Remember my post here on PGG about me thinking about getting a bachelor pad way back in 2010?
Well, it took me four years (plus a leap of faith) to finally decide to get one and live on my own while I am still a bachelor.
You see, one of my new year’s resolutions for 2014 is to be punctual at all times. At the place where I work, I am required to come to office by 7 AM because I have early morning teleconference meetings with counterparts in the US. But the extreme road traffic conditions here in Metro Manila and also the kilometer-long queues at the MRT has made it really impossible for me to come that early. And since my daily commute from our house to the office went from 2.5 hours in 2010 to 3.5 hours this 2014 (that’s only one way dude), how on earth would anyone expect me to arrive on time on a daily basis?
Needless to say, I had no choice but to get a pad near my workplace.
I basically had two options – buy a condo or rent one. I wanted to buy one at first, but given the condominium prices here in Makati City, there is no way I could afford one. And eventhough I’d be able to find a ready for occupancy condo which costs less than 3 Million Pesos, I just couldn’t imagine myself living in a studio-type unit for the rest of my life. I mean, how would me, my future wife and kids live in a 30 square-meter apartment? I’m a forward thinker and I just couldn’t picture out how we would fit.
So I decided to choose the latter, that is, to rent.
Renting is obviously the wisest choice for bachelors like me who are…
A.) Moving out for the first time -and-
B.) Have never experienced living in a condo before.
When moving out for the first time, you just aren’t sure how good your budgeting skills would cope to the monthly expenses for apartment, food and utilities. By renting (instead of buying), you can easily give up your condo unit after the contract if you feel that it is too expensive for you.
Another good reason why you might choose to rent is when you haven’t experienced living in an actual condo before. You see, living in a condo is so different from living in a house. You might as well do some trial and error by renting a condo before buying to make sure you wouldn’t have any regrets.
Why am I saying this? Well, unlike if you own the house and lot, you have to abide by a lot of rules and regulations in condominiums. Examples can include no pets, no babies (yes some don’t like the noise of kids), no loud music. By just renting, you can move out as soon as you feel that the atmosphere is not right for you.
So last January, I took the first step which is to hunt for the perfect apartment or condo. Luckily, I found one in the heart of the city.
What was my criteria in choosing a condo?
- A 10-minute walk to the office
The number 1 motivation for me as to why I wanted to live on my own is to come to office on time and not waste hours and hours in traffic and commute. So an apartment or a condo which is just a few blocks away from the office is the real deal.
And since my condo is just a 10-minute walk, the healthy stroll in the morning and afternoon serves as a good form of exercise. I also get to save too because I no longer have transportation costs.
- Near malls, parks, coffee shops and party places
When you live alone, sometimes, loneliness will creep in. In instances like these, it would be best if you are near recreational areas to clear your mind off that desolation.
So as for me, one of the things I looked for in a condo is one which is near malls, parks, coffee shops and party places so that I can just walk by in case I’m feeling down and blue.
- Near supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurants
This is a little straightforward. As a single guy, your household supplies must be within reach. If a supermarket is not near your place, at least a convenience store like 7-Eleven or Mini Stop would be your best option so that you can easily grab toiletries, a bottle of Gatorade or maybe a pack of condoms when the need arises. Okay, I’m kidding. LOL.
But seriously, for guys like me who have no idea how to cook, your bachelor pad should be near 24-hour restaurants and fastfoods so that you can grab a bite in case you are starving in the middle of the night.
- Near hospitals, fire and police stations
Need I say more? It’s tough to be alone so make sure all the emergency stations are near your place. If you are sick and you are alone you have no one to depend on to take you to the hospital but yourself.
And, if God forbid, there’s someone drunk and crazy banging your door in the wee hours of the morning, you should be able to call the cops and have them get to your apartment in no time.
- Not too high, not too low. Good location within the building.
Say what? You ask. What I mean by this is that if there’s any chance you will be living in a condo, you should choose a unit which is not located at the uppermost floor nor the lowermost. Ideally it should be within 7-14th floor – that’s just my opinion.
