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Surpised by high rental costs - help needed please

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smitty's picture
Joined: 2-Apr-08
Posts: 50

Hi! I've cross posted this on another forum, so apologies to those who may have already read this.

I have just arrived in Phnom Penh to live for 2 years and have been totally blown away with how expensive 2 bedroom apartments are.
Everyone (on the forums that is) talk about DON'T pay more than $600 for 2 BR and how they got a FAB place for $250 etc.
We have come here with that expectation and yes, even though my business set me up with 5 real estate agents in one day to take me around - none of them had a good apartment for under $600.

What is going on? Has house prices gone up dramatically? All the real estate agents expected me to want to see apartments for $1,000 and were somewhat suprised I wanted $400. I'm only a teacher, not a high paid businessmen!

I hired a scooter and drove around (something a lot of people on forums say to do) but that was hard work and still seemed too expensive.

Am I missing something, or expecting too much?
I don't expect or want to live in the BKK1 area (my work is in this area however); but everywhere else seems expensive too.

I would dearly love anyone's perspective on this or advice.
Anyone know of a good cheap person who may help me out and won't take a commission off the rent? Does a person like this exist?



BC's picture
Joined: 17-Apr-08
Posts: 469

Well, this recent post would have come up on the first page of the forums for you, and contains two recommendations for agents:

First thing: five agents? Why??
Please do be aware that these guys/gals get their living from commissions - and many have the same properties on their books. If you've had the same place recommended by several, and then you rent it, look out! There may be trouble and a headache for you. The landlord won't want to pay two commissions and both will feel entitled. I haven't heard many stories about it recently, but I have heard of expats being seriously harassed in the past by a snubbed real estate agent.

Second thing: they're willing to charge you as much as you're willing to pay. Yes, they expect that expats will pay $1,000 now because some pay that or three times that, which skews the market expectations for everyone else. Particularly if you don't want to live in BKK1, you should have no problems finding a cheaper place, though it will likely take you a week or two, not just one day.

Go to the real estate agents and insist on your expectations being followed, not theirs. There are a lot of places for rent in Phnom Penh under $600. Set your budget limit and get them to show you what they have. If they have nothing, tell them to call you when they do, and mysteriously I expect they'll be able to find some within a few days. Funny that. Tell them you don't need to live in BKK1 or the riverside; maybe suggest Toul Sleng area which is not far from BKK and generally has some nice houses available. Tell them you don't mind "modern khmer" style houses, so they should show you those kinds of places too.

Your long stay strengthens your negotiation position - guaranteed tenancy is good news for a landlord. If you're willing to sign a one year lease, possibly then renewing for another year, that's attractive to them. You should be able to use this to bargain down the price of the apartment a little, or at least to ensure that they will fix/change things for free before you move in.

I'd recommend that you either go see Palm Real Estate or the other guy I mentioned in my post linked to above. Both seem very honest and able to do a good job for you. Don't expect or ask that they take no commission; there's nobody paying them wages and their families have to eat too! Only expect that they will help you to find the right place at a price you're happy with. Usually, the landlord gives the first month's rent to the agent as a finder's fee, sometimes less if the place is very expensive. Where the landlord refuses to pay the commission to the agent, they may ask you for it (or a smaller fee for services), so just make sure you're clear in your lease negotiations whether the agent expects you to pay anything to them. (Usually, they don't.)

Finally, as you're a teacher I assume you can chat to other expats at your workplace - instant feedback! Where do they live, how much rent do they pay, is it a good area, would they choose there if they were looking for a place now, etc etc. A quick survey around the coffee room should help you get a good picture of what sort of prices are out there, and hopefully, some confidence that you're not facing a $1,000 a month minimum!

Good luck!



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