House Hunt Guide
Our very own house hunt guide for expat in Singapore for, renting an apartment or house in Singapore. Finding the right accommodation and housing is never easy.
Read our house hunting guide focusing on price, location and expatriate housing choice like an apartment or house in Singapore.
When a foreigner is in Singapore, he or she might face difficulty finding an apartment, very much of a time is when you can't decide on the location, and you don't know what's best for your family and yourself. Here are some useful hints you will need ask yourself before taking further action. For further assistance, we have our friendly consultants who can help you look for that perfect home.
Budget - How much am I allocating for my housing in Singapore? It is a personal lease or my company paying? How much should the maximum be? Give yourself a flexible range like $3,000- $6,000, so you will not find yourself being stuck in a situation where you are not able to find a place with a firm budget, in an area or apartment that you like.
Budgeting yourself will also evaluate which are the areas and apartments are suitable for you. If you have a budget of $5,000 a month for rental, you can get an apartment of about 1,000 sq ft to 1,300 sq ft. (Also much depending on the district). If you have $15,000 a month budget, you can rent a spacious luxurious apartment with facilities such as swimming pool, tennis courts and gym or even a landed home with a private swimming pool. If you have a budget of $18,000 - $30,000, you can rent a first class bungalow with many rooms, a lush garden, and even a private swimming pool- situated at a prime district like Holland Road, Bukit Timah or even Orchard area.
Location - Location is very important and it will determine the convenience for you family and yourself. Take into consideration where you work, where your spouse works, and where your kids will study. Then situate yourself in the middle of these places, so you will not have to travel so far to work or the children will not have to travel too far to school. Our consultants will help you select the most ideal location and apartment.
Facilities - Different people have different needs and wants, therefore, you will need to evaluate your needs and wants like what kind of facilities are you looking at? A lap pool, with a Jacuzzi, or a tennis court or basketball court? A gym? After combining what you need, it will be easier to find what you need.
Amenities - Consider the amenities nearby, like do I require an MRT nearby? Or do you need a supermarket nearby. These are also critical to your everyday life, as they will pose convenience.
Singapore is an island that features world class dining, shopping, hotels, parks, gardens and entertainment among its many attractions. However, in recent years it has earned the dubious distinction but rather unfounded reputation of offering its visitors only two alternatives, eating and shopping.
Although Singapore has a small land area, sub-markets have evolved over time as a result of location. For example, the residential districts of Bukit Timah, Holland Road, Tanglin district and Orchard Road can be considered as a local market within the residential market in Singapore. Raffles Place is generally regarded as the prime market for office space while Orchard Road is the prime location for retail space.
East Coast vicinity - Districts 15 and 16
There is so much to do whether you are a sport enthusiast or interested in leisurely activities. Most Singaporeans regard East Coast Park as a favourite play area as it is full of different possibilities. Activities such as bowling, cycling, windsurfing, canoeing, and roller-blading and sailboarding can be enjoyed at this park. Families can also hold picnics here while enjoying the beauty of the park. Other leisure attractions include the East Coast Tennis Centre and the Laguna Golf Course. Eating outlets are also available around the park's vicinity.
Other than that, you can also enjoy a good seafood at the popular stretch along the east coast beach. More than 10 seafood restaurants, that you'll be spoilt for choice.
Expatriates choose to live in the east coast because it is away from the hustle and bustle of city living, and the east offers more choices for food and the privilege of having the sea closeby. Some of them select apartments that offers a panaromic sea view. Some of these apartments include Bayshore Park and Costa Del Sol. Apart from that, there are also some other that offer breath-taking waterfront river views, they are Pebble Bay, Camelot and Costa Rhu. People leisurely fishing or roller-blading along the jogging tracks along Pebble Bay and Costa Rhu is a common form of relaxation for those who live in that area. Pebble Bay and Costa Rhu condos are around 45 minutes by school bus to the United World College in District 21 and to the American School. Water Place and Sanctuary Green are the latest condominium in Tanjong Rhu area.
The quiet east-coast suburb of Katong, that once served as the centre of Peranakan culture yet still remains Peranakan houses. Now selling inexpensive children's clothes and antiques. Off the main road is the even more old-fashioned Joo Chiat Road, which gets more and more interesting as it approaches Geylang Road. The shops sell Chinese kitchenware, antiques, baby clothes, and lots of offbeat items. If you walk a short distance down Joo Chiat Road, you will end up at another modern shopping complex, Parkway Parade, where modern shops abound and are mixed with outside shopping and hawker stalls and cafes.
