Buying your first home is an exciting experience…in pretty much the same way life altering surgery is. You’ll quickly learn that “exciting” is not the same as “pleasant”. Entering Singapore’s property market is like swimming naked in a shark tank with a dead tuna strapped to your back; you shouldn’t be scared, you should be downright terrified. In this article, I look at how to mask your weak spots when confronting agents:
1. Say You “Don’t Know Anything” About Property
Being candid with a property agent? You may as well try to tame a lion by waving a stick of candy floss at it. Only two types of people tell agents that: “Actually, I don’t know anything”. Those are:
- Experts who are testing the agent
- Fresh meat
When you admit you don’t know anything, the agent doesn’t feel sorry for you. It’s fair to say that, if someone’s a successful property agent in Singapore, they didn’t become one by baking cookies for charity. You’re just telling the agent: “Hey, feel free to hide things and exaggerate facts, because I’ll never know!”
If the agent asks: “Is this your first time buying?” Just smile and change the topic. He may figure it out eventually, but there’s no reason to help him.
2. Talk About Your Budget Right Away
Property agents like to ask for your budget at the first opportunity. Not just to decide if you’re worth their time; they want to steer you toward more expensive properties (if possible).
So before mentioning price, harp on things like location and amenities. If you already have approval-in-principle (and you should), try not to bring it up; insist that you’d rather see a house that matches your requirements, before you start talking price.
If you’re truly unhappy with anything in that range, then suggest you move up a category. But make sure the agent shows you all the options first, and that you compare the best deals.
As with point 1, the agent will guess your budget eventually. They sniff money like leeches detect blood. But keep your edge for as long as possible.
3. Gush About The House
Is it a nice house? The magnificent Barbie doll house of your dreams? Well keep a lid on it!
If you gush about the house, the agent knows your emotional side has taken over. You may as well wear a T-shirt that reads “There’s money in my wallet” and stroll down a dark alley. Take pictures, and you can gush about the images when you get home. But in front of the agent, wear your poker face and don’t go beyond “that’s nice”.
Even if you know it’s the house you want, end with “I’ll go back and give it some thought”. Otherwise, the agent might reveal that the sellers “suddenly” want more.
4. Yes, I Care About Other Buyers
A favourite tactic of agents is to bring up other buyers. They’ll raise the fact that many people are interested, and they can’t hold the property for long.
This is a method of baiting you. If you panic and start making counter-offers on the spot, the agent knows he has you. So keep calm, even when “other buyers are already handing in cheques”. Besides, you have no way of verifying such claims.
If you’re buying resale flats, this tactic is used to pressure you into accepting higher cash over valuation (COV). Stick to your guns, even if threatened with other buyers. Odds are, that COV can be bargained down.
5. Don’t Worry, That Problem Isn’t a Big Deal
If the agent reveals a fault, such as warped vinyl flooring or cracked paint, don’t shrug it off. True, it’s not serious damage, but don’t blurt that out.
Always imply that it bothers you. With luck, the agent will see to its fixing, and you’ll save yourself some repair costs. You don’t need to whine about it like a nine year old with a stolen toy; just frown and mention you don’t like fixing up.
In general, whenever the agent asks if something will be a problem (e.g. there’s a huge disused aquarium in the living room, or tiles that need grouting), your answer should never be a direct “no”. Instead, ask what can be done about it, and how much it will cost. There’s no guarantee you won’t have to deal with it yourself; but there’s every chance you can pressure the agent into saving you some trouble.
Shopping For a Home?
If you’re looking for a home, be sure to get the cheapest home loan package. Visit SmartLoans.sg, a free-to-use site for Singapore home loans. Just enter the property type and loan amount, and this website will aggregate the best results from all local banks. The site’s mortgage specialist is also available to advise you further.
Do you have any tactics for negotiating with agents? Comment and let us know!
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