[Millie] Before we moved here we had visited Singapore several times and had a pretty good idea on the kind of property we wanted to live in.
There are three main types of property –
HDB – this is Singapore’s public housing which are built by the Housing and Development Board. They are subsidised by the government but do come with some restrictions – only Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents can buy one. As an expat you can rent one from an owner.
Landed property – this is usually a single home and refers to the fact that the owner owns the land the building itself is on, as opposed to a block of flats/ condo where the land is jointly owned.
Non-landed – these refer to condominiums and apartments which are often gated, sometimes with a security guard. Condominiums usually offer some sort of facilities such as pools, gym, outdoor play areas and spaces to sit.
All of these can be rented as an expat, it depends on your budget and what you are looking for. A good place to start is to write a wish list of what kind of place you’d like to live in. Many of the condominiums offer the same kind of facilities but will vary in room sizes. The first condo we set our hearts on had amazing facilities but the more we looked at the actual living space inside we realised it was much smaller than we would like. This could be a compromising point. The MRT stop was also a ten minute walk away which doesn’t sound that long but when you take into account the constant 29-30 degree heat and sudden tropical rain showers it changed things a bit. Have a look at the MRT system here.
At the top of our list was a balcony and a pool with good links to public transport – bus and MRT (train system). This lead us to a condominium.
We used google earth and the Pin Drop feature and placed it at MRT stations near to where my husbands place of work and the children’s school. Next we made a radius of about 2/3 Km and made a note of all the condominiums in the radius. Armed with the names we took to a few websites and apps. Here are the ones we found most useful for our searches 99.co and Property Guru.
I found the apps easier to use than the websites. The websites take a bit of navigating and not all the information is as clear as I would have liked. Having said that, any agent I got in touch with was so helpful and frequently answered my messages late into the Singapore evening.
In Singapore they show the square footage of an apartment. As the island is small land is of a premium so the larger the living the space the higher the cost. We used YouTube as agents often post tours or properties and this gave a good chance to see the layout of the properties and sometimes the facilities they offer. The properties themselves often have their own websites so its worth spending some time to compare a few to see what would fit you needs best.
Once you think you have found a place you like you will need an agent who will help you make a Letter Of Intent. My husbands work provided one for us so find out from your employer if they do or if they can recommend someone. Our agent arranged viewings for us over Zoom and my husband’s cousin was there in person for us. We actually secured our apartment before we moved over here as we were pretty sure we knew what we wanted and having a family member there in person meant he could look around all the smaller details for us to check the condo was suitable.
All rent is negotiable and I’d advise you to try and get the price down. Start with your lowest offer and work your way back up. We negotiated our rent down and secured a two year rental contract.
Your agent represents you for anything you need after moving in, our landlords agent will communicate with our agent on their behalf, for example if anything needed fixing in the condo. There is an agent fee so make sure you know what this is to save any surprises at the end – it’s not a hidden cost but something we didn’t know about from the start.
Properties either come fully furnished, part furnished or unfurnished. This refers to the furniture inside the apartment and sometimes the light fittings and curtains. This can be negotiated too and you can request for furniture to be added or taken away. Do check kitchen appliances are included if that’s what you will be requiring. The property we made an offer on had living room furniture and a bed so we asked for that to be taken away but the kitchen appliances to be left.
Another cost to consider is air conditioning servicing which has to be done every three months. Our agent advised us to go on a recommendation rather than find someone from a search engine.
This is just our experience of finding our condominium and it’s worth remembering other places of work and employers may offer different packages or provide other services. Do ask your employer for support as we’ve found its best to have a recommendation as a starting point.
Happy Hunting. Do drop us any questions you may have and we can try and help!
4 thoughts on “Looking for Somewhere to Live in Singapore? A Place to Start”
Thanks for sharing your experience! I’ve just arrived in Singapore with my husband – we’re half way through our stay at home notice… Serving it out in a hotel! (Read: Cabin fever kicking in). I’m trying to find a place to live, but I’m feeling a bit paralysed with the amount of choice. My husband has lived in SG before for 6 months so has some idea around potential areas, but I’ve only ever been a tourist. If you have any pointers in terms of locations/areas to live, it would be great if you could share. It’s amazing you settled on somewhere to live whilst still in the UK!
(You make a great point about the 10 minute walk to the MRT… Being in an air-conditioned room for a week, I’ve forgotten what temperature it is outside! And the unpredictable way it can bucket it down here!)
Hello! Thanks for commenting. As I mentioned in the blog I would consider location to work being a factor for travel in relation to an MRT as when you are at the MRT it’s so easy to get about in the air con. I took the kids to school for the first time today, in different locations, and being close to the MRT at the start was great. It takes us 4minutes to walk to the MRT. Consider a bus route to work also.
At the weekends you have more time to travel to other locations for visiting places. Sometimes with the kids we will MRT out and if it’s getting late we will take a taxi back as they are cheap too and it’s quicker.
I would make a clear list of what you’d like from an apartment or condo as this will help to narrow your choices down – things like balcony and facilities on offer. I hope that helps. Feel free to get in touch again. We have a YouTube channel too if you’d like to have a look for more tips – it should be linked on the page or go search wonderlust expat on YouTube 😊 good luck with the stay home notice. How many days do you have left?
Hi! Only just spotted this… (I find WordPress really difficult to navigate!) Sounds like you’re getting right into the swing of things if you’ve managed the school run and timed your walk to the MRT! 🙂
I think we have settled on an area now and have contacted an agent to arrange some viewings for asap once quarantine is over! Like you say, balcony is a big one… And greenery. I’m really enjoying bird watching from my room! When we’re not being pointed and laughed at by hotel guests from the pool!!!!
We had our covid tests this morning – it was horrific! I felt so bad for everyone else waiting in line after me, having to see my reaction. Eeek.
We only have four more night’s left thank goodness and then we move to a serviced apartment while we find somewhere to live. It’ll be odd having to make my own food again 🙂
Thank you for getting in touch! I only have just seen this too! you can find us over on instagram @wonderlustvlogs and drop me a message I’m more likely to see!! hopefully you are now free and have found your own place. ill agree with you on tshenvocid tests there!