When we first had to pick out a realtor, I had no idea what I was getting into. Based on my experience back home, we were finding someone to help us find an apartment, for which we’d pay them a finder’s fee, and then we’d part ways.
While that is true, it is not the whole story of the realtor/tenant relationship here. I imagine that this is, in part, because every single apartment that you can rent is owned by a private individual. Unlike in Boston where we lived in a large building owned by a corporation called Archstone, to whom we paid rent, who we filled out maintenance request forms with, and whom we could complain to directly…it is possible here that our landlord doesn’t speak our language, or may not live here. In fact, in Singapore the goal seems to be as little Landlord/Tenant direct contact as possible.
The local custom is that whenever there is an issue, you don’t call your landlord (we don’t even have her phone number to do so if we wanted to). Instead you call your realtor. Who calls the Landlord’s agent. Who talks to the landlord. Who tells their agent what to do. Who tells our realtor. Who tells us. It’s like a terrible game of telephone gone horribly awry, especially if any of the players in the game decides to drop the ball.
At this point we have had one really awesome experience with this chain of command and one terrible one.
On our first day in the apartment, we went to wash some clothes, and the washer stopped working. (leaving a giant amount of water in the machine and our clothes soaking wet. I called our realtor, who started the chain of talk. Either that day or the next, we had a new washing machine. Efficient and easy.
On the other hand, there is a clause that anything that becomes a problem in the first 30 days is the landlord’s responsibility. As things were an issue, we let our realtor know. Some of these were minor (a knob coming off a cabinet door), and others weren’t (Our helper, B’s, shower head was defective, and two weeks in the hot water heater in the master bath died). Even though, in my opinion, the shower head and the hot water heater needed to be fixed immediately, we weren’t sent a handyman until after the full 30 days were up and all the complaints were in.
Which is when I learned that when it came to picking out workers, our landlord’s agent is an idiot. A dude who was kind of dirty and didn’t speak English showed up, spent 5 minutes not really listening to me when I showed him the issues, and left. He made the appointment to come back a week later (all the appointment arranging also goes through the telephone game). Luckily our agent came to facilitate his work, which is good because he told me he was going out to buy a part and our realtor found him downstairs muttering it was too much work. Our realtor fired him.
So then our realtor had to set us up with a reputable plumber that she’d used before. Which took a week to get them in for a survey and only yesterday was the work actually done.
On one hand, I hate the long chain of command necessary to get anything done, but on the other, I’m just thrilled to have someone on my side to help get it done. Otherwise who knows if we’d ever have gotten anything fixed?