Orchard, Bukit Timah and Holland vicinity - Districts 9 and 10
District 9 encompasses the Orchard, Killiney, Grange and River Valley precincts
The main arterial roads will be Orchard & Grange (from Paterson and Scotts Road onwards), Clemenceau and River Valley road. Orchard Road is a tree lined road with generous boulevards for pedestrians on either side of the road. Orchard Road constitutes the main shopping district of Singapore and major department stores, hotels, boutiques and dining and entertainment venues are located there. It is the equivalent of Ginza and Roppongi in Tokyo and Oxford, Regent Streets and Piccadilly Circus in London.
The residential precincts in this district are found on Cairnhill to the north of Orchard Road, and Killiney, Grange and River Valley to the south. Condominiums nearest to Orchard train station - The Paterson Edge, Richmond Park, Four Seasons Park, etc.
Cairnhill is made up mainly of high rise condominiums with a small pocket of landed residences in the Mount Elizabeth area. The condominiums are mostly beyond 10 years in age whilst the landed residences (mainly terraced houses) are much older at 40+ years vintage. The popular condos in the Cairnhill area are Cairnhill Plaza, Elizabeth Heights, Richmond Park, Casa Cairnhill and others. The Light @ Cairnhill and Cairnhill Crest are the newer condominium located there.
Grange Road and River Valley Road are sprouted with condominiums and are one of the most desired residential area in Singapore. Condominiums like the Spring Grove, Grange Residences, Grangeford Apartments, Horizon Towers, Regency Park, Valley Park are very popular with expatriates.
District 10 encompasses a a large residential area from Orchard (West of Paterson Road) to Holland as well as Bukit Timah precincts. District 10 is the picture of leafy surburbia with well scrubbed dwellings on generous (by local standards) plots of land with ready access to schools, both local and international, supermarkets, the Orchard malls, Holland Village and CBD areas. More popular condominiums are The Balmoral Residences, Belmond Green, Fifth Avenue Condominium, Duchess Crest and much more.
The main roads in this district are Bukit Timah, Dunearn, Holland, Steven, Farrer and Napier Roads. Most of the landed housing is found in around the Bukit Timah, Dunearn and Holland areas while Steven and Farrer Road are more built up with apartment and condominium blocks.
Landed housing on up to 10,000 square feet of land is to be found in the Bukit Timah and Dunearn areas. Various configurations of landed housing are available, with terraces (ie a landed dwelling sandwiched between two other dwellings) occupying up to 2,000 sq feet, semi-detached( dwelling sharing a common wall with another dwelling) up to 5,000 square feet and Bungalows (free standing houses) from 5,00 square feet onwards. The houses are to be found in varying vintages, with the bulk greater than 20 years in age and the newer ones (usually renovated by the owners) from 10-15 years in lesser supply. Newly renovated or erected landed dwellings are in short supply, command a greater premium and are usually taken up by excess demand rather quickly.
Dwellings on land plots larger than 10,000 square feet are to be found in the Napier (Pierce, Sweetenham, Nassim, Cluny Roads) and Holland (Leedon, Bin Tong, Oei Tiong Ham, Queen Astrid Parks) areas. These usually house stately mansions with built up areas from 6,000 square feet upwards.
The Holland precinct is serviced by the inimitable bohemian shopping hub at Holland Village. There is nothing like it anywhere else in Singapore and is a favourite amongst expatriates and locals alike. Shops selling all kinds of merchandise and a delightful variety of dining outlets is to be found there.
City, Marina Bay, Raffles Place, Sentosa - Districts 1 to 8
Most people would like to stay near to their work place. There are many new condominiums or apartments to choose from if you are looking to stay within walking distance to the Singapore Business District. The more popular ones would be Marina Bay Residences, One Shenton, The Sail @ Marina Bay.
Harbourfront and Sentosa, near to the southern tip of Singapore is another popular residential area for the well-heeled expatriates. Majority of the condominiums are over-looking the southern sea and yet near to the business district.
