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Pros and Cons of Renting in the Central Area


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Over the past two years, you may have tasted the convenience of being literally two steps away from your office desk and had the privilege to channel those two hours or so of saved time and energy into housekeeping, looking after the children, or simply unwinding for your mental and physical well-being.

For better or worse, that luxury is slowly becoming a thing of the past. On April 26 2022, Singapore’s Ministry of Health announced that workers are allowed to return to the office, effectively drawing curtains on mandatory remote work for offices nationwide. 

Many of us are now reliving the unpleasant experience of squeezing into bus and train carriages that are bursting at the seams. Living on one side of the island when your office — which, in this article, we’re assuming is in the Central area — is on the other end is no longer as viable as it once was, either.

For those looking to minimise their commute time and save their sanity, living as close to your workplace (or, simply, the Central Business District) as possible would seem like the next best option. But there is a myriad of factors you should consider before choosing to uproot and rent closer to the business districts.

This article lays out the factors you should consider before renting closer to your office, so that you can decide whether such an arrangement suits your specific circumstances. 

Cost: How to decide whether higher rental premiums are worth it?

Cost is often the determining factor in deciding where to rent. At the very least, cost will place an upper limit on your rental apartment’s type and location, as few people are willing or able to go beyond their personal housing budget. 

Source: HDB, Monthly rent for 5 room HDB units in Kallang/Whampoa HDB Town as of May 2022

And make no mistake, the difference between an apartment close to the Central Business District (CBD) versus one that is further away can be huge. We’re talking about a difference of more than $1,000 per month.

For example, two 5-room HDB units in Kallang/Whampoa, Jalan Batu Block 10, fetched a rental premium of $3,400 to $3,500, as opposed to units in Yishun and Punggol that went for $1,750 and $1,800 respectively.

Source: HDB, Monthly rent for 5 room HDB units in Yishun HDB Town in May 2022
Source: HDB, Monthly rent for 5 room HDB units in Punggol HDB Town in May 2022

Of course, if you do your market research right, you’ll be able to spot cheaper homes that are located closer to the office. Units in Geylang Bahru of Kallang/Whampoa HDB Town, for example, are priced at $2,300 to $2,500, which is comparable to the average unit found in the heartlands of Yishun and Punggol.

But that doesn’t mean that you’ll always find success hunting for an affordable apartment in the central region. These things boil down to factors such as availability, demand and timing aligning all at once, and sometimes, life just doesn’t work out that way. 

So be prepared to pay an additional $500 to $1,000 (or more!) if you decide to rent closer to work. The question that you should be asking yourself is whether that additional premium is worth it, or rather, what can you do with that additional time? Take up a course? Look after your children? Work on a side hustle? Doing your own cost-benefit analysis will make the choice much clearer for you.

Time: How much time do you really save door to door?

After you’ve figured out how much more centrally-located unit costs, it’s time to figure out how much time you are actually buying with that rental premium — that is, how much time you actually save travelling from your home to your workplace.

Punching in your office address into Google Maps won’t be good enough, because physical obstructions and day-to-day variations on the ground can really add up to your travel time. 

For example, if you’re renting a condo and it’s located in a corner of a lengthy corridor, factor in the amount of time it takes to walk that, wait for the lift and — if your block is further within the development — walk to the bus stop. All these little things can add up to as much as your travel time, and we all know how much of a difference five minutes makes during the mad morning rush.

You might even find a unit in Tampines with a direct bus to your office right at your doorstep more convenient than a centrally located unit that requires you to walk through several flights of stairs and underpasses.

Accessibility: How connected are you to other parts of Singapore?

Perhaps the biggest advantage of living in the CBD is the multitude of transportation options that can take you nearly everywhere. You’re literally in the heart of most major highways and MRT lines. For instance, residents who live near Dhoby Ghaut MRT station can get easy access to a whopping three MRT lines (North East Line, North South Line and Circle Line). Even the East West Line and Downtown Line MRT stations are just one stop or a quick stroll or bus ride away. And we haven’t even mentioned the plethora of bus service options that you can choose from.

Compare that to the Western or Eastern ends of Singapore and you’ll notice a stark difference immediately. Residents living near Pioneer MRT station only have access to the East-West Line, as do Punggol residents who are limited to the North-East Line. Heading out to the central region from these areas can feel like a slog as it will no doubt require longer commute times as well as a transfer or two (or more) thrown in. 

Therefore, renting in the CBD area won’t just save you time on your daily commute, but weekend outings, emergencies and errands as well. Having a central location for friend gatherings and celebrations is a nice perk, too. 

Decentralised business districts offer diverse rental offerings

While living close to the office has its major perks, major developments in the neighbourhoods around Singapore coupled with the opening of the Thomson-East Coast Line, Jurong Region Line and Cross Island Line across the next decade will bring jobs and connectivity to the heartlands as well. 

If you’re looking for accessibility now, the CBD still remains your best option. But if you’re still on the fence, you might want to be clued into the developmental plans that might be taking place in an HDB town near you. 

These developments are aimed at decentralising the business district, making it possible for those who wish to get away from the crowds and bustle of the CBD to stay close to specialised jobs and industries, too. 

Punggol Digital District: Bringing tech to the Northeast

A highly anticipated smart district that is expected to bring in 28,000 jobs and 12,000 students, Punggol Digital District (PDD) will bring enterprises in cybersecurity, data analytics and artificial intelligence to the Northeast Region. These businesses will also receive a healthy supply of fresh talent from the Singapore Institute of Technology’s Punggol campus, which will be overseen by over 500 faculty & professional officers.

The 50-hectare PDD will also be accompanied by Punggol Vista CC, an integrated hub comparable to Our Tampines Hub, featuring a well stocked library, local food centres, and sports amenities. Residents who wish to unwind closer to nature can also head down to Punggol Coast MRT which puts commuters within five minutes of the famous Coney Island. 

Jurong Lake District: Tourism hub in the West

Plans to develop the 410 hectare Jurong Lake District to boost commerce and tourism in the area were recently unveiled on March 15 2022. It is expected to be Singapore’s largest business district outside of the CBD, and is anticipated to yield 100,000 new jobs in hospitality, retail, and food & beverage (F&B) industries. 

Located within proximity of Jurong Lake Gardens and the newly furbished Science Centre, there will also be plenty of nature and recreational options for workers to unwind after work. A further 20,000 new homes coupled with connectivity to the major MRT lines (North-South Line, East-West Line, Jurong Regional Line and Cross Island Line) by 2030 will also make the area more accessible and convenient for future residents.

In general, living closer to the CBD area grants you greater connectivity as well as more time and energy to spend throughout your day in exchange for higher rental premiums. But things aren’t always cut and dry in practice. You might find that a remotely located unit is connected to all the bus services to places you frequent, or realise that you don’t actually need all the facilities located within the CBD area. So don’t be pressured into picking what’s “right” according to what your friends and family might say. Pick the home that suits you.

If you liked this article, we suggest Condo Renting 101: Where to Look, Sizes and Cost and Renting in Singapore? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Looking for a place to rent?

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Secure an appointment today by calling 6886 9009 or simply messaging us via the chat box at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. If you’re on the go, we’re also available on WhatsApp at 9755 1009. At Ohmyhome, we’re always on your side, always by your side.

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