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Should Expats in Singapore Choose HDB or Condo Living?

Ryan Ong

Ryan Ong

Last updated 09 March, 2018

Condominiums may provide a more prestigious living environment, but HDB estates can offer greater convenience and community.

If you’re new to Singapore, you’ll already notice a rather large divide in housing. That’s between HDB living, and condo living. If you’re choosing between the two, there are some key points to note. Ponder carefully before making your decision, as the two are practically different worlds:

hdb estate - SingSaver

The Upsides of HDB Living

The main upsides of HDB living, as opposed to condo living, are:

- Lower rental rates

- Greater immersion in the community

- Generally better accessibility

- Amenities tend to be more affordable

1. Lower Rental Rates

HDB rental rates are much lower compared to condos. In parts of Singapore, entire five-room flats can be rented for below S$2,500 (although these can climb to around S$2,700 to S$3,000 as you get closer to the Central Business District).

Condos, on the other hand, rarely rent out for less than S$3,000 a month – even if they are suburban units. Toward the Central Business District, or the ritzy Districts 9 and 10, condo rental rates often start at around S$6,000 per month.

If you’re on a budget, HDB units should be your first choice.

2. Greater Immersion in the Community

Over 80 per cent of Singaporeans live in HDB flats. Furthermore, HDB estates are purpose-built to encourage community living. For example, void deck areas are specially designed for community events that range from bridal parties, to Chinese New Year festivities.

One interesting element of HDB flats is that they contain racial quotas, to prevent the formation of enclaves; you won’t find entire clusters dominated by a single ethnic group. This makes HDB estates a true melting pot of different cultures, and are reflective of Singapore’s multi-racial, port-city nature.

If you want to get “localised” and really understand how Singaporeans live, HDB flats will give you a more accurate picture.

3. Generally Better Accessibility

Most HDB estates are closer to MRT stations and bus stops. They are also closer to central clusters, where you find amenities like neighbourhood malls. Do note that in Singapore, condo developers often assume residents can afford private transport (or to use taxis all the time) – this results in some condos being located further away from neighbourhood hubs.

This is not always true, and there are condos which are just as conveniently located; but those are likely to feature high rental costs, and they don’t constitute the majority.

So if you don’t drive, or want to use public transport, then HDB units are generally a better choice.

4. Amenities Tend to be More Affordable

HDB asserts a lot of control over amenities in the estates, and it even has some influence in which shops open in heartland malls. This keeps things quite affordable. The little convenience stores below an HDB block, along with wet markets and hawker centres, allow you to find groceries and day-to-day supplies at a much lower cost.

Condo areas tend to be further away from these heartland amenities – they tend to attract higher budget businesses (e.g. hipster cafes or boutique retail outlets) in their area.

condo building exterior - SingSaver

The Upsides of Condo Living

The main upsides of condo living are:

- Greater privacy and exclusivity

- Better access to certain facilities

- Private security

- More pet friendly than HDB estates

1. Greater Privacy and Exclusivity

There are fewer people living in a condo than in an HDB estate. This usually means it’s much quieter – you may only have a single neighbour, for example, instead of several other families down the hallway from you.

Condos also tend to be self-enclosed, featuring landscaped gardens or sky parks – they feel very much like private enclaves. If the urban density of Singapore is a shock to you (which it probably will be, if you’re from places like Western Australia or the American Midwest), condos provide some reprieve.

However, note that the exclusivity often means you’re further from the neighbourhood hub; it also means you’re less likely to rub shoulders with the locals.

2. Better Access to Selected Facilities

Besides pools, saunas, tennis courts and barbeque pits, condos are quite innovative when it comes to facilities. Some have facilities such as rock-climbing walls, putting greens, communal movie theatres, and concierge services. An increasing number have “smart home” facilities, so you can control the lighting and air-conditioning with your phone, or view the inside of your unit by remote.

Some HDB estates do have similar facilities, but these tend to be more crowded as they’re shared by more residents.

3. Private Security

In HDB estates, the community mainly acts as the security (it’s hard to break into a house when there are four or five families on the same floor, all within shouting distance).

Condos, however, employ private security that patrols the grounds 24/7. The security systems also tend to be better built – in some condos, it’s impossible to even access your floor without a key card, even if someone were to sneak past security.

If you work in a sensitive field, or have other reasons for needing high levels of security, a condo is a better choice.

4. More Pet-friendly Than HDB Estates

Due to floor size and shared spaces, HDB estates are more restrictive regarding pets. You can see the approved list of pets here. If you have a dog that’s even a medium sized breed (e.g. a Siberian husky or larger), there’s no way that’s going to be allowed in an HDB flat.

Condos are less restrictive regarding the pets you can have (do check with the management committee or landlord first), even if they may place limits on where your pet can be brought.  

Read This Next:

5 Financial Steps to Take Before Relocating to Another Country

A Step-by-Step Guide: How to Buy Travel Insurance on Your Own

Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.


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