5 expat enclaves and their all-inclusive rental rates

5 expat enclaves and their all-inclusive rental rates
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Expat enclaves are an unofficial part of the Singapore real estate industry; but that doesn’t change the reality on the ground. Some parts of our island are just more popular among groups of foreigners than others.

Whether you’re a foreigner looking to rent, or a landlord wondering how to set your rates, here’s a current rundown for 2021:

Singapore’s main expat enclaves

The main areas at present are:

  • Holland Village (District 10)
  • Katong (District 15)
  • Orchard (District 9)
  • Robertson Quay (District 9)
  • Sentosa (District 4)

1. Holland Village (District 10)

The current average rental rate in 2021 so far is $3.82 psf for condos.

For landed properties, the average rental rate was $2.77 psf in 2020. We did not take 2021 into account because it has only had 1 rental transaction so far in the area.

For landlords, the drop in rental makes for grim reading – but for tenants looking to upgrade to a bigger space this could be a good opportunity to do so.

Developments closest to Holland Village MRT station:

Willyn Ville (60 metres) – $3.51 psf

Warner Court (60 metres) – $3.22 psf

Loft @ Holland (170 metres) – $6.54 psf

The Merasaga (230 metres) – $4.14 psf

Main mall(s):

  • Holland Road Shopping Centre
  • Raffles Holland V Mall

A brief rundown of the area:

Holland Village is known for being a high-rent area, but one without airs. Of all the expat enclaves besides Katong, we’d say this area provides the most interaction between locals and foreigners.

Holland Village is best known for its long rows of restaurants, cafes, and wine bars; the mix of cuisines is diverse, ranging from local hawker fare to Mexican to Japanese.

Holland V has also become, without deliberate planning, a node for creatives. Many Singaporeans bands, in particular, got their start playing live music in the Holland Village area.

Unlike areas like Orchard, Holland Village has a blend of both old and new buildings and businesses. This is Holland V’s “secret sauce”, as it provides a diverse mix of amenities.

What you should know about renting in Holland Village:

Holland Village is not the closest enclave to the CBD. Raffles Place is an 8.9-kilometre drive, or about 15 minutes. As such, Holland Village tends to attract tenants working in the One-North tech hub or Buona Vista; these are just a five-minute or six-minute drive respectively.

If you use the train, Holland Village is just one stop to Buona Vista, and two stops to One-North.

One of the quirks tenants often point out is how rent seems to get cheaper, as you near the MRT station. It actually doesn’t, as it’s simply that there are a lot of older condos, with lower rates, near the MRT station.

For example, Willyn Ville, known for being next to the MRT, dates back to 1982, while Warner Court goes back to 1995. The most recent completion is The Enclave in 2020, which is 600 metres or about a seven-minute walk from the MRT. Despite being further than the aforementioned properties, it averages $5.65 psf.

The newest existing option that’s close to the MRT is Loft @ Holland (completed 2014). At $6.54, the rental rate is high above the district average.

All this may make the older condos seem like a far better deal, but check first. Most of them have very limited facilities, and maintenance could be an issue.

2. Katong (District 15)

Current average rental rates are at $3.30 psf for condos.

It’s the same story with landed homes at Katong, with a drastic drop in average rental rates to $1.52 psf in 2020 (2021 has no landed rental transactions so far).

There are no MRT stations truly close to the Katong / Joo Chiat enclave just yet (at least, until the Thomson East Coast Line is up). As such, the following are properties close to some of the key amenities:

  • Marine Blue (500 metres from Parkway Parade) – $4.07 psf
  • Silversea (550 metres from Parkway Parade, if you take a shortcut across the roundabout) – $4.13 psf
  • The Red House (230 metres to 112 Katong Mall) – $3.25 psf
  • Ola Residences* (230 metres to Canadian International School) – $3.51 psf

*Not the same as The Ola EC.

