How to Navigate the Singapore Rental Market in 2023: 3 Renters Share Their Top Tips

Cheryl Chiew
How to Navigate the Singapore Rental Market in 2023: 3 Renters Share Their Top Tips
The Singapore rental market has traditionally been driven by foreign talent. But today, renting in Singapore is no longer just an expatriate’s ‘problem’.
Throughout the course of the pandemic, more young people, unmarried couples, and new families have chosen to rent. Some are craving space and independence from their families; others are waiting for their homes to be completed.
So what is it like navigating the Singapore rental market in 2023? We asked three tenants who’ve recently scoured for a rental home about their experience. If you’re planning to rent soon – especially if you’re renting for the first time – here’s what you need to know.
*Answers were edited for clarity and brevity only; names were withheld to protect the identities of interviewees.

What Renting in Singapore is Like in 2023

1. Know What Your Monthly Rental Budget Can Get You

Before you begin browsing listings, you first need to know what your budget is. Sarah, 29, has been renting for the past four years and she advises, “Throughout my years renting, I’ve rented homes between 30% to 45% of my take-home pay. When my rental costs, including wifi and utilities, exceed 40% of my take-home pay, I struggle.”
Assuming you make the median gross monthly income of $5,070 (including Employer CPF contributions for 2022), you should cap your monthly rental budget at $1,184 for accommodation and utilities.
A quick look at rental listings on PropertyGuru reveals you’ll be able to find a common room in a centrally-located HDB flat or a condo situated further from the CBD. Know what you can comfortably afford so you don’t struggle to meet the rent every month.

2. Understand the Singapore Rental Market to Offer Competitive Bids

Lionel, 36, is an expat from India who has been living in Singapore for the past eight years. Having first moved to the city to pursue a Master’s degree, the now marketing professional has witnessed the ups and downs of the Singapore rental market.
He’s observed that rental prices were mostly manageable until the COVID-19 pandemic struck. That was when he saw “really scary price increases” with his rent doubling in four years. By the end of 2022, private property rents were at their highest level since 2013, with some expats seeing a 70% increase in asking rents.
Here’s a quick snapshot of his rental journey throughout the COVID-19 pandemic:
  • Mid-2019 to early 2021: renting a 2-bedroom condo with one other person in SimsVille (large common area, condo facilities, close to Paya Lebar MRT station); paid $1,200 for the master bedroom ($2,300 for whole unit)
  • Early 2021 to early 2023: renting a one-bedroom apartment alone in Bartley Residences (own living room, large patio leading directly to the condo pool; close to Bartley MRT station); paid $2,400
  • Early 2023 to present: renting a 3-bedder apartment in the Boon Keng area with three other people (large space but no facilities, not near any MRT stations); paying $2,350 (excluding utilities) for the master bedroom ($5,600 for the whole unit)
Lionel advises that looking up rental prices of recent transactions will give you a better understanding of the Singapore rental market. For those who are moving from one rental unit to another, this information can help you avoid ‘costly’ decisions.
“When the rental lease was almost over [for the Simsville condo unit], the landlord told us he wanted to increase the rent to $3,000. We didn’t take up his offer because we thought the 30% rent increase was too huge. Our mistake was we didn’t research the Singapore rental market and said ‘no’.”
Additionally, being informed not only allows you to suss out great deals but also helps you to put in competitive offers when trying to secure a unit.

3. Adjust Your Rental Expectations in a Landlord’s Market

After a tumultuous search where he almost became a rental scam victim, Lionel found his current place. One thing he noted was how much harder it was to find a suitable rental place that fit his budget. In part, this was due to tight supply and how landlords could afford to be more picky with who they choose to rent.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it was easy to find a rental apartment. My latest search was the most difficult search ever. There were many listings with strange rules like no cooking or having guests, so much so that it becomes like living in a hostel and not a home.”
Lionel also adds, “And because rentals have gone up so much, it’s also so hard for a single person to be renting in Singapore. The studios I viewed were horrible for the price they were asking – too small, too old, too far out, too inaccessible.”
In an ideal world, we would be able to get a beautifully-decorated rental unit with lots of space and light. It will be situated in a fantastic central location, near an MRT station, within walking distance of many cafes and food options, all at a reasonable price within our budget.
But in a landlord’s market, be prepared to adjust your rental expectations. Faced with high rents, Lionel did what many have done: he adjusted his rental expectations. He increased his renting budget, considered smaller units, sought out co-living alternatives, and viewed rental places in farther out locations than he would have liked.

