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Finding, Buying and Renting for Expats in Singapore

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: November 2014

Finding Property

There are various types of accommodation available in Singapore, such as colonial-style houses, shared apartment blocks and town houses, though the most common type is high-rise flats. There is also accommodation provided by the government, though this is very difficult for expats to obtain.

While you are in your home country, the internet is your best property-searching tool. Some popular websites for both rental and purchase are given below:

Once you have arrived in Singapore, you will be able to look in local newspapers and walk around the area you want to live looking for available properties. There may also be adverts in shop windows or on bulletin boards, for example in supermarkets.

In addition, you can visit an estate agent local to the area. Estate agents will facilitate the flat-hunting process considerably, as they can look for properties, arrange viewings, then negotiate with the landlord or owner. If their work bears fruit, you will have to pay them commission. Note that in Singapore all the estate agents have access to the same information, so there is not normally any need to shop around.



Cheap, good quality rented property is in short supply, so it is important to be organised when hunting for it. Colonial houses or bungalows are popular with expats. These properties are unusual in that they are government-owned, and, unless you come to an agreement with your predecessor to buy white goods, furniture and fittings from them, always come completely unfurnished.

Bear in mind that rented property is unfurnished; most properties contain fittings (such as air conditioners) and white goods, but some do not. Prices are usually negotiable, and utility bills are not normally included. There may be other expenses such as air conditioning maintenance.

Before you can sign the tenancy, you need to have obtained an Employment Pass from the Ministry of Manpower. You will need to bring photocopies of this document, and your passport to prove your identity.

The initial outlay for renting a property can be high. The security deposit in Singapore is usually three months’ rent. Rent amounts are normally exclusive of bills. Tenancy periods are for a minimum of one year. It may be worth checking that the tenancy agreement has an escape clause, which allows you to leave before the tenancy lapses in certain circumstances.

Tenancy law in Singapore favours the landlord. Tenants can be taken to court for late payment of rent and their belongings sequestrated.


Buying Property

Partly due to government measures taken to cool it down, the housing market in Singapore is very quiet at present. Overall, house prices in Singapore are rising, but only slightly. As with many other areas of Singaporean life, restrictions apply to expats buying property in the state. This is especially true for public housing; private properties are not so tightly restricted.

The buying process is as follows. Once you have expressed an interest in a property, you and your estate agent can negotiate a final price with the seller. Then your lawyer draws up an Option to Purchase, which costs you 1 percent of the property price and is effective for two weeks. This document ensures that only you can buy the property. The Option to Purchase normally gives a time limit on paying a 10 percent deposit, which shows your commitment to making the purchase.

Next, your lawyer will prepare all necessary documents for the property transfer to go ahead. When contracts have been exchanged, and you have paid the rest of the down payment and shown proof that you have secured a mortgage, the purchase can be completed.

Costs you will incur include: 18% VAT if you have bought a new property, up to 3% in stamp duty, plus 1% commission to the estate agent and 0.3% legal fees to the property lawyer.




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If you are considering moving to Singapore or are soon to depart, you can find helpful information and advice in the Expat Briefing dedicated Singapore section including; details of immigration and visas, Singaporean forums, Singaporean event listings and service providers in Singapore.


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From your safety to shoppingliving in Singapore can yield great benefits as well as occasional drawbacks.  Find your feet and stay abreast of the latest developments affecting expats in Singapore with relevant news and up-to-date information.

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