Accommodation in Singapore

Accommodation in Singapore is of a high standard, and is available in a number of shapes and sizes. Prices vary depending on the area or suburb and the size of the property, while proximity to schools and public transport can also affect costs.

The property market in Singapore can be divided into public and private sectors, with public housing being offered by the Housing and Development Board (HDB). Unlike many other countries, public units in Singapore aren't associated with lower income groups and there are even luxury options. Around 80 percent of Singapore's population lives in HDB housing. Expats are eligible to rent HDB accommodation, but there's limited availability.

Many foreigners, especially high-earning Westerners, prefer to rent a private apartment, condominium or bungalow. But while some companies might cover rental costs, others might not. Given the increasing price of Singapore accommodation, it's important for expats to ensure their salary is high enough to afford the type of accommodation they want.

Types of accommodation in Singapore

Singapore has a reputation for replacing buildings once they reach 10 years of age with newer marble and glass structures. Both furnished and unfurnished accommodation is available in Singapore, so this should be taken into account when deciding whether to ship goods from home.

  • Apartments: A common choice among expats, apartments are a more basic version of condominiums. Many apartments are HBD-subsidised which can save expats some money.

  • Condominiums: These complexes are similar to apartments but are more luxurious and will generally offer basic facilities, and some offer a full suite including a pool, gym, playground, tennis and squash courts, and 24-hour security. 

  • Semi-detached: These are houses attached to one another on one side or more. Though they aren't free-standing, semi-detached houses are more spacious than apartments and condominiums. 

  • Bungalows: These are hard to come by and pricey, but most come with abundant space. 

  • Shophouses: Stunning historical homes, some of which have received pricey renovations. Shophouses are clustered around the city. If a shophouse has not undergone renovation, though, expats shouldn't expect modern facilities.

Finding accommodation in Singapore

Estate agents are an essential part of finding property in Singapore. While it's possible for expats to find their own accommodation using local newspapers and property websites, it's preferable to let an agent do the legwork. A good agent is a valuable asset, and the best way to go about finding one upon arrival is to ask for recommendations from fellow expats.

The hunt for a home will often define where an expat spends most of his or her time, so it's important to get to know an area beforehand and be sure about a property before signing the papers to call it home.

Renting accommodation in Singapore

Having found a suitable place, expats will then need to inform the landlord of their interest. While rentals are advertised with a particular rental cost, these 'asking rents' are negotiable and expats can use their bargaining skills to secure a better rate or other benefits. Keeping in mind that rental tenures in Singapore are generally for one or two years, an expat can use this fact in their favour in negotiations. This also applies to asking for a month's worth of free rent in lieu of a lower rent. If the landlord is not budging from the rent at all, more often than not he will agree to a month's worth of free rent, because this way he gets to 'keep face'.

Since utilities are generally not included in the rent, new tenants will have to set these up themselves. These include a power supply, piped gas, residential telephone line, residential internet connection and cable television.

Danielle Our Expat Expert

Arriving on the shores of Singapore nearly four years ago, I fell in love with tropical living and the Lion City! Making this small island state my home, I founded Expat Insurance, offering professional insurance advice for Expats by Expats. Singapore offers opportunities for all you can imagine to live the good life!

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Aetna International

Aetna is an award-winning insurance business that provides health benefits to more than 650,000 members worldwide. Their high quality health insurance plans are tailored to meet the individual needs of expats living and working abroad.

Get a quote from Aetna International


Cigna Global

With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.

Get a quote from Cigna Global