Rising HDB rental prices and demand (well, the booming rental market in Singapore, generally) has been making the headlines in 2021.
Apart from increased demand for renting HDB flats and rooms as Singapore's borders reopen, in 2021 we also saw a robust local market for HDB rentals. This is likely due to HDB BTO construction delays as well as HDB upgraders selling their flats on the open market.
In fact, rising HDB rental rates across the board have even caused IRAS to increase the annual value of HDB flats, meaning most HDB owners will have to pay higher property taxes in 2022! (Read our guide to property tax to get the lowdown on how much you'll need to pay next year.)
Nonetheless, rising rental prices are unlikely to dampen demand for individuals, couples, and families looking for their own space, especially now that many workplaces are adopting a hybrid-WFH approach to work. The question is, how much do you need to earn to afford to rent an HDB flat?
Let’s look at the HDB rental prices in Singapore and how much monthly salary is required to afford different flat types:
HDB Rental Transactions: How Much Are Current HDB Rental Rates?
If you’re planning to rent an HDB flat, you’ll need to know the market HDB rental rates first. We’ve done a quick compilation of the median HDB rental prices for 3, 4 and 5-room flats in Singapore, based on the HDB rental transaction data published on HDB's website.
Median HDB Rental Flat Prices (Q3 2021)
3-room HDB flat rental prices
4-room HDB flat rental prices
5-room HDB flat rental prices
Ang Mo Kio
Choa Chu Kang
Wondering what the asterisk (*) and dash (-) mean? The former means there were fewer than 20 HDB rental transactions for the location and flat type in the quarter, while the latter indicates zero HDB rental transactions.
What Are the HDB Rental Rates by Flat Type?
Putting it all together, the above HDB rental transaction data suggests the following HDB rental flat prices:
HDB Rental Flat Price Range by Flat Size (Q3 2021)
HDB Flat Type
$1,680 to $2,230
$1,900 to $2,800
$2,000 to $3,000
In general, these HDB rental prices are the range you're looking at if you want to rent an entire HDB flat.
The lower end of the range typically applies to flats in 'ulu' or non-mature estates (such as Woodlands or Bukit Panjang), while HDB flats in mature or central estates (like Toa Payoh and Kallang/Whampoa) command top dollar.
Do note that newer developments or those close to amenities such as choice primary schools, MRT stations or bus interchanges might be pricier.
Armed with these HDB rental rates, you can now decide which estate what flat type would best suit your rental budget.
What Makes Some HDB Flat Rental Prices Higher?
The compiled HDB rental transactions show us that demand for HDB flat rentals is on the rise. But are there certain factors that influence HDB rental prices across the island?
In the past, high HDB rental flat prices may have been closely linked to central locations. But these days, location is becoming less of a defining factor.
"No longer is it just limited to districts closer to CBD, even the heartlands have seen a price increase," shares Asyraf. Andrew agrees, highlighting that he's also seen rising prices in suburban areas like Woodlands, Ang Mo Kio and Tampines. He also notes that HDB flats near the MRT are seeing "the greatest jump".
When it comes to the most popular unit types, 4-room and 5-room flats are dominating the market. These have three bedrooms, which is a good size for families. According to Cedric Lim from PropNex Realty, even though these are the bigger and more expensive HDB flats, there is still a market for them as private properties of similar sizes are going for twice the price.
HDB Rental Rates Aside, What Are the Other Costs of Renting?
It’s one thing to be able to afford the rent, but there are some 'unseen' costs you'll need to budget for.
For a start, remember to factor in agent fees (if any) and other costs like stamp duty and so on. You might also need to pay a deposit to your landlord when you begin your rental contract (and when your lease ends) – and do read all the terms and conditions carefully.
Also, your rental tenancy agreement may or may not cover repairs, so you might need to fork out your own cash to fix stuff (do seek approval from your landlord first). On that note, you might also want to consider insurance. While it’s not compulsory, getting a renter’s insurance that covers your personal belongings would be wise.
Finally, there's moving out and living on your own for the first time. If you previously lived with your parents, it can be a shock to learn how much all these regular costs add up:
Utilities (water, electricity, gas)
Food and groceries
Video streaming (Netflix, Disney+, etc)
Other day-to-day costs
For example, now that you’re living on your own, you cannot leech off – erm, share – your family’s WiFi, utilities or air-con. Unless you want to rely solely on your mobile data, you’ll need to sign up for a WiFi plan, pay your utilities and electricity bills, air-con servicing, or even buy your own food (if you’re from a household that cooks daily). If your family used to watch Netflix together, you might need to upgrade your account to support concurrent users or get your own video streaming service.
Don’t forget to factor in your usual day-to-day costs, such as eating out, going to the doctor, shopping, transport and so on. Especially for transport, if your new home is further away from your school/work/kids’ schools, you might need to factor in additional costs.
How Much of Your Income Should You Budget for HDB Rental?