There are many new condominiums in Sentosa Cove, the epitome of resort waterfront living which is set in a pristine seafront residential district. Popular ones would be The Berth By The Cove, The Coast at Sentosa Cove, The Oceanfront @ Sentosa Cove.
There are also a few waterfront condominiums overlooking the waterway and within a stone's throw from VivoCity Mall if living in Sentosa island does not appeal to you. They are Caribbean at Keppel Bay, Reflections at Keppel Bay.
Further up north is the Singapore River. Along the river there are several condominiums worth considering as it is still within a stone's throw away from the Shenton area. Expatriates love to stay in this area as there are many restaurants, pubs and clubs along the river and the Mohamed Sultan Road. Condominiums like River Place, The Quayside, Rivergate, Robertson 100 are highly recommended.
There are also a couple of commercial / residential buildings that have condominium facilities in the heart of the city - Beach Road, Bugis and Tanjong Pagar area. They are Icon, Sunshine Plaza Residences, The Bencoolen and Burlington Square. All of them are located very near to commercial retail shops, food courts and restaurants.
Calculate Your Budget
So you're planning to relocate to Singapore or have just arrived in this tropical island. You will not find white sands and swaying palm trees but a modern city whose people speak the English language in a way which takes you a couple of seconds before you fully understand what they are saying.
The hotel you've been put up at is nice, but at $400 a night, you know you've got to find a new place, and quick. Your stuff from home will be arriving by air or by ship soon. And a hotel just doesn't feel 'homely'.
While Singapore is a modern western society populated by largely English-speaking ethnic Chinese, the similarity to the west does not extend fully into real estate. A country the size of San Diego County, its lack of land translates into a hefty rental for real estate - a bracket that while most Manhattanites and Londoners find reasonable, the rest of us find outrageous.
Rental for an apartment in the heart of downtown Orchard Road, the shopping district, can cost as much as $5 per square foot per month, or about $6,500 for a cosy 1,300 sq ft 3-bdrm apartment. Rentals for bigger apartments, of, say 2,000 to 3,000 sq ft, may cost from $10,000 to $15,000. While senior level expatriates may not have to worry about the rent, more and more expatriates are coming here and getting jobs on local terms and salaries, and rent is usually the biggest component of one's expenses.
What then should one do if after careful calculation, you've figured that you can spare no more than $3,500 (or even less) on getting a place? The first factor in determining the rental of a place here is of course, location. Imagine a Aladdin's magic lamp, which has a similar shape to the island of Singapore. A little above where the lamp's body is joined to its base, imagine a spot no larger than the size of half a penny.
Orchard Road, Bukit Timah & River Valley
Geographically, the area to the south-central of the island, is the Orchard Road / Lower Bukit Timah area which commands the premium rental. A little to the southwest is the River Valley area, a hop away from Orchard Road. Here too the rent is dear, with a new 3-bedroom condo going for around $6,500 to $10,000.
With the spout of Aladdin's lamp pointing to your right, run your finger to the base of the spout and up just a tad. Anything eastwards of that would be the East Coast area, a 8-km strip that runs east-west along the southeastern coast of the country that in the last 10 years, have been dotted with new high rise condominiums planted along the entire stretch. Rental here is about $3,500 for older condominiums and about $5,000 for newer ones (assuming a 3-bdrm condo with the size of 1,100sq ft). The area has also become a favorite among expatriates, with its proximity to the airport (about 10 mins away) and the East Coast Park where one can rollerblade or ride a bike for 11 uninterrupted kilometres. You may also want to simply laze on the smouldering beach or enjoy the loads of restaurants offering a variety matched only by the Orchard Road district.
Now go to the other end of the island, where the lower handle joins the lamp: the West Coast. Expatriates choosing this area include those who work in or near the Jurong Industrial Town. Rentals in the west coast, like anything away from the prime district, is more affordable, with condos going for about $3,000 for places in Clementi, Buona Vista and Queenstown.
Those who work at the local universities, or those who wish to enroll their children at a popular international school (Tanglin Trust School), and many others who wish to be just outside the Holland Village area, an expatriate-infested enclave with a high density of Starbuck-ish coffee places and even higher density of restaurants offering cuisine from Mexican burritos to Indian curries. Holland Village, located just one kilometre north of Buona Vista and separating it from the prime Bukit Timah area. Rentals there start at $4,500 for a new condo but can be as little as $3,000 for a 10-yr-old unit. Despite its price tag, it remains a favourite with expatriates because of its slight bohemian appeal and high concentration of fellow expats. It is the one place in the country (besides pubs in Clarke Quay - Boat Quay in the evenings) where locals might find themselves equaled in numbers by expats.
