Wednesday, January 11, 2012

More househunting in Singapore

Today I spent the morning in better spirits, looking at condominiums. Condominia? Whatever...

I saw four, and like Goldilocks, none were quite right. The first one was very big, but the builders had been a bit silly and built it on a flight path into Changi, which meant you'd be sitting in the swimming pool listening to the dulcet tones of 747s taking off and landing.

The second one was big and white and the owner was sitting in the corner. I don't think she was a fixture or fitting, but she was the only sign of humanity in the area: a desert lacking all shops, all pubs, all hope.

Number three was described as having a tennis court. It doesn't have a tennis court, unless it was concealed beneath the swimming pool, which was ostentatiously deep. 1.80 metres deep, which means I could stand on the bottom and drown. It's never been an ambition of mine to drown standing up, but it's always nice to know the opportunity is there.

The pool area looked very pleasant, in the deserted-beach-resort way that makes up so much of Singapore. The flat itself had high ceilings and an oven (good) and a big brown stain on the mattress (not so good) and an estate agent who vehemently insisted that this must remain, as if it were every landlord's god-given right to demand tenants slept on a filthy mattress.

Also, it was in the middle of nowhere.

The fourth place was on the edge of Little India, and because nobody had the keys, we spent half an hour wandering around the neighbourhood. It's good, very livable. The canal passes through, so there's a way to run out to Marina Bay and back. There's lots of shops a short walk away, the MRT is close, and there are rumours of a supermarket, although that was incredibly well hidden. Maybe it was concealed, along with the previous condo's phantom tennis court.

We tried to get in to the condo. The security guard spent half an hour refusing to let us go up and look at the flat, then relented when one of the two estate agents called the landlady and got her to tell the guard to let us go up. Or passed the guard a phone with a woman who claimed to be the landlady on the other end of the line; it didn't matter, either way we went up, although it made me doubt both the friendliness of the guard, and the organisational abilities of the agent.

The flat was in a good neighbourhood, but was a bit of a dump; filthy walls, dark, mess everywhere because the incumbent tenant hadn't moved out yet. It was the kind of place an animal would live.

Ok, it was the kind of place a lawyer would live. There's not much difference, except animals don't get drunk and have some capacity for shame. Still, maybe a lick of paint, a new kitchen and some furniture and it would be adequate.

I wondered if I'd been led into the usual estate agent trap of "show somebody n+1 choices, where the first n are manifestly unsuitable, and they'll blindly accept the n+1th simply because it's not horrid." Am I too cynical?

Of course, in this battle between agent and customer, I have a secret weapon, my wife. Being married doesn't mean never having to make decisions, it just means you don't have to let an agent sweat you for an immediate decision. You can airily contend that you have to let 'The Wife', that almost mystical being, to vet the choice, and thus if they're going to palm you off with the least worst choice, they're going to need to wash their hands properly first.

And use gloves.

Yuk. Never one to let a metaphor go too far, I'd cease here, but I also had my plan B, agent #2.

Agents are jealous creatures. They tell you that they are your only choice, that they have the best apartments chosen carefully for you, and that you mustn't go to any other agent because they'll only show you the same things.
I don't trust agents any more than I do anyone working sales on a commissionable basis, and especially not if they get lost, so agent #2 took me in the afternoon to see an absolutely beautiful flat that I fell in love with: big, airy, recently decorated, big kitchen with a brand new oven, in walking distance of the office ... Just right. We put an offer in this afternoon, and the resounding silence from the landlord suggests he's not taking it.

Damn. Looks like I don't have a place to stay when I move to Singapore. This could turn sour.


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