My rationale behind this is that if you choose a unit which is below the 7th floor, I feel like the view outside the window is boring and you wouldn’t be able to see the cityscape. On the other hand, choosing one beyond the 14th floor feels like it is too high for fresh air. Moreover, high floor units tend to have a lot of waiting time for elevators. I also couldn’t imagine how you will go down the stairs from the 30th floor in case there’s a fire drill.
Also, the location of your unit within the floor should be near the fire exit. Make sure to avoid a unit which is adjacent to the garbage room at all cost.
- Decent people
I don’t know about you, but I certainly do have this need to check out what kind of people live in the building and who my future next door neighbors are. Before I finally rented my pad, I dropped by the condo from time to time and did my best to observe the people and assess my surroundings.
Some of the things I am trying to avoid are: noisy and loud neighbors, neighbors who booze on a daily basis or do drugs. I’m pretty sure you get the idea of what I mean.
Although it is not easy to detect those if you are just an outsider dropping by, at least you get a glimpse of what your nearby residents would be like.
- Near churches
I ain’t a saint, but I make sure that there is a nearby church I can run to whenever I want to attend masses or need that dose of inspiration during times I’m feeling spiritually down.
- Clean, brightly-lit
When choosing an apartment or a condo unit, it is preferable to get one with at least one window which can be reached by sunlight. Condos which are dark inside and which have gloomy hallways are a no-no for me. You know why? It’s because aside from the fact that they look spooky, they can be a source of depression. Studies have shown that the absence of sunlight can make you depressed as what a lot of people experience in winter-filled countries where night is longer than day.
- Has a good set of amenities
Being in a condo unit where your door is always closed all the time can be suffocating. So it is important for me to stay in one which has recreation venues and a place where you can walk by and breathe some fresh air.
In my opinion, an above-average condo unit has the following amenities:
If you plan to live in a low-rise apartment, then don’t expect a swimming pool because you will rarely find a five-storey building with one. But for high-rise condos, a pool is a basic amenity which should not be missing.
I don’t really need this because I have a gym membership outside, but if a condo does not have a basketball court, at the very least, it should have a small gym with basic equipment for you to workout and get some exercise.
Okay, so maybe this is just me, but I kind of prefer a condo or an apartment which has some sort of a yard. Don’t get me wrong, I am not expecting a football field, just a small garden with plants and trees where you can walk and breathe some fresh air would suffice.
- Secured and well-maintained
As for me, I chose a pad which has a security guard, maintenance personnel, CCTVs and a generator in case of brown-outs. This gives me peace of mind when I go to sleep.
- Fits your budget
Now that you are going solo, you have to have your budget carefully planned. Note that when you do your budgeting sessions, you have to take into consideration not only the monthly rent but also miscelleneous stuff like:
– Utility bills for electricity, water, cable TV and Internet
– Household supplies such as soap, water, detergent
– Food expenses
– Clothing expenses
– Laundry bills
– And much more.
Not only that. When you move in, depending on the terms, you will have to pay the deposit which is almost always equal to 3 months worth of rent in advance.
Another thing you need to think about is whether to rent a furnished condo or an unfurnished one. The answer lies on how long your contract is. If you choose a 1 year contract, I suggest you get an unfurnished one. I’ll talk more about that later.
So make sure that all of the above are factored into the equation when you calculate if you can afford living on your own.
It took me a month before I found a condo which met most (if not all) of my criteria. I got so excited about it because I was lucky enough to have landed a bachelor pad which is near my workplace and is brand new. By brand new, it means that the owner has not lived in it and neither did they have any previous tenants. I was the first one.
I suggest that before you finally decide to rent the apartment, make sure you do a site visit to inspect the actual unit. Things you should check would include the door locks, the sink, the faucet, the bathroom and electric sockets to name a few. Check to make sure that they are all working before you move in. You may also want to check for any foul odor. Remember, you will be living here for the next 12 months so you have to be sure everything is all working and is as clean as possible.
You also have to be sure that the toilet bowl and drainage are functioning properly. As for me, I made the mistake of not checking mine only to find out when I moved in that one of the two bathroom shower drainages is not sinking as fast as the other. Apparently, it was clogged with cement remnants when the building was constructed. I had to have it checked and repaired with the maintenance personnel when I moved in.
