A Roof Over Your Head
By Rekha Guruswamy

While the procedures of buying or renting a place here are transparent and almost hiccup-free, you may still want to look out for as much information as possible.

Whether you go to a foreign country for studies, work or business, the fundamental question is where to put up while you're there.

For a small island like Singapore, land is scarce and as such, the price of landed property can be high. However, if a comfortable apartment or condominium is right up your alley, rest assured that you have plenty of options here in Singapore. The type of accommodation you choose – a semi-detached terrace house, multi-storey apartment or public housing by the Housing Development Board (HDB) – depends on your lifestyle and budget.

These are some factors you may wish to consider when making your decision.

Budget
This will probably be the most important issue, especially if you're paying for your own housing expenses. Note that housing costs vary greatly according to location, and your budget should take into account maintenance and utility bills too. Work out your sums carefully before signing on the dotted line, by taking into account your projected income, taxes and other living costs.

Size
The size of your desired home is an important consideration to bear in mind. If you're single, renting a one-bedroom apartment should be easy, but if your family is coming with you, then looking for a place that can house everyone comfortably might be more challenging.  When hunting for your ideal home, also look out for the provision of cabling, internet access and furnishing.

Facilities
Most condominiums come with facilities such as swimming pools, gymnasiums and tennis courts. However, having access to them often translates to higher housing expenses, so avoid choosing apartments that come with facilities that you will rarely use. Depending on your family and workplace location, you should also enquire about the availability of childcare facilities, transport services and supermarkets in the vicinity.

Housing agents have a database of rental property based on location and pricing, and can provide you with options that best suit your needs. While directly communicating with property owners may be cheaper, engaging the help of professional property agents is more likely to protect your interests, particularly when it comes to leasing procedures that you may be unfamiliar with. A property agent will also be able to speak on your behalf if maintenance and renovation works are needed.

Good housing agents will introduce you to the landlords before final negotiation and signing of the leasing contract. The list of accredited estate agencies can be obtained from the official website of the Singapore Accredited Estate Agencies (SAEA).

Two important documents that you should take note of are the Letter of Intent (LOI) and the Tenancy Agreement. The LOI is prepared by your property agent, and typically includes your requests to the landlord, the term of lease (usually at least one year) and a booking deposit of one month's rent.

The Tenancy Agreement prepared by the landlord includes details about escape clauses, utility bills, and rental and maintenance fees.  Tenants are always advised to make sure that all spoken agreements with the house owner are put down in writing on the lease / tenancy agreement. It is wise to read, understand and confirm the terms of agreement before signing both documents.

If the tenant decides to move out before the term has ended, the landlord is usually not obliged to refund the deposit. However, establishing a relationship with the landlord on informal terms does help. The deposit is refundable only at the end of the tenancy. The owner however, reserves the right to forfeit the deposit if the tenant has handed over the apartment in unsatisfactory conditions, allowing for fair wear and tear. So try your best to maintain a good relationship with your landlord. The first month's rental is usually paid upfront, so in effect, you will have to shell out two months of rental fees on top of the deposit.

Prime residential districts like Holland Road, Bukit Timah, River Valley, East Coast, Tanglin Road and Orchard Road are very well-connected with the city and close to international schools. For the same reasons, they also yield highest rental prices. For example, a bungalow can cost anything between $9,000 to $26,000 monthly to rent, depending on its size and facilities. 

There are also fully furnished service apartments with the conveniences of a hotel, mostly located in prime residential districts. While the comfort of penthouse suites and daily maid services may sound attractive, the mind-boggling rental costs of these apartments make it more feasible only for those staying in Singapore for short periods of time or if the employer is bearing the cost of rent.

If you decide to buy an apartment as opposed to renting, you will have to be mindful of certain restrictions imposed by the Singapore Land Authority. For instance, only Singapore citizens are allowed to buy brand new HDB flats. Buying an apartment will also involve more administrative procedures and financial planning than renting, so make sure that you will be staying in Singapore for an extended period of time before deciding to do so.

Below are some rental rates based on districts, and are subject to the age of the property, number of rooms, furnished status, renovation, fittings & fixtures, and the real estate price in that district.

Housing type: Private Apartments
Districts

Low end -Studio / 3 /4 room rentals

Premium locality 3 room and above

City and South west

$3,000 ~ 5,000

$4,500 ~ 7,500

Orchard/ Tanglin/ Holland

$4,000 ~ 8,000

$10,000 ~ 18,000

Newton/ Bt. Timah/ Clementi

$2,500 ~ 4,500

$4,000 ~ 8,000

Balestier/ MacPherson/ Geylang

$3,000 ~ 4,500

$4,500 ~ 6,000

East Coast

$3,000 ~ 4,000

$4,000 ~ 8,000

Changi/Pasir Ris

$2,500 ~ 3,000

$3,000 ~ 4,000

Serangoon/ Thomson

$3,000 ~ 4,000

$4,000 ~ 5,000

West

$2500 ~ 3,000

$3,000 ~ 4,500


Housing type: Semi-Detached, Terrace
Districts

Low end -Studio / 3 /4 room rentals

Premium locality 3 room and above

City and South west

$3,000 ~ 5,000

$4,500 ~ 7,500

Orchard/ Tanglin/ Holland

$4,000 ~ 8,000

$10,000 ~ 18,000

Newton/ Bt. Timah/ Clementi

$2,500 ~ 4,500

$4,000 ~ 8,000

Balestier/ MacPherson/ Geylang

$3,000 ~ 4,500

$4,500 ~ 6,000

East Coast

$3,000 ~ 4,000

$4,000 ~ 8,000

Changi/Pasir Ris

$2,500 ~ 3,000

$3,000 ~ 4,000

Serangoon/ Thomson

$3,000 ~ 4,000

$4,000 ~ 5,000

West

$2,500 ~ 3,000

$3,000 ~ 4,500

North

$2,500 ~ 3,000

$3,000 ~4,000


Housing type: HDB
Districts

Low end -Studio / 3 /4 room rentals

Bishan

$1,800 ~ 2,500

Central City

$1,800 ~ 2,500

Bukit Merah/ Queenstown/ Telok Blangah

$1,400 ~ 2,000

Clementi/ West Coast

$1,200 ~ 2,000

Jurong

$1,300 ~ 2,000

Bukit Batok

$1,500 ~ 2,400

Choa Chu Kang

$1,300 ~ 2,200

Woodlands

$1,100 ~ 1,800

Sembawang/ Yishun

$1,200 ~ 2,000

Sengkang/ Punggol

$1,500 ~ 2,500

Ang Mo Kio

$1,800 ~ 2,200

Yio Chu Kang/ Hougang/ Serangoon

$1,300 ~ 2,500

Marine Parade

$1,500 ~ 2,200

Bedok /Chai Chee

$1,300 ~ 2,000

Tampines/Simei

$1,500 ~ 2,500

Useful contacts
Housing Development Board (General)
HDB Hub 480 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh Singapore 310480
Tel: 6490 1111
http://www.hdb.gov.sg

Singapore Land Authority
8 Shenton Way #26-01 Singapore 068811
Tel: 6323 9829
http://www.sla.gov.sg

Singapore Accredited Estate Agencies
20 Maxwell Road #10-09B Maxwell House Singapore 069113
Tel: 6222 3030
http://www.saea.org.sg/

Nation Property Your One Stop Property Information Hub
http://www.nationproperty.sg/