Main mall(s):

  • Parkway Parade
  • 112 Katong
  • Katong Square

In addition, there are some older commercial properties like Roxy Square and Katong Shopping Centre in the area. These are not heavy on retail, but offer services like maid agencies, tuition services, salons, etc.

A brief rundown of the area:

Like Holland Village, Katong is one of the enclaves where there’s a lot more interaction between expats and locals.

This east-side location is known for its proximity to East Coast beach, and having a laid-back feel that contrasts with Singapore’s urban bustle.

Katong is only a three-minute drive from East Coast Park, where you have access to fishing, water sports, etc. along the East Coast beach.

Katong is a heritage zone (it was once a hub for the Peranakan community), and there are deliberate efforts to preserve the architecture and vibe.

The stretch along Joo Chiat has undergone slow gentrification, and artisanal diners, coffee-shop-turned-bars, etc. are a common sight. Closer to Parkway Parade, there’s a stretch of family-friendly pubs and sports bars.

Katong is also known for its number of enrichment and tuition centres for children; particularly its music schools (of the violin / piano / ballet variety).

What you should know about renting in Katong:

For drivers, Katong is within close distance to three key areas: it’s about 12 minutes from Raffles Place in the CBD, 11 minutes from Changi Airport, and eight minutes from Paya Lebar Quarter.

Unfortunately, Katong is much less accessible if you don’t drive. There’s no MRT station nearby at present, although this will change in coming years (an MRT station is being built in front of Parkway Parade).

3. Orchard (District 9)

Current rental rates in Orchard for condos are about $5.08.

Landed average rental rates are at $4.56 psf, which is surprisingly higher than recent years.

Developments closest to Orchard MRT

  • The Orchard Residences (integrated with the station) – $6.53 psf
  • Paterson Linc (240 metres) – $4.50 psf
  • TwentyOne Angullia Park (300 metres) – $6.09 psf

Main mall(s):

Orchard Road is the heart of Singapore’s shopping belt, so this would be a long list. The ones immediately near the MRT are:

  • Ion Orchard
  • Orchard Central
  • Orchard Gateway
  • Orchard 313

But suffice it to say you have more malls along the Orchard Road stretch than you’ll find anywhere else in Singapore.

A brief rundown of the area:

Orchard is the heart of retail in Singapore, and the entire stretch of Orchard Road is – broadly speaking – one mall after another.

There are bars and eateries tucked in the various alleys between malls, and Orchard gets most colourful toward the area of Orchard Towers and Ming Arcade (be aware that Orchard Towers is a red-light area, which contrasts sharply with the clean, upmarket appearance closer to the MRT).

Most of the retail here consists of luxury brands, designer products, etc. This also gives Orchard a reputation as a tourist hub, as wealthier buyers from overseas tend to congregate in the area. While there are day-to-day amenities like supermarkets, even these tend to be of the more upscale variety.

It’s usually the most affluent locals who can afford to live in the Orchard area, so it’s not a good place to experience the “real Singapore” (if you want a closer connection to local living, see Holland V and Katong above).

Lucky Plaza, along Orchard Road, is a known hub for the Filipino community in Singapore.

What you should know about renting in Orchard:

Orchard Road is about 11 minutes’ drive from the CBD, or about four train stops (direct line). This makes it ideal for tenants who work in the city centre.

That said, Orchard is currently reinventing itself . This is to find a better balance between its retail amenities, and more lifestyle-oriented venues. At present there’s a clear imbalance, as Orchard can seem to be little more than one mall after another.

4. Robertson Quay (District 9)

Current average rental rates at Robertson Quay are at $3.97 psf. You don’t have landed homes in this part of town so this obviously would not be shown.

Robertson Quay is in the same district as Orchard (see above). It’s about two kilometres south of Orchard Road, or around a seven-minute drive. Average rental rates for district 9 are already shown above.

