Rental Guide

Property Search - For Rent and For Sale

How to  find, select and rent a house or flat in Singapore

Where to live? This is one of the major problems expatriates initially face when moving to Singapore. To best evaluate your circumstances, we have listed below some factors, amongst other more personal issues, which expatriates relocating to Singapore need to take into consideration.

Do note that private residential properties cannot be used for short-term rentals on a daily or weekly basis. Private residential properties (e.g. condos and landed houses) must be rented out for at least three consecutive months. On the other hand, if you are planning to rent a government HDB apartment, you need to stay there for a minimum duration of 6 months

Decision criteria for selecting a home for rent in Singapore 

1. International Schools in Singapore
Commute Times
Kindergarten / Junior School / High School
Future Needs
Shuttle buses provided (especially for after school activities?)
see also 'Kids & Schools'
2. Your Office Location in Singapore
Commute Times
Your working hours - flexible or not?
see 'Public Transport'
3. Driving in Singapore
Will you have a car
Will your spouse/children need access to a car during the day?
Will you be using public transport (air-conditioned buses, MRT or taxis)?
What are your working hours?
see 'Car and Driving'
4. Shopping in Singapore
Local stores for milk, snacks, emergency food stuffs
Stores focused on imported foodstuffs or foreign foodstuffs made locally
Opening hours
Wet Markets for fresh local products
see also 'Shopping'
5. Where are your friends living in Singapore
Yes, of course you may not know them yet, but even if you don’t know anyone here, find out where your future work colleagues live ? If you have friends here already you may wish to live close to them - but not next door
To generalize: families live close to international schools and singles/ couples live in the city or close to stations on the excellent Underground (MRT) lines.
see also 'Expats' Blogs'
6. What access is there to 'Green Space'
Either within the shared facilities of a condominium or easily accessible parks
Is there a golf club/international club within a short walking distance of ride by car?
If you play golf, tennis, go sailing, horse-riding or other sports – where are these facilities and will their accessibility, or lack of, affect your choice of location?
7. Hospitals and Clinics Singapore
Singapore is well equipped with a number of private and governmental hospitals in close distance of almost every corner of the country. Even if a family member has a medical condition your choice need not depend on proximity of a clinic with 24/7 emergency service available.
see also 'Health'
8. Restaurants and Entertainment Singapore
How often do you eat out (you will eat out far more in Singapore than you ever did at home)?
Is this an important consideration for you to live in walking distance to Singapore's nightlife or don't you mind getting into a taxi for a short drive home.
see also 'Lifestyle'
9. Airport Access Singapore
How often do you need to travel?
Do you want to live close to Changi airport ?
Is a longer trip time to the airport a consideration?

Home Choices

The tiny size of the country dictates the shape of the city and its buildings. Homes are built high up into the sky rather than sprawl out in large sized plots of tropical gardens as it was custom in the colonial era. But Singapore still offers a large selection of different types of homes depending on your budget!

What are Landed Homes?

Landed property is - opposed to high rise property - a building with its own "land" and does not share the ground with other parties in the building. Some either have their own facilities or share them with other landed property.

Semi-Detached Town Houses

These houses are joined and have one common wall with the neighbor. Most semi-detached are 2 store homes and they are popular with families with smaller children who need a small place to play outside.

Shop Houses

Shop houses are traditional houses either restored or in need of renovation. They were originally purpose built for shop  owners who used to live above their shop. These homes feature a very small but long floor area and a built-up area of about 3 -4 levels. Fitting your furniture may be difficult, unless you plan to buy furniture in Singapore on purpose.

The houses were traditionally designed for natural ventilation and have high ceilings. Conversions with fully fitted air condition units have been successful, but the units need to be powerful and produce high electricity bills.

The layout of restored houses is very unconventional, meaning the bedroom may be in front as well as in the back of the house and the bathroom on another floor. Lot's of healthy climbing the stairs will keep you fit!

Not recommended for families with small children or elerly family memebers visiting often. When you view shop houses watch out for signs of leakage as they tend to be prone to this. Maintenance cost of shop houses can be high.

Terraced Houses

Terraced houses have common walls with both neighbors unless they sit at the corner. Terrace houses do not have a garden (unless at the corner).

Detached Homes

Detached homes do not share any wall and are either bungalows with single. Double or three stories or old colonial single or two story houses with white walls and black woodwork often are referred to as Black and Whites. 

These houses try to keep their old structure and often come without air conditioning. You will enjoy all pros and cons of a tropical life as in the good old days. Many have huge gardens and extra small houses for servants (servant's quarters).

As a tenant you are responsible for repairs and maintenance and need to sign the lease under the existing conditions, which may be quite an adventure.

