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 housing market in Singapore can be divided into public and private sectors, with most locals and Asian expats opting for public Housing and Development Board (HDB) accommodation.

Unlike many other countries, public units in Singapore aren't associated with lower income groups and there are even luxury options. Most public complexes are situated in self-contained neighbourhoods that afford easy access to public transit, shopping centres and other convenient amenities. Expats are eligible to rent HDB accommodation, but there's limited availability and the ambience might fall below some expats' expectations.

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 to 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, provided that they qualify, 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 freestanding, 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 prized possession, and the best way to go about finding one upon arrival is to ask for recommendations from fellow expats.

To secure a rental, expats may have to make a deposit, usually about one month's rent, while agreements are finalised. The payment is made by cheque with a one-week expiration date in case the agreement doesn't end successfully. The amount is later deducted from the security deposit (also usually one month's rent) or the first month of advance rental payment. Leases are generally signed for one or two years in Singapore and utilities are rarely included in the rent.

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.