Dwellings here, Dwellings there, Dwellings everywhere
The jigsaw puzzle that is the Singaporean real estate market can be divided up, labeled, categorised, and sliced into various forms and types of housing types – or, dwellings. To make sense of it all we have created an excruciatingly comprehensive overview of all types of housing in Singapore.
1. Public Housing – (HDB)
First off, there are, of course, the HDB properties. For those who aren’t familiar with the Singaporean housing market, listen up! For everybody else, either skip ahead or tune in to relive a pivotal piece of Singaporean history.
So, HDB properties. The tale goes something like this: Once upon a time, there was a tiny dot of land that was experiencing relentless economic growth leading to a rapid appreciation of its real estate market.
With mansions, luxury estates and skyscrapers mushrooming all over the place, the government decided to intervene in the housing market so that its citizens could continue to enjoy affordable homes – and thus, HDB flats were born.
Subsidised and regulated by the Housing and Development Boards (hence HDB), the flats were hugely popular and today, more than 80% of Singaporeans live in public housing.
Relatively cheaper housing does, of course, come with some strings attached, the most notable of which is that to be eligible for HDB property, your household income cannot exceed a specified amount.
To accommodate the different segments of societies, HDB offers public housing in various forms.
Studio apartments are designed and tailored to meet the needs of elderly residents with modest means who aim to live independently. They come in two sizes, 36 and 45 sqm (387 and 484 sqft), both of which can comfortably accommodate one or two people.
The apartments have many elderly-friendly features such as specialised non-slip tiles, support bars in the bathroom and multiply pull-for-help cords.
The 2-room HDB flat is specifically tailored towards the smaller and less affluent households. These dwellings are typically around 45 sqm (484 sqft) including a bedroom, a living room, a kitchen, bathroom and storeroom.
When viewed in comparison to its private counterpart, the 2-room HDB flat can be viewed as a one bedroom apartment’s twin brother, just a lot cheaper.
Despite what the name suggests, the 3-room HDB flat is actually quite a bit more than just a one room upgrade from the 2-room HDB flat. It comprises of a living area, a master bedroom plus attached bathroom, another bedroom, a common bathroom, a kitchen, a service yard and a storeroom.
This flat totals about 60 to 65 sqm (645 to 700 sqft). While still a little compact, it is a viable living option for small families with on a budget.
Ideal for young couples starting a family, the 4-room flat offers an intimate and cozy living experience. Basically, it’s the 3-room flat plus one bedroom, upping the total estimated living space to about 90 sqm (968 sqft). This flat type is available in a variety of layouts tailored to your preferences.
Covering 110 sqm (1184 sqft), the 5-room flat is