The nightmare of hellish rental prices continues to haunt tenants across the island, and expats are feeling the heat. Those who’ve chosen to stay in Singapore regardless are being driven out of central areas like Orchard and Marina Bay, traditionally known to be expat enclaves, and into the heartlands and HDB flats. Could this be a good thing?
Rising rents islandwide
The rising rental rates have been a consistent concern for many people, especially expats here in Singapore. According to Channel News Asia, rental prices for expat housing have increased by as much as 70% in some areas over the past few years. According to the Singapore Business Review, condo rents rose 3.5% month-on-month in February. This has affected expats with stagnated salaries that are not increasing along with inflation and rising rental rates, but those with lower incomes or no access to employer-provided housing are bearing the brunt of the impact.
A variety of factors has led to this:
- There’s a limited supply of rental properties in popular expat areas, usually those that are near or in the central region.
- Landlords are facing increased mortgage payments, interest rates, higher taxes, and inflation, therefore driving up the rent so they can cover all of the aforementioned costs.
But reports show that tenants are just not willing to pay so much more for the same flat they’ve been living in for the last two years or more.
Condo rental volume is dropping
Condo rental volumes have dropped over 18% in February since the start of the year, which means fewer people are renewing their condo leases or they’re driven to more affordable markets.
This shows a growing disparity between what landlords expect (to enjoy a higher rental yield) and what tenants are willing to pay (not 70% more than their already higher-than-average rent, at least!).
In our recent Property Response video, we gave 3 options for expats looking for alternative housing options:
- If you’re willing to take a hit in terms of space, you could look into renting a 2-bedder instead of a 3-bedder condo.
- If you don’t mind moving out of the central region, you could look into these underrated neighbourhoods or these up-and-coming heartland HDB estates that has as many amenities and a similar level of accessibility as, say, Orchard or Marina Bay.
- If you’re not hung up on living in a condo, consider this very obvious option: Rent a HDB flat instead!
If you decide to rent a HDB flat or move into the heartlands, you will soon discover that it is the best alternative, on top of the rents being more manageable. Here are some reasons why:
1. The authentic Singapore experience
Another reason why expats are moving to the heartlands is that they want a more authentic Singapore experience. Many expats come to Singapore with the intention of living here long term or for the rest of their lives. As such, they want to fully immerse themselves in local culture and lifestyle. By living in the heartlands, expats can interact more with locals and experience the true essence of Singapore.
This shift in preference is leading to more demand for properties in the heartlands, which, in turn, is driving up property prices in these areas. Investors who are looking to invest in the Singapore real estate market will likely turn their focus towards the heartlands, as this is where future demand is likely to be.
2. The MOE system
Singapore’s education system has been highly regarded for its emphasis on academic excellence, producing students who perform well in international assessments such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The government has invested heavily in education, providing quality infrastructure, highly trained teachers, and a comprehensive curriculum that covers not just academics but also values and character education. The Ministry of Education has also implemented initiatives such as Teach Less, Learn More, which encourages teachers to focus on developing students’ critical thinking, creativity, and communication skills, rather than just memorisation.
International schools, on the other hand, cater to a diverse student body from different cultural backgrounds, with a curriculum that often follows an international standard such as the International Baccalaureate (IB). They provide an opportunity for students to learn in a multicultural environment, which can broaden their perspective and develop their social and communication skills. International schools often offer extracurricular activities and programs that focus on character education, community service, and leadership development.
International schools may offer a more well-rounded education, but their fees can be higher than local public schools. For expats on a budget, the lower costs of heartland living combined with lower school fees in local schools (though not by much, because only Singapore Citizens get to enjoy subsidies for school tuition) could be a powerful draw for them.
3. Less noise, more amenities
Singapore is a bustling city with a fast-paced lifestyle that can be exciting for some, but not ideal for everyone, especially families. Expat families looking for a quieter living environment will find Singapore’s heartlands to be the perfect option.
The heartlands of Singapore are designed with families in mind. Unlike the city centre, which is filled with office buildings, shopping malls, and restaurants, the heartlands are more residential, with a focus on creating a conducive living environment. This means that the streets are less congested, and there are more parks and green spaces where families can relax and spend time together.
Accessibility is another factor that makes the heartlands an attractive option for families. Singapore’s heartlands are well-connected to the city centre and other parts of the island via our efficient public transportation system. This makes it easy for families to travel to work, school, and other important places.
The heartlands are also equipped with amenities that cater to families, such as schools, community centres, supermarkets, and clinics. This means that families do not need to travel far to access basic necessities and services. This also creates a sense of convenience and ease, which is especially important for busy parents.
One of the most significant advantages of living in the heartlands is the sense of community spirit. Neighbours tend to be more friendly and accepting of one another, which creates a sense of belonging and security for families. This makes it much easier for expats to quickly find a sense of belonging. This is especially important for families with young children who want to raise them in a safe and supportive environment.
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