The closest MRT stations to Robertson Quay would be Clarke Quay or Chinatown. The following are some of the nearby developments:

  • UE Square (450 metres to Clark Quay) – $3.69 psf
  • RV Point (700 metres to Clarke Quay) – $5.63 psf
  • The Quayside (950 metres to Clarke Quay) – $3.83 psf
  • River Place (750 metres to Chinatown via Upper Cross Street) – $4.16 psf

Main mall(s)

  • Robertson Walk
  • UE Square (this is both a residence and a mall)

A brief rundown of the area:

Robertson Quay is the largest of the three wharfs on the Singapore River. It’s the closest of the expat enclaves to the CBD, being just a seven-minute drive to Raffles Place. This is the same distance from the Orchard Road stretch.

Robertson Quay is also noted for being close to Clarke Quay, which is the nightlife / clubbing hub of Singapore. It’s also only 10 minutes from the Marina Bay area, with its casino and offices.

Robertson Quay itself is best known for dining (especially outdoor dining by the river), and its good mix of pubs and bars; these range from the divey to the high-end. Robertson Quay is also a common lunch spot for office workers in the CBD, resulting in brief but severe periods of congestion around noon.

What you should know before renting in Robertson Quay:

Robertson Quay offers a cheaper alternative to renting along Orchard Road itself, while still being close by. Besides UE Square, some of the older condos here – such as Mirage Tower dating back to 1996 – have rates that are under $4 psf.

Besides price, Robertson Quay caters better to tenants who favour nightlife over shopping. The Orchard belt is mostly dead after 10 pm, whereas nearby Clarke Quay is just getting started.

That said, Robertson Quay is not the greatest area to drive in; proximity to both Orchard and CBD means traffic jams are inevitable.

5. Sentosa (District 4)

Current average rental rates for condos in Sentosa are at $3.85 psf.

As for landed homes, this is at $3.78 psf (we’ll be taking 2020 data as 2021 has only had 1 transaction thus far).

The closest MRT station to Sentosa is HarbourFront. Developments closest to the train station are:

  • Corals at Keppel Bay (550 metres) – $5.02 psf
  • Caribbean at Keppel Bay (550 metres) – $4.78 psf
  • Harbourlights (650 metres) – $3.55 psf
  • Telok Blangah House (650 metres) – $2.13 psf

Main mall(s)

  • VivoCity
  • HarbourFront

A brief rundown of the area:

Sentosa is a resort island, which is also home to Universal Studios Singapore, two golf courses, 14 hotels, and Resorts World Sentosa (one of Singapore’s only two casinos).

This island, separate from the mainland, is best known for its landed properties – Sentosa Cove is the only place in Singapore where foreigners can own a landed home, without needing special permission.

Next to Orchard, it’s the enclave best known for catering to Ultra High Net Worth individuals.

What to know before renting in Sentosa

Sentosa rentals are mainly for luxury, not so much practicality. Sentosa Cove is at best a 14-minute drive to Raffles Place, and a 17-minute drive to Orchard.

For public transport, if you reside on Sentosa itself, you’ll need to use the Sentosa Express to connect to the wider MRT network in HarbourFront. It can take some getting used to, and will add time to your journey.

That said, Sentosa is a good area to consider if you’re involved in boating, are a yacht owner, etc. Keppel Bay, along with Sentosa Cove, has berthing facilities; and these provide a convenient way in and out of Singapore by sea.

The good news is, most parts of Singapore are well connected

Wherever you choose to stay (except Sentosa), there’s a good chance you can get around quickly; even without a car. We’d suggest placing the vibe of the place ahead of, say, saving an extra minute to get to work.

