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Just How Much Smaller Are New Condos and HDB Flats Getting?  

Eugenia Liew
Over the years, Singaporeans have been getting the niggling feeling that homes are shrinking. Living rooms don’t seem as spacious as they used to be, and bedrooms nowadays seem to be able to hold little more than a bed.
The appetite for larger homes seems to be rising. After experiencing the claustrophobia of being confined at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore residents seem to be looking towards more spacious abodes, even at the expense of a central location. The reasons for this change of heart are multifarious, but could include the new ‘work from home’ norm, more leisure time spent at home and growing family size.
So, how have home sizes evolved over the years and, given the fact that fewer people are willing to put up with minuscule homes these days, should we be worried?

How Big Are HDB Flats? 80s, 90s, 00s Vs Now

If you remember tearing through cavernous HDB flats and marvelling at double-storey maisonettes as a child, the seemingly compact size of new flats can be underwhelming.
But are HDB flats really shrinking?
While that is technically true, things are a little more complicated.
According to research compiled by Teoalida, the average size of each flat type has stayed more or less the same over the years. For instance, the size of 4-room flats has stayed fairly consistent at about 80 to 100 sqm, with just a slight dip over the past two decades.
More precisely, a 4-room flat built in 2000 was about the same size as one built in 2010. 4-room flats measured approximately 95 sqm in the mid-80s, reached a peak in the mid-90s at just under 110 sqm, and fell to a little over 95 sqm in the mid-2010s.
A similar change can be seen with 5-room flats, which were slightly under 130 sqm in the mid-80s and mid 90s and fell to about 115 sqm in the mid-2010s.
However, what has changed most is the mix of flat types on the market. 4-room flats used to be the smallest flat-type in the past. Today, 4-room flats are the average flat type, with smaller flats such as 2-room flexi and 3-room flats skewing the average size downwards.
This is a logical result of smaller household sizes, with families having fewer kids and more single or childless households. A predilection for smaller flats could also be due to high property prices, which forces households to buy smaller and more affordable homes.
Because of these changes, the average size of HDB flats overall reached a peak in the 90s at about 130 sqm, before dipping to about 90 sqm in the mid-2010s.

How Big Are Condos in Singapore?

Now, what about condo sizes?
The median size of new condos in Singapore has shrunk significantly over the last decade. The average size of condo units in suburban areas has fallen from 116 sqm in 2007 to 71 sqm in 2020.
For instance, units at the recent new launch project Forett at Bukit Timah measure from about 44 to 175 sqm. By contrast, Goodluck Garden, the condo that previously occupied Forett at Bukit Timah’s site on Toh Tuck Road before being acquired in an en bloc sale, had units ranging from 95 to 182 sqm.
According to a 2014 study, after the introduction of the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) in June 2013, five-bedroom condo units shrank by 22.9% from about 189 to 146 sqm. Meanwhile, two-bedroom units shrank 11.2% from about 90 to 80 sqm.
In addition, developers are building more studio, one- and two-bedroom condo units in response to demand from singles and households without children. This also caters to the investor group: smaller units also enjoy much stronger demand on the rental market than they did two decades ago due to the high number of foreigners working in Singapore. Such units are also more profitable for developers as they command a higher psf price.
While the Urban Redevelopment Authority has put in place regulations on the number of units that can be built on each plot of land, smaller condo sizes are here to stay due to Singapore’s demographic changes over the past few decades.

Is There A Growing Demand for Larger Homes?

Competition has traditionally been stiffer for centrally-located homes in prime districts (where properties are smaller), but the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have caused a shift in consumption patterns.
Transactions, as a percentage of total
Area of property
2020Q2
2020Q3
2020Q4
2021Q1
90 to under 100 sqm
11.27%
11.10%
8.64%
10.54%
100 to under 120 sqm
13.01%
16.61%
18.34%
17.29%
Source: URA, PropertyGuru
According to URA data, from Q2 2020 (when the Circuit Breaker took place) to Q1 2021, the percentage of non-landed private property (including Executive Condominiums) transactions involving properties measuring 90 to less than 100 sqm fell from 11.27% to 10.54%.
Meanwhile, the percentage of transactions involving properties measuring from 100 to under 120 sqm rose from 13.01% to 17.29%.
The average 4- to 5-room apartment measures about 90 to 120 square metres. The data indicates that more households are choosing to purchase on the higher end of that size range.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in certain behavioural changes and seems to have caused buyers to re-evaluate their housing needs as a result. For instance, increased working from home and more time spent in the home overall might have created a greater need for personal space and lowered the importance of living in a central location.
Whether this shift will last is anyone’s guess, but it will depend on how the COVID-19 pandemic progresses and how lasting the changes over the last year will be.

More FAQs on Property Size in Singapore

Are HDB Flats Getting Smaller?

HDB flats across the same flat-type have not shrunk much over the last 20 years. However, the proportion of smaller flat types being built has grown.

Are Condos Getting Smaller

Yes, the average condo unit has shrunk over the last 20 years, and developers are also building more studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units than before.

Why Are Homes in Singapore Shrinking?

Singapore households have shrunk over the years, encouraging developers to build smaller unit types. The rising cost of living might also have contributed to people buying smaller homes.

What Is the Smallest Home In Singapore?

The smallest shoebox apartment in Singapore, located at Suites @ Guillemard, measures 24 sqm.
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This article was written by Joanne Poh. A former real estate lawyer, she writes about property and personal finance and spends her free time compulsively learning languages and roller skating in carparks.