repair floor scratches and so on and so on and so on. We did some of these but the house had dodgy wiring with water leaking through cement walls so we refused to do anything electrical (or pay for an electrician).

Last week was a particularly stressful week, as moving week always is, and the thought of Handover at the end of it made me feel physically ill. I knew we hadn’t done nearly enough and were well aware of all the friends who had been left out-of-pocket for scratched floors, blown light bulbs and all manner of other things but neither of us had the energy to care a great deal. This was compounded by the landlord taking THREE WEEKS to confirm a time for the joint inspection.

Anyway, we forked out a bundle of cash to have the place professionally cleaned. We also arranged for the curtains to be dry-cleaned, which is also standard practice in Singapore. Let’s just say that rubber packed curtains when folded with the rubber sides together and stored in plastic bags for days after being cleaned do not look so great when they have been yanked apart.

Discovering this 2 minutes before Handover possibly made me cry.

Backtracking almost 5 years but the big sticking point in the original lease was that the Landlord wanted our liability at the end of the lease to be open-ended. Any time they found issues after we left we would have to pay to rectify them. The Other Half’s company fought this tooth-and-nail and eventually Clause 32 stated that once the form was signed at the end of the joint inspection our liability ended.

The landlord’s representative finally turned up for the joint inspection 25 minutes late (by which time I was ready to vomit in the just-cleaned toilet with nerves). He asked to see the structural issues, got the Other Half to sign the magical ‘our liability ends here’ form, and we were done.

That easy.

All of a sudden I was totally grateful for that horrible protracted leasing saga and the lackadaisical property management company.


Real Estate Agents: The Good & The Sleazy

I’ve not had a lot of experiences with Real Estate agents, only as a buyer (many years ago), but knew they shared the reputation of Used Car Salesman.

As we will be renting out our Melbourne home while we are living overseas I’ve recently had to deal with Real Estate agents, or Property Managers to be more precise.  I contacted 5 local agents and four were delightful.  Professional, respectful and not pushy.

And that leaves the fifth one.

Here’s a tip: when a real estate agent knocks on the front door unannounced NEVER tell them you are moving and will need to rent the house out.  That’s what I did in the middle of last year, and I have regretted it ever since.  Within a few days their “Business Development Manager” was telephoning, emailing and sending  ‘real’ letters. Caller ID is the most wonderful invention and allowed me to dodge their phone calls.

At one stage last year, the “Business Development Manager” knocked on our front door with a gift of three liquorice allsorts in a tulle bag.  As a child I was warned about taking lollies from strangers, but I took them and then chucked them in the bin.  Had they been Lindt chocolate I may have had a different response to this weird gift, but liquorice allsorts? That is just WEIRD.

And then there was the Valentine’s Day card that arrived in a red envelope addressed to both of us. Yep, a Valentine’s Day card to a COUPLE from a real estate!  The writing inside said something along the lines of:

“We can think of no better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day then sharing it with our favourite clients.”

Ick. If I were to celebrate V-Day it would not be an real estate agent. And we are not even their clients!

They called me the other week, and in a weak moment I asked them to come around and give me their “We are the best real estate agent EVER” spiel.  I should have known they wouldn’t just have a regular paper brochure to show me.  I was subjected to a Powerpoint iPad presentation.  I’m pretty sure my eyes glazed over and when he told me their fees ($1000 per annum more expensive than the others) I could not help but raise my eyebrows.

He left very quickly after that.

Even before I sat down and worked out the annual fees for each agent, I knew we wouldn’t use this guy. Actually I knew that before he even came to ‘appraise’ our property.

On Monday I sent off a few emails thanking the unsuccessful agents for their time but declining their services.  Within two minutes of hitting the send button our home phone rung. Again, through the marvellous invention of caller ID I dodged his call, so he replied to my email, I replied to his email, then he replied to mine.

And, I hoped that was the end of my dealings with this particular agency.

Until yesterday when an email entitled “So-and-so has invited you to join a footy tipping competition called Sleazy Brothers Real Estate”* from a third party website.  At no time did I agree that they could share my email address with anyone, so I fired off a terse and succinct (read that as “mightily pissed off”) email to the agencies Director.

Here’s the response I got:

“So you are aware we did not hand your details onto a third party website. This email was sent by So-and-So from my database marketing department not someone outside our team. She simply downloads all our clients email addresses so they can be invited exclusively to participate in our own footy tipping comp.”

Hmmm, yeah, thanks. Except the email is not from So-and-So it is from the email address run by the footy tipping website.

I can’t be bothered responding to him.  They’ve removed my details from their database and I would rather gouge out my eyes with a hot poker than deal with these creeps again.

But, at the end of the day, it reinforces just how lovely and wonderful the agent is who we chose!

*I’m not naming them.  They don’t deserve the free exposure.