Why did my US Citizen tenant buy a unit in Singapore?
Updated: Jun 1
John, an American, came to Singapore on expatriate terms. His company paid for his rental expenses among other benefits. He rented a 2-bedder in District 9 for 2 years while enjoying all the amenities and spending his weekends at his favorite club, One degree 15, in Sentosa whenever he is in town!
Fast forward 2 years later, his company wanted him to take the lease under his personal name and gave him housing allowance instead!
And he called me to work on his finances and explored the possibilities in purchasing a unit.
What triggered him to buy an apartment in Singapore?
I don't want to pay other people's mortgage!
That's what he said.
So he took advantage of the Free Trade Agreements signed with the United States of America and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) such that he did not have to pay ABSD (Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty), even though he is a foreigner!
So we went around shopping for his new home!
His office was in Ang Mo Kio area then, and having to travel often, he wanted somewhere he could have easy access to the office or the airport. It meant that I was not restricted to just the Ang Mo Kio / Bishan area!
He is my buyer but at the same time, he has become a friend after all these years. Can you imagine viewings not being wholly business and serious? Where every viewing feels almost like catching up with a friend instead of work? We enjoyed the whole process very much.
After many months of shopping (because he was travelling so often, viewing frequencies were not intensive), he finally settled for a 2 bedder in Bedok Reservoir area.
I still remembered his exercised option date in 2008 - one day after Lehman brother’s collapse news was announced, and I was so naively asking him at the lawyer’s office: ‘Do you still want to proceed?’ And he said : 'Yes, why not? I need a place to stay and Singapore would weather through.’ Wow! That’s how much confidence he had in Singapore’s economy despite the terrible news of the Lehman Brother’s collapse!
Thank God he was not influenced by me.
I then went on to manage his property when he was not in Singapore.
John was travelling in and out of Singapore all the time. There was a period of time when he was posted to Germany for 6 months, coming back to Singapore for a couple of months, and back to Germany for another 6 months. I was given a set of keys to help him air the unit, and checked his mail for him. And catching up whenever he came back to Singapore!
Then in 2011, we had a very interesting discussion that lead to another property purchase!
His partner was posted to Bangkok while he was still stationed in Singapore. Again, he didn’t want to pay rent, so we explored avenues to cash out some cash from his property.
As property prices had appreciated between 2008 between 2011, the price of his apartment went up too. Through my recommendation and after working out the sums with a banker, we managed to work out something!
Imagine that he only paid for the down payment of his property way back in 2008, and now he could cash out some money to buy another property!
So his partner went shopping for a property in Bangkok, and guess what? He asked me to help with the purchase of the property in Bangkok which was a market I was totally unfamiliar with! And he was prepared to pay me commission.
This was another interesting journey!
His partner found the unit and he linked me up with the developer who agreed to pay me commission, and he engaged my service to help out in the conveyancing work. I went online and researched about the process (not forgetting the information available online back in 2011 wasn’t as detailed and vast as compared today).
Interestingly, buyers didn’t have to engage their own lawyers to transact properties purchased from developer back then, they could use the same lawyer and the cost would be minimal if we decided to use the same lawyer.
Coming from Singapore’s context for me, and the American context for him, we were both used to engaging 2 different lawyers to avoid conflicts of interest. So we decided to engage a another lawyer to protect our interest (which proved to be a right decision). We went ahead to look for a Bangkok-based lawyer (thank God for internet though I was complaining about the lack of information but I managed to find someone).
The lawyer managed to help us to waive a fee with the government (sorry, but I cannot remember what was that fee anymore) which amounted to be almost the cost of the legal fee!
What was my gain?
Developer paid me a 2% commission (which I collected in cash the next day of completion), and John paid for my air ticket and a 2-night stay in Marriott Courtyard near his apartment to help in the completion/handover (since I could not collect commission from him, he decided to pay for my expenses to Bangkok!)
He is a generous client who valued my service and I am very grateful for that.
What was invaluable was the experience and the knowledge gained during the transaction of this property and of course, the trust that John has shown over the purchase!
In 2012, John was transferred to Shanghai, and what happened to his apartment in Singapore? I was trusted to help him lease the apartment and I am still managing it till now.
I am now talking to him as we look to sell the apartment before it reaches 30 years, so as to maximize his cash proceeds before it hits the lease decay issue, and seeing his potentials proceeds decreases year by year.
You, too, can be like John, taking advantage of the stability of the Singapore economy and the transparency of the real estate market and grow your wealth.
Having been in the industry for 16 years, I have helped many clients to rent, buy or sell their properties, be it residential, commercial or industrial.
I take each and every case seriously and this has earned referrals clients to me. Many clients are my friends now, my expat tenants jio me for coffee when they are in town. I want to be your third pair of eyes to point out blind spots which may cost you money to rectify or worse, hard to sell because of that obstacle.
I take pride in what I do, which involve constantly reading up and updating myself with latest news and regulation changes, so to give my clients advice they deserve.
Being a mother of 2 monsters (yes, they are monsters), has taught me to be patient and take every tasks/problems/issues as a challenge!