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Housing costs in Singapore: buy or rent, HDB or condominium?

Singapore is regularly ranked as one of the most expensive cities and countries in the world. Let's see if this is true.

Just recently I told you why I think Singapore is the best country to live in. Some people asked skeptically - isn't there any downside? There are no miracles, there are always and everywhere. One of the main disadvantages of Singapore, I would call the high cost of living. In this article we will look at the situation with housing.

Singapore is a tiny country, the size comparable to Monaco, so do not be surprised that the prices for buying property here are among the most expensive in the world.
The cost of housing in Singapore

In Singapore, the most popular types of housing are public housing complexes HDBs, private housing complexes - condominiums, and private homes. The cost of housing in Singapore depends on factors such as type of housing, size, distance from the city center, year of construction and other factors.

In addition to the high cost of housing for foreigners there are bans on the purchase of certain types of real estate. In particular, in 1973 the Government of Singapore adopted a law on residential property (Residential Property Act), which imposed restrictions on the purchase and possession of private residential property by foreigners, giving priority to the purchase of property by citizens of Singapore.

Under this Act, foreigners are not allowed to buy in Singapore:
vacant land;
Bungalows, townhouses and all other types of houses with land;
HDB government apartments.

On the purchase of these types of real estate requires permission of the Land Authority of Singapore, which is not easy.
  • Without special permission, foreigners can buy:
  • condominiums;
  • apartments in small apartment complexes;
  • Houses with plots of land on Sentosa Island;
  • and some other properties without land.

Speaking of prices, the cost of these properties for foreigners starts at 360,000 USD (this is the lowest price threshold for the tiniest one-bedroom apartments in older buildings and remote areas). If you want something more prestigious the prices will start from 2 million USD.

However, that's not all - in Singapore the vast majority of condominiums are sold not for your perpetual possession, but actually for rent for 99 or 999 years.

If you are interested in learning more about the cost and procedure of buying a home in Singapore, or if you want to buy property in Singapore, I can share with you a detailed guide on buying property in Singapore, as well as recommend you proven real estate agents.

More than 90% of all foreigners in Singapore live in rented apartments, so I propose to elaborate on rental prices.

The cost of renting in Singapore depends on the same factors as the purchase price, namely type of housing, size, year of construction, distance from the city center, quality of furnishings and repairs, as well as additional amenities such as swimming pool, gym, tennis and squash courts, security, and the like.

The most popular types of housing to rent are:
  • HDBS;
  • Condominiums;
  • Homes with acreage;
  • Serviced apartments;
  • Room rentals.

The most affordable type of housing in Singapore is public housing (so-called HDB apartments). If your rental budget is limited, renting an HDB is the most reasonable option. More than 80% of locals live in this type of apartments. The city layout is done in such a way that all HDBs are in close proximity to multi-level parking lots, schools, kindergartens, health clinics, shopping centers, police stations and banks, and in close proximity to the metro or other forms of public transportation.

But, of course, HDBs cannot boast such amenities as swimming pools and gyms. HDB rental prices depend on the location and size of the apartment. On average, renting a 3-bedroom HDB apartment near the city costs $2,400 USD, while in other suburban areas it ranges from $1,700 to $2,300 USD.

Most foreigners in Singapore live in private condominiums, which entail nice amenities such as swimming pools, gyms, tennis and squash courts, playgrounds for children, barbecue areas and more. Condominium living provides a very good level of safety and comfort of living, as well as the opportunity to socialize with other expats.

Condo rental prices can vary greatly depending on the location and date of construction of the building.

Apartments located in out-of-town areas (let's just say remote by Singaporean standards) such as Bedok, Changi, Pasir Ris, Tampines, Ang Mo Kio, Yishun, Jurong, and Punggol average 2,500 - 4,000 SGD (1,830 - 2,940 USD) per month.

2- to 3-room apartments located in less prestigious areas of the city start at about SGD 4,500 and can go up to SGD 7,000 (USD 3,500-5,500) per month.
Rent rates for apartments in prestigious downtown neighborhoods, especially in upscale neighborhoods like Orchard, Bukit Timah, Tanglin and River Valley start at about SGD 6,000 per month and can go up to SGD 20,000 (which is the equivalent of USD 4,400 - USD 15,000) depending on how luxuriously furnished the apartment is and its proximity to the Central Business District (CBD). Rents in upscale neighborhoods with sea views, like Sentosa and Keppel Bay, can range between SGD 6,000 - 13,000 (USD 4,400 - 10,500) per month.

Detached houses.
This type of housing includes townhouses, detached cottages and bungalows. Due to the extremely limited land area and high population density in Singapore, about 5% of the population lives in private homes. The cost of buying and renting this type of housing is very high. The average rent for private homes in prime locations is close to 18,000 SGD (14,500 USD) per month. A luxurious 4-bedroom mansion with large tracts of land can cost up to 35,000 SGD (28,000 USD) a month. Single storey or smaller houses are respectively cheaper and can range from SGD 5,000 to 13,000 (USD 4,000 - 10,500) per month.

Room for rent
For the young and those who move to Singapore without a family, there is always the option of  renting a room rather than an entire apartment. The cost of renting a room depends on the type of housing and the distance from the city center. On average, the rent for a room in a condominium is 800 - 1,800 SGD (670 - 1,450 USD). The cost to rent a room in an HDB apartment varies between 500 - 800 SGD or 400 - 670 USD) per month.

Serviced apartments
Some expats prefer to rent serviced apartments because they combine the personalized services and amenities of a hotel with the long-term option of renting an apartment.

Very attractive to foreigners who do not plan to stay in Singapore for a long time and are looking for flexible rental terms. Serviced apartments are fully furnished and have all the necessary services and high-level hotel services. Most are 1-2 bedroom apartments, most often 3-4 bedrooms. Most serviced apartments are located in Orchard, as well as River Valley, East and West Coast neighborhoods. Monthly rents for serviced apartments can vary between 7,000 and 14,000 SGD (5,600 - 11,200 USD) depending on the location and apartment.

Utility costs
Also, do not forget that in addition to renting, you will need to pay monthly utility costs for gas, water and electricity. On average the costs for utilities range from 150 to 600 SGD (111-445 USD) per month, depending on the size of the room, the intensity of use of air conditioning (the largest item of expenditure) and other electrical appliances.

Author: Tatiana Sheremetieva