If you’d like to see the rental rates of HDB and condos from the different neighbourhoods, here’s a comprehensive list:

HDB town
Three-room flat (Approx. 700 sq. ft.) Four-room flat (Approx. 970 sq. ft.) Five-room flat (Approx. 1,184 sq. ft.) Executive flat (Approx. 1,500 sq. ft.) Price psf (Average over all flat types)
Ang Mo Kio $1,732 $2,111 $2,342 $2,263 $2.39
Bedok $1,725 $2,040 $2,257 $2,443 $2.26
Bishan $1,860 $2,263 $2,505 $2,674 $2.26
Bukit Batok $1,623 $1,951 $2,153 $2,261 $2.07
Bukit Merah $1,954 $2,542 $2,763 Excluded* $2.63
Bukit Panjang $1,538 $1,769 $1,905 $2,075 $1.69
Bukit Timah $2,250 $2,095 $2,239 $2,786 $1.95
Central $2,165 $2,830 $3,294 Excluded* $3.06
Choa Chu Kang $1,554 $1,806 $1,895 $2,057 $1.65
Clementi $1,876 $2,322 $2,599 $2,663 $2.58
Geylang $1,763 $2,243 $2,429 $2,610 $2.43
Hougang $1,669 $1,951 $2,128 $2,289 $1.99
Jurong East $1,703 $2,053 $2,268 $2,471 $2.10
Jurong West $1,651 $1,995 $2,158 $2,275 $1.88
Kallang – Whampoa $1,903 $2,395 $2,603 $2,669 $2.57
Marine Parade $1,832 $2,078 $2,534 Excluded* $2.46
Pasir Ris $1,835 $1,962 $2,117 $2,226 $1.71
Punggol $1,737 $1,911 $1,951 $2,044 $2.24
Queenstown $1,907 $2,598 $2,809 $3,044 $2.72
Sembawang $1,436 $1,791 $1,912 $2,068 $1.78
Sengkang $1,651 $1,919 $1,951 $2,089 $1.70
Serangoon $1,794 $2,203 $2,280 $2,478 $2.25
Tampines $1,750 $2,064 $2,226 $2,349 $2.08
Toa Payoh $1,816 $2,238 $2,536 $2,636 $2.48
Woodlands $1,492 $1,778 $1,875 $2,117 $1.66
Yishun $1,591 $1,846 $2,015 $2,138 $1.97
District Average rental rate across the district Average rental rate on a psf basis
1 (Chinatown, Raffles Place, Boat Quay) $4,569 $4.93 psf
2 (Anson Road, Tanjong Pagar) $3,611 $5.32 psf
6 (City Hall) $5,378 $7.72
9 (Orchard) $5,020 $4.29
10 (Bukit Timah, Holland Village, Tanglin) $5,545 $3.60
11 (Newton) $4,197 $3.71

RCR condos

District Average rental rate across the district Average rental rate on a PSF basis
Three (Tiong Bahru, Queenstown) $3,687 $4.23
Four (Sentosa, Harbourfront) $6,319 $3.94
Five (Buona Vista, Pasir Panjang) $3,252 $3.32
Seven (Bugis, Beach Road) $3,868 $4.37
Eight (Little India) $2,982 $3.77
12 (Novena, Toa Payoh) $2,677 $3.49
13 (Potong Pasir) $2,683 $3.59
14 (Geylang, Paya Lebar) $2,496 $3.44
15 (Marine Parade, East Coast) $3,401 $3.06
20 (Ang Mo Kio) $2,998 $2.95

OCR condos

District Average rental rate across the district Average rental rate on a PSF basis
16 (Bedok) $2,760 $2.89
17 (Changi, Pasir Ris) $2,212 $2.34
18 (Tampines) $2,497 $2.78
19 (Hougang, Punggol) $2,517 $3.04
21 (Clementi, Upper Bukit Timah) $3,017 $2.69
22 (Jurong) $2,924 $3.11
23 (Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang) $2,462 $2.61
24 (Tengah)* No condos yet* No condos yet*
25 (Woodlands) $2,321 $2.72
26 (Yio Chu Kang, Mandai) $2,527 $2.14
27 (Yishun, Sembawang) $2,394 $2.72
28 (Seletar) $2,244 $2.85

This article was first published in Stackedhomes.

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