How to settle down as an Expat in Singapore – Part II – Finding a house in the big city

In my previous post, I listed the aspects that need attention, before you arrive in Singapore.

This post will be solely focused on finding a suitable house.

Finding your pad

Finding a suitable place to call your home is the first step towards settling down. I am assuming you have already made arrangement for your stay for the first few day/ weeks in Singapore. You have to utilize this time to find a good house. In my previous post, I mentioned that is a good website to find rented accommodation in Singapore.

Singapore offers a variety of choices when it comes to accommodation.

Room rentals (Bachelors/ students/ Single women/ short term stay): You can rent out a single room plus a bathroom (usually part of an apartment) and there is a family/ owner staying in the rest of the house. Sometimes the owner allows you to use the kitchen for light cooking. These small arrangements depend on the relationship between you and the owner. They might allow you to keep food in the refrigerator/ use the washing machine once a week. But it all depends on the owner. It’s important to make these clear before you sign the contract.

You can also opt to share the room with someone, which will be cheaper. Although this kind of accommodation lacks privacy, they are common in Singapore due to high rental prices. Room rentals also allow a lot of flexibility in terms of the duration of stay. The contract can be signed for minimum of 3-6 months and usually the owner won’t charge you extra for water and electricity. But you do have to pay a deposit amount, which is generally a month’s rent paid in advance and the owner returns it to you when you vacate. Such rentals do not usually involve a property agent, so you deal with the owner directly and save on the agent fee.

Website to find accommodation: / .

If you have family, you definitely would want to go for a whole unit. You have 2 options: You can rent an HDB (Housing Development Board) flat or a condo (private apartment).

HDB: Rental prices in Singapore depend on size of the apartments, facilities provided in the flat, area (certain areas especially those close to the city will be costlier than the areas away from the city and CBD).

HDB flats are nothing fancy. They are simple government built houses that are often wholly/ partly rented out by owners. Depending on the newness of the HDB estate, the design of houses will differ. The new generation HDB flats have quite good interiors compared to the older generation flats. Some of the new ones are found in Senkang/ Pungol areas on the North East Line MRT.

Word of caution: However, when you rent out a HDB flat, you need to know certain things. First of all an owner has to seek prior permission from HDB if he/ she wishes to rent out the whole unit. But if you are renting only part of the unit (most owners keep one room locked to show that they are using that room), your owner still has to register the tenants’ names with HDB. The latter is a simple online procedure. But there might be surprise checks by HDB to check who is actually staying in the apartment. Please check the HDB website for more details:

Condos: Condos or condominiums can also be rented out by expats. Unlike HDB flats, condos do not need any prior approval. It’s simply a contract between the owner and the tenant with the involvement of the property agents from both parties. Most condos are modern properties that have compact and chic interiors – modular kitchen, etc. They are usually smaller than HDB flats but cozier. Condos will generally have a swimming pool, gym, BBQ pits (which you can rent for weekend parties), tennis courts (not in all condos) etc in the common area, which can be used by the residents (both tenants and owners). You do not pay anything extra for using these facilities.

Furniture options:

Whether it’s a room rental, a HDB or a condo, you will find all sorts of furniture options: fully furnished, partially furnished or non-furnished. Most expats prefer a partially/ fully furnished house because they do not have to bother about buying every piece of furniture and home appliance. But if you are shifting in with your stuff from abroad you can opt for a non-furnished apartment.

Few handy tips/ information:

  • If you do not plan to buy personal vehicle (which is quite expensive in Singapore due to high COE) you should prefer taking a house closer to a MRT station. It will save valuable time while commuting daily.
  • Also, while zeroing down on the area / house ensure that it’s not very far away from your workplace. Although Singapore is not very big, commuting can take a lot of time if you are using public transport and do not have a direct MRT/ bus to your workplace.
  • If you have kids, also consider the distance from the school to your home.
  • If you are renting a house with furniture, ensure that you have a proper inventory of all the items at the time of take over. Contracts generally will include a clause that says you get 1 month period to check all the items in the house. If there is anything faulty the owner will replace/ repair it. After the 1 month period is over, the owner and tenant have to share the expenses incurred when an appliance/ furniture has to be replaced or repaired. Most contracts mention that tenant pays the first SDG 50/100 and the rest is paid by the owner.
  • Rent agreements can be made for a period of 1 year or more. When you go for a 1 year contract there is a minimum stay you have to fulfill (mostly 11 months) if you do not comply the owner will have the right to keep the deposit.
  • In a 1 year contract you pay half month’s rent as fee to the agent and for 2 year contracts, you pay 1 month’s rent as fee to the agent.
  • You have to give 1 month’s security deposit to the owner at the time of the contract + 1 month rent in advance.
  • Account details of the owner will be mentioned in the contract. You need to transfer the rent to that account on the decided date every month.
  • For 2 year contracts, you pay 2 month’s security deposit. More on rental agreements, visit

I will come to the tips on setting up a house and other important things in my next post.


About nilakshi

Needless to say, I am a writer. Here on my blog you will find from the most mundane to the most interesting facets of life. My writings are a reflection of my experiences of everyday life. I love to write travel blogs, and anything and everything that catches my eye. You are all invited to comment, criticize, debate, and discuss on the topics.
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9 Responses to How to settle down as an Expat in Singapore – Part II – Finding a house in the big city

  1. Priyanka says:

    All points well noted, Nilakshi!


  2. ateleee says:

    Nice blog and information if any one looking for room sharing in Singapore then visit us at at very cheap and affordable prices.


  3. ateleee says:

    Nice blog Find Best room rent in Singapore at affordable prices.


  4. Pingback: How to settle down as an expat in Singapore Part III | Been there, done that

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hi Nilakshi,
    Very useful blog indeed! I am moving to Spore next month and found your blog really informative!


  6. Sam says:

    Hi, stumbled across this old post but just wondering if I were sharing a room with a friend, would we both have to sign the agreement? Thanks


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