Do I need an agent to rent a unit?

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This article was last updated on 27 Jul 2018

While hiring a real estate agent is usually advised when buying a house, others often ask if it is necessary to engage one when buying a unit

Renting a residential property is a not as complicated as buying one, at least on the surface. Once you’ve found a suitable home for rent in a district where the lifestyle and amenities suit you, you contact the landlord and view the unit. If everything is to your satisfaction, you sign a tenancy agreement, adhere to its terms and pay your monthly rent on time.

But are you missing out by not hiring a real estate agent to help in your rental?

Do I need an agent to help me find a home to rent?

The advantage of hiring a real estate agent to help you is that you will have a trained professional who is familiar with the ins and outs of the industry. If your agent is experienced and has a good track record, he will point out details you might overlook, be it in the properties you are considering, or in the tenancy agreement drawn up between you and your landlord.

At the same time, an agent can not only guide you through dealings with landlords, he can also recommend properties to you based on your budget and preferences, as well as his own expertise. He will also be able to help you arrange for property viewings, represent you in negotiations with landlords, discuss the relevant documents with you, and advise you on the tenancy agreement.

Furthermore, agents typically have extensive networks that could prove helpful to you. This is especially useful if it is your first time renting a unit.

How do I pick a legitimate agent to help me find a home to rent?

You can refer to PropertyGuru's comprehensive list of agents to find an agent that can help you, if you do not already have one. You can also look for recommendations within your social circles. 

It would be very helpful to have a list of specific requirements when speaking to the agent about the kind of property you're looking for. For instance, what is the budget you have in mind, the type of location or commute times you're looking for, and if you would prefer a furnished or unfurnished unit.  

As a rule of thumb, when engaging an agent, check that the agent is currently registered with the Council of Estate Agents, the government body that regulates real estate agents and agencies in Singapore. It is illegal to engage in agency work otherwise. A registered agent should have an Estate Agent Card that lists his name, photograph, registration number, as well as his agency’s name and licence number. You may key in this information in the Council's Public Register to check on the agent's status. 

Do I need to pay an agent commission to rent the unit? 

When engaging an agent to help you in the rental process, you will need to agree upfront on the fees you need to pay.

In general, tenant's agents may get a co-broking fee from the landlord's agent. This is often the case where the tenancy period is for two years, and the rental fee is above a certain level (current market rates are around $3500 a month). In this case, the tenant will not need to pay for a commission. However, if the lease period is only for a year, and / or the monthly rental is below the market rate, then the tenant's agent may ask to be paid by you, the tenant. This is negotiable however and you should discuss and agree on this upfront. 

Some tenants may also prefer to pay a commission directly to their agents, to prevent any potential conflicts of interest. 

One thing to note, is that a tenant's agent cannot collect both a co-broking fee from the landlord's agent, and a commission from the tenant. This violates a rule known as "dual representation", where it's illegal for a real estate agent to represent or collect fees from both parties in the transaction. 

Your agent’s commission must be paid to the agency, not directly to the agent himself. You can find more information on hiring an estate agent via the CEA for residential rental transactions on the CEA’s website.

What if I decide not to engage an agent?

If you are familiar with the process, you may decide that the services of a real estate agent are not be entirely necessary. Doing everything yourself would also save you the time and money needed to search for a suitable agent and pay his or her commission.

However, since you do not have another person to help you, you need to be especially careful and detail-oriented. When viewing a property, keep an eye out for possible defects. View the property at different times of day to get an accurate feel of what living there would be like.

When negotiating on rental fees, you can refer to the handy pricing widget in PropertyGuru's rental listings, to have a gauge on what is a fair price to offer. 

Singapore condo rental pricing

Use our handy pricing widget to determine the best price to offer for your rental unit

Prior to signing the tenancy agreement, keep a close eye out for unfair terms, caveats and loopholes to make sure that you've got yourself covered and are clear of what you are getting yourself into. You might also want to ask neighbours about the landlord and his relationships with former tenants so you can ascertain whether or not he is trustworthy.


Ultimately, whether or not you hire an agent is entirely up to you. You are certainly advised to do so if you are an inexperienced tenant or have been inconvenienced in the past due to oversight; this becomes less essential if you have rented successfully before and are confident in your ability to properly handle the process on your own.

Check out PropertyGuru's properties for rent! Alternately, refer to our other handy rental guides, or read more about the hottest areas to live in with PropertyGuru's AreaInsider

This article was initially written by Cheryl Marie Tay. Edited by Chew Chang Hui on 27 Jul 2018

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