Note: Black and White Homes/Colonial Houses are rented out by the government and can be viewed online at the web site below. Cluster Homes (detached)

Cluster homes are detached houses that share various facilities (garden, pool, etc.) with a few other landed homes. Cluster homes are hard to get as they are all recently built and occupied by the owners.

  What are High Rise Buildings There are many high rise buildings with apartments for rent in Singapore. They are often referred to as Condominium. High rise buildings with share of facilities are often marketed as homes with "full condo facilities". They feature either some or all of the following available shared facilities:
 Swimming Pool /Water Features
 Tennis Court
 Squash Court
 Badminton Court
 Gym and or Fitness Area
 BBQ decks
 Clubhouse / Function Room
 Jogging Tracks
    Types of Apartments in Singapore   Penthouses Penthouses come in all shapes and sizes and many have their own pools, Jacuzzis, private terraces or tropical roof top gardens. Topping most of the high buildings in Singapore they feature breathtaking panorama views over the coast or city. Some are even offered with a live-in maid.   Rentals vary from S$ 10,000 to S$ 30,000 a month. Watch out for older penthouses which may not be fitted with heat-resisting roofs. Temperatures in the rooms below may soar during the day just like your electricity bill which is triggered by the air-condition! Often large window panes may have the same effect.      Apartments/Condominiums Those who have never lived in a high-rise apartment before will get used to it quickly. Close by facilities, security and concierge services and very often other services offered within the same building provide a convenient lifestyle.   When offered an apartment you should note that balconies and the space outside your front door are part of the rental area. However, large balconies facing South often cannot be used because of the excruciating temperatures building up in the city. East or North facing balconies are a nice feature in the morning and evening.   These homes are offered on one or two floors (referred to as maisonettes). Those with facilities are referred to as condominiums. Some condos are as high as 66 stores with many units which makes one wonder how the pool will look like on a Sunday. Surprisingly facilities are usually not overcrowded and you may enjoy many quiet laps with hundred pairs of eyes watching you undetected through their windows. Smaller condominiums sometimes offer fewer facilities.   Note: So called 'Walk up apartments' do not have an elevator! Important: In case of a fire in a high-rise building it is safest to move to the nearest staircase and move downwards as soon as possible as they are fire- and smoke-proof. Aerial ladders only reach to the 18th floor or 52 m high and some buildings in Singapore are as high as 66 stores.   Serviced Apartments There are about 3600 serviced apartments in Singapore offering gyms, outdoor pools, cafes for light meals, business centers and a maid clean up service. Serviced apartments are very popular with foreigners assignments for less than a year.   They have small fully furnished kitchens and usually no full in-house restaurants to cater for your meals. Often there is a breakfast facility. Some feature full kitchens with oven and microwave. Sizes range from about 550 sq. ft (50 sq. m) for a studio to 1,500 sq. ft (135 sq. m) for a three-bedroom unit. Serviced apartments are mainly in district 9 and 10 of Singapore.   Apartments in River Valley Road area are not in walking distance from Orchard Road but may offer a shuttle service.We advise you to bargain especially if you are staying for more than 6 months. Rentals vary greatly as the rates are dependent on location, size, services and facilities provided.   On average you may need a housing allowance of about SGD 5,000 to 6,000 to live in a modern downtown 2-bedroom apartment. The lowest monthly rental for a modest one bedroom serviced apartment is around 2,500 - 3,000 SGD. Students attending the National University or INSEAD may have a look at the Ginza Plaza or Redwood West.   Shared Apartments Rents for shared apartments vary between S$ 700 and S$ 1000 per month per person including utilities. To minimize future misunderstandings you may need to agree on:
telephone usage and charges
water and electricity costs (ideally included in the rent)
define acceptable noise levels and rights of privacy
discuss security issues (house keys etc.)
agree on visitors staying overnight
telephone usage and charges
water and electricity costs (ideally included in the rent)
define acceptable noise levels and rights of privacy
discuss security issues (house keys etc.)
agree on visitors staying overnight
  HDB Flats/SHIFT  (Apartments within Housing Developments) Singapore has changed the conditions under which Singaporean are allowed to rent out their flats or sublet bedrooms to either Permanent Residents or non-citizens with employment passes, work permits or student passes. A whole flat can be only sublet if the owner has written approval of the Housing Development Board. Subletting of bedrooms is only permitted from 3 bedroom flats onwards and the landlord does not need approval from HDB. View the subletting conditions and make yourself familiar with your rights as a subtenant in an HDB flat at the web site below.   Low Cost Housing for foreigners is offered under the name SHIFT (Scheme for Housing for Foreign Talent) by the Jurong Town Corporation. You can either rent a house or an HDB flat with your family or find another foreigner willing to share the place with you. Rents for an executive flat with 3 bedrooms will be below S$ 1000 per month. The respective town councils manage the estates. The apartments come unfurnished. The location is mainly either in the East of the West of Singapore. Note: If you are a foreign student you need to provide your landlord with a Student Pass, and a Medical Exam Report if you rent longer than 1 months.  

