By Marie Starr
Finding a comfortable and affordable place to live is of principle concern for anyone moving to Yangon, where landlords demand long leases, cash upfront while offering little help with property maintenance. Those looking for a new home, however, can have peace of mind with the services of York Road Realty and the iconic realtor couple, Aunty Thet Thet Tin and U Myo Lwin.
When visiting the York Road Realtor office on Yaw Min Gyi Street, you naturally gravitate towards the comfortable couches with token fluffy cat over the desk and chairs. Aunty Thet Thet Tin, Uncle U Myo Lwin and their cat Zoe, make the experience feel more like a social visit rather than one of business.
Aunty Thet has been living on Yaw Min Gyi Street (also known as York Road) since 1966 when she worked as an accountant in a government office. She eventually quit her job and opened a small shop in her house so she could stay at home and take care of her father. With a diplomatic personality, she found she eventually connecting owners of vacant properties, particularly in the trendy Yaw Min Gyi area, with people having trouble navigating the confusing Yangon rental market. In 2000 she became a full time realty agent, since the country opened here clients are now almost exclusively expats.
Property owners used to be reluctant to rent to foreigners not only because of the language barrier but also the costly bureaucracy that comes with registering foreign tenants.
Aunty Thet was one of the first individuals to act as a bridge between skeptical landlords and Burmese illiterate expats. She instilled trust that these new renters are a reliable and lucrative group to work with.
Communication remains the main challenge with her business, especially the terms of the lease which often are completely different than the home countries of the foreign renters.
“[Property] owners are not usually ready to solve problems or fix things. They want lots of money, but they don’t want to provide renovations,” Aunty Thet Thet Tin claims.
This is where the York Road Realty team steps in.
“We negotiate prices, negotiate the length of the lease, we help with electricity bills and water problems.”
It’s a perfect gig for Aunty Thet, who considers meeting new people the favourite thing about her job. “I love talking with so many people-foreign people and locals. I meet so many different kinds of people in this job.”
Yangon’s unusually high cost of living, which stems from a combination of political instability and a withering supply of rental units according to Aunty Thet, makes her broker service all the more important now.
York Road Realty is very much a family business. Aunty Thet Thet Tin manages the overall business while her husband U Myo has the important task of showing people around properties. David, fluent in Burmese and originally from the US, is another key member in the York Realty family. He works closely with his ‘Burmese family’ on marketing and making initial contact with clients among other essential tasks.
Services provided by York Road Realty include connecting clients with potential properties to suit their budgets and specifications. They also liaise between landlords and potential tenants on terms of contracts and encourage property owners to provide furniture and other necessities. The team has also been known to help with problems with lost keys, flood and leaks.
The York Road Realty office is location at 77 Yaw Min Gyi Street and David can be contacted at 094 20010939.