Homes in Singapore are one of the most expensive in the world and you can expect rent in the land-scarce nation to be equally expensive. However, the convenience of the small city-state, safety and reputation as a financial hub in Asia continue to attract expatriates from all over the world to settle here. While rents are relatively higher than Singapore’s Asian counterparts, there are some tips and tricks to help you get a cheaper rent here.

1. Location

Location is perhaps one of the most important factors that affects property prices, both for purchase and rental. Location needs are however quite subjective depending on individual needs. While staying right in town may be best for those who work near the Central Business District(CBD) and wants to be able to walk to work or party areas, it may not work for someone who prefers to stay near somewhere with more greenery.

Obviously, staying near town or the Mass Rapid Transport(MRT) will likely be more expensive, so choose wisely. For instance, some of the city-fringe areas like Kallang, Potong Pasir and Boon Keng are pretty much considered ‘heartlands”, but they are very accessible to the central area either by MRT or buses. Also, if you are not working near the CBD, there is little reason to stay near there. In fact, the government has increasingly encouraged businesses to move to business centres far from town, such as at Changi Business Park or in the Jurong area; so if you choose an apartment near these areas, you can be sure your rent will be much cheaper.

2. Be the Main Tenant

Compared to other countries where the culture is to look for roommates to share the entire apartment, the renting culture in Singapore is a little different. Local landlords often expect their tenants to stay in their rooms and make themselves as “invisible” as possible, not welcoming the sharing of living rooms or kitchen. If this type of arrangement does not suit you and you find renting a whole apartment too expensive, what you can do is to rent the entire place but sub-let the extra rooms that you will not be using.

You’ll find that rental cost for bigger apartments does not increase exponentially compared to smaller apartments. For example, you may find that a studio apartment in Singapore to cost around $2,500, a 2-room apartment to cost you $3,200, and a 3-room apartment at $4,000. If you rent the latter and rent out the 2 spare rooms at $1,500 each, your rental cost will come in at only $1000 a month, even if you are the main tenant!

Although in terms of absolute cost you may be paying less as a main tenant if you sublet the rooms, you need to consider the time and effort in searching for tenants, paying for maintenance costs and also putting up the hefty 2-months deposit for the entire apartment when you sign the rental contract.

3. Rent a Single Room

If being the main tenant sounds too much of a hassle to you, you can always take the route of renting a single room. If you want a more open culture and be able to share the common spaces in your home, it is simply a matter of finding out the personality of the tenant when you are visiting the place. There is nothing wrong with asking about their preferences, their living habit(do they prefer to stay in or party out), whether they use the kitchen much and mind you cooking. It is as much an interview for them as much as it is for you.

4. Consider HDB Instead of a Condominium

In the past, most expatriates would only rent condominiums or private apartments. Because rental costs have increased much in the last decade, it is no longer strange to have expats renting public housing in Singapore, known as HDBs. HDB apartments are usually located a bit out of the main city as they are meant more for staying in than for rental income. Before you frown upon the idea, here’s some reasons why you should consider HDBs:

  • Rental is usually cheaper compared to private condominiums as they do not provide facilities such as a private gymnasium, swimming pool or BBQ pits(which you might not even use in the first place)
  • They are more spacious compared to private apartments; most with a minimum of 2-bedrooms
  • You will find plenty of facilities and a town centre usually within walking distance or easily accessible by public buses
  • You will usually find a variety of food at a much cheaper price in these residential areas
  • Newer neighbourhoods are very modern and may even look much like condominiums

To give you an idea of the cost difference, a HDB apartment with 2 rooms starts at $1,500 to $2,000, while a 2-room private condominium usually range between $3,000 to $3,800. It makes great money sense for one to rent an HDB, especially if you love space in land-starved Singapore or have moved here with your family. If you are looking to stay in Singapore for the long term, staying in an HDB will also help you to understand the local culture better and integrate better.

5. Look for an All-In Rental Contract

Before you sign on the dotted line, it is of utmost important to study the clauses in your rental contract. This includes the duration of the lease and especially important, any type of payment you need to make during the lease. These includes:

  • Termination clauses/penalties
  • Rental payment
  • Utility charges such as water and electricity charges, internet and cable TV subscriptions or condominium maintenance fees
  • Any maintenance/ repair fees for items within your apartment
  • Air-conditioner servicing

If you are simply renting a room, the conventional practice is for the main tenant or landlord to cover the above-listed costs. However, if you are the main tenant, you may want to be more careful as some landlords expect you to take on the maintenance fees and to pay for the repairs. Something most foreigners may not be aware of is the air-con servicing fees. These can easily cost you an extra $400 to $800 each year. As long as you are aware of these costs, you can negotiate with your landlord to perhaps share the costs with you.

Article Written By Lynette Tan

The article originally appeared on ValuePenguin Singapore.

ValuePenguin.sg helps you find most relevant information to optimize your personal finance, like rewards credit cards and investing. Like us on our Facebook page to keep up to date with our latest news and articles.

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ValuePenguin is personal finance company based in New York. DJ is responsible for building ValuePenguin’s presence in Asia, from researching personal finance topics in the region to building relationships with financial and media institutions. He previously worked as an investment analyst at leading hedge funds in New York including Cadian Capital and Tiger Asia. His expertise is in the global technology, consumer and financial industries. He graduated from Yale University with a degree in Economics, and speaks Korean, English and Mandarin Chinese.

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