Monday, November 7, 2011

Looking for a Place To Rent in Singapore

It's that time again, where you're staring down the very-real possibility of being homeless if you can't find a suitable place to rent in the next month or so.  So far I consider myself lucky for never having to have stayed in a place that was horrible or that made me regret choosing to live there.  The process on the road to getting that perfect room/hdb/condo/mansion/box under a bridge is never an easy one and it usually brings along some kind of pain with it.

The most obvious pain is the discrimination and racial profiling.  Many ads come with "disclaimers" like "sorry no indians", or "no malays",  "sorry no mainland chinese."  If you're from an western country, they think you're rich and try to get more money out of you, so I try to stress my Philipinoness as much as possible.  My conversation with an agent today went like this (after I had to tell him I'm American and Carissa is Filipina):

Agent: So..... you're the Filipino.
Me: No, I'm the American.
Agent: But you're....
Me: Yes, I'm not white.  I'm ethnically Filipino
Agent: So your wife is the American?
Me: No, she's actually a citizen of the Philippines.
Agent: So you are...?
Me: ...Frustrated.

*Update* I recently have experienced discrimination myself for not being "Chinese" enough, and Wall Street Journal even put out an article about discrimination here recently (not my particular case of discrimination.. just discrimination in general by landlords and agents; click here.

The worst thing about looking for an apartment/hdb/hole-in-the-wall is that it's just a ginormous waste of time and effort.  Like when you have to go meet up with the agent and they're late, or if they tell you the wrong address.  Or if you misread the ad and end up in a ghetto, old part of town where the halls and stairs going up to the room look like they're out of some horror movie (yes, even Singapore has ghetto areas).

Is this a scene from Paranormal Activity 3 or is it my next home?

My conversation with the agent over SMS:
Me (earlier in the day): See you at 8pm
Me (at 8pm): I'm here at the place.
Agent: It's above the tire shop.  Go up to the 3rd floor.
(I walk up the stairs in pitch black darkness)

I arrive at the room and am beginning to wonder if I'm about to be murdered so my organs can be harvested.

Me: I'm here
Agent: Open door...Room A

Why do I feel like I'm getting instructions from Jigsaw?
I enter the hall.  Despite the haggard appearance from outside, the hallway in the apartment/hdb/ghetto isn't as dirty as I expected.  But it looks like there's a shared bathroom and there's loud music playing outside.

I open the door to room A and am greeted by 4 bunk beds with several people sleeping in various states of undress.  None of them are real estate agents.  Hmm, I thought I was supposed to view a room for myself.  Didn't think I'd have to share it with 7 other people living in this room, plus I'd have to share the bathroom with the other 8 people living in the next room.. so there are probably about 15 people living here total.  Next time I'd better read the ad more carefully...

Me (texting the agent): You're not coming here to show me the place in person, are you?
Agent: Just look for yourself. Let me know if you want to stay.

If the agent doesn't even want to go to the room to show around prospective tenants, you know it's a bad place.

So I'm still looking for a home.

To be continued in PART TWO of this blog series

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