The Expat’s Easy Guide to Renting a Home in Singapore

The Expat’s Easy Guide to Renting a Home in Singapore

With Singapore ranked as one of the best places in the world for expats, it’s not hard to guess why this “red dot” country is attracting more and more talents worldwide.

Plus, with the various government grants and tax breaks, Singapore is an ideal location for multinational corporations to position their regional headquarters.

So it’s not a surprise to see that the island-state is attracting more and more bright minds from around the world – each looking for a property to rent in Singapore.

Today, we’ll be your “local guides” to take you step by step through the process of renting accommodation in Singapore.

Step 1. Write down your needs & wants.

You’re probably used to a certain standard of living.

And even though moving to Singapore will require quite a bit of change on your part, we’re still creatures of habit who tend to look for a base level of comfort.

But since that baseline will vary depending on your stage of life, a good first step is to write down what you’d like in your living situation.

For example, are you a bachelor in your 30’s looking for your fortress of solitude? You’ll probably want a studio apartment or single-bedder rather than a hostel packed with 6 backpackers per room.

Married with young children? You’ll likely want more space, perhaps with a well-equipped kitchen and a large living room where the family can come together.

Not a fan of hour-long commutes? Find out where your workplace is and select a home that’s conveniently located via public transport routes.

Once you’ve got that list jotted down, separate it into needs and wants – you may not get everything you want depending on your housing budget, but you should have a clear idea of what’s non-negotiable for you to prevent a lot of frustration and friction down the road.

Step 2. Figure out how long you need to rent for.

This really depends on the purpose of your visit to Singapore.

Are you moving your family here to pursue a new job opportunity? Are you taking a sabbatical and passing through the sunny city-state on a tour of Asia?

Whatever your reasons are, you’ll need to figure out the timeframe for your property rental in Singapore. Singapore’s housing laws put restrictions on short-term rentals, so the length of time you’re looking to rent will weigh heavily on the type of property you can rent.

Specifically, if you’re renting for fewer than three months, the number of choices you legally have will drop. You could still go for short-term Airbnb rentals, but those are technically illegal and you run the risk of being barred entry when you turn up at the gate with all your luggage.

(Legal) Choices Available by Length of Rental Agreement

Fewer than three months At least three months Six months or more
·        Hostel

·        Backpacker’s inn

·        Hotel

·        Staying with a


·        Co-living spaces

·        Private property rental

·        Hostel

·        Backpacker’s inn

·        Hotel

·        Staying with a


·        HDB rental

·        Co-living spaces

·        Private property rental

·        Hostel

·        Backpacker’s inn

·        Hotel

·        Staying with a


Step 3. Determine your budget.

Singapore’s rental rates are peanuts compared to Hong Kong’s, but at an average of US$4,215 for a 3-bedroom apartment, it’s not a mere trifle.

Financial gurus recommend setting aside about 30% of your paycheck for housing. However, if you work with a Singapore-based company and they’ve provided you with a housing allowance, that’s even better.

But what if you haven’t got a fat paycheck coming in every month? You may be wondering where to stay in Singapore on a budget – especially if you have a family in tow.

Your best bet – if you’re here for at least six months – is to rent what the locals call an “HDB flat”. A 4-room HDB flat (3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms) will comfortably house a family of 5 and cost you an average of $2,000 every month.

And to dispel the misconception most non-locals have about public housing: Singapore’s public housing system is one of the best – if not the best – in the world. Even if it doesn’t boast the fancy swimming pools and gyms that most condominiums would, you get to be immersed in the colorful local culture and experience a side of Singapore few expats would.

Step 4. Shortlist your preferred locations.

Online platforms like and SRX list the available properties for rent, but you’ll still end up with thousands to sift through if you’ve only got the above criteria.

To narrow down the list to a manageable sum, you’ve got to pick out your favorite locations.

Do you already have a job with an employer in Singapore? Find out where the office is and look at the neighborhoods within a 5-10km radius.

If you’re bringing your wife and kids along, plan out the route to your kids’ schools and make sure the place you choose is conveniently located.

Singapore is small, but you still don’t want to inadvertently pick a home in the Kingdom of Far Far Away – or you may be in for a two-hour commute every day.

Use an online mapping tool like or Google Maps to check out any properties you shortlist. Whichever neighborhood you pick, make sure it’s near the MRT (the name of the subway system in Singapore) and requires no more than a 45-minute commute every day.

Step 5. Decide whether to hire a property agent.

Getting a local property agent to help in the search can save a ton of time, particularly if you have to fly in from the other side of the planet. A real estate agent would know the lay of the land and could easily recommend the best neighborhoods for your specific criteria.

There’s no extra cost to you if you engage an agent, since the usual practice in Singapore is for the landlords to bear the cost of agent fees. You’ll still have to pay the stamp duty (a tax levied on properties in Singapore), but you’ll have to do this whether or not you get an agent.

Step 6. Schedule viewings.

Even with an agent working on your behalf, you’ll still need to check out the places in person eventually. We recommend doing this in the afternoon so you can make sure that the house isn’t a furnace in the daytime (if you’ve never experienced Singapore’s humidity, it can come as quite a shock).

Before giving your nod of approval, put on your “buyer’s cap” and check for the following:

  • Peeling paint (which might be a water seepage problem)
  • Patches of wet flooring (possible leaky pipes)
  • Presence of any pests (termites and bedbugs)
  • Clogged drains and pipes

Step 7. Look through the contract.

Once you’ve decided on your home away from home, it’s time to negotiate terms. You’ll have to do two things:

1)     Read through the contract in detail. We’ll go through the clauses you need to look out for.

2)     Put down a deposit to confirm your interest. The market rate for a deposit is two months’ rent for a two-year lease.

With the first step, you should know that tenancy agreement in Singapore are usually skewed in favor of landlords, with little to no rights given to tenants unless explicitly written.

Particularly if you’re not a local, you’ll want to ensure:

  • The landlord can only withhold the deposit if there’s damage to the property (beyond normal wear and tear) or unpaid rent
  • You’ll get the advance notice in writing before the landlord forfeits the security deposit
  • You’ll get your deposit back within 14 days
  • The amount you’ll pay for repairs per year is capped at a reasonable amount – anything beyond that is the landlord’s responsibility
  • There’s a diplomatic clause in case you need to move away before the end of the lease
  • The landlord can only enter your apartment with your permission

If you’re staying long-term, the landlord will need proof of your work visa before moving ahead with the tenancy agreement, so make sure you sort that out before putting down any money for your rental.

Article contributed by Bluenest Singapore.



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