It’s a landlords’ market in Singapore. Polishing resumes, 70% lease hikes, and last-minute contract rescissions are just some of the things tenants go through to find an apartment.
Spiking rents are becoming a hot-button topic and increasing social concern. The country’s reputation as a low-tax bastion of safety and stability has long made it a regional hub for the rich, especially China’s wealthy in the past few years.
Flats renting for S$3,000 ($2,200) a month are quickly vanishing in the city-state’s central districts. For that budget, this is what a tenant can get, according to official data on newly signed rental leases in the Singapore private housing market.
When a young American expat in the tech industry tried to renew the lease for his one-bedroom apartment in the central business district of Singapore, his landlord wanted to hike the rent by 50%. He ended up moving into a two-bedroom apartment on the fringes of the city, for “much more value.”
He’s now spending about twice as much on rent compared with two years ago. He counts himself “lucky,” as the market rate for his current place has surged by about another thousand Singapore dollars since he signed his contract in January.
Rents in central areas of Singapore, home to the traditional ”prime districts,” have risen more than 40%. Many families chase properties in these districts for their top schools as well.
The decreasing supply of S$3,000 apartments spread across the country. In the first four months of 2021, 54% of the new leases were S$3,000 and below. For the same period this year, renters can only access 12% of the apartments on the market.
Within the much fewer available options for S$3000, most are now one-bedroom apartments. Finding a bigger flat for a family has become even more challenging.
Median rent for an apartment jumped to S$4,400. Tenants on a tight budget may also have to look outside the central areas. Singapore is 710 square kilometers (274 square miles).
Rental demand stems predominantly from foreigners. About 80% of Singapore’s population live in public housing, and nearly nine out of 10 residents own homes.
The average rent in the first four months of 2021 was S$3,580, compared with S$5,200 now.
Singapore tied New York in posting the highest rental growth in the first half last year. In the rival financial hub of Hong Kong, the city’s property market is in a rare downturn, although leases are still more expensive on average than Singapore’s.
Singapore’s rental growth is expected to soften for the rest of the year on more supply.
Savills Singapore expects rents to grow between 5 to 10% this year. The luxury segment, however, could see a rise in prices of at least 10%, as some wealthy foreign individuals may choose to rent after the government hiked taxes for non-local buyers.
“This should give both locals and expatriates greater ease of mind,” said Marcus Loo, chief executive officer of Savills Singapore.
Similarly, Bloomberg Intelligence expects growth to slow to less than 5% in the second half.
The government reiterated it expects 40,000 home completions this year – the highest in the last five years – and about 100,000 by 2025. Households temporarily renting while waiting for their new homes to be finished will move out of their units, it said.
“We know there is concern among renters,” Indranee Rajah, second minister for national development and finance, said at a real estate conference in May. “However, we expect pressures in the rental market to ease in the coming quarters. There is a significant number of private and public residential units coming onstream over the next few years.”
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