Ang Mo Kio, Toa Payoh, Woodlands & Yishun
To the north of the country are several other towns where comfortable housing is available at decent rates. Housing in Ang Mo Kio, Toa Payoh, and Yishun, though far from the city centre (far in Singapore means anything more than a 10-min drive), is easily accessible by the mass rapid transit. The Orchard Road station is all but a quick train ride away from these residential townships, all sitting on the north-south lines, and all well-served by their own train stations. Rental for a condo here go for $2,500 and up. Woodlands, the northernmost town is now a favourite among American expatriates who wish to reside near the Singapore American School, the largest international school in the country. Woodlands is also situated near the Malaysia border and residents in the area frequently commute across the border to purchase commodities and household items at cheaper prices. Rental here can be as low as $2,500 or even lower should you choose to rent a public housing flat (HDB flat).
Housing and Development Board (HDB)
The Housing and Development Board (HDB) was set up as a statutory board to build homes for the people. About 85% of the population live in HDB flats. And approximately 15% in private homes, including condominiums, walkups, landed houses and shophouses.
Renting a Housing and Development Board's (HDB) flat in Singapore is a lot cheaper but these public housing dwellings were built primarily for housing the local masses and do not offer amenities like swimming pools or tennis courts or gyms like condos do (although a sub-genre called HDB Executive Condos do have some facilities). These flats are referred to by the total number of rooms, that is, a 3-bdrm condo would be equivalent to a 5-room flat (add a living room and a dining room to the 3 bedrooms). While it is illegal to rent out the entire HDB flat (remember they are built to house the masses, not allow them to enjoy rental revenue), renting out parts of it is allowed. So many Singaporeans rent out the entire flat while keeping one room locked up. The idea here is owners of these HDB flats will claim that that one locked room is where they are staying, and therefore, they are not renting out the entire flat.
Should you choose to rent a HDB flat, you will find that the going rate starts from $2,500 for a 5-room flat in the outlying areas (eg Jurong, Pasir Ris) and about $3,500 for one closer to town. Downgrade to a 3-room (a puny 500 sq ft) or 4-room (800 sq ft), and you can find yourself paying as little as $2,000. But that is really scraping the bottom of the barrel.
What then should you do if the condos cost a tad too much and the HDB sounds too basic and primitive? You can always forego a new condo and go for an older one, which means anything built more than 8 years ago. For the same 3-bdrm condo, you can get one that is about 30% cheaper than the new ones. Go for an even older one, something over 20 years old, and you can find yourself paying close to half what the new ones command. Or if you have a larger household, go for houses.
Houses in Singapore command a disproportionately lower rental so one may pay less for a huge house than for a medium sized condo in the same area. Rentals for houses are more dependant upon the condition of these houses rather than their location. The reasons for these are (a) there are very few new houses for rent - it is the Singaporean dream to live in their own house rather than renting it out. (b) most expats prefer condos as these often come with amenities for their families.
If you prefer more space and privacy, and enjoy the garden and the outdoors, you may choose to live in a house. You will probably have a car and are more mobile. Going further out and away from the central prime districts, one can pay about $8,000 for a 2,500 sq ft 15-yr-old terrace house (like a town house) outside the city when that same rent can only get you a medium sized condo in the same area. It would be almost impossible to locate a decent abode in the central areas for this same budget.
Approximate Price Guide
If you look in our Singapore Property Classifieds, you will find that advertisements for rental properties are all divided into numbered districts. Some of the more popular ones are in District 9 (Orchard Road/River Valley), District 10 (Holland Road/ Bukit Timah), District 11 (Bukit Timah/Newton Circus), and District 15 (East Coast).
Below is a list of what one might find in the daily classified advertisements, and the average asking prices of some of the island's properties:
Good luck with your house hunting, and enjoy your stay in Singapore. After you have stayed in a place for the initial 2 years as required by most tenancy leases, you may want to move to another part of the island to see what it is like. But then again, you might not want to go through the trouble of moving again until the time comes when you have to leave the island.