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Ultimate Guide To Home Renovation In Singapore

Geralyne Ong

Geralyne Ong

Last updated 30 March, 2021

Renovating your dream home can be a walk in the park, if you follow these simple steps.

After years of building the perfect home for your Sims, saving home inspiration pictures on Instagram and watching a gazillion home makeover shows, it is finally your turn to own and renovate the home of your dreams. 

Whether it's bohemian chic, industrial, scandinavian, farmhouse or just a simple facelift, home renovation is a big ticket item and a project that can be difficult to manage.

Given the many home renovation horror stories, you’ll want to err on the side of caution, and by that we mean being informed.

To break it down, here’s a simple guide to help you get through this part of adulting without being scarred for life.

Table of contents

1. Level of home renovation

Are you going all the way or keeping it simple?

This decision would not only affect the total cost but also the time needed to plan and execute the renovation.

If you’re unsure where or how to start, we recommend renovating to suit your lifestyle for at least the next five years. This is because most homes would need a little sprucing up due to wear and tear, and homeowners with children would likely upgrade to a bigger unit.

In addition, resale flat owners should conduct a thorough check on the unit’s main electrical wirings and plumbing systems, and replace where necessary. Putting this off for later will be extremely disruptive (moving of furniture, clean up, etc.) and potentially more expensive (replacing damaged electrical appliances or furniture). 

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2. Design considerations

Undecided over which design theme you should adopt for your nest? Before you make a firm decision, here are some design considerations to mull over:

  • Skip fancy flooring and choose carpets
    • Parquet flooring and marble tiles are fancy but may lose their appeal over the years, and are expensive to maintain and replace.
    • Go for plain tiles and add to it a carpet for a pop of colour and dimension instead. Carpets are easy to clean, maintain and have become extremely affordable. You could find a large one for the living room at IKEA for just under $200
  • Avoid over-the-top themes
    • Love Santorini’s white washed houses, arched doorways and floor-to-ceiling mosaic tiled toilets so much that you want to incorporate it in your home? Well, you might want to reconsider it because extreme themes will lose its novelty after a couple of years.
    • To add, if you decide to go with an extreme theme like that, you might find yourself spending more money down the road to ‘tone things down a notch’.
  • Choose paint over wallpaper 
    • Like all pretty things, wallpaper doesn’t last. Due to Singapore’s erratic and humid weather, wallpaper tends to curl and discolour.
    • Paint on the other hand, will cause you no such inconvenience and would only peel if the sealant isn’t applied well or if there’s a burst pipe. 
    • Paint is also the cheaper of the two options. Painting an entire 4-room flat will set you back by around $1,200 to $1,500, while wallpapering could set you back by more than $900 for just the living room.
  • Landlords should breakeven in six months
    • Only proceed with renovation if it will help to increase rental income, and you can recuperate the renovation cost within six months. Afterall, you don’t want to be overspending on renovation that won’t give you good returns. 
    • On that note, you might also want to consider the demographic of your tenant . A bohemian chic themed home with all the frills will fetch a good price if it is located at district 9 or 10, especially if you are renting out to expatriates. However, if it is located in the heartlands, budget-conscious tenants won’t fork out more just for aesthetic reasons alone.

Find more design considerations that will also help you save money here.

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3. Tips to saving more 

Home renovation in Singapore will cost you a pretty penny but it's not impossible to keep costs low.

Here are a few tips to save on your home renovation, while ensuring that it still looks like you spent way too much on it:

  • Cut out the middleman
    • It's an open secret that the prices quoted to you by interior designers and contractors are inflated. While they try to do everything themselves, there are some renovations that will require a specialist. E.g. doors, windows, locks, window grilles, etc. 
    • To save on the costs, reach out to these specialists directly. Yes, it would be a little troublesome because you will be the one coordinating everything, but given the potential amount of savings, we think that it will be worth your while. 
  • Go for ready-made instead of custom-made furniture
    • Do you really need a floor-to-ceiling custom-built TV console, or would a similar ready-made one work just as well? 
    • There are tonnes of affordable ready-made furniture options available with some even customisation for certain parts. 
    • Custom-made furniture will also take time to build from scratch, unlike ready-made ones that can be delivered to your home the next day. Here are some hacks to finding the right furniture at the right price
    • Note: If your search for ready-made furniture in Singapore fails, try the one-stop shopping site, TaoBao
  • Request for custom-made pieces
    • Saw a Pierre Jeannaret conference chair that set your heart aflame, but can’t bear to part with S$3,980 (€2,499)? Get your interior designer or contractor to make one for you.
    • As they have access to a workshop and carpenters, replicating one should be easy peasy and wallet-friendly. 

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4. Hidden cost considerations

Sadly, it is a fact that no matter how prepared you are, you can’t foresee everything and there will be hidden costs. 

