Expats in Singapore face surging rental prices, smaller pay & inflation, even risk being scammed


Singapore opened its borders again in April, after two years of being shut due to the pandemic. And while this should have meant smooth sailing for the city-state’s sizable population of expatriate workers, the reality has not been less than ideal.

First of all, rental rates have seen a steep rise, with Bloomberg reporting some expats being asked to pay a whopping 40 per cent more on the properties they lease. Others are being asked to pay double their rental rates, which means it’s now a property owner’s market, given the absence of rental controls.

Secondly, compensation packages for expats—many of which are still higher than average wages in Singapore—have gotten smaller with the tightening of criteria for worker visas.

Thirdly, inflation is also likely to take a toll on expats, especially those with families, due to the rising school fees of international schools.

Bloomberg added that some expats may also be prey to rental scammers.

People have posed as agents for nonexistent online listings, get would-be renters to pay deposits, and then disappear. The police said that as of May of this year, there have been at least 547 people who have fallen for such scams, and losses have totalled at least $1.6 million.

It appears that expats’ the biggest headache has to do with housing.

They are now competing not only with locals for rentals in prime properties but also with those who have newly arrived in the city-state. 

Because of the pandemic, there has been a considerable delay in the construction of flats and houses, leading to a shortage that may take some years to address.

Bloomberg spoke to 10 real estate agents, who said that the rental price for properties leased to expats has risen by 20 to 40 per cent on average, and some property owners have actually doubled their rental prices.

The article quotes Juliet Stannard, director and owner of Citiprop Property Management, as saying, “Singapore will be pricing itself out of being a place where expats can afford to live — it’s already expensive but this will be the tipping point for a lot of people.

No one can afford a 50 per cent rent increase. This is not sustainable.”

It also cites one expat at Bukit Timah whose landlord asked for a 110 per cent increase in the price of the residence he had been renting.

There are around 650,000 people in Singapore who hold white-collar visas or are permanent residents. 

This means that many expats are facing considerable increases since leases in Singapore are typically renewed every two years.

But Singapore is not the only city with rising rental prices, with Dubai, London, and New York seeing the same phenomenon.

In contrast, rental rates in Hong Kong have been falling, even as expats and locals have left the city. /TISG

‘Architect of modern Singapore’ Liu Thai Ker is concerned that public housing prices are ‘a business venture’ rather than solving housing needs


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