Rising HDB rental flat prices and demand (well, the booming rental market in Singapore, generally) made headlines in 2021 and 2022.
Apart from increased demand for condo rentals as Singapore’s borders reopened for expatriates, we also saw robust local demand for HDB rental flats. This was likely due to HDB BTO construction delays pushing young families waiting for their homes to be completed to rent. Singles and unmarried couples who craved space and independence from their parents were also moving out.
In Q1 2023, COVID-19 constructions delay continue to alleviate, allowing more young Singaporean couples to move into their newly completed BTO flats. At the same time, prospective tenants are increasingly finding 15-year high HDB rental prices unjustifiable. HDB rental price growth is moderating, but it may take some time before rental prices accurately reflect new demand.
Watch Our Video on Renting an HDB Flat
Regardless, the question that’s likely on many current and potential tenants’ minds is: how much do you need to earn to afford to rent an HDB flat right now? Let’s look at the HDB rental rates in Singapore and how much monthly salary is required to afford different flat types:
HDB Rental Transaction Prices: How Much Do Current HDB Flats Cost?
If you plan to rent an HDB flat, you’ll need to know the market HDB rental rates first. We’ve done a quick compilation of the median Singapore HDB rental prices by town and flat type for 3-room, 4-room, and 5-room flats in Singapore.
Median HDB Rental Flat Prices (Q1 2023)
*Median rent is not shown as there are fewer than 20 HDB rental transactions for the location and flat type in the quarter.
HDB Rental Flat Price Range by Flat Size (Q1 2023)
|HDB flat type||Monthly rental|
|3-room||$2,300 to $2,900|
|4-room||$2,800 to $3,800|
|5-room||$2,850 to $4,300|
In general, these are the range of prices you’re looking at if you want to rent an entire HDB flat. The lower end of the range typically applies to flats in ‘ulu’ or non-mature estates (e.g. Woodlands and Bukit Panjang), while HDB flats in mature or city fringe estates (e,g. Toa Payoh and Kallang/Whampoa) command top dollar. Newer HDB flats or those close to amenities such as choice primary schools, MRT stations, or bus interchanges are typically pricier.
In the past, high HDB rental flat prices may have been closely linked to central locations. But these days, location is becoming less of a defining factor. Property agents Asyraf Azman (PropNex Realty) and Andrew Nair (ERA Realty Network) both observed Singapore HDB rental prices increasing across almost all districts.
"No longer is it just limited to districts closer to the CBD, even the heartlands have seen a price increase," shares Asyraf. Andrew agrees, highlighting that he’s also seen rising HDB rental prices in suburban areas like Woodlands, Ang Mo Kio, and Tampines. He also notes that HDB flats near MRT stations are seeing "the greatest jump" in rental prices.
When it comes to the most popular unit types, 4-room and 5-room flats are dominating the HDB rental market. These have three bedrooms, which is a good size for families. According to Cedric Lim from PropNex Realty, even though these are the bigger and more expensive HDB flats, there is still a market for them as private properties of similar sizes are going for twice the price.
How Much of Your Income Should You Budget for HDB Rental?
To be safe, don’t spend more than 40% of your income on rent. Remember to include some buffer for unexpected costs, new out-of-pocket fixed costs such as utilities and WiFi, or even some furniture and indoor plants to spruce up your new living quarters. Ideally, you should spend only a third (but we know rental prices are skyrocketing, so we say, maybe cut back on your daily expenses. After all, something’s gotta give).
Even if you feel you can spend more than 40% of your income on rent, it’s better to play it safe. It’s smart to keep the remainder for emergencies, and the rest goes towards your day-to-day spending, investments, and/or ‘treat yourself’ purchases.
Also, this 40% should be calculated against your take-home income; so if your salary is $5,000 a month, this means you have $4,000 take-home income a month, and you should ideally spend only up to $1,600/month on rent.
Effectively, this means an individual can only afford to rent a 3-room HDB flat in a non-mature estate like Woodlands unless shared amongst housemates or a partner.
