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Yearning for more privacy and space while working from home, some young S’poreans turn to rental market

SINGAPORE — In a country where children do not generally cut the apron strings and move out of their parents’ homes until they get married, some Singaporeans are going against this convention.

  • TODAY spoke to eight people who have rented their own place, citing latent desire to live apart from parents
  • New work-from-home demands and privacy needs are push factors
  • However, the trend does not seem so widespread as to have moved the needle in the rental property market

 

SINGAPORE — In a country where children do not generally cut the apron strings and move out of their parents’ homes until they get married, some Singaporeans are going against this convention.

As the work-from-home situation drones on for many, more young people are considering renting a flat amid the new Covid-19 normal.

There is the draw of a more conducive workspace, and a greater desperation to have a place where they can truly “hang out” and have friends (read: boyfriends and girlfriends) come over given the limited travel and leisure options.

TODAY spoke to eight unmarried new tenants under 35 years old. Most of them said that they are fulfilling a latent desire to live apart from their parents.

Hans (not his real name), a 32-year-old creative freelancer, currently lives in his parents’ three-bedroom condominium apartment, but he recently secured a rental room for S$600 a month.

He is willing to pay the amount although it would be a strain on his finances, and despite already having a room of his own.

Why? Before Covid-19 hit, his parents would be out working in the day, leaving him with all the space to live the way he wanted, he said.

But since the circuit breaker kicked in on April 7, his mother started working from home, while his father and sister also had changes to their schedules. Hans soon found his personal space encroached by everyone’s new needs.

He resorted to working from 11pm to 7am when everyone is asleep so that he could truly concentrate. That was when he realised that he needed to do something.

Besides, he started quarreling more with his parents.

The sticking points were for things like his preference for a night light in the living room. His parents felt that he was wasting electricity.

‘I COULD ADOPT A HAMSTER WITHOUT TELLING ANYONE’

Hans is also someone who usually works overseas for most parts of the year and is seldom home for a stretch of more than four months.

Now into his sixth month of living with his folks, Hans felt his “sense of self” erode.

“Being overseas allowed me to define certain parameters of my life – what time I go to sleep, how I arrange my chores, my duties for the house. It sort of builds an own rhythm or timetable which works. Back home, I have to settle with somebody else’s rhythm,” he said.

A 34-year-old healthcare professional who declined to be named said that in pre-Covid-19 days, she could spend more time out of the home to avoid facing her parents.

She does not share a good relationship with them.

But the partial lockdown meant constant contact, and her parents triggered anxiety, she said.

“In that period when you have to be home and home only, it brought me back to my teenage years when you have no choice (but to deal with them),” she added.

To “keep (her) sanity”, she now rents a studio apartment in the central part of Singapore for S$2,000 a month, sharing the cost with her partner.

For lawyer Melissa Tham, 29, moving out was out of the question until Covid-19 rolled along.

She had broached the topic to rent an apartment with her boyfriend of two years on New Year’s Day, only to face certain parental objections that “a girl should only move out after she is married”.

But they softened their stance when it became apparent in early April that one of the rules during the circuit breaker was that couples would not be allowed to meet if they do not live together.

When living apart, she took the liberty to “take control” of her life, by adopting a hamster, changing her job, and getting started on horse-riding lessons.

She could probably have done all these things while still living with her parents, but there was a “psychological” barrier of what her parents would say about them, she said.

“When I realised that I could adopt a hamster without telling anyone, I felt very liberated, as silly as that sounds,” she quipped.

IS THE CULTURE CHANGING?

But while the accounts of these young people are coming to the fore, the trend does not seem so widespread as to have moved the needle in the rental property market.

According to real estate portal SRX’s flash report for July’s numbers, transaction volume in the private condominium rental market contracted 7.2 per cent between June and July, and were down by 32.3 per cent compared to last July.

Leasing volume in the HDB housing market last month also fell 19.1 per cent month-on-month, and 31.6 per cent year-on-year in July.

But property agent Susan Mariam, 39, said that recent months had marked the first time in her 22-year career that young citizens under the age of 35 had made up 30 to 40 per cent of the rental deals she had helped to broker.

With them, she sealed more than 10 rental deals in June, more than 20 rental deals in July and eight deals in the first half of August, she pointed out.

Mr Colin Tan, director for research consultancy at real estate firm SRE Global, said that the trend, if it is one, will be a new one to watch.

“If anything, millennials as a group have always looked to move out but have been deterred by the high rents,” he said, pointing out that more will seek to rent if rental prices go down.

Mr Nicholas Mak, head of research and consultancy at real estate firm ERA Realty, said this question of whether more young singles are looking to rent occasionally comes up, but his latest assessment is that they are still the minority.

Maybe the idea of renting out as a single person is “no longer unacceptable” due to their exposure to western culture, especially those who studied and lived overseas, but the norm is still for children to live with their parents until their flats arrive, he pointed out.

And it ultimately “comes down to money”, he said.

“If they were to lose their income in this period of economic uncertainty, it means that they will still have to go back to their parents. It would also mean breaking a lease,” he added.

Related topics

work from home Covid-19 coronavirus rental

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