Home Search Terms 

  Get to know the " rental jargon" used in classifieds and information provided by property agents in Singapore.
Fully furnished (abbr. f/f) Beds, dining table, chairs, lounge chairs, study table/chair, curtains, lamps, kitchen appliances, built in cabinets, air condition, water heaters,                 Note: linen, cutlery and crockery is often not provided
Partially furnished (abbr. p/f) Basic kitchen appliances, built in cabinets, basic lights, heater, air-conditioning, curtains
Unfurnished (abbr. unf.) Completely empty, sometimes kitchen, built in cabinets, but usually with air-conditioners, water heaters (except HDB flats). You may opt to lease furniture instead of bringing your own. Ask the landlord for a budget!
Numbers 4+1+1 = Living, Dining, 4 Bedrooms, 1 maid's room, 1 store/utility room. A study or family area are often mentioned separately
Short-term lease A lease less than one year
Standard lease A lease between 1-2 years
Walk up apartments Apartments with no lift

House or Condominium 

If you want to live in a condominium  with many others or like to live alone in a house depends very  much on your lifestyle and family circumstances. Generally houses  are built on small plots with small gardens and are often close  to high-rise buildings taking away the view and the light. Three-storied  houses have smaller floor areas than two-storied houses and you  may have problems to fit large furniture into your living and dining rooms.  
Pros Cons
Outdoor Space Care of Garden
Privacy Isolation
Tropical Feel/Garden Wildlife Visits
Pet's Choice Lack of Leisure Facilities, e.g. gym
Condominiums have the advantage of being serviced and of offering such nice facilities as a gym, a pool or a tennis court. Many expatriates like having 24 hours security especially when they are traveling a lot or leaving for their home countries during the summer holidays.
Pros Cons
24 hours Security Shared Outdoor Space
Leisure & Sports Facilities Isolation
Easy Socializing Unsupervised Play of Children
Better Location, e.g. more central Dangerous Windows & Balconies (altitude)

Personal Utility Accounts

Documents to submit to the utility providers:
Identity Card/passport
Tenancy Agreement
Local Bank Account Number
Check for deposit payment

Rental Conditions

Homes are typically rented out for one to two years with an option to renew clause for extending the lease beyond the contract period. Upon renewal the rent will be based on the current market prices.   Special clauses 'Diplomatic clauses' applying after 12 months are widely accepted. Watch out if the landlord refuses to accept the construction clause as this might indicate a construction site planned next to your new home.   Renovation and repair Repairs should be made before you move in and the landlord remains responsible for maintenance and repairs during the lease. See step 5 on how to control repairs in e-relocation Singapore before you move into your new home.   Security Deposit A security deposit is kept by the landlord as compensation for any claims by the landlord for the event that the tenant breaches the terms of the lease agreement.The usual deposit is 2 months rent refundable on expiry of the lease without interest. The deposit also serves to guarantee that the tenant takes proper care of the premises.   Other Fees on signing the lease Fees incurring to prepare the lease have to be paid by the tenant plus a stamp duty once the lease has been signed.
Calculation of Stamp Fee
Rent x 12/250 = the result be brought to the next whole number should there be a decimal place
Example                     Stamp Fee calculated for a 1 year lease of monthly SGD 2,440.00:
2440 x 12/250 = 117.12 (round up to 118.00) If the lease term is up to 1 year, Stamp Duty Payable  = 118 x $1 = $118 If the lease term is more than 1 year and up to 3 years, Stamp Duty Payable = 118 x  $2 = $236 If lease term is more than 3 years or for an indefinite term, Stamp Duty Payable = 118 x $4 = $472

Step By Step Rental Guide

Steps Charges Involved
Engage 1-3 agents No fees unless you insist!
Search, Screen and Find your home No fees involved
Check home for redecoration, repairs, furnishings No fees involved
Draft and sign  letter of intent No fees involved/prepared by agent
Check the tenancy agreement with a lawyer Fees paid by your company or yourself
Pay a deposit 1-3 month's rental
Agree on and sign an inventory list prepared by the landlord Paid by the landlord
Pay your stamp duty Monthly rental x 12/250 x 2 (for more than 1 year and up to 3 years lease)
Sign the tenancy agreement No fees involved
Open a Power Supply Account (ask your agent) Contact Singapore Power
Open a Telephone Account (ask your agent) Contact SingTel for deposit