HDB Rental Prices in Singapore: How Much You Need to Earn to Afford Different Flat Types

·12-min read

Rising HDB rental prices and demand (well, the booming rental market in Singapore, generally) has been making the headlines in 2021.

We recently reported that millennials are turning to flat rentals for privacy, in light of the whole #workfromhome situation. While this trend has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was congruent with findings from our 2019 Consumer Sentiment Survey, which unveiled that more millennials are moving out of their family homes at an earlier age.

Read our latest Singapore Consumer Sentiment Study H1 2021, in which 72% of millennials surveyed want to move out of their family homes in the next year.

Honestly, it doesn’t help that the ongoing pandemic has also contributed to delays in construction due to tightened border measures, which could push back the completion of housing projects such as Build-To-Order (BTO) flats and other Buildings Under Construction (BUC) by a year or more.

In fact, 34% of the people surveyed in our PropertyGuru Singapore Consumer Sentiment Study H1 2021 cited the delay in completion dates as one factor which would affect their property decisions.

Whether you’re a fiercely independent millennial or a couple/family who needs their own space—or anyone in-between—if you want your own place, pronto, you’d be better off looking at either the resale or the rental market.

For most of us average Singaporeans, renting an HDB flat is much more feasible—it’s not only cheaper, but often more spacious as well. Let’s look at the HDB rental prices in Singapore and how much you need to earn to afford different flat types:

HDB Rental Prices: How Much is It?

If you’re planning to rent an HDB flat, you’ll need to know the market prices so that you can decide which estate you want to reside in and how many rooms you need, in order to set aside your base rental budget.

We’ve done a quick analysis of the median HDB rental prices for 3, 4 and 5-room flats in Singapore, as well as identified some value-for-money locations in both mature (M) and non-mature (NM) estates.

If you just want to see the numbers, here are the latest figures:

HDB Median Rental Prices (as of Q1 2021)

HDB Town

3-Room

4-Room

5-Room

Ang Mo Kio (M)

$1,800

$2,200

$2,400

Bedok (M)

$1,800

$2,100

$2,350

Bishan (M)

$1,880

$2,300

$2,500

Bukit Batok (NM)

$1,650

$2,000

$2,200

Bukit Merah (M)

$2,000

$2,600

$2,800

Bukit Panjang (NM)

$1,600

$1,800

$2,000

Bukit Timah (M)

Not enough data

Not enough data

Not enough data

Central (M)

$2,200

$2,830

Not enough data

Choa Chu Kang (NM)

Not enough data

$1,800

$2,000

Clementi (M)

$1,900

$2,400

$2,650

Geylang (M)

$1,800

$2,300

$2,700

Hougang (NM)

$1,700

$2,000

$2,200

Jurong East (NM)

$1,800

$2,100

$2,330

Jurong West (NM)

$1,700

$2,050

$2,200

Kallang/ Whampoa (M)

$2,000

$2,450

$2,700

Marine Parade (M)

$1,850

$2,200

Not enough data

Pasir Ris (M)

Not enough data

$2,000

$2,100

Punggol (NM)

Not enough data

$2,000

$2,000

Queenstown (M)

$1,900

$2,700

$2,800

Sembawang (NM)

Not enough data

$1,850

$2,000

Sengkang (NM)

$1,850

$2,000

$2,000

Serangoon (M)

$1,850

$2,250

$2,380

Tampines (M)

$1,800

$2,100

$2,300

Toa Payoh (M)

$1,850

$2,300

$2,500

Woodlands (NM)

$1,500

$1,800

$1,950

Yishun (NM)

$1,700

$1,900

$2,100

Source: HDB

Average HDB Rental Prices (Mature vs Non-Mature Towns)

HDB Flat Type

Monthly Rental

3-Room

$1,688 (non-mature towns) or $1,895 (mature towns)

4-Room

$1,936 (non-mature towns) or $2,338 (mature towns)

5-Room

$2,089 (non-mature towns) or $2,515 (mature towns)

For an even more succinct estimate, we’ve categorised the HDB rental prices by type of town and averaged out the numbers. Do note that newer developments or those close to amenities such as a top school, MRT station or bus interchange might be pricier.

Are HDB Rental Prices Rising?