Preparing the requirements
Requirements for renting your own Bachelor Pad are fairly easy to accomplish. This typically includes signing your Contract of Lease and preparing your post-dated checks as soon as you meet with the owner.
- Contract of Lease
This document is normally prepared by the owner of the condo or apartment or sometimes by the real estate broker. You should carefully read your contract, at least twice, before signing it to make sure that you agree and understand all of its conditions. In my experience, some of the things that I watched out for were:
1. Contract start and end date
Note the start and end dates and also what provisions they have in case you abruptly end your contract without finishing the 1-year term for some reason.
2. Monthly Rent and Mode of Payment
This varies depending on your apartment’s location, size and amenities. The usual mode of payment are post-dated checks which I will explain in the next section.
3. Length of Contract.
Most condo units or apartments have a 1-year contract so you have to be prepared to stay there for the next 365 days.
Typically, most apartments for rent have the basics installed: water and electricity. All your other needs such as cable TV, internet connection and telephone line are all up to you. Note that since utilities are charged based on your usage, this is of course, billed separately and on top of your monthly rent – something which you need to consider in your budget.
5. Association Dues
For condos, this is the fee that the association collects to help maintain the common areas such as the elevators, the swimming pool, garbage collection, security guards and the likes. The dues vary from month to month, depending on the overall usage of all tenants, but they typically cost about 60 Pesos per square meter. So if your pad is 30 square meters, your monthly association dues would be around 1,800 Pesos.
Lucky me, the owner of my unit takes care of the association dues. They included it as part of my monthly rent. I suggest that you get a pad which has its association dues included in the monthly rent so that the cost is “fixed” and not varying every month.
The subject of furnished or unfurnished unit is highly debatable. Some people would like a furnished apartment so that they could easily move in right away, while some just want it bare so that they could pick their own choice of furniture depending on their taste.
I prefer the latter, which is, an unfurnished bachelor pad. The reason being is that a furnished condo has a 28% higher rent than unfurnished ones. That means you’ll be shouldering an additional 28% cost every month. It makes you feel as if you are renting the furniture too.
While a furnished apartment will be good for short-term lease (3 or 6 months), it is not advisable for long term rent. I picked a bare one then just bought my own furniture to get me started. I figured that the bed, sofa and tables that I’d buy is something that I can use even after I move out.
7. Condominium or Apartment House Rules
Normally attached with the contract is a copy of the condominium or apartment house rules. It lists down the dos and don’ts. You may want to review it as there are some condos that have strict policies on liquor, loud noise, pets and visitors. Check them well and make sure that your lifestyle is in-sync with the stipulated regulations.
After you have reviewed the contract, you and the owner will sign them and have it notarized. Make sure to get yourself a copy.
- Post-Dated Checks
Back in the old times, owners of apartments and condos would knock on your door every end of the month to collect your monthly dues. That is such a hassle for both owner and tenant so fast forward today, the procedure for collecting monthly rent is through post-dated checks.
How does it work? Say you start your rent from January 1st 2014 and end it by January 2015. What you will do is to create 12 checks, one dated for all 12 months in the year. Example would be one check for January 1, 2014, another for February 1, 2014, another for March 2014 and so on up to December 2014.
You will hand over the 12 checks to the owner of the apartment and they won’t be able to deposit the check into their bank account until the date written on the check arrives. Sounds convenient? You bet. You will never see the owner of the condo again until your contract expires.
Be wary though. You have to be responsible enough to make sure that your checking account is FUNDED at all times before the payment is collected. If your check bounces you will be charged with swindling or estafa.
I normally make sure that my checking account is funded with 3 months worth of rent so in case I forget, I won’t fret. Another thing I do to make sure that my account is funded is by making it available to online banking so that I can easily transfer funds from my payroll account to my checking account.
You can open a checking account at any bank near you.
- Advance Payment and Security Deposit
Depending on your contract, the advance payment is normally equivalent to one month rent and the security deposit is equivalent to two months rent. So maybe you are thinking: what on earth is the advance payment and security deposit used for?
Advance Payment is your rent for the first month immediately upon moving in. Think of your rent as “prepaid”. That means you have to pay upfront your first month worth of rent before you can even live in the condo. So if you are moving in on January 1st, you will have to pay your rent for the month of January in advance.
