If you happen to take a stroll down the Singapore Botanic Gardens, you would have likely noticed the Atbara House nestled on top of a hill along Gallop Road. Built in 1898, it is one of the oldest, and perhaps the most famous colonial house, or “black and white house”, in Singapore.
You may be wondering how awesome it would be to live in a house like that. Well, spoiler alert: you can.
What Is a Black and White House?
As you can probably already guess, the black and white house gets its name from the monotonous colours of the dark timber beams and whitewashed walls.
Built and designed by the British in the 19th century, they were once the homes of high-ranking government officials, high court judges and rich businessmen. Black and white houses were also used as military administrations and boarding schools for children of British soldiers.
The architecture of the house is based on a Tudorbethan style, and also adapted features from Malay kampong houses, such as high ceilings and stilts for ventilation (remember this was pre-aircon days). Some black and white homes are also elevated from the ground to prevent termites attacks and flash floods.
Today, there are about 500 black and white houses remaining. They are mostly state-owned and are managed and preserved by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). While most black and white houses are rented out for commercial purposes (e.g. restaurants and businesses), some are reserved for residential stays.
In order to preserve the heritage of black and white homes, owners are not allowed to make changes to the look and feel of the home.
What Makes Black and White Homes So Highly Coveted?
As you may have guessed, black and white homes are highly in demand because of their limited supply and unique colonial-style architecture. After all, not everyone can say that they live in a historic home that’s rich in heritage.
Apart from their design and appeal, black and white homes are also big and spacious — even when compared to good class bungalows (GCBs). Some black and white houses are bigger than 5,000 sq ft and have a land area of over 31,000 sq ft.
They’re typically two-storeys high and have airy rooms, grand halls, big verandas, large windows, and lush gardens. Some homes also include a swimming pool.
Often, these homes are snapped up quickly as soon as they’re listed on the market. So if you’re in the lookout for one, it’s best to be quick!
Where Can You Find Black and White Houses?
A large chunk of black and white houses can be found in Sembawang, though they’re also distributed in different areas throughout Singapore. Here are some of their popular locations:
Where to find black and white colonial houses
Goodwood Hill, Dempsey Hill, Ridley Park, Adam Park, Chancery Lane, Barker Road
Wessex Estate, Rochester Park, Nepal Hill, Mount Pleasant, Fifth Avenue
Sembawang Park, Sembawang Seletar Camp, Cyprus Road,
Mount Faber, Alexandra Park, Gillman Barracks
Can You Buy a Black and White House?
You can’t buy a black and white house but you can apply to rent one from SLA. They’re rented out via an open-bidding system where the homes are leased out for two years. Prices are also determined by the demand, and will likely cost a bomb!
How To Rent a Black and White House
Still interested? Here’s how you can apply to rent a black and white house from SLA:
Visit SLA’s site and view available listings
Contact the managing agent
Send your application and submit the required documents
Wait for the result
Sign the tenancy agreement, and pay the deposit and stamp duties
Step 1: Visit SLA’s Site and View Available Listings
SLA will put up available black and white units for rent on their site. Simply shortlist the ones that you like.
Step 2: Contact the Managing Agent
Found one that you like? Reach out to the managing agent (the contact details are provided in the listing) and schedule for an appointment.
Be sure to read the full terms and conditions, and check your eligibility before going for the viewing. If you’re applying as an individual, your average monthly income must be at least three times the offered rent.
Step 3: Send Your Application and Submit the Required Documents
Prepare the documents needed to officially submit your tender. Head to the individual listing page and download the application form. Fill your particulars and submit it together with the necessary documents. Now all you need to do is to wait for the result.
Step 4: Wait for the Result
If you’re shortlisted, you may have to attend a tender interview and SLA will evaluate your tender as well as other factors such as your intention and concepts for the home, track record and financial health.
Step 5: Sign Tenancy Agreement, and Pay Deposit and Stamp Duties
If successful, you need to prepare the documents in the Letter of Acceptance including signing the Tenancy Agreement, pay a month’s rental in advance, three months’ worth of security deposit, stamp duties and an administrative fee of $200.
Alternatively, Find Bungalow/Landed Houses for Rent on PropertyGuru
Find black and white houses too expensive? Why not rent a regular landed property or bungalow house on PropertyGuru instead? They’re also spacious and are way more affordable than black and white bungalows. Discover available homes here.