Decades of strong economic growth combined with the more or less continues influx of affluent foreigners, and relatively limited supply of land (it’s a tiny dot!), have led to decades of private residential property appreciation. This in turn has made Singapore a hotspot for real estate investments, a phenomenon which in turn feeds into the property appreciation. Economic gibberish aside, bottom line is that prices of private residential property have, when put in a historical perspective, been on a rising trend. This has led Singapore to host a dynamic and diversified private housing sector.
Apartment and Condo
Private condominiums and apartments are private property where residents share the common compound, land of the property and facilities. Condominiums are the preferred choices for most expatriates. They come in various sizes, ranging from low-rise blocks to extensive high-rise condo. The units in these properties range from studio, 1, 2, 3 and 4-bedroom units, penthouses. Condo and apartment start from as small as 500 square feet to as large as 8,000 square feet.
Apartments and condo are strata-subdivided housing units, with the common areas owned and managed by a Management Corporation. Hybrid housing forms such as townhouses, cluster housing and strata-bungalows also come under the strata-subdivision arrangement. There are clearly-defined planning guidelines governing each of these property types.
Most condos come with good-quality finishes, luscious landscaping, basement car park and full recreational facilities such as clubhouse, children’s playground, gymnasium, swimming pool, squash, tennis courts, and sometimes even a putting green. Most developments have 24-hour security surveillance, intercom systems and some condos even have home automation systems.
- APARTMENT – The compound has smaller land area compared to Condominium. May not have recreation facilities. Usually built in a Gross Plot Area below 40,000sqft.
- CONDOMINIUM – The compound has bigger land compared to Apartment and usually has recreation facilities. Usually built in a Gross Plot Area above 40,000sqft.
- EXECUTIVE CONDOMINIUM – Condominium restricted by HDB’s rules and regulations on Rental & Sale. Similar to condominium after 10 years.
- HUDC – Privatised flat originally built by the Housing & Development Board (HDB). May not have recreation facilities.
- PENTHOUSE – Biggest unit in the Apartment or Condo block. Usually on the top floor with two levels.
- TOWNHOUSE – Apartment with ground level entrance and usually is 2 to 4-storey high.
- WALK-UP APARTMENT – Low rise apartment without a lift or recreation facilities.
Landed Property is by many Singaporeans viewed as the housing equivalent of reaching the top tiers of the society’s social ladder. While admittedly high maintenance, landed properties are unrivaled in terms of their sheer size, spacious living quarters and privacy.
From the upper left corner to the bottom right one the different dwellings are: 1. Bungalow 2. semi-detached house 3. Terrace Houses 4. Shophouses 5. Good Class Bungalow 6. Cluster 7. Townhouse
Terrace houses are properties which are part of a row of similar houses joined together by a common boundary. While joined, each Terrace House is a property in its own respect and has its own walls and roof.
Rather self-explanatory, conservation house constitute historically significant houses in Singapore which have been renovated and are conserved to fit within the urban fabric of modern Singapore.
The bulk of the conservation houses in Singapore are known as Shophouses. In stark contrast to the modern and at times futuristic architecture that marks many of Singapore’s buildings (yes we are talking about that spaceship-cum-hotel at Marine Bay, and the Durian shaped theatre that we call the Esplanade), Shophouses are a reflection a traditionally rich mix of Chinese, Malay and European architecture.
Essentially a Shophouse is a special type of terrace house. Often two to three stories high, Shophouses are conserved terrace houses, that due to their historical significance have grown out into a type of dwelling on their own in Singapore.
While not very common, the Shophouses give the Singaporean urban landscape a distinct look and can be found in neighborhoods such as Katong, Little India, Emerald Hill, and Chinatown.
The smaller (and mostly cheaper) brother of the Good Class Bungalow caters to the near-top-tier of the better-offs. With a minimum plot size of 400 sqm, the Bungalow House is still one of the larger estates, even amongst landed properties. By definition, a bungalow is also detached, in that no other estate is in some way linked to it, adding to its privacy and exclusivity.
Within the faction of Bungalow Houses there are 4 types or “classes”, differentiated on the basis of their respective plots of land: from 400 sqm till 550 sqm is class 1; from 550 sqm till 700 sqm is class 2; from 700 sqm till 1000 sqm is class 3; and lastly, from 1000 sqm till 1400 sqm is class 4; anything above that will put the property in the Good Class Bungalow class.