According to the data, the rental volume for HDB flats hit a 9-month peak in March 2021; similarly, rental prices for HDB resale flats posted a 9 consecutive month of increases. Year-on-year, HDB rental prices increased by 3.4% (mature estates rose by 2%, non-mature estates rose by 5%). The largest increase was for 4-room HDB rental prices, which increased by 4.5% year-on-year.

On the ground, property agents Asyraf Azman (PropNex Realty) and Andrew Nair (ERA Realty Network) both observed HDB rental prices increasing across almost all districts. "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 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 it as private properties of similar sizes are going for twice the price.

Cost of Renting an HDB Flat in Singapore

It’s one thing to be able to afford rent, but moving out, especially for those who previously stayed with their parents, can incur a lot of “unseen” fixed costs.

  • WiFi

  • Utilities (water, electricity, gas)

  • Food and groceries

  • Video streaming (Netflix, Disney+, etc)

  • Renter's insurance

  • Other day-to-day costs

For example, now that you’re living on your own, you cannot leech—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.

There’s also insurance. While it’s not compulsory, getting a renter’s insurance that covers your personal belongings would be wise. 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. Your 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).

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.

Related article: 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Renting a Home and What You Can Do

Budgeting for HDB Rental

To be safe, don’t spend more than 40% of your income on rental. Remember to include some buffer for unexpected costs, new out-of-pocket fixed costs such as utilities and WiFi, or even some furniture/houseplant to spruce up your new living quarters.

Even if you feel you can spend more than 40% of your income on rental, 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 spend, 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 (unless shared amongst housemates or a partner).

Remember to factor in agent fees (if any) and other costs like stamp duty and so on.

Related article: Singapore Property Rental: A Guide for Tenants and Landlords

How Much Do You Need to Earn to Rent an HDB Flat?

Going back to the table on average HDB rental prices, let’s work backwards and calculate how much you need to earn to afford renting the various flat types.

Average HDB Rental Prices & How Much You Need to Earn

Average Median Rent (per month)

Take-home Income Needed (per month)

Gross Monthly Salary Needed

3-Room (Non-Mature Town)

$1,688

$4,220

$5,275

3-Room (Mature Town)

$1,895

$4,737.50

$5,922

4-Room (Non-Mature Town)

$1,936

$4,840

$6,050

4-Room (Mature Town)

$2,338

$5,845

$7,306

5-room (Non-Mature Town)

$2,089

$5,222.50

$6,528

5-room (Mature Town)

$2,515

$6,287.50

$7,859

According to Ministry of Manpower figures, $4,534 was the median gross monthly income from work, including CPF contributions, of full-time employed residents in 2020. This works up to about $3,100 take-home income from work a month. Hence, a working individual has $1,240/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 you don’t earn at least $5,275/month, you probably have to look for cheaper units, find a housemate/partner to share the rental costs, or consider renting a room instead.

Tips for Negotiating Monthly Rental

Is it possible to negotiate for lower rent? Yes! Before you despair, here are some strategies you can employ to push down the rental prices of HDB flats by a possible 10-15%:

  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.

  1. Play the Comparison Game

When it comes to rental prices, it’s good to cross compare rates of neighbouring developments just in case your landlord might be overcharging you. What was the last transacted rental price of a unit in the same development, or better still, in your exact same block?

HDB has a nifty Market Rental Rates portal where you can search by block/street on rental rates. 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).

  1. Is the Unit Furnished?

Speaking of images, our HDB for rent listings also indicate if the unit is fully furnished, partially furnished or unfurnished. Definitely, a fully furnished unit will cost more to rent, so isn’t it cheaper to just get an unfurnished unit and decorate it to your liking? It really depends — make sure you do up your furnishings budget prior, 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.

  1. 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 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, of course — during the final negotiation.

More FAQs on HDB Flat Rentals

Can a Singapore PR Rent An HDB Room?

Yes. A Singapore Permanent Resident can rent a 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 a 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?

Check out our guide to renting an HDB flat in Singapore (includes public schemes and from the open market).

Can a Divorcee Rent A Flat from HDB?

Yes, divorcees can rent a subsidised flat from HDB via the Public Rental Scheme, if they are eligible (must be Singapore Citizen, household income cannot exceed $1,500/month, etc).

Related article: Finding a Home After Divorce: What Are Your Options?

There’s also the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme if you’re 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.

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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.