● Work your way systematically from outside to inside a home. When you approach the home you need to inspect the neighborhood closely
● Try to remember the homesvisited by including some typical features or a prominent landmark. (such as the house with the blue roof). Write this down in your Home Assessment Form
● If you are interested in the place but not sure, go ahead and mark it down to decide later. Basically you have to find out if the home is worth revisiting.
● This decision will become easier as you see more homes.
● You can use the same sheet when revisiting the home to review your first impressions. Fill in the address!
● Flat roofs (bungalow style) tend to be leaking and should be avoided. Check ceilings and walls for suspicious watermarks.
● In more remote areas some roofs even are of corrugated iron, which is not only very hot but also very loud when it is raining.
● Other houses only have a second ceiling out of plywood, which is bad for isolation. Roofs with tiles should have aluminum foil as insulation.
● Steep roofs with openings at the ridge have warm air vents disappear which reduces heat in the house. You should not close these gaps.
As mentioned in ‘Tropical Homes’ floors come in all shades and qualities. Modern homes often have wall-to-wall carpets worn out or in colors not matching your style. They may hide a nice wooden or tiled floor. Wooden floors can be polished and re-varnished, tiles look much nicer once they are cleaned properly. Living rooms may show expensive marble often in black.
Asians love dark colors! You may think of getting some nice oriental carpets to lighten up. Modern apartments recently are fitted with lime washed planks matching the furniture.
Disease And Unwelcome Guests
All properties in tropical Asia being traditional or modern do have to fight one enemy: humidity that builds up more easily when the house is surrounded by high trees and thick vegetation. You need to avoid mold and mildew growing at all sorts of places: behind your bed, behind and within pictures on the wall, on all soft furniture, under carpets and within wardrobes and drawers.
● When you enter a home that has not been aired or air-conditioned for a longer time you will smell this at once and this smell should alert you. Ask how long the house has been empty as chances are high this has been a long time.
● Sometimes you may find strange looking earth colored bulges below windows, doors and cupboards. Termites galore! It is very difficult to get rid of them.
● Cockroaches cannot be avoided even in the cleanest home. They even feed on glue from books but particularly like to live in kitchens, bathtubs, sinks and floor drains and mainly come out of hiding to feed at night.
● Ants are also quite common and appear as soon as food is put out. Follow their trails next to walls, beneath boards and under buildings. They bite and sting and may cause severe reaction to anyone who is allergic to ant venom.
Some of those unwelcome guests never leave the house, others have to be persuaded by the Pest Control.
Some houses in Southeast Asia still have their own wells which should be at least 30m deep as to avoid their pollution with nitrates and pesticides. Landlords tend to avoid this subject so you better have the water quality tested. Ask if you can be linked to the public water supply instead which however is expensive in many cases.
● Tap water is usually not potable and you should use only boiled and filtered water for drinking, teeth brushing and the preparation of food. There are companies providing daily delivery and collection of water bottles or you can rent/buy a water dispenser.
● Check water pressure by opening all taps in bathrooms and kitchen. Many houses do have a problem with pressure and supply water through rather small tanks on the roof. You need to check if the water tank on the roof of your house is tightly closed. If not insects and other creatures may drown and pollute the water.
● In some cases you need extra water pumps to increase pressure. But be aware: the old pipe system may not be able to accept the new pressure and burst or leak!
● The open drains outside the house often transport the water of the kitchen together with whatever is released with it. This attracts a lot of attention from unwanted guests, e.g. rats. Make sure there is no stagnant water which points to a blockage by garbage. Drains are a favorite hiding place for snakes and should be clean all the time.
● You may also find a sewage tank with a leak (or a rusty lid) if there is an unexplained odor in the air. Insist to have it pumped of before you move in.
If there is none installed yet: you need one! Heavy thunderstorms with powerful lightning are frequent in Southeast Asia. Check if grounding is done properly and arrange security and insurance for your PC equipment.
Bathroom do not always meet your expectations and are often a far cry from what you are used to. Expatriates learn to compromise and even enjoy the traditional very refreshing bath with a ladle after some time. In Singapore, however, it is very rare! Many houses do have very colorful bathtubs, toilets and basins which contrasts Western esthetic senses. Do not show your disgust openly when the landlord is showing you around in person. He might have just rennovated them!
● Bathrooms should have warm water supplied. Water heaters provided are often very old and look aged and rusty. Have them replaced if possible with newer more economical units which are also safer.
● Showers are either not walled or with a shower basin or the bath tub but rarely seen as a shower cubicle. Bathrooms get totally flooded when you shower if there is no basin. Generally there are no shower curtains installed as they age fast and will be renewed once you move in.
● Some guest toilets are very close to the living and dining at somewhat inappropriate places as they are sometimes built in much later. Check if the lavatory leaks, the room does have ventilation and if it is soundproof. You may find a wash basin in the dining room to your surprise. This is to wash your hands after the meal and can usually be removed. Sometimes guest toilets can only be used when passing through a bedroom.
