Expat packages have fallen in recent years, leaving many of them struggling to find a rental home that is well within their means. While Singapore’s cost of living are generally low, the two costly essential exceptions come from housing and car.
Even as the property market hasn’t been doing well for the last 3 years, rental prices here are still considered one of the highest in the world. Compared to many other countries, the amount of rent you pay for a small room here can get you double the space and even a car somewhere else.
But the attraction of a regional centre and the convenience of living in a small but thriving city still attract many foreigners to Singapore. So if you are new to the little red dot, here are some useful tips for you to note when you’re looking for your new rental home.
Living essentials such as good and public transport are considered pretty affordable in Singapore, but you can expect accommodation to take up a good part of your salary. Try to make sure you do not spend more than 30% of your monthly salary on it in order to still live comfortably.
There are a number of options for you to choose from, including HDB, which is a form of public housing, or private properties such as condominiums and apartments. Renting a room in a HDB can start at around $300, while a room in a private condominium will usually range between $1,200 to $1,500.
You’d also need to ask the landlord about the deposit amount you need to pay. Generally, it would be 1 month’s deposit for a 1-year lease and 2 months’ deposit for 2-year lease.
If you are using an agent, you should also clarify if you are subjected to agent fees or if this will be covered by the other party.
Most tenants would like to choose a place where they would not spend too much time on commute to work. This is why it is important to choose a location that can get you to work on time. Before visiting a place, you might want to check out the transport routes you have to go to work.
Other than MRT(which can be very crowded in the morning), Singapore has a good network of buses which can be an alternative to taking the train. Sometimes, you might even get a seat! But the bus arrival times can be less predictable than the MRT, so if your work requires you to be on time, taking the MRT might be a better choice.
Since you are new to the country, you may not be quite familiar to the legality involved in home rentals. The laws here generally do not allow short-term rentals of less than 3 months, even Airbnb is not allowed! But you can still find many listings online. Therefore, if you are looking to rent short term, you must be ready to shoulder the consequence that if anything goes wrong between you and the landlord(maybe they do not return your deposit), you might not be able to seek any form of redress.
There is also a well-known term in a standard tenancy contract called the “diplomatic clause”. This clause is to safeguard the tenants in the event that you are no longer employed, transferred to other countries, you can terminate the lease after 1 year by giving 2 months’ notice. So, on a two-year lease, the tenant can give a two-month notice after twelve months, which means you only need a minimum stay of 14 months.
To exercise the diplomatic clause, proof of such a transfer or cessation must be provided, after which the security deposit will be refunded to you. Please note that in Singapore, the diplomatic clause can be included only if the lease is more than a year.
Your lifestyle habits and cultural upbringing also affects your choice of accommodation, especially if you are going to be sharing a flat/apartment with someone. Many foreigners may not be used to living in HDB flats because public housing has a different connotation in their home country. However, Singapore has one of the best public housing in the world, and some actually prefer living in one compared to a condominium for its economical value and larger space.
If you prefer to live in a more private environment with amenities such as gym and a swimming pool, it may make sense to pay more to stay in a condominium.
Another thing that most foreigners may not know or neglect when they are looking for a room to rent is that in Singapore, flat sharing works quite differently as compared to other countries. From our knowledge, in more “westernised” countries, tenants and landlords alike adopt a mindset that everyone who lives in the house has an equal status in the rented apartment. In the local context, it is not uncommon for the landlord or main tenant to restrict the usage of certain common areas such as kitchen and living room. Thus, it is important to ask about this before you sign any tenancy contract since it will most likely impact your day-to-day living standards.
There are quite a number of home rental sites available in Singapore, including popular property portals such as Propertyguru and 99.co. As the current rental market is a tenant’s market, you will have some bargaining power since supply seems to surpass demand. Don’t be afraid to negotiate or sign a shorter lease if you see a place you like!