As promised in one of my Instagram post (www.instagram.com/littlemisshoney) that I will be writing about the living accommodations for expats like me in Singapore. So here, it is.
Are curious about the housing accommodations for an expat in Singapore? Some foreign workers like me are given housing allowances monthly by their companies. We are responsible for finding the accommodation for ourselves that maybe either be higher, lower or just right with the housing allowance allotted.
Since we cannot own a property in Singapore, expats would either rent a unit in a HDB (Housing & Development Board), a condominium or sometimes find a landed apartment for rent. Most of the people in Singapore live in HDB flats. These are low-rise to high-rise buildings consisting of 6-8 units per floor with elevators. As of 2010, the Pinnacle@Duxton is the highest HDB flat in Singapore with 7 connected 50-storeys towers. Each units would have 2-5 rooms per unit. Most units have a gate door with a padlock after the main door to ensure safety. Outside the unit would be a common narrow corridor with balcony. People living in HDB sometimes would have their laundry dried outside the corridor on a steel laundry hanger or they will use the traditional (but dangerous-looking) pole-in-a-hole in the side of the building attached usually near the kitchen of the unit. The first level of HDB is devoid of any housing units and what they call a “void deck”. This is designed purposely to promote social interactions. These void decks are often the venue for Malaysian weddings, different types of parties, funerals and bazaars.
In my first year in Singapore, I lived in HDB units. Once I knew the location of my work place, I searched for rooms for rents at a website for Filipinos in Singapore. I listed down the contact numbers of the room for rent that is near my work place, under my specification and my budget limit. I contacted all the numbers I listed and visited the units each to check it out. I prefer to rent out the whole room rather than room-share or bed-space. I was looking for a room that is within 600-700 sgd per month, that is around 23,500 to 27,500 in Philippine pesos. My housing allowance was 1000 sgd and I wanted to save a little bit for emergency expenses. I have stayed in wonderful rooms in 2 different HBD units for my first year in Singapore. Both units’ main tenants were couples with young families. It was easy not feel lonely with little kids in the unit. I love the space that I have in both of the units I have occupied. Bathrooms were outside the room and kitchen are shared. The living room was shared as well but I hardly used it anyway. I was able to use the main tenants’ washing machines as well for my laundry.
The tricky part in renting in Singapore is that there would be several renters in the flat as well. Most units would have 3 rooms per units. One master bedroom is occupied by the main tenants and the other 2 units would either be rented out. If you are sharing a common bathroom with fellow renters (the master bedroom would have its own bathroom & toilet), you need to work out a some sort-of a schedule in using the bathroom especially in preparing for work in the morning. There is also the consideration in taking turns in using the kitchen as well the courtesy to clean up after you are done using it.
Usual HBD unit rent would cost from 1,500 to 2,500 sgd per month, more or less. There will always be nearby little shops, bus stops, hawker center, playgrounds and leisure area for those living in HDBs. Before I got married, I was looking out for a unit to rent out the master bedroom because my husband will be joining me soon in Singapore.
After an extensive search, I found a great price for a master bedroom in a condominium unit near my workplace. It was a little over 1000 sgd but it was a good bargain considering some master bedroom in HDB units cost the same. Condominium would have security guards by the gate and each building would have access cards upon entering. They would have facilities depending on the condominium like swimming pool, small gym, jacuzzi, sauna, basketball court, tennis court, etc. The condominium I picked was located away from the main road so accessibility to hawker centers and supermarkets would require us to have a bit of a walk or to ride a bus or taxi. We were lucky enough that the condo we were staying at has a little store that sells some grocery products and some Filipino products too.
We stayed in a 3 bedroom condominium unit. We stayed there for almost 5 years. Condominium units rental would range from 2,200 to 3,500 sgd per month, that is 85,800 to 136,500 in Philippine pesos. We couldn’t afford renting out the whole place and we would often share the unit with fellow expat working professionals. We had different housemates for the last 5 years we stayed in the unit from a single Pinoy retail associate, a Pinoy couple, a student from Myanmar, Indian logistic professional to a Pinoy family. It is important to have that respect and courtesy for each other sharing a living space to ensure a pleasant home atmosphere.
Some expats who came in as a group that prefer to get a unit by themselves could lease with an agent to look for a unit for them. Often, this agent would require a payment of half the month’s rent of the unit on top of the payment for the homeowner of normally one-month advance and one-month deposit.
It is important to note that expats must be careful in reading the terms of agreement in renting units. Some homeowners are very strict and some have special conditions. Some would not allow any holes to be drilled on the wall or any stickers pasted on the wall. Some also prefer no religious items to be displayed in the unit. They often would require a quarterly cleaning for all the aircon units. Make sure to keep the receipts because that will be inspected by the owner. Some also require you to dry clean the curtains and receipts will be collected upon the end of the contract. Some units are fully furnished and some are not. A careful inventory of the items must be done before signing of contracts to ensure a smooth turn-over after contract is finished. One tip I would advise expat renters is to highlight immediately to the owners once you see any thing that needs to be fixed in the unit to avoid any conflict or heartaches once contract finished. I have heard lots of sad stories about this, leaving renters not getting any of the downpayment and even have to shell out money from their own pockets.
Singapore is a very expensive country and housing rent is one of the major living expenses as an expat aside from taxes, house help salary and schooling. But I am happy I get to experience living in both HDB and condo units in Singapore. For any Singapore expats, do you have any tips and stories to share on living accommodation in the Little Red Dot?