This is especially so for resale flats. Depending on its age, electrical wires or plumbing may require an overhaul, and the cost of that cannot be quoted until fixtures are taken down and checks are done.

Take for example, installing an air conditioning system. Sounds simple enough, right?

You won’t think about trunking (connects the individual indoor units to the condenser outside your flat) until you’re at the stage when you’re planning the route in detail, and you realise how unsightly it’s going to look.

In order to conceal this eye sore, a false beam or ceiling that wasn’t factored in the initial cost will have to be created, and this is where you will find your hidden cost. 

The solution? Go through the quotation with a fine-tooth comb and set aside a 5% buffer on top of the final quotation. 

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5. Setting a healthy and flexible budget

With all of that in mind, we’ve come to the part of setting aside a healthy and flexible home renovation budget. 

The average cost of home renovations in Singapore

Size of HDB flatAverage renovation cost for a new BTO flat Average renovation cost for resale flat
3-room (60 to 65 sqm)$32,000$42,600
4-room (90 sqm)$42,600$58,500
5-room (110 sqm)$52,100$65,200

Source: Qanvast

From the table above, you’ll notice that apart from your design preference, the budget actually depends on two things:

  • Type of flat: A 5-room flat will cost more to renovate when compared to a 3-room flat due to its size difference. 
  • Age of flat: Resale flats usually cost more to renovate than a new BTO flat of the same type.

For a better understanding of why resale flats cost more to renovate, here is a breakdown of renovation costs.

RenovationNew BTO flatResale flat
FlooringLaying of new tilesFor hygiene reasons, kitchen and bathroom flooring should be replaced for units aged 20 and above. This means hacking to remove the old tiles and cleaning
Older flats are also typically larger, which translates to higher cost
Electrical wiringNew electrical wiring, minimal electrical work neededOlder electrical wiring, replacements may be necessary
Plumbing worksNew plumbing system, minimal electrical work neededOlder plumbing system, replacements may be necessary
Hacking or building of wallsOnly to suit your design theme or expand spacesOnly to suit your design theme or expand spaces
Removal of built-in furnitureAs it comes unfurnished, there aren’t any fixtures to removeDepending on the previous owner and the design you are going for, built-in fixtures may need to be removed

But wait! Don’t forget the 5% buffer for hidden costs you may encounter along the way. 

Size of HDB flatAverage renovation cost for a new BTO flat + 5% buffer for hidden costsAverage renovation cost for resale flat + 5% buffer for hidden costs
3-room (60 to 65 sqm)$33,600$44,730
4-room (90 sqm)$44,730$61,425
5-room (110 sqm)$54,705$68,460

From here, you’ll have to decide if you would be financing it with your savings, a renovation loan or mix of both. 

If you’re intending to use most of your savings, then the question would be, ‘are you able to maintain the same quality of life with a comfortable amount of emergency funds stashed aside?’ If the answer is no, a renovation loan might be something you should consider. 

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6. In case of cash flow issues

So, you’ve set aside a healthy home renovation budget, engaged a trusted interior designer, approved of the design, paid the downpayment and ready to start renovations.

But life throws you a curve ball and this home renovation budget urgently needs to be used elsewhere. What do you do? 

Take a deep breath and try your best not to freak out because there’s much that can still be done.

Prioritise what is needed with a focus on functionality and work down the list. Renovate your home in parts, and shelf your plans for any fancy custom-made built-in furniture like floor-to-ceiling TV console, shoe cabinets, etc.

Based on functionality, we reckon that this should be order of renovation when faced with cash flow issues: 

  • Master bedroom
  • Other bedrooms (if you’ve parents or children staying with you)
  • Toilet
  • Kitchen
  • Study room
  • Dining area
  • Living room

If this is a rental unit, consider renting it out unfurnished. Use what little budget you have to build or install the bare minimum, e.g. lights, electrical wiring, air conditioning system, ceiling fan, stove top, kitchen cabinets, etc.

Granted that it may not fetch as high of a price as a fully-furnished house but any additional income is better than none. Besides, you could save up the rent money and continue renovations (if your tenants don’t mind) or after they leave. 

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Home renovation isn’t cheap and could leave you with a large bill. Maintain your lifestyle and keep your cash flow under control with a low interest rate renovation loan. Apply for one with us today to receive exclusive rewards*!

*Rewards may change at any time. Terms and conditions apply. 

Read these next: 
How Much Should You Pay For A Home Renovation In Singapore?
Here’s How to Affordably Furnish Your House… Without Anything From IKEA
6 Essentials You’ll Regret Not Buying Before Moving into Your New HDB Flat
HDB BTO Launches In 2021
HDB Loan Vs Bank Loan: Which One Should You Go For?

A lover of gin and all things Nigella Lawson, Geralyne’s constantly trying to adult like a pro. She spends most of her leisure time serving fur-babies and doing as many mountain climbers as she possibly can.


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