Renting in Singapore: Tips to find a home to call your own

renting a house in singapore - tips for tenants

Renting a place in Singapore may seem intimidating – and even counter-intuitive if you’re Singaporean, since there’s not much of a renting culture amongst locals here.

How do you know you’re getting the best rental rate? How do you spot red flags? Is there something you forgot to include in the written agreement?

So. Many. Questions.

Youtuber Brenda Tan (You might know her as @wordweed on Instagram!) recently found the rental home of her dreams on Carousell and shared how fuss-free this could be:

Inspired? Here are our top 12 tips to help you rent with greater confidence, from before you even begin viewing homes, to after you’ve decided to sign on the dotted line:

Do your homework
1. Know where to rent
2. Know what the rental property is worth
3. Have a good shortlist of property listings

Know what you want
4. Furnished or not?
5. Have a wishlist

Viewing and negotiation
6. Ask the right questions
7. Negotiate
8. Drop by the property a second time

Payment and agreements
9. Make sure everything agreed on is on paper
10. Check the Inventory of Contents
11. Pay your rent securely
12. Protect your security deposit

Do your homework

1. Know where to rent

The first couple of terms that you need to be acquainted with are the Core Central Region (CCR), Rest of Central Region (RCR) and Outside of Central Region (OCR).

core central region singapore where to rent property
(source: URA)

The Core Central Region is made up of postal districts 9, 10, 11, the Downtown Core Planning Area and Sentosa. In general, these are the most expensive districts in Singapore – areas like Holland, Orchard, River Valley and Novena.

As its name suggests, the Rest of Central Region are clusters of districts sitting outside of the CCR – think neighborhoods like Queenstown, Toa Payoh, Bishan, Kallang and Geylang.

These areas are usually ideal choices for working professionals who want to enjoy convenient and relatively quick commutes to the city, with a less hefty price tag.

The Outside of Central Region comprises of the rest of the districts in the East, North East, North and West.

These heartlands would be where 82% of the population lives and are generally much more affordable, so if you have a limited budget, these are the areas to start looking in!

2. Know what the rental property is worth

Now that you’ve narrowed your options down to your ideal districts, get a rough gauge of how much rental rates are in each district.

how much to rent hdb flat in singapore

how much to rent hdb flat in singapore
(source: HDB)

You’ll find various government sources providing statistics of past rental transactions.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has an e-service that documents the median rentals of each condo in Singapore every quarter.

If you’re looking to rent a HDB flat, HDB also provides the same service where you can search for rental rates of whole flats rented out in the past year.

This exercise gives you a better understanding of which areas best suit your budget.

Tip: Properties located even just 3 bus stops down from each other can vary greatly in rental rates, so you could save if you expand your search radius by just a little.

Compare the condos Strata, just opposite Novena MRT, versus The Arte, at the tip of Balestier Road just down the road from Strata. Both condos enjoy similarly impressive facilities, but the median rental price (in 2018Q3) of the former is $50.00psm while that of the latter is only $30.61psm.


Plus, understanding what everyone else has paid in the area allows you to appear savvier to your negotiation counterpart, who, in all likelihood would also have done their research. Level that playing field for yourself by having a good grasp of the market trends as well.

3. Have a good shortlist of property listings

As the saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover. Or, for this matter, don’t judge a listing by its cover photo.

While this may seem a little less intuitive, doing a double-take on something that everyone else might have skipped has its perks – these listings get less attention, so less viewings and so you have more room for negotiation!

Tip: More and more direct owners are listing their homes for rent by themselves on property portals like Carousell.

Unlike property agents, these people often don’t have the resources to take professional photos of their home, even if they’ve got an absolutely splendid place.

If you simply scroll past listings that don’t necessarily have the most Pinterest-worthy photos, you might be missing out!

This also mean you will be spending more time sieving through and shortlisting properties, but no one ever said spotting a diamond in the rough was easy.

Know what you want

4. Furnished or not?

To each his own, but what did it for Brenda was exactly this: furnishing.

“There were other similar units available but this one… it made sense for me. Everything I thought would’ve been cool to be in a house was there. And also, it was fully furnished … with vintage furniture!” she raves.

