Finding my first expat apartment: Singapore

I managed to find an apartment in 4 days in Singapore. It was total chaos and a guessing game but hopefully, a little luck factored in as well. I’m not entirely sure I’m going to adore this place, but I do think I’ve done the best I can for a city I know so little about first-hand. It’s located in Robertson Quay, a very central and expat oriented area that lacks in local charm, but I’m hoping makes up for it in convenience. It’s also walking distance to the neighborhood I fell in love with: Tiong Bahru. (Couldn’t find a flat there the right size or that wasn’t part of a massive high-rise.)

As part of the international assignment process, my company sent me to Singapore in early March on a “look-see” or Pre-Decision Trip. For families who are relocating this includes going to various schools and learning about daycare. But for me it was mostly an introduction to the neighborhoods. Plus, it included some of the cultural aspects and a general orientation (like how the medical system works, what the banks are, what the ERP/toll system is, etc.)

One day was also spent with a real estate agent who took me to different places so I would have an idea of what my budget could provide. Singapore is crazy expensive! Some friends and coworkers had warned me that the real estate agents didn’t necessarily listen to what I wanted. But I was sure I had given clear enough information before our meeting that it would be different for me.

I know, I know.

For a one day trip that was all about understanding budget, I decided the fact that ALL of the apartments weren’t in line with what I wanted or had asked for (local, walking neighborhood, terrace house ideally) was just a little learning curve. I would simply spend some time (in the midst of the 5 gajillion other things I was trying to get ready for this move) finding specific listings that were interesting to me. Really specific feedback and listings would be sufficient, right?

Fast forward 4 days and some severe sleep deprivation (not to mention a heckuva lot of emotion since my house in Atlanta went under contract and it was all getting REAL) and I found an apartment. But it took working with two agents, having to have my first agent send me her list to pre-approve and drastically edit before the next days showings, and spending hours finding listings to see myself. Not the easiest process and not really one that inspired a lot of confidence.

And ironically, I’ll be in a place pretty similar to what my agent had been pushing me towards all along. I’ve already met a handful of other American expats living in the area, and I should be able to get most places by taxi or MRT reasonably easily. But most exciting, I can ride my bike all over the place easily from the area. I’m pretty excited about that!


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