Good Class Bungalow
Semantically understated, the ahum “good” Class Bungalow is a type of landed property tailored to the top-tier of the best-offs. This is the type of dwelling you may see in a Singaporean version of MTVs cribs (you know, that program with rich people, big houses and lots of bling). With a land plot of minimum 1400 sqm, the Good Class Bungalow has a wealth of space, often encompassing large gardens, swimming pools and other luxury facilities –yes private cinemas and basketball courts are not unheard of here. Stressing their exclusivity in space-scarce Singapore, there are approximately 1000 Good Class Bungalows spread out amongst the authorized strips of land.
A semi-detached house is not really a type in itself, rather it denotes a category of different houses, all of which abide by a series of criteria. For a dwelling to be semi-detached, it has to be partially attached on one side to any number of other units. Common examples are semi-detached bungalow houses and semi-detached terrace houses (also known as a corner terrace).
The townhouse is a bit of a hybrid between a condominium and a landed property. While it has the characteristics of a landed terrace house, the town house shares common facilities such as swimming pools, gyms and other recreational facilities with other houses. Either part of a lager condominium establishment or an entire estate, Town houses offer both privacy, spacious living, and convenience of facilities.
Another hybrid, designed to combine the privacy and spaciousness of landed properties, and convenience of condo-style facilities such as swimming pools, gyms, and taken-care-off gardens, the Cluster house constitute a rare yet upcoming market in Singapore. Cluster developments can be home to terraces, semi-detached housing, bungalows, a mix of these and share facilities within their developments.
* Please be advised that Singapore Government has imposed restrictions on foreign ownership of private residential property that has a land element. Please refer to Singapore Land Authority website for more information on foreign ownership
Singapore Commercial / Industrial Property
- BUILDING – Entire Commercial / Industrial building.
- FACTORY – Industrial space for heavy or light industries.
- HDB SHOP – Shop space within a HDB block.
- LAND – Bare land or land with an old building.
- OFFICE – Office space in commercial office buildings or shop house.
- SHOP – Shop space for retail business in malls or shophouse.
- SHOPHOUSE – A row of low-rise shops joint side by side with a living quarter / office above them.
- WAREHOUSE – Space for storage. May include some office space.
Other Unique Properties
These types of property listed below are either conservation shophouses or colonial houses and bungalows.
- COLONIAL HOUSE, BUNGALOW – Houses built in the pre-war British colonial times.
- CONSERVATION HOUSE, SHOP HOUSE – Houses or Shop Houses that are marked for conservation.
- BLACK AND WHITE HOUSE – Houses built in the pre-war British colonial times, with white & black exterior.
- HERITAGE HOUSE – House constructed with a touch of Asian heritage and culture, Balinese concept.
- SENTOSA COVE – Sentosa Cove is an integrated residential-cum-marina resort development on the eastern coast of Sentosa island, to the south of mainland Singapore. It is largely a residential estate, featuring Singapore’s first and only gated residential community which accomodates high-rise condominiums to luxury bungalows with adjoining private berths for boats. Foreigners are allowed to purchase properties with land element in Sentosa.
Public Housing – (HDB)
First off, there are of course the HDB properties. For those who are not familiar with the Singaporean housing market, listen up! For everybody else, either skip ahead or keep tuned in to relive a piece of Singaporean history.
So, HDB properties – right. The tale goes something like this: once upon a time there was a tiny dot of land that was experiencing relentless economic growth leading to a rapid appreciation of its real estate market. With mansions, luxury estates and skyscrapers mushrooming all over the place, the government decided to intervene in the housing market, so that its citizens could continue to enjoy affordable homes – and thus the HDB flats were born.
Subsidized and regulated by the Housing and Development Boards (hence HDB), the flats were hugely popular and today more than 80% of Singaporeans live in public housing.
Relatively cheaper housing does of course come with some strings attached, the most notable of which is that to be eligible for HDB property your household income cannot be a specified amount.
To accommodate the different segments of societies, HDB offers public housing in various forms, all of which shall be detailed in this piece.
Studio apartments are designed and tailored to meet the needs of elderly residents with modest means, who aim to live independently. They come in two sizes, 36 and 45 sqm, both of which can comfortably accommodate one or two people.