So, what matters most is to be clear on what you want. Which brings us to tip number 5…

5. Have a list of must-haves and good-to-haves

Be clear, going into a viewing, with what you think are necessities and what are bonuses.

This would really help in how hard you want to negotiate on pricing and reduce the risk of being charmed into falling for a property that is not what you are looking for, even if it puts up an exceptionally impressive viewing.

Viewing and negotiation

6. Ask the right questions

You’ve done all your homework and have a clear idea of what you want. When viewing the property, this is also the time to ask as many questions as possible to make sure that the house you’re viewing is actually what you want.

This also aligns your expectations with your landlord’s, minimizing unnecessary conflict later on.

You might ask, for instance, if cooking is allowed. If your prospective landlord says “only light cooking is allowed”, be very specific and ask what that means – you don’t want to learn the hard way, the food gods forbid, that you’re only allowed to boil eggs.

Other questions you might want to ask are:

  • Are visitors allowed, and at what timings?
  • (If renting a room with a live-in landlord) Am I allowed to share the common areas even if you are using it?
  • What is the typical time taken for maintenance issues to be resolved?
  • Will I be able to renew the lease if I want to? (Some landlords know for sure that they want to sell the flat after some time. If you don’t like the hassle of moving from rental to rental every year or two, this is a good question to ask.)

7. Negotiate

Like any skilled negotiator, even if your heart is gushing over the property, remain coy and do not give it away! Also, ask if the price is negotiable, even if the price is right within your budget.

To aid you in doing a retrospective of your viewings, it is helpful to bring a camera with you to take some photos of the homes. Most landlords would gladly oblige.

Tip: If you’re viewing multiple properties, begin each series of photographs with a shot of the front door or of the exterior of the property, so that you know where each series begins and ends.

8. Drop by the property a second time

Before signing the lease, drop by the property a second time if you can.

You don’t have to go in, just hang around outside the area; this will give you a sense of the noise levels.

Some areas are peaceful during the time of viewing but might sound like an explosion of processions later at night. You will also want to get a sense of how the traffic situation would be like at various times of the day.

Payment & Agreement

9. Make sure everything agreed on is on paper

Verbal agreements are the bane of all relationships and contracts. More often than not, disagreement between tenant and landlord arise from the lack of a properly documented agreement.

The final step to securing your rental place is signing the Tenancy Agreement (TA), which is your prospective landlord’s responsibility to draft up.

That said, the lease details should be mutually agreed upon, so don’t be afraid to be especially thorough and firm in including every single agreement in the TA, from promises of a fan in your room to sole use of the bathroom.

10. Check the Inventory of Contents

The Inventory of Contents is a catalog of all the stuff in your landlord’s apartment.

Be sure you go through every item on the list and have the landlord point out the items to you, as you do a walk-through of the apartment.

The inventory of contents is one of the most common sources of dispute – there have been cases of landlords claiming theft, and cases where landlords claim tenants’ items as their own.

11. Pay your rent securely

It is highly advisable that you pay via channels where you can prove the payment – either via cheque or bank transfer.

There have been cases of tenants paying by cash, only for disputes to blow up later on, with the landlord claiming that no payments have been made.

The common rental terms in Singapore is usually a one-month security deposit and first month rental to be paid upon signing the TA.

12. Protect your security deposit

When you rent a unit, you need to put down a security deposit. This is an amount (usually one month of rent for a 12 months lease, or two months of rent for a 24 months lease) that’s returned at the end of your lease term.

Should you damage any of your landlord’s items or property – say, you burn a huge hole in your mattress (What were you even up to?!) – they can take compensation from your deposit.

That said, they can’t keep your deposit because of general wear and tear – for instance, if the carpet gets a little worn out or if the window grilles are a bit more rusty. Know your rights so you can stand your ground if your landlord tries to keep your security deposit.

Read more: Tenancy Agreements: Clauses You Should Know About When Renting in Singapore »

Renting a home in Singapore

And there you have it: the most important tips on how to be the savviest home rental seeker in Singapore.

We hope this article will give you greater confidence in your journey to find that perfect home to rent – check out Carousell and start that journey now!

cheap hdb flats and condos for rent in singapore


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