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Housing in Singapore
The Best Places to Live in Singapore
With its generous salaries, inviting climate, and modern way of life, Singapore is an attractive relocation destination for many expats. Newcomers to the country will be enthralled by the city’s glitz and glamor, including a major international airport that is so beautiful and exciting that people visit it even if they do not have a flight.
If you are heading to Singapore to start a new expat life, you should know some of the most popular expat destinations. But first, let us explain something about Singapore: the island nation is a city-state, and therefore does not have its own cities. Instead, it is made up of 55 “planning areas.”
Rather than talking you through the best cities in Singapore, this guide will tell you about the best planning areas and most unique neighborhoods that are especially attractive to expats. For example, find out why Orchard is near the top of many expat lists. We also give you a rundown of life in Novena, which is more relaxed than Orchard, and Woodlands, which connects the country to Malaysia.
At a Glance
- Approximately 80% of Singaporean households live in a home built by the Housing & Development Board (HDB).
- More than 90% of Singaporeans own their home, with renting being less popular.
- After a major fire in a squatter settlement called Bukit Ho Swee, the Singaporean government built about 51,000 new apartments, re-housing about 400,000 people, between 1961 and 1965.
- In 2019, the Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranked Singapore as the third most expensive city for expats.
The Most Popular Areas in the Singapore City-State
Singapore is a city-state. There are five main regions in the city-state, each with a regional center. They are:
|Central Region||Central Area||930,900|
|West Region||Jurong East||911,760|
There are 55 planning areas in Singapore. The most densely populated are Bedok, Jurong West, Tampines, Woodlands, and Hougang. The planning areas are then divided into further subzones.
If you want to live in the center of everything, Orchard is the place for you. It is where most of the shopping malls and central business districts are located. The main thoroughfare running through the neighborhood is Orchard Road. It is from this road that the rest of the area spreads out. If you are into fashion, you can find trendy brands and exclusive designer label stores on Orchard Road.
The Singaporean government and the Urban Redevelopment Authority plan to introduce the Central Business District (CBD) Incentive Scheme, which could see 20,000 new apartments built in the center of the city-state. The idea is to breathe life into the area at night, as well as during the day, so the CBD becomes a place to live, work, and play 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The government plans to offer property developers a more attractive deal for creating residential units in the CBD.
Size of the City
There are only about 920 people living in Orchard, so any new residential developments could allow this number to increase significantly. This also means that the demand for residential real estate is high. In the third quarter of 2019, the availability of homes in District 9, where Orchard is located, dropped by nearly 2%. Orchard Road, which Orchard surrounds, is 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers) long.
Due to all of the retail outlets on Orchard Road, the retail industry is a major source of jobs in the area. The tourism and property industries also play a part.
Roles like a concierge, retail supervisor or assistant, operations assistant, or a guest service executive (at hotels) are common. Also typical are jobs in the property sector, such as a center manager.
Finance is another major player in the Orchard area, with some lucrative salaries on offer. Examples of these opportunities available are:
- finance manager;
- financial accountant;
- bank manager;
- finance executive;
- administrative assistant;
- planning and performance partner;
- finance team leader.
Unsurprisingly, jobs in finance tend to be some of the better-paid positions available. Finance managers can expect to earn anything from 6,000 to 23,000 SGD (4,400 to 16,800 USD) a month. The average for this role is approximately 8,000 SGD (5,850 USD).
Cost of Living
Expect to pay at least 750,000 SGD (550,000 USD) for a property in Orchard. For this amount, you can get a property between 330 and 460 square feet (301 and 43 square meters).
According to PropertyGuru, in the third quarter of 2019, 53 of the 106 non-landed private residential properties that sold above 5 million SGD in Orchard were bought by foreign nationals.
Orchard is Singapore’s most expensive area to buy property. Homes cost 2,600 SGD (1,900 USD) per square foot (0.09 square meters) on average to buy. According to PropertyGuru, the percentage of foreign buyers purchasing property in the Core Central Region (CCR) of Singapore has risen from 37% in the first quarter of 2018 to 50% in the third quarter of 2019.
According to a Pew Research Center study, Singapore is the most religiously diverse country in the world. Religious holidays such as Christmas, Deepvali, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Vesak Day, and Chinese New Year are all celebrated in Singapore.
The Singapore tourism board promotes the island nation as integration and multiculturality in the island nation. Singapore’s visa laws are reasonable, but they favor skilled and highly paid workers.
InterNations has an active expat community in Singapore, and several expats talk about how particularly welcoming their community is. They describe the city-state as a melting pot of people from all over the world.
As we mentioned earlier, a significant chunk of luxury homes in Orchard are bought by foreigners (50% in Q3 of 2019), and it is a popular area in which to live. You can find Chatsworth International School and The Tanglin Club in the area.
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Novena is a planning area in the Central Region of Singapore. It is popular among expats for a number of reasons. For starters, you can easily get to Orchard and its shops and businesses by taking the MRT one or two stops. There are also two expressways servicing the area. In addition, there are more family housing options than what can be found in Orchard.
