The Expat’s Guide to Singapore Property

 In Property, Relocation Tips

Hunting for property in Singapore is no easy feat. With our small size and dense population, it is no wonder houses here come at rocketing prices. As an expatriate finding property in Singapore, there are many factors to consider: Where should I go to obtain an agent? Should I even obtain an agent? Where do I start searching for homes, or wait, should I rent an apartment instead?

Well, we recommend that you first understand the basics (in the Singaporean context) before making your next (big, literally!) decision. Hence, if you’re new to the nation, here’s a guide on navigating Singapore’s property market.

Property Lingo

Before you dive into property sites and drown in the copious sea of Singapore-specific property jargons, here are some common ones to get you started:

HDB

Housing and Development Board; Singapore’s public housing authority. HDB flat types and sizes: Built to cater to various and diversified living requirements of Singaporeans, common HDB sizes run from 2, 3, 4 and 5-room flats (with the latter two being the most common). Do note however, that for 2, 3 and 4-room flats, the number of bedrooms is always one less than its name. For example, 2-room flats have one bedroom, 3-room flats possess two bedrooms, and 4-room flats have four bedrooms. Confusing, huh? To add on to your mind bog, 5-room flats have three bedrooms and not four. Hop over to the HDB website to find out more!

Heartland

In Singapore, heartlands are areas where most average Singaporean families reside, replete with common facilities, amenities and services – away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.

Condo

Short for ‘Condominium’, these security-gated residential units possess exclusive facilities such as swimming pools, gyms, barbeque pits and function rooms.

En-bloc

A collective sale of houses, read more about it here!

Where should you start your search?

With the onslaught of property agent portals in Singapore, here are just several key sites that we find are worth your time perusing (should you be scrolling, anyway):

  • MetroResidences: MetroResidences connects professionals to beautifully furnished apartments, creating a better stay and play experience. From serviced apartments, long-term housing to co-living, the company offers a variety of private and shared living spaces allowing every guest to find the perfect home, wherever work takes them.
  • 99.co: This is another of Singapore’s top sites you may consider using. Complete with latest launch information, guides as well as affordability calculators, 99.co is an increasingly popular alternative to use.
  • Propertyguru: An extremely user-friendly portal, Propertyguru is an international one-stop solutions provider to all your property needs. With an extremely comprehensive database, expect to be spoilt for choice with the number of apartments available. There are even segments such as user reviews and latest launches, which will definitely aid in your decision-making when choosing a property in Singapore.
  • Facebook groups provide a variety of properties that are specially targeted towards foreigners and expats looking for rental property
  • Hmlet is an exclusive community for professional expatriates and provides welcoming events, biweekly BBQs and other opportunities to meet friends
  • Carousell have dedicated an entire segment to property purchase and rental

To buy or to rent?

With the huge spike in property prices, the dilemma between buying or renting remains ever relevant. Of course, there are pros and cons of each, and it really depends on your personal circumstances. To aid you in your decision-making, here are some general but important factors to consider: –

Location

Location is key whether you are buying or renting a home in Singapore. Even whilst we’ve been dubbed ‘Little Red Dot’ on the world map, there are some spots even we Singaporeans call Johor Bahru, because they’re just so near to Malaysia (ahem, Boon Lay) while other location might seem ulu. Here’s a map of Singapore according to Singaporeans.

Do these before you sign any property contracts

  • Checking the distance of your home to your workplace: If possible, we recommend taking time off to commute from the location you are eyeing to your workplace during the peak hours. Decide then whether you will be able to do this 5 times a week!
  • Types of amenities around your area: think grocery stores, schools, childcare, sports hubs and shopping malls. Which are some amenities that are important to you? Check how long it will take you to reach them- you wouldn’t want to be taking a 20-minute bus ride to the nearest supermarket just to pick up a carton of milk, or wake up at 5am to take your kids to school.
  • What your district is famous (or infamous) for: We don’t know for sure, but when finding a home to live in, you might want to avoid red light districts such as Geylang, or even areas rumoured to be jinxed

Mobility

It would make financial sense to purchase a property if you intend to stay for a longer duration in Singapore. While initial upfront costs may take a toll on your wallet, the house will ultimately serve as your asset; reaping the benefits of your investment if you (do) decide to sell your property at the end of the day.

Conversely, consider renting a property if your stint here in Singapore will be a short(er) one. Lease terms in Singapore last commonly for 12 or 24 months, with anything below 6 months being illegal for a HDB flat. However, you can enjoy the flexibility of short minimum rental periods for private homes. Whichever option you choose, renting a home frees you from incurring huge financial commitments of having to buy, maintain and furbish the house. Think of all the hassle you will be avoiding from having to sell your property if you had purchased one in the first place — phew!

Renovations and repairs

Expect limited (if not zero) freedom when it comes to structurally decorating your apartment when you choose to rent a property. Can’t stand the sight of the bathroom floors? Sorry, you gotta live with it! As a homeowner, you get the complete autonomy to tear down and build whatever you want. Of course, this comes with the occasional leaky pipes and faulty sockets you will have to deal with as well- do consider the time and money involved in getting these fixed. As a tenant, major repair and maintenance works will be handled by your landlord.

CONCLUSION

In a nutshell, finding a home in Singapore isn’t easy. I mean, in such a fast paced environment today, most of us don’t even have the time to think about making an appointment for an annual health check-up, let alone fuss about where to find a property, what the Singaporean property lingos are, and whether or not to buy or rent an apartment. We hope this “guide for dummies” expedites your home-hunting process while helping you make a more informed decision. Have questions or wise tips to share? Let us know in the comments section below!

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