A Guide to Expat Rentals in Singapore

Moving to Singapore? Finding the right place to rent can make all the difference between having a great expat experience and one that is so-so. Singapore’s rental market is as individual as the city itself, so what essentials do you need to know?

Singapore is a fabulous place to live, and work. It’s a vibrant city situated at one of the world’s great cultural crossroads. However, Government regulations make it difficult for foreigners to buy property. As a result, renting is the way to go for most expats.

If you’re considering renting in Singapore then first you’ll need to determine what type of housing you want.


Types of housing available for expats

Most of Singapore’s housing is controlled by the city state’s Housing and Development Board (HDB), and here you can find flats to let across all areas of the city proper. In addition, you can also choose from condominiums, serviced apartments, and landed properties.


Private condominiums or “Condos” are preferred by most expats. That’s because they are modern, mostly high-rise apartments with shared lifestyle facilities like gyms, swimming pools, gardens and play areas. Plus you will generally have the choice of fully furnished or semi-furnished rental apartments.


Landed properties: These are owned by landlords and not the Government. They consist of detached houses, semi-detached houses, terraced houses, and bungalows. As you’d expect, rent and maintenance fees are often quite high.


Serviced apartments are great, especially if you are staying in Singapore for less than a year. They usually offer personalized, hotel-style services, are fully furnished and have pool and gym facilities.


Public housing: Also known as HDB houses, these are built and owned by the Government. If you are on a tight budget, these are for you. They are often conveniently situated in areas close to schools, banks, malls, clinics, public transport systems, etc; but are not luxuriously fitted out.


Choose your location

After you’ve decided the type of housing you want, then the next step is to choose a preferred location.

In a city like Singapore, transport options are important. Fortunately, Singapore has an excellent public transportation system and you are advised to choose your new home home in an area close to amenities and transport options, and preferably near to your workplace.


Expat renters should consider using an agent

When searching for properties to rent in Singapore, you can do it all on your own. Or enlist the services of an agent. An agent who knows the industry well can get you the best deal.

Additionally, many landlords prefer to speak with the agent than with the potential tenant directly.

During the discovery and negotiation phases there are a number of issues to keep in mind. For example:

Lease Term: A standard lease term in Singapore comes in 12 months or 24 months. There is also the option for a 6 month lease term but most landlords try to avoid this.

Furnishing: In Singapore homes can come either furnished or partially furnished.

Utilities: Depending on individual circumstances, you can include utilities into the renting price and have the landlord take care of it. Or you can manage your utilities yourself.

Utilities include internet, electricity, water and gas. You can shop around for good deals for electricity and gas suppliers.


An Expat’s letter of Intent?

Once you have viewed the property and negotiated a price, contract period, and deposit, you will need to organize a letter of intent. Your estate agent should help with the letter of intent – a signed document that should contain the following:

  • Diplomatic or Repatriate Clause: This gives you an out if you become unemployed or are transferred to another country. Generally, this clause lets you give two months’ notice after you have lived in the property for a year.
  • The “Good Faith” Deposit: Once this is paid, the landlord takes the property off the rental market. The deposit is usually equal to one month’s rent, and either becomes part of the security deposit or your first month’s rent after the tenancy agreement is signed.
  • Security Deposit: This is usually the equivalent of one month’s rent for every year you are leasing the property. It should be refunded once your tenancy ends if you haven’t damaged the property or broken the terms of the tenancy agreement.
  • The Terms of Lease: These terms outline how long you will lease the property for, whether there is an option to renew the lease (and how long for), and the notice necessary to leave the house.

To legally rent as a non-resident in Singapore, you must have an employment, student, or dependent pass valid for at least six months. Tourists are never allowed to sign as tenants.


Thinking of moving to Singapore? Either as an employee or an employer? CXC are global workforce management specialists with expert staff on the ground in Singapore ready to assist. If you’d like to find out more, don’t hesitate to contact us!