We could not believe it, but this was the content of the last sms from the agent of my landlord, just a few weeks before renewing our contract.
We thought first that he just wanted us out. He replied however that he liked us as tenants, but
he was expecting a higher return on his investment
he believed that the market conditions changed dramatically since the time I signed the contract, 2 years ago
he was convinced that the amount asked was in line with the prices paid in the region for similar objects
In a nutshell, hew was trying his luck, waiting for a counteroffer.
We were puzzled. We had heard many urban stories in Singapore and elsewhere about how landlords and agents were trying to push rental prices up, but always thought that tenants taking good care of their place would be treated with respect. This blow took us by surprise !
All we knew is that we needed a roof, and that our current place was potentially going to cost us an additional SGD 40'000 (about USD 30'000) per year!
Our alternatives were quite simple. Negotiate the price down, or find another place where to live...
As a tenant, negotiating the asked price down was and is still a real challenge.
We were not aware of any regulatory protection for real estate rental prices in Singapore, like in many other countries. It is basically free market, up to the parties to find an agreement. And this includes renewals!
We had no idea about the prices paid in my region for similar objects
There are plenty of existing Internet platforms on real estate and rental, but those we could find were focused on ASKED prices set by landlords or agents
We could not get our heads around moving to a new place. This is just such a hassle!
It starts with the house hunting frenzy. There is the research, the phone calls and e-mails with agents/landlords, the uncoordinated visits at terrible times, the kilometers of road/train to cover from one place to the next, and the waiting times...
Then comes the negotiation. What should be the price to pay? What are the shortcomings we could not identify during the short house hunting visits?
Once the new contract is finally signed, it is time to go through the packing, moving and unpacking, followed by the administrative changes (address, etc) and the discovery of the hidden defects of the new place (barking dogs, proximity to the road which was quiet during the visit, etc.)
And on top come the costs of the move...
Despite all this, the difference between our current price and the price asked by the landlord was so wide that we decided to hit the road hard and seriously search for a new place.
It took us over a hundred of phone calls and e-mails, more than 60 visits, 500 km of road, train, taxi and motorbike, 8-10 hours a day for 7 days, but we finally made it... we found a better, much bigger place, at a better location, and with a friendly landlord. All this for a minor price increase compared to what we were paying.
We were exhausted, but decided to move!
On the day of leaving our apartment, by mere curiousity, we asked our Neighbours about the price they were paying for a similar place as ours. They came in one year after us and should have been hit by the dramatic market increase claimed by our landlord... to our surprise, they were actually paying... LESS than what we had been able to negotiate 2 years ago, at the bottom of the economic cycle. And we thought that we had a good deal!
We left this place and this landlord without any regret!
And we thought...
On one hand:
Tenants or Consumers only get to know the prices asked by landlords/agents/suppliers. Prices actually paid are not readily available to tenants.
The only way to get a generic idea of the ASKED PRICES is to run through extensive house hunting, browse internet platforms developed by and for suppliers, or trust what your agent or landlord tell you
House hunting is highly frustrating, uncoordinated and time consuming
Future tenants or users are not offered the opportunity to discuss with other Neighbours the qualities of the objects considered. Most of the time, it is too late to move back when hidden defects are identified...
On the other hand:
Suppliers, especially professional property
agents, are well organised, some of them went through specialised training, and they maintain extensive databases, covering among others prices asked/paid in their market
While landlords need to find new tenants if they push the prices so high that they decide to leave, landlords don't have to bear the costs and hassle of moving
There is therefore a clear imbalance, and tenants/consumers end up paying too much in favor of suppliers. On top, they may end up discovering defects when it is too late to move back.
We want to change this and build an Online Community where Neighbours share the prices they pay and shed light on discrepancies between prices asked by suppliers and those actually paid for comparable objects
Based on this intelligence, Neighbours will be able to state the price they are ready to pay for objects advertised by suppliers and negotiate like pros!
The platform will also allow Neighbours to pass insider information about the object shared and help other Neighbours to avoid bad surprised when it is too late to move back.
Interested to join the force?