Size of the City
There are a little under 50,000 people living in Novena. The largest age group, about 8,630 people, are between 40 and 50 years old. This is only the 25th largest planning area in Singapore, and it includes the subzones Balestier, Moulmein, Dunearn, Malcolm, and Mount Pleasant.
In terms of geographical size, Novena is 8.98 square kilometers (3.5 square miles).
With Novena being well-supported by transport options and expressways, it is easy to get to various parts of the city-state from here. As mentioned, jobs in Orchard would be easily commutable.
One of the main employers in the area is the Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, a 333-bed hospital with private suites. Some of the most common jobs in Novena that could suit expats include
- financial advisor;
- project manager;
- staff nurse;
- clinic assistant;
- customer relations officer (hospital);
- finance executive;
- HR manager.
Cost of Living
If you want to rent in Novena, it costs approximately 2,400 SGD (1,750 USD) for a studio apartment or one-bedroom home, 3,500 SGD (2,560 USD) for a two-bedroom home, 4,300 SGD (3,140 USD) for a three-bedroom home, and 7,250 SGD (5,300 USD) for a four-bedroom home.
If you want to buy a home, it is around 1.04 million SGD (760,000 USD) for a studio apartment or one-bedroom home, 1.49 million SGD (1.09 million SGD) for a two-bedroom home, 2.02 million SGD (1.48 million USD) for a three-bedroom home, and 4.95 million SGD (3.6 million USD) for a four-bedroom home.
Novena is set up nicely for its expat community. There are several international schools to choose from, such as the Stamford American International School. The Kids Learning Mall in Union Square is the perfect spot for parents and children to hang out. There are music, language, art, ballet, drama, and speech classes, plus children’s fashion stores, as well as restaurants and bakeries.
Woodlands is one of the most popular destinations for expats in Singapore. You can find this planning area in the North of the city-state. What makes Woodlands unique is its connection to Malaysia via the Johor-Singapore Causeway.
Size of the City
Woodlands has an estimated population of 254,730 people. It is the fourth-largest planning area in Singapore in terms of population, and it has nine subzones—Woodlands East, Woodlands South, Midview, Woodgrove, Woodlands West, North Coast, Greenwood Park, Senoko West, and Woodlands Regional Centre. Woodlands is 5.2 square miles large (13.6 square kilometers).
These are some examples of job opportunities in the Woodlands area:
- marketing manager;
- IT engineer;
- mechanical engineer;
- financial analyst.
Opportunities in the finance industry are not as concentrated in Woodlands as in Orchard, and there are more mid-level jobs in areas like customer service and human resources.
There are also roles available in science and engineering at companies like DuPont and Thermo Fisher Scientific. A quality assurance specialist at DuPont would earn around 6,500 SGD (4,750 USD). A graduate financial analyst at Thermo Fisher Scientific would earn about 3,500 SGD (2,560 USD).
Cost of Living
Housing in Woodlands consists of condos and Housing Development Board properties, plus large five-and-seven-bedroom houses with yards and swimming pools.
To rent in the area, it will cost on average:
- 1,680 SGD (1,230 USD) for a studio apartment or one-bedroom home;
- 1,900 SGD (1,390 USD) for a two-bedroom home;
- 2,100 (1,540 USD) for a three-bedroom home;
- 3,100 (2,270 USD) for a four-bedroom home.
To buy in the area, it will cost on average:
- 500,000 SGD (370,000 USD) for a studio apartment or one-bedroom home;
- 600,000 SGD (440,000 USD) for a two-bedroom home;
- 610,000 SGD (450,000 USD) for a three-bedroom home;
- 940,000 SGD (688,000 USD) for a four-bedroom home.
ValueChampion ranks Woodlands as the second-cheapest place to rent a property from the Housing Development Board (HDB). Compared to the Central Singapore, where a four-bedroom HDB home costs about 2,750 SGD (2,010 USD) a month, the same property would be 1,750 SGD (1,280 USD) in Woodlands.
Also, according to ValueChampion, Woodlands was the cheapest area in Singapore to buy a resale HDB property. A four-bedroom resale HDB property is around 330,000 SGD (242,000 USD) in Woodlands compared to about 470,000 SGD (344,000 USD) on average.
Children in the expat community in Woodlands are provided for by international schools, like the Singapore American School.
It is generally a friendly area with a strong community feel. For instance, around 6,000 people get together to celebrate and spook on Halloween in a mass trick or treat outing.
In addition, Woodlands Neighbourhood Centre is just one of the meeting spots where members of the community can get together.
Woodlands has a reputation for being home to lots of expats, especially Americans, so it should be easy for you to integrate. It is not uncommon for neighbors to get together to socialize, and go on outings together, such as bike rides and coffee mornings.
All about Singapore
A true melting pot of different cultures and a long-time expat destination, this guide walks you through all the steps needed to move to Singapore. We’ll cover everything from visa requirements to the unwritten rules of social etiquette to make sure your relocation gets off to the perfect start.Read Guide
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