The types of permanent accommodation available for lease include numerous apartment and condo complexes, as well as free-standing houses and semi-detached or terraced homes in neighborhoods of landed properties (houses that come with some land).
A bungalow is simply a house standing on its own grounds and may be brand-new or historic. Swimming pools, gardens and garages are not uncommon for bungalows. These houses are usually located in a neighborhood of similar properties, which are connected by small interconnecting lanes that help to preserve peace and quiet and also shield residents from the hustle and bustle of city life. Some of the older bungalows, however, are situated along main roads. Bungalows are typically much more expensive than other property types and may also require regular maintenance of the garden, pool, security system, etc. Because they are often accompanied by land, you will also need to be aware of the need to implement pest control on a regular basis.
Semi-detached houses, colloquially known as “Semi-Ds”, are landed houses split by an adjoining wall to form 2 housing units. These two units share a common wall but are open on their other three sides, and often include small gardens and separate driveways / garages. These landed properties are generally less expensive than stand-alone houses, but more expensive than terraced houses or condos, and maintenance requirements are similar to those of bungalows.
A terraced house is one amongst a row of landed homes, joined wall-to-wall. While they provide a more ‘house-like’ feel and often have at least a small front garden area, some people dislike the style because of the close proximity to neighbors. Still, this is a great option for living in a landed property at a lower cost.
Apartment / Condominium
High-rise apartments (also commonly called condominiums) are the most common form of housing for expatriates in Singapore due primarily to land scarcity. They also accommodate the bulging middle class who earn above the limit for buying public housing, but are not quite able to finance landed property purchases. Apartment developments usually have great facilities like swimming pools, clubhouses, and gyms, and many also come staffed with regular maintenance and security crews. They are great for families with small children and many expatriate families congregate by the swimming pool at the weekend. Some of the older apartment complexes boast their own self-contained neighborhoods with small supermarkets, laundry service, and kindergartens within the compound. Certainly, many of the new developments trade off space for luxury, so older complexes located farther from the city center often offer much larger spaces for a lower rent.
Low-rise and Cluster Housing
Low-rise developments, often called cluster housing, include small collections of low-rise apartments, town homes, maisonettes (apartments within larger blocks with multiple stories but individual outside entrances), or landed properties that share common amenities like pools, playgrounds, gyms, etc. These areas are popular with families seeking the common facilities of condo developments in quieter, less crowded low-rise living arrangements. Many include security and maintenance staff. Unfortunately, many of these are slowly being phased out in Singapore due to land scarcity and are being demolished to make way for high-rise apartments or flats.
Black and White Colonial House
A remnant of Singapore’s colonial past, these colonial houses once housed the richest in the crown colony. Governors, top officials, and powerful European bureaucrats lived in these beautiful houses with white-washed walls and black trim. These homes are celebrated for their cultural and historic value, though many have outdated fixtures and finicky electricity and plumbing. Some of these houses also directly adjoin bustling streets, shattering the peace and quiet most residents want from living in landed properties. Most of these houses are now under the Singapore government’s control as part of heritage conservation, but are available for lease through the government and independent agencies. See the Singapore Land Authority at http://www.spio.sla.gov.sg. Black and white colonial houses that have been fully restored are truly beautiful but demand significant rents.
Shophouse / Conservation Home
Shophouses are historical two- to three-story row houses, that typically originally had shop space on the first floor and living quarters above. Today, many of these units have been converted to full residential spaces, and are unique historical homes that give residents an interesting taste of old Singapore. Their increasing popularity, however, has made them quite expensive, and because of steep stairways and dark spaces, they may not be the best option for families with small children.
HDB flats are public housing blocks built by the Housing Development Board (HDB) for Singapore citizens. These can be from 10 stories to 20+ stories, depending on year of construction. There is a range of selection, from 1-room flats to 5- room flats. Although foreigners are not allowed to buy brand new flats directly from the HDB, they can buy older flats or lease from Singapore owners. Few expatriates live in HDBs, but those who do benefit from the cost effectiveness.