4. Realise Renting in Singapore as a Single Person Is Much Harder

Cathrine, 28, has been renting since she was 21. She currently renting a 4-room HDB flat in the Bras Basah area with two others and pays $1,300 per month for a common room. So far, she has rented:
  • Shunfu Ville unit with four other people; paid $600 for a common room
  • Shophouse near City Hall MRT station with four other people; paid $1,400 for the master bedroom (shared cost with a partner)
  • HDB flat in Kreta Ayer with three other people; paid $900 for a common room
  • 4-room HDB flat in Dakota Crescent with a partner and a friend; paid for $833 ($2,500 for the whole unit)
  • Loft studio in Geylang; paid $2,000 for the entire unit (cost shared with a partner)
Like Lionel, her latest rental search was “arduous” as rental properties were going for “exorbitant prices, even though the properties were not in good condition and in very inaccessible places”.
“Re-entering the Singapore rental market as a solo renter amid sky-high prices is very stressful, especially because salaries are not rising with the cost of living. I remember there was one Joo Chiat shoebox I viewed that actually looked like a prison cell. It was priced at $1,100, excluding utilities.”
If you’re renting as a single person, be prepared to pay “an arm and a leg”. If not, co-living spaces or taking a common room with strangers are likely your main options.

5. Negotiate Your Rental Lease, Avoid Long Leases

But there is a bright spot to all this rental gloom and doom. Will rental prices for HDB and private properties come down in 2023? That’s anyone’s guess, but Lionel and Cathrine agree the high rental prices are starting to moderate. Units are not going as quickly and prospective tenants are no longer outbidding each other as intensely, due to the high prices and decreasing tenant pool.
“Knowing rents would likely come down, some landlords might have their representing agents push for a two-year lease. I had a feeling that rates would come down so I did not take a longer release for a unit I liked. When [agents] realise you are desperate, that’s when you make the wrong decision,” Lionel shared.
They both advised prospective renters not to be pressured into “taking a bad deal”. If you are unclear of or disagree with any T&Cs, speak to the landlord’s agents to clarify matters. Another reason not to rush into a rental deal is to prevent yourself from falling victim to rental scams.

6. Watch out for Rental Scams

In this highly competitive Singapore rental market which still sees prices climbing, many are pressed to secure a rental unit and rental scammers are keen to exploit these anxieties. Case in point: rental scam cases have increased from 192 cases in 2021 to 979 cases in 2022. So how do you avoid falling victim to a rental scam?
Don’t rush into anything or be pressured into transferring deposits sight unseen. If you see something below the Singapore rental market rate, do your due diligence. Often, if it’s too good to be true, it usually is.
Know that anybody can impersonate an agent. When agents contact you, don’t just look up their CEA license. Check they are contacting you with their verified mobile numbers. Caller ID spoofing exists, so call them via your actual landline (i.e. not via Whatsapp or Telegram).
Use reliable property listing sites like PropertyGuru to browse listings. If you desperately need a place you can stay in, perhaps take up temporary accommodation in a co-living space. If you’re an expatriate, ask if your company can book interim housing for you so that you have time to pace your search.
Do not close a deal just by looking at photos. View the house in person or ask someone to, if you are overseas. If you are asked to pay a ‘viewing fee’ before heading down, you are likely about to be a rental scam victim.

7. Move Back with Family Temporarily, If Possible

One last tip to combat the high rents is to move back in with your family if that is an available option.
Currently, Sarah is renting a 5-room HDB flat near Mountbatten MRT station with three other friends. When their lease ends in July 2023, she will move back into her grandparents’ home. While not her first choice in terms of accommodation, she has decided to do so to wait out the high rents.
“I’m paying $1,000, excluding utilities, for my common room; overall, our monthly rent is $3,200. The landlord has put our place on the market for $4,800 and this 50% increase is way too much. I have two choices: remain independent and pay the crazy rental prices, or move back and ‘pay’ with my freedom – from how chores should be done or who I can have over, it’ll no longer be ‘my house, my rules’.
While I love my family dearly and am grateful that I have a roof over my head, I don’t think I’ll stay long. Once the rental prices dip, it’s likely that I will start my search for a new place.”
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Disclaimer: The information is provided for general information only. PropertyGuru Pte Ltd makes no representations or warranties in relation to the information, including but not limited to any representation or warranty as to the fitness for any particular purpose of the information to the fullest extent permitted by law. While every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided in this article is accurate, reliable, and complete as of the time of writing, the information provided in this article should not be relied upon to make any financial, investment, real estate or legal decisions. Additionally, the information should not substitute advice from a trained professional who can take into account your personal facts and circumstances, and we accept no liability if you use the information to form decisions.

More FAQs About Navigating the Singapore Rental Market

Prices are at an all-time high, having risen about 30% from 2022 to 2023.

Prices are at an all-time high in 2023 but signs of price moderation have been observed as more homes are completed.

While signs of price moderation have emerged, the tight supply and strong demand have kept prices buoyant. When prices will dip is unknown as this is dependent on the volatile Singapore rental market.