How Much Do You Need to Earn to Afford Current HDB Rental Rates in 2023?
Assuming your rent is 40% of your take-home income, this is how much you should be earning:
According to Ministry of Manpower (MOM) figures, $5,070 was the median gross monthly income from work, including CPF contributions, of full-time employed residents in 2022.
This works out to about $6,338 in take-home income from work a month. Hence, a working individual has $2,535 monthly to spend on rent – which is lower than the median rental amount of a ‘more expensive’ 3-room HDB flat.
So if HDB rental flat prices are out of your budget, you’ll probably need to look for cheaper units, find a housemate/partner to share the rental costs or consider renting a room instead (since HDB room rental prices are considerably lower than the rental for the entire flat).
HDB Rental Rates Aside, What Are the Other Costs of Renting?
It’s one thing to be able to afford the rent, but there are some ‘unseen’ costs you’ll need to budget for.
For a start, remember to factor in agent fees (if any) and other costs like rental stamp duty and so on. You might also need to pay a deposit to your landlord when you begin your rental contract (and when your lease ends) – and do read all the terms and conditions carefully.
Also, your rental tenancy agreement may or may not cover repairs, so you might need to fork out your own cash to fix stuff (do seek approval from your landlord first). On that note, you might also want to consider insurance. While it’s not compulsory, getting renters’ insurance that covers your personal belongings could be wise.
Finally, there’s moving out and living on your own for the first time. If you previously lived with your parents, it can be a shock to learn how much all these regular costs add up:
- Utilities (water, electricity, and gas)
- Food and groceries
- Video streaming (e.g. Netflix, Disney+, etc.)
- Other day-to-day costs
For example, now that you’re living on your own, you cannot ‘leech’ off – erm, share – your family’s WiFi, utilities or air-con. Unless you want to rely solely on your mobile data, you’ll need to sign up for a WiFi plan, pay your utilities and electricity bills, air-con servicing, or even buy your own food (if you’re from a household that cooks daily). If your family used to watch Netflix together, you might need to upgrade your account to support concurrent users or get your own video streaming service.
Don’t forget to factor in your usual day-to-day costs, such as eating out, going to the doctor, shopping, transport, and so on. Especially for transport, if your new home is further away from your school/work/kids’ schools, you might need to factor in additional costs.
Tips for Negotiating Monthly HDB Rental Rates
Is it possible to negotiate a lower HDB rental rate? Yes! Here are some strategies you can employ:
1. Take Up a Longer Rental Lease
Confident that you’ll be renting this unit for some time? The same principle of ‘buying in bulk’ to save more applies here. Try negotiating a longer lease with your landlord for a cheaper base price each month.
2. Compare HDB Rental Transaction Prices
When it comes to HDB rental flat prices, it’s good to cross-compare rates of neighbouring developments just in case your landlord might be overcharging you. Check for HDB rental transactions in the same development, or better still, in your exact same block.
HDB has a nifty HDB rental rates portal where you can search for the past year’s HDB rental transaction prices by block/street. You can also check out PropertyGuru’s listings of HDB units for rent to see what other landlords are asking for (plus view the condition of the house through the pictures, etc.).
3. Check If the Unit Is Furnished
Speaking of images, our HDB for rent listings also indicate if the unit is fully furnished, partially furnished or unfurnished. A fully furnished unit will definitely command a higher Singapore HDB rental price.
However, it’s not always cheaper to rent an unfurnished HDB flat and decorate it to your liking. Make sure you calculate your furnishings budget because that gold four-poster bed might likely tear a hole in your wallet.
Do also compare like for like; an unfurnished house should not cost the same to rent as a fully furnished unit.
4. Build a Good Rapport with Your Agent and Potential Landlord
If you build a good rapport with the agent/landlord, they may also offer you a better price. It might also be helpful to name your price – after doing your homework on HDB rental transaction prices, of course – during the final negotiation.
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