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Surge in rents for private homes, HDB flats leaves tenants constantly looking for cheaper options

SINGAPORE — With rents for both private and public housing recently hitting all-time highs, Mr Sanjay is prepared to look for a new place with his two housemates if their rent goes up.

A view of public housing blocks in Singapore seen in March 2022.

A view of public housing blocks in Singapore seen in March 2022.

  • URA and HDB released real estate data for the third quarter of 2022, which showed rents hitting all-time highs
  • Tenants said they have no choice but to eventually move or pay a higher price to rent
  • Landlords said that while increasing market rates are good for them, rising interest rates will affect their profit margin

SINGAPORE — With rents for both private and public housing recently hitting all-time highs, Mr Sanjay is prepared to look for a new place with his two housemates if their rent goes up.

Their lease for a condominium unit in Novena is set to expire in the middle of next year, and they expect the rent to increase by 30 per cent at that point.

While they hope to be able to renew their lease, the 27-year-old civil servant, who wanted to be known only by one name, told TODAY that moving “would not be off the table” if they find a better deal elsewhere.

It was revealed on Friday (Oct 28) that rents for private homes went up 8.6 per cent in the latest quarter — the steepest pace of increase since 2007 — according to data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

Rents for Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats also rose 20.9 per cent in the first nine months of this year.

With property watchers expecting the surge in rental rates to persist, tenants are bracing themselves for the worst.

Mr Sanjay said that he and his housemates will start assessing their options closer to their lease expiry.

"It would be nice to stay but it really depends on the price," he said. "I guess that is to be expected with renting, and I think anyone renting has to be prepared to move."

Move was what Mr How Xing Quan, 34, and his wife did after their landlord raised their rent.

They had shifted into a studio apartment in a shophouse — a co-living space — near Farrer Park MRT Station in February last year.

Mr How initially paid S$2,200 per month with a six-month commitment, and stayed for about a year. But the landlord then increased the rent to S$2,500 due to demand when Singapore began reopening.

Mr How added: “It was a tactic to drive out the current tenants and get higher rent. We negotiated that we had stayed beyond the committed length, and they had said they will honour the price for the length of our stay.

“However, they refused to budge, stating that there was a long waiting list of tenants. The company was also expanding rapidly to many properties, resulting in the level of service dropping dramatically.”

Mr How and his wife eventually moved out and into her grandmother’s condominium unit while waiting for their Build-to-Order (BTO) flat in Sengkang to be completed.

Meanwhile, a new tenant, Ms Syazana Izzati, began seriously looking for rental units around August when rents were at their peak.

The 29-year-old marketing professional is tying the knot with her fiance in December, and wanted a place to stay with him while they wait for their BTO flat in Punggol to be ready in early 2024.

They were originally meant to collect their keys in the second quarter of next year but could not due to construction delays.

While they initially made queries in the middle of the year, agents told them they wanted tenants who could move in sooner.

Earlier this month, the couple signed the lease on a 721 sq ft condominium unit in Yishun after looking at more than 10 other private and public housing units.

They will move in after their wedding and pay S$3,250 in rent per month, which is over the budget that they set for themselves.

Ms Syazana said: “The steep increase in rent is honestly quite ridiculous but it’s not something that we can avoid. It’s just a matter of being able to find a place that is affordable and within the requirements that we have.”


Landlord E Koh, who secured a tenant for his three-bedroom Tampines condominium unit earlier this month, said that the floating interest rate for his mortgage loan almost doubled to slightly above 3 per cent compared to when he bought the unit in April.

He expected to make about S$3,500 per month in rent for a two-year lease but managed to find a tenant willing to fork out S$4,300. He added that he received a “fair bit” of inquiries, mostly from expatriates.

“As a landlord, it is good news that the market rate increases. But... the market rate is so high, am I able to find a tenant that can match the market rate?” he questioned.

“Of course, they will be driven by market forces where, if all the landlords hold tight on the market rate, if the tenant has no choice, they will have to continue with the rental.

“I would say that it's not really the tenant's market now. It's skewed towards the landlord's advantage.”

Meanwhile, Mr Ben Wang, 31, expressed his regret for passing over a five-year lock-in interest rate of about 1.8 per cent when he bought his 667 sq ft condominium unit in May.

Out of a desire to “keep things flexible just in case anything happens”, he opted for a 1.25 per cent two-year lock-in interest rate.

“But now it’s a bad decision because of the sharp increase in interest rates," he said.

When he bought the unit, the tenant — who is an expatriate — continued paying around S$3,000. This covers Mr Wang’s monthly mortgage.

Upon looking at current rental prices, he noted that fellow landlords in his condominium complex — Grandeur Park Residences in Tanah Merah — are now asking for S$4,500 to S$5,000 a month for units smaller than his.

Nevertheless, he similarly questioned if tenants are willing to pay that.

“I was expecting rent to go up but I wasn’t expecting the sharp trajectory. I thought it would go up at a much slower rate,” he added.

"I think it's good news for me as a landlord. I feel bad for tenants but I think everybody has to cope with rising interest rates."

Related topics

property housing HDB

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