The apartments have many elderly-friendly features such as specialized non-slip tiles, support bars in the bathroom and multiply pull-for-help cords. Navigate your way around this type of unit with this awesome virtual tour here.
2 – Room Flat
The two room HDB flat is specifically tailored towards the smaller and less affluent households. These dwellings are typically around 45 sqm including a bedroom, a living room, a kitchen, bathroom and storeroom. When viewed in comparison to its private counterpart, the 2 – room HDB flat can be viewed as a one bedroom apartment’s twin brother, just a lot cheaper. Take the virtual tour here!
3 – Room Flat
Despite what the name suggests, the 3 – room HDB flat is actually quite a bit more than just a one room upgrade from the 2 –room HDB flat. It comprises of a living area, a master bedroom plus attached bathroom, another bedroom, a common bathroom, a kitchen, a service yard and a storeroom. This flat totals about 60 to 65 sqm While still a little compact it is a viable living option for families with a child that are on a budget. Check it out here.
4 – Room Flat
Ideal for young couples starting a family, the 4 – room flat offers an intimate and cozy living experience. Basically, it’s the 3 – room flat plus one bedroom, upping the total estimated living space to about 90 sqm. This flat type is available in a variety of layouts tailored to your preferences. Virtual tours of the different layouts are available here
5 –Room Flat
Covering 110 sqm, the 5 – room flat is a more spacious variation on the previously mentioned flats, including an additional dining area. Check it out for yourself here.
This one is a heads-up for Singaporeans too. The HDB is trying out a new type of design dubbed the 3 Gen Flats, or 3 generation flats, specifically tailoring to multi-generational families. Compared to the 5 – room flat it is considerably more spacious with an estimated 115 square, making way for an additional bedroom and bathroom.
This type of unit is currently piloted at Yishun where 84 units are built. And alas, there are not yet any visual tours available. In consolation, check out the design here!
This mammoth of an HDB flat has an estimated 130 sqm of floor area. The highlights include an extra space, ideal for a study room or alternative television corner. Additionally, some of the executive flats come adorned with a balcony. HDB had gone all out on this type and you can view different designs right here.
In the spirit of offering greater choice and wider variety to meet the housing aspirations of higher income flat buyers, HDB introduced the Design, Build and Sell Scheme in 2005. While put under review in 2011, a total of 13 DBSS sites were launched.
The DBSS falls somewhere in between the larger HDB flats and an Executive Condominium. In terms of class, it caters to the segment of society that is affluent enough to buy or rent the better HDB flats, yet are not ready to make the jump into the private market space.
Public – Private Hybrids
Both the HUDC flats and executive condominiums are special in that they both share in public housing characteristics and private housing qualities.
The Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDC) flats are the dinosaurs of public housing in Singapore. Originally built in the 70s and 80s, the HUDCs were phased out after 1987, and today still 18 estates comprising 7,731 residential units remain. In the mid-90s a wave of popular demand for privatization made the government consider phasing in privatization of the HUDC estates. Up to date all estates but one are either privatized or undergoing privatization.
The executive condominium as a type of property starts off as a public housing unit, then phases into private housing after 5 years of ownership. Tailored to young professionals who can afford more than an HDB flat but find private property still a little out of reach, the executive condominium share most of the design and facilities of a private condominium yet has the cheap edge of being HDB issued.
So why would anyone go for a private condominium when you can basically get the same deal, just cheaper in the HDBs executive condominium? Apart from considerations of status, there are some noteworthy differences. When putting the metaphorical magnifying glass on the fine print, it becomes clear that there are three noteworthy differences:
- The executive condominium comes with some ownership restrictions. Designed to dissuade investment and stimulate ownership driven purchasing, the executive condominium comes with a 5-year Minimum Occupation Period (MOP), which means that you have to live in the condominium for at least 5 years before you are granted the rights to sell it on the open market to Singapore Citizens and PRs. And after yet another 5 years the executive condominium acquires “privatized” status, and effectively becomes a normal condominium, enabling the owner to also sell it to foreigners.
- Yet another difference lies within the CPF housing grants. For executive condominiums, when eligible, you can apply for government assistance and get a subsidy, generally worth between S$10,000 and S$30,000, depending on your household income.
- While condominiums are freehold, executive condominiums come with the long-term strings attached of being a 99 – year leasehold.