Security Deposit is your payment equivalent to two months worth of rent which is refunded to you when your contract expires. This is just a security measure for the owner to cover for any expenses after you leave the apartment.
So what is the security deposit for? Say for example, upon expiration of your contract, you failed to settle your electric bill and you have broken something in their apartment. What the owner will do is they will use your security deposit to cover for all those expenses.
But if you have settled your bills and have repaired everything you have broken before you move out, then the owner will return the security deposit to you in full when your contract ends.
After you have completed all the requirements above, the owner of the apartment or condo will have your unit thoroughly cleaned at their own expense then afterwards they will handover the key to you. As for me, being able to sign the contract, pay the deposit and get the key of my condo is a huge accomplishment. It makes you feel like a full-fledged and responsible grown-up man. I’ve never felt as ecstatic when the owner turned over to me the key to the unit.
The next thing I had to deal with is to prepare my condo to be livable. The first (and most important) thing that I needed? Furniture and Fixtures.
This wouldn’t be a problem for you if you got a furnished apartment. However, for reasons I stated above, I chose an unfurnished condo so I had to canvass for decent but low-priced furniture.
At the time, I didn’t need something grand, fancy or artsy. I just wanted a bed where I could sleep, a small sofa, a dining set and perhaps a computer table. In short, I just needed something to start with.
Most leading furniture shops do really have expensively huge beds and tables. I didn’t want those because I am only renting a small apartment so I searched for cheaper and space-saving options. You wouldn’t believe it but I found the majority of what I was looking for at SM Hypermarket and Robinsons Handyman.
So maybe you are wondering: SM Hypermarket? Well yes, these guys have a furniture section where they are selling a bunch at low prices. I bought a bed (frame + foam) for about 10,000 Pesos, then a computer table for 1 thousand bucks and a small sofa bed for about 5,000 Pesos. I also bought a small cabinet (about 3-feet tall) where I could put some of my clothes and which will also serve as a TV stand. That cost me another 3,500 Pesos.
Then I dropped by Robinsons Handyman where I bought a small wooden, modern-looking dining set for only 3,500 Pesos. I also purchased a double lock and peep hole for my condo’s door, a small bucket, an electric fan and a movable clothes line to hang my longsleeves for work.
- Supplies and Kitchenware
Next thing on my list was my first few weeks of supplies and kitchenware. By supplies I meant I needed to do some grocery shopping to get the basic essentials that every guy like me needed: toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant, razor, shaving cream etc.
I also got myself a set of kitchenware such as plates, pitcher, cups, glasses and the likes. All that cost me about 3,000 Pesos if I am not mistaken.
- Food and Basic Medicines
If you’ve been around reading PGG for years, you should know by now that I still don’t cook…. and I have no intention of studying it anytime soon since I don’t have time for it now and I have a bunch of things to do in my life: work, blogging, dating, events, friends, gym etc.
While my plan is to just take out some healthy inexpensive food from our office canteen, I needed to buy at least 1 week worth of snacks in advance just to make sure I have something to nibble on in case I starve in the middle of the night. Isn’t that hoarding? Haha!
I also bought a few medicines (mostly the over-the-counter ones) for headaches, stomachaches and flu just to be sure. You never know when you’ll need it especially when you live alone.
All those preparations to move in cost me more or less 25,000 Pesos. That included basic furniture, supplies, kitchenware, food and over the counter medicines.
* * * *
It took me a couple of weeks from the signing of the contract to prepare all the stuff I needed to move in. As of this writing, it’s already my third month stay in the unit and I’m really satisfied with my new home for the weekdays.
Oh and just for the record: I would consider myself as semi-independent for now. It’s not like I stowed-away and never planned to return home again. The truth is, I still visit my parents and my brother during the weekends to have some quality family bonding with them.
Well that’s it guys. I hope this post helps you and serves as a guide in case you are preparing yourself to get your first bachelor pad. Ask questions below and I’ll be glad to help you in the best way that I can. Next time, I’ll talk more about how’s my stay so far and what it feels like to live in your own bachelor pad.