Traditional Asian kitchens are generally huge and sometimes divided into a wet and a dry area as food preparation in Asia is a lengthy and busy process with many people involved. While manpower is steadily driven out by modern appliances the modern kitchens reflect the changes.
● Kitchen cabinets must be checked for termites. They often look rather worn out at the bottom. Doors and (rusty) hinges need to be replaced.
● Kitchen floor tiles often need nothing else than a good scrub as this may not have been applied for a long time.
● Gas ovens may show an oil layer which is almost impossible to clean so you should insist on a new oven. As maids are used to cooking with gas you should not get an electrical stove instead but rather buy a large microwave + conventional oven + grill. Gas appliances need to be checked by experts.
● Fridges are most important for food hygiene and should be as modern as possible. Old models often show worn out rubber insulation at the doors, broken glass/plastic trays and rusty frames. If the landlord does not want to buy a new one keep his fridge for drinks and buy or lease a fridge. Thus you have some extra space.
● At most you may have a large freezer compartment in the fridge which is not enough at all and a separate deep-freezer is preferred by many. Generally you should not deep-freeze too much food. If there is a power failure you loose it all.
● Dishwashers are rarely seen in houses, more often in apartments. If you have a live-in maid you might not need one.
● Washing machines often wash with cold water only. If you buy new rather decide on a simple model easy to handle by the maid.
● Tumble dryers are very helpful as many clothes need a long drying time when dried outside due to the high humidity. There is limited drying space in apartments and condominiums. Train your maid how to use the tumble dryer as many simple models dry with very high temperatures and cannot be adjusted.
Many homes have built in wardrobes in the bedrooms. They often are of brownish color (same as the doors) which makes the rooms appear very dark. Once painted white they have a total new look and bring light into the rooms. Check their inside for termites, ants, etc. and any signs of humidity. Hinges and shelves might be broken and doors do not close properly.
You may find a built-in mirror and a desk called vanity unit in the bedrooms. The so called master bedroom (with a large bed) will have many inbuilt wardrobes and drawers.
If there is not enough space for your clothes you may ask for some extensions where possible. As the master bedroom is very often used to store other items that need to be in air-condition or locked all the time (see Air-condition List) much more space is needed than at home where you have other storage facilities. Built in furniture may be removed on request.
You will probably not be able to live constantly without air-condition as not so much for the heat rather than the humidity affecting your health and household goods. It is necessary to have all rooms fitted with air-condition and proper fans installed on the ceiling. The costs for electricity can be enormous. Doors and windows must shut properly. Generally all bedrooms and the study with the PC should be under more or less constant air-condition.
|Split AC:||compressor + fan system split, very economical but expensive to buy, not noisy|
|Window AC: outdated||motor & cooling system one unit, less expensive to buy but also less economical, quite noisy|
Air conditions need to be checked and cleaned regularly and age within five years. Who is responsible for the cleaning should be stated in your rental agreement. Before your move in ALL UNITS must be checked and chemically cleaned by the landlord. With the installation of surplus or new air-conditions power supply in the house may not be sufficient (at least 10.6 kW). This must be verified with the building power supplier.
With some exceptions many Southeast Asian countries still dream of an efficient telecommunication network in others it may exist only in the cities.
● Additional lines for fax and PC or broadband facilities are rare and you may need an extra permit to have them installed together with your telephone. Are there telephone lines installed in the living room, bedrooms and in the room you want to use as a study?
● Telephone lines are often tapped from outside. You should always ask for a print out of your local and international calls with your telephone bill.
TV, Cable, Satellite
Some countries do not permit uncontrolled satellite TV (satellite dish) (e.g. Malaysia and Singapore) but provide cable with channels for local and selected international programs. For additional fees you will be able to connect to some of your national broadcasting companies. TV lines are normally only installed in the living room and the family area, an open space located on the first floor. Extensions need to be ordered, paid by yourself and permitted by the landlord. You usually need a licensing unit. If you are permitted to install a satellite dish it needs to be at least 9 feet in diameter to receive foreign programs from around the world.
High Speed Broadband up to 1Gbps are readily available in Singapore. High speed connections can be achieve with fibre, cable or ADSL connections. In public places like libraries or shopping malls, free WIFI (wireless internet) connection are commonly available to allow you to be connected on-to-go.
Facilities and services offered with rental of an apartment or condominium need to be screened when visiting an apartment. The quality of the services offered and the condition of the facilities and their constant maintenance should be guaranteed.
● Have a good look at the pool and the condition of the gym facilities. Ask who lives in the condominium. If locals reside as owners the chances are good that the place is well kept and security is high.
● Count the number of lifts servicing the floors. The higher the number the better. There should be a large common lift catering for deliveries, servicemen and your household move.
● Visit the condominium on afternoons after school and weekends to see who lives there and if many children play at the poolside. This may indicate the place to be either more attractive or less suitable for you.