To be safe, don’t spend more than 40% of your income on rent. Remember to include some buffer for unexpected costs, new out-of-pocket fixed costs such as utilities and WiFi, or even some furniture and indoor plants to spruce up your new living quarters.
Even if you feel you can spend more than 40% of your income on rent, it’s better to play it safe. It’s smart to keep the remainder for emergencies, and the rest goes towards your day-to-day spending, investments and/or 'treat yourself' purchases.
Also, this 40% should be calculated against your take-home income; so if your salary is $5,000 a month, this means you have $4,000 take-home income a month, and you can spend up to $1,600/month on rent.
Effectively, this means an individual can only afford to rent a 3-room flat in a non-mature estate like Woodlands unless shared amongst housemates or a partner.
Related article: Singapore Property Rental: A Guide for Tenants and Landlords
How Much Do You Need to Earn to Afford Current HDB Rental Rates?
Going back to the table on average HDB rental prices, let’s work backwards and calculate how much you need to earn to afford to rent the various flat types.
HDB Rental Rates and How Much You Need to Earn
HDB Rental Flat Price (per month)
Take-home Income Needed (per month)
Gross Monthly Salary Needed
3-Room (more expensive)
4-Room (more expensive)
5-room (more expensive)
According to Ministry of Manpower figures, $4,680 was the median gross monthly income from work, including CPF contributions, of full-time employed residents in 2020.
This works out to about $3,200 take-home income from work a month. Hence, a working individual has $1,280/month to spend on rent – which is lower than the median rental amount of a 3-room HDB unit in a non-mature estate.
So if HDB rental flat prices are out of your budget, you'll probably need to look for cheaper units, find a housemate/partner to share the rental costs, or consider renting a room instead (since HDB room rental prices are considerably lower than the rental for the entire flat).
Tips for Negotiating Monthly HDB Rental Rate
Is it possible to negotiate for a lower HDB rental rate? Yes! Before you despair, here are some strategies you can employ to push down your HDB rental flat price by a possible 10% to 15%:
1. Take Up a Longer Lease
Confident that you’ll be renting this unit for some time? The same principle of buying in bulk to save more applies here. Negotiate a longer lease with your landlord for a cheaper base price each month.
2. Compare HDB Rental Prices
When it comes to HDB rental prices, it’s good to cross-compare rates of neighbouring developments just in case your landlord might be overcharging you. Check for HDB rental transactions in the same development, or better still, in your exact same block.
HDB has a nifty HDB Rental Rates portal where you can search for the past year's HDB rental transactions by block/street. You can also check out our listings of HDB units for rent to see what other landlords are asking for (plus view the condition of the house through the pictures, etc).
3. Is the Unit Furnished?
Speaking of images, our HDB for rent listings also indicate if the unit is fully furnished, partially furnished or unfurnished. A fully furnished unit will definitely command a higher HDB rental price.
However, it's not always cheaper to rent an unfurnished HDB flat and decorate it to your liking. Make sure you calculate your furnishings budget because that gold 4-poster bed might likely tear a hole in your wallet.
Do also compare like for like; an unfurnished house should not cost the same to rent as a fully furnished unit.
4. Mind Games?
The other tactics involve a bit of psychology – for example, some landlords/agents may relent and offer a lower price if you play 'hard to get' and don’t seem enthusiastic about the unit or agree on the price from the beginning.
If you build a good rapport with the agent/landlord, they may also offer you a better price. It might also be helpful to name your price – after doing your homework on HDB rental transactions, of course – during the final negotiation.
More FAQs about HDB Flat Rentals in Singapore
Can a Singapore PR Rent An HDB Room?
Yes. A Singapore Permanent Resident can rent an HDB room from the owner of the HDB flat. Do ensure that the flat owner has the HDB’s approval to rent out the flat to you (you can ask to see a copy of the HDB’s approval letter).
Can Foreigners Rent An HDB Flat?
It depends. Only non-citizens legally residing in Singapore can rent an HDB flat, NOT tourists. This means the foreigner needs to hold an eligible pass (Employment Pass, S Pass, Work Permit, Student Pass, Dependant Pass, or Long-Term Social Visit Pass) that must have a validity period of at least 6 months as at the date of application by the flat owners.
How to Rent An HDB Flat in Singapore?
Can a Divorcee Rent A Flat from HDB?
Yes, divorcees can rent a subsidised flat from HDB via the Public Rental Scheme provided they meet the various eligibility criteria. There’s also the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme for those waiting for the completion of a flat but need an interim rental property.
For more property news, resources and useful content like this article, check out PropertyGuru’s guides section.
Already found a new home? Let PropertyGuru Finance's home finance advisors help you with financing it.
This article was written by Mary Wu, who hopes to share what she's learnt from her home-buying and renovation journey with PropertyGuru readers. When she's not writing, she's usually baking up a storm or checking out a new cafe in town.