In land-scarce Singapore, it is the aspiration of many to own a property to generate rental income.
However, the realities of being a landlord is very different from what one expects wherein the rent would be paid punctually and getting to enjoy the rental income.
As a landlord of a residential property for the past four years, here are the 4 things that I learnt, some the hard way.
Lesson 1: Vacancy Is A Reality In Today’s Market
With an increased supply of residential units in the coming years, the tightening inflow of foreigners and multiple launches of new projects, today’s residential market is a quintessential tenants’ market.
When I first started in 2011, it was very easy to land a tenant for my 3-bedder unit located in the city fringe. Last year, I had the issue of having a vacant unit for some time before finding a tenant who took the place at a stark 20% decrease in rent.
Things have come to the extent wherein landlords either leave their units vacant while waiting for the ideal tenant and price, or settle for less in the interim.
Lesson 2: Rental Income Could Easily Cover Monthly Mortgage
Quite simplistically when I first started, I did not factor the hidden costs that drastically reduces the monthly rental income.
Such include the mandatory maintenance fee, property taxes at non-residential rates, income tax on rental and commission for the real estate agent. When divided over the course of a year, these monthly hidden costs would easily amount to $500 to $800.
The only silver lining is that the monthly maintenance fee of my unit is a mere $140 as it is not a full-facilities condominium, where the monthly maintenance fees for such a size could easily be upwards of $300.
Hence, my initial assumption that I would have a positive or zero cash-flow situation wherein my rental income could cover my monthly mortgage was flawed. In the end, I have to top-up cash to keep afloat.
With an impending interest rates hike, the future does not look that rosy as a landlord.
Lesson 3: Be Prepared for Contingencies
As a landlord, one needs ready cash to deal with contingencies which are the landlord’s obligations.
Some examples of contingencies which I faced include having to repair and eventually replace the faulty air-conditioner, repairing leakages in the bathroom and the usual wear and tear of the fixtures.
At best, these were minor inconvenience which could be easily resolved by forking out some money. At worst, they did cause some anxiety which made myself question if all these efforts were worth investing in a property.
Lesson 4: Tenants Either Make or Break Your Deal
My current tenant is a godsend that pays up punctually without any reminders, and facilitates repair works at the expense of her time.
However, my encounters with my previous tenants were not so pleasant. My first tenant delayed her payment a few times and once, she even naively expected me to believe that the money had been transferred by taking an ATM screenshot of the fund transfer process.
My second tenant was the worst thus far. As a result of what he did which I shall not elaborate here, I was even asked to go to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority for tea as they had a case against his activities. Indeed, that was a tenant from hell.
There are no perfect investment instruments and real-estate is no exception. While the price of property is expected to rise due to our limited land supply over the course of the next twenty or thirty years, being a landlord is much more difficult than expected.
Then again, in all matters of investment, it is caveat emptor. One needs to have the resilience, holding power and cash-flow in order to be a successful landlord.