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Singapore (City) - Accommodation & Property
Hunting for a place to stay will be a top priority for expatriates. Singapore offers several accommodation options, and depending on your preferences, needs and budget, the house hunting experience can vary greatly from one expatriate to another.
You can choose to rent or purchase a property, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. In either case, it is advisable to hire a licensed property agent to help you in your search. The property agent sector is very competitive in Singapore, therefore their agent fees are competitively priced. You can find numerous listings online or via the classifieds in the local newspapers.
Singapore’s housing can be classified into 3 main types: (1) Public Housing Apartments, (2) Private Housing Apartments, (3) Houses / Landed Properties.
Public housing apartments are also known as HDB flats. These flats were built by a Singapore government body (the Housing and Development Board) to encourage home ownership among Singapore citizens and permanent residents. The majority of Singaporeans live in HDB flats. These flats tend to be located in self-contained neighbourhoods with basic amenities, such as access to public transport, supermarkets and food centres, shops, parks, schools and libraries. They offer basic facilities, such as car parks and small playgrounds. Sometimes, the void decks (the first floor of the HDB flats that are usually empty spaces) are converted into small provision shops, coffee-shops or after-school care centres.
Private Housing Apartments, especially newer condominiums, are popular among expatriates as they come packaged with facilities such as common sports and leisure facilities such as swimming pools, landscaped gardens, play areas for children, tennis / squash courts, mini-golf courses, indoor gyms, saunas and so on. The minimum facility most private apartments have is an independent security surveillance system. Many private apartments offer complimentary shuttle services to and from the nearest MRT station. For these facilities, expect to pay an additional fee (known as conservancy fees) that could be separate from the rental rate - this is usually adds up to a few hundred dollars per month. Some private apartments are serviced apartments. Serviced apartments are the ubiquitous choice for the single expatriate on a generous package who likes a well-kept home but does not have the time, energy, or will to manage one.
Private houses, or landed properties, are houses that are located in small clusters or housing estates around Singapore. There are a few clusters of colonial bungalows (black and white bungalows) that are popular with expatriates with large families. Private homes are the obviously the largest in terms of size - an average house will have at least 3 bedrooms and 2 separate bathrooms.
Rental rates in Singapore have been on the rise, and are a main contributor to the rising high costs of living in Singapore among expatriates. The main advantage of renting a public HDB apartment is its affordability, and gradually, more expatriates, especially those on local terms, are opting to stay in them. While Singapore’s rental rates are not as high as in other Asian cities such as Tokyo or Hong Kong, some expatriates have opted to rent the larger public apartments (5-room or larger) due to the sharp increases in rental rates for private apartments in the last 2 years.
To rent a property in Singapore, you will need to sign a lease agreement with the owner. You must ensure that your residency statuses, including all family members living with you in the same property, are valid, as the owner will want to keep track of your status. It is illegal for Singaporean home owners to rent out their property to foreigners who do not possess a valid residency status. The usual practice is for tenants to put down a deposit equivalent to one month’s rent for a one-year period lease.
The main factors that affect prices of properties – be it for rent or sale, are location (some apartments in the central area now cost as much as 50% more than others located in outlying regions), accessibility to public transport (MRT stations) and amenities, size (1, 2 or 3 bedroom apartments are available for both private and public apartments), furnishings (fully, partially or unfurnished flats) and facilities offered. As a guide, click here for the latest rental rates in public apartments in the different neighbourhoods, and here for the latest private property sale transactions.
Several expatriates choose to purchase properties in Singapore for investment purposes, as the rental and investment returns on Singapore property have traditionally been rosy. Foreigners can only buy restricted properties, and prior approval must be sought before the purchase is made. Restricted properties are landed properties and apartments of less than 6 storeys. A useful read to learn more about buying a property in Singapore is this homeowner’s guide.
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