Sometimes, renting a home is not as ‘secure’ as owning your home, in that your landlord can ask you to leave whenever (with prior notice, of course). Mari Coetsee, a South African who has lived in Singapore since 2013, knows this all too well. Earlier this year, her landlord decided to sell the apartment where she had been living for three years, and she had to move out because the new owner wanted to move in as soon as possible.
She was told that the apartment was sold in January 2021 and started looking for a new place to live in. “I was very sad to say goodbye, but I had no choice in that regard, so it was best to move on,” says Mari. Having found her last place from PropertyGuru, she decided to use the platform again. “PropertyGuru is very user-friendly. You can whittle down the available apartments based on your preferences and needs,” explains Mari.
In her new home search, Mari had a clear list of non-negotiable criteria: she wanted a home with two bedrooms and a balcony, in a neighbourhood that is accessible and not too far from the city centre. “As work-from-home has become the default option for most companies, having a two-bedroom is a must, one for my actual bedroom, and the other as a study room or workspace.”
Finding a New Home During a Pandemic
Some may think that the current pandemic-induced recession might be an ideal time to look for a new place, and that properties may be more affordable. However, in Singapore, property is one sector that has consistently remained resilient despite COVID-19. In fact, prices have been rising since mid-2020.
"I used to think that in the middle of a pandemic, there would be more apartments available since most expats I know chose to return home, but I was wrong! Not only that, the prices also shot up, even in areas that are usually more affordable, such as Yishun," says Mari.
Before settling down in her 700 sq ft, two-bedroom apartment in Novena, she viewed a few places in different areas, such as Potong Pasir and Yishun, but it’s quite a distance from her workplace. "Since I have a dog (a Maltipoo named Zoey), I don’t want to live in an area where I have to spend one to two hours to go back home from work.”
Mari also viewed three different apartments in the building she’s currently living in. The first one was furnished, but she had furniture from her previous apartment, so she decided not to take it. The second one lacked extra room for her work needs. "I was lucky the third time; it ticked all my boxes, from budget to space, and even had a balcony for Zoey to roam around. I signed the lease immediately," remarks Mari.
Enjoying One’s Life in Novena
According to Mari, one of the benefits of living in Novena is its accessibility. “The condo is close to public transportation nodes like the MRT station and bus stops. It’s also within walking distance to my workplace, so it makes it easier once offices start opening up. All in all, Novena is in close proximity to everything that I need,” she shares.
Additionally, Mari appreciates the peacefulness of Novena. “Singapore is a very busy place. It’s very noisy, but here, even though I live close to a highway and school, there’s always a sense of quiet. I’ve never been bothered by loud noises in the few months I’ve lived here. The building is also well-maintained and the view of Singapore’s skyline from the balcony is not too shabby,” Mari smiles.
In her new home, Mari spends most of her time in the study room. It’s not only a place where she works remotely as a speech and drama teacher, but it’s also a place where she makes vlogs on YouTube, sharing snippets of her life as an expat in Singapore. “It’s a platform for me to connect with people from all over the world and share my experiences living in Singapore. “I’m excited to see the channel continue to grow in years to come.”
As of now, Mari is pretty content with the living space she has created, “I’ve signed a two-year lease, so I’m not moving anytime soon,” she laughs. Essentially, she has created her second home. “Being an expat where you live alone, far from your family, I think it’s crucial to have a place that’s comfortable, and again I was lucky enough to find this apartment that ticked all my boxes. And thankfully, I also have Zoey to keep me company,” Mari grins.
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