An Expat's Guide to Singapore Housing Rental

 

Singapore consistently tops the ECA International’s global liveability index list as the best place for Asian expatriates. The impressive infrastructure, low crime rates, easy access to amenities, and a vibrant international community are some of the major factors that work in the Country's favour. 

If you are an expatriate who has recently moved to Singapore, you will agree that finding the right house is the most critical task at hand. It makes all the difference between having a fantastic expat experience and one that is just so-so.

Due to the strict rules and regulations, it is not very easy for foreigners to buy property in Singapore. As a result, many prefer to rent a house for themselves. In this process, we have put together a handy guide to assist you with the house-hunting process and find your dream home.

How to Rent a Home in Singapore?

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There are 5 essential factors to consider before signing on the dotted line.

1) Choose a Housing type

Singapore's housing market is quite different from the rest of the world. About 80% of it belongs to the Housing and Development Board (HDB). Apart from this, you can also find condominiums, serviced apartments, and landed properties. Let us take a detailed look at the various options available for rent to foreigners.

Private condominium

It is popularly referred to as "Condos" and is the first choice of most expats. These are mostly high-rise apartments that have several shared facilities like gyms, swimming pools, gardens, play areas, and barbeque area. You can choose from fully furnished or semi-furnished rental units.

The number of bedrooms and the location are the major factors that influence the rent. Typically, the monthly rent for a 3 BHK (bedrooms, hall and kitchen) within CBD is around S$4,000 and can go up to S$12,000. On the other hand, the monthly rent for a 3 BHK situated in the city fringe starts from S$3,000 and can go up to S$7,000.

Landed property

The owners of these properties are landlords and not the Government. Landed properties consist of detached houses, semi-detached houses, terraced houses, and bungalows. The rent and maintenance fees are often quite high.

The approximate rent for a detached bungalow in a central location is around S$18,000/month. A 4 BHK bungalow is usually available at S$35,000/month. Semi-detached and terraced houses are comparatively less expensive and can be rented for around S$8,000-S$13,000/month.

Serviced apartments

These are an excellent short term option, especially if you are staying in Singapore for less than a year. This is also a favorite among expats as it offers personalized, hotel-style services. Serviced apartments are fully furnished and have pool and gym facilities.

Depending on the amenities provided and the location, the average monthly rental for a 1-BHK unit can start from S$7,000 and can go up to S$14,000.

Public housing

They are also called HDB houses. The Government of Singapore builds these. If you are on a tight budget, staying in an HDB unit is a great idea. They are most often situated in areas that are close to basic facilities like schools, banks, malls, clinics, public transport systems, etc. However, they do not come with luxurious amenities. 

Monthly rent of a 3-BHK HDB flat close to the CBD starts at S$3,000, whereas it ranges from S$2,200 to S$2,700 in other suburban areas.


B) Choose an Area

The choice of area majorly depends on the type of accommodation you are looking for. For example, if you wish for a landed house with a lovely garden, you probably have to consider houses in the suburban areas. If condos are more like your style, you can find many options in inner-city areas.

Below is a list of areas highly recommended by other expatriates:

  • Orchard Area – This place is a central hub and houses several shops, restaurants, entertainment facilities, and transportation services.

  • Holland Village – This area also has many popular condo development projects and landed houses in quieter streets. There are plenty of family-friendly restaurants too.

  • Tanglin – It is one of the most popular areas of Singapore and features many condos and landed houses that are ideal for families. It also harbors the famous Tanglin Mall.

  • Novena – It is an excellent location that offers superb value for money. This area has many condo houses and also has excellent transport links.

  • City Centre – This area is buzzing with activities and features several luxury high-rise condos near the Marina Bay area. You can also check out some of the older housing developments along the Singapore River.

  • Bukit Timah – This is an excellent choice for expats looking for a private space. It is an old neighborhood that has a good range of semi-detached homes.

  • Robertson Quay– This area is quite popular with younger expats as it houses many clubs, cafes, and late-night bars. And clubs at Clarke Quay.

  • Woodlands – This location offers American style enclaves with roomy homes. It also provides easy access to restaurants and shops.

  • Sentosa Island – If you wish to live near scenic white sand beaches and enjoy a resort kind of lifestyle Sentosa Island is ideal for you, although don't forget to factor in the high cost!


C) Check the Commuting Time

Singapore is very well connected. It has an excellent public transportation system. For people who prefer to use their cars, the city has the right roads that are linked with major expressways.

In general, with Singapore’s compact size, you could expect to be able to reach move places by car within a 45-minute commute. A trip from the airport to the CBD takes a mere 20 minutes. 

Although you need to be mindful of the high COEs (Certificate of Entitlement)  imposed by the government that you have to purchase and renew every 10 years to be eligible to drive. The introduction of taxi services like Grab or Go-Jek (Uber equivalent) has added more options to the transportation list.

Therefore getting around is not a problem, but preferred commute time could be a determining factor in your choice of residence. So even though your office maybe just a couple of kilometres away, if it requires a trip on the MRT and 2 bus rides, you could expect to spend 30 minutes door-to-door. To avoid this situation, choose your home in an area close to all your places of interest.

D) Find an Agent and Negotiate

When searching for properties to rent in Singapore, you can either do it on your own or enlist an agent's services. Although we strongly advise hiring an agent as there are stringent rules and regulations in place for property rentals and you need someone who knows the industry in and out to get you the best deal. 

Additionally, many landlords prefer to speak with the agent than with the potential tenant directly.
It is not very difficult to find a suitable agent as one can easily find ads in leaflets, newspapers, and online. However, we recommend hiring someone from a leading property portal or trusted company such as

  • PropertyGuru

  • STProperty

  • Huttons Asia

  • Orangetee, etc. 

As agents use the same property database, engage with only one. Be very clear on the budget, your needs, and wants when speaking to the agent to avoid disappointments and uneventful viewing. This will help agents show you the perfect property to rent. 

If you plan to rent a full HDB unit, make sure that the landlord shows the government's permission slip. Do not sign the rental agreement without that as it can cause you unnecessary trouble.

After both parties agree on the price, your agent will handover a Letter of Intent (LOI) on your behalf. The LOI will outline the terms of the lease, like the duration of the lease period, options for renewing the contract, and the notice period required to move out. After handing over the LOI, you will need to pay a month’s rent to secure the property.

E) Sign the Tenancy Agreement

As an expatriate, you must request for a diplomatic clause to be mentioned in your tenancy agreement. This will let you terminate the contract if your service in Singapore has ended or if your company has transferred you to another country. The clause also mandates your landlord to return the security deposit.

You must submit a cheque for the security deposit on the day decided to sign the tenancy agreement. This is generally equal to 1 month’s rent for each year that you will be leasing the property. This security deposit will be refunded after the tenancy period ends, provided you have not caused any damage to the property, and have not violated the terms of the agreement.

As it is within the legal rights of a landlord to deduct expenses for any destruction or repairs required, we suggest that you thoroughly check the condition of the house and ask your agent to take pictures if necessary. This can act as proof in case of future disputes.

Wrapping Up

Finding the right home in Singapore is not difficult with the proper research and the right agent. We hope this guide has given you a clear idea of how to get started and rent your dream home in Singapore.

Also, if you need assistance in obtaining a long-term visit pass for your family or a dependent pass for a spouse, you can reach out to the immigration specialists at Piloto Asia