It was a rainy day in March (typical English weather) and I was sitting in the University library doing some last minute cramming for an upcoming exam. It was relatively empty as it was a Thursday morning (our student night outs are Wednesday, so I assume a majority of students were still sleeping off their hangovers). Meaning, when I saw the new email notification that had popped up and had an audible freak out, it resulted in a few glares and “shhs” as I was disturbing the peaceful silence. I couldn’t help myself, I had just been accepted by Singapore Management University (SMU) for my year abroad! I had applied to a few other Universities across the world, but Singapore had been my dream and also first choice, so my freak out was understandable. So, what was the first thing I did, after of course from telling the whole world by posting it on my Instagram. I went to find accommodation.
I knew from family friends that finding an apartment in Singapore could be tough and also quite expensive. So I set myself a checklist of things I wanted from my accommodation to make my search easier:
With all of these factors in mind I started my apartment hunt (my exam revision was totally forgotten by this point). The first (and only) website I used for this process was PropertyGuru. It has good filtering settings and a number of properties had videos which made selection processes a lot easier. However, there were two problems we encountered. Firstly, a large majority of landlords and agents had no interest in accommodating us, as we were looking to start renting in August and they wanted tenants to fill the flat within that month (March). This drastically cut down the available properties. Secondly, we had to increase our budget if we wanted a 2-bedroom apartment that was relatively central. A few days later I got into contact with Anna (not her real name), who would turn out to be our future agent. She was willing to provide me with more recent videos of the apartment and pictures of the facilities, as well as answering some of my outstanding questions.
The rental length was the main problem that led to a few discussions between myself and Anna. Ideally, my flatmate and I only wanted to rent the apartment for the duration of our University teaching which was 8 months. Anna quickly shut this down and said, “No you won’t find anything for 8 months. Minimum lease is 1 year, anything less than that is deemed illegal.” She told us that there were a few cases where apartments were being rented for less than a year but that the government was fining the agents as well as tenants. Maybe this was still my teenage naivety, but we thought nothing further of this and trusted she was being honest. This statement was false and we ended up paying 4 months of rent, a hefty sum that especially students want to avoid, which could have been avoided.
Prior to applying for a job at Casa Mia, I had not heard about coliving. Had I known about coliving before my arrival, it would have made various aspects a lot easier. Not only would I have been able to stay in a room that was within my original budget but I could have also stayed and paid for only 8 months. Other aspects such as the moving in process would have been a lot easier too.
Personally, my move-in process was extremely hectic. I had arrived in Singapore in the early hours of the day, was jet lagged and on top of that had a fever and was extremely exhausted (this was pre covid and turned out to be the common flu). When I arrived at the apartment, all I wanted to do was have a cold shower and go to sleep. But without a towel and bedding, this is impossible. My jet-lag and flu foggy brain had to then find the nearest shopping mall that also sold home accessories, figure out how to pay for public transport, and not get lost on the way. These tasks may seem straightforward, but not when all you are craving is a comfy bed. Coliving makes this easy, everything is provided, from towels to bedding to kitchen utensils and coffee mugs.
As you may imagine, moving out wasn't a seamless process either. Apart from the basic (yet annoying tasks), such as closing your utilities account or returning your wifi set, it is during this stage where you can experience the biggest disputes with your landlord. This was my case and it caused a lot of unnecessary stress 24 hours before my departure. My landlord tried to charge me for a broken chair, although it was documented during the move in handover (and multiple times during the rental period), she also tried to charge for a missing fan remote that never existed in the first place which was also noted in the move in.
Again, with coliving all of this would have been a lot easier. The only requirement here is for your room to be in good condition and then your deposit is swiftly returned to you. There is no need for you to sort out the wifi or utilities and there are rarely any disputes with landlords or agents.
All in all, my stay in Singapore was great. Although COVID dominated my second semester, I still met great people, got to travel and got to experience Singapore from a whole new perspective that you wouldn't as a tourist. However, from every experience there are a number of takeaways that you can learn from. For me this would have been to take more time when researching accommodation options. If you are in the same boat as I was in 2019, have a look at some of our blog posts to find out more The Ultimate Guide on Where To Live in Singapore - for Young Professional Expats (2021 edition).