How To Be A Renter In Kuala Lumpur—The Super-Stress-Free Approach
“When we decided to move to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,” writes Asia Correspondent Wendy Justice, “we wanted the experience to be as stress-free as possible, and we didn’t want to have to stay in a cramped hotel room for weeks while we searched for just the right place to live longer-term.
“We turned to the Internet for help, where we found so many property websites listing so many options that we became overwhelmed. All the prices were reasonable, leaving us at a loss to choose.
“Then we noticed that most of the places advertised were being offered via property agents. Ah, that might make this easier, we thought…working with an agent who could vet listings in advance and then show us several good options upon our arrival.
“Our search for a good agent was surprisingly easy. We chose one who had several attractive listings on her site and e-mailed her to discuss her services. She replied right away with questions that helped us to define our search–What sort of neighborhood did we want?…How much did we want to spend on rent?…Did we want fully furnished?… Did we need easy access to public transportation and shopping? (The answer was yes to this important questions, as we didn’t plan to have our own vehicle.)
“The agent assured us that she would be able to show us several properties in parts of the city that she thought would be most appealing to us. She e-mailed us a list of options in advance, and we selected those we liked best. We then set up a time to meet with her the day after we arrived in Malaysia.
“It was one of the most stress-free house-hunting experiences we have ever had. Our agent, Lorraine, had appointments set up so that we could view about 10 properties over two days, and she drove us to view each one. She was receptive to our needs, didn’t try to upsell us, and never showed us anything that didn’t fit the criteria we had discussed.
“Lorraine’s service, though, went beyond that. When we finally did find a place that we liked–a condo on the 15th floor of a high-rise with jaw-dropping views, a five-minute walk from the iconic Petronas Towers–she successfully negotiated with the landlord for the purchase of additional furniture and household items (plates, pots and pans, bedding, etc.) and a reduced rent. We had to pay a deposit equal to one month’s rent and a stamp duty, which is a tax paid to the government whenever someone rents a house or apartment. Once the deposit and stamp duty were paid, we signed the rental agreement and received a receipt for the deposit and stamping fee. Our agent took us back to our hotel.
“The next day, Lorraine called to tell us that she had filed the stamp duty and that our lease was now notarized and ready for final signatures. We set up a time to meet at our new rental to finalize things with the owner. It was all very straightforward. We paid a pro-rated amount of rent for the first month and a deposit equal to one month’s utility bills–gas, water, and electricity. Landlords, we found, are happy to keep the utilities in their names. This is good, as a foreigner is required to make a deposit of roughly US$350 to each utility provider to have an account opened in his name. This can easily amount to more than US$1,000. We agreed with the landlord that he would give us the bills each month and that we’d then pay them before the due dates. We got our keys, and that was that! We had an apartment that we loved and a view that we never tired of, right in the heart of the city.
“Using an agent makes a lot of sense, especially as, unless it is negotiated otherwise, the landlord pays the agent’s fees. Furthermore, no fee is due unless the agent is successful, so they are motivated to show you places that meet your needs. A good agent really knows the area and can set up appointments to allow you to see many places within a short period.
“Most agents work independently, meaning they answer to no one but you. They can negotiate much more effectively on your behalf, as ours did, than you could on your own. In addition to the language barrier, there are also the local customs and business protocols. You’ll never figure these things out without help. A good agent will help you to file the stamp duty, will review the lease for you, and will serve as a general resource as you settle in your new home. Our agent spent time showing us where the markets and malls were located and how to use things, from the hot water heater and the phone to the train system. After we had lived in KL for a few months and learned the neighborhoods better, we contacted her again to see about finding a new and bigger condominium. Lorraine helped us to locate an even nicer place for less money.
“Bottom line, our agent made the experience very stress-free. She answered our calls and e-mails promptly and efficiently. She didn’t waste our time or hers showing us units that were out of our price range. For every apartment she took us to see, she pointed out the negatives as well as the positives, to make certain that we would be happy with our decision. She even came by when we vacated our condominium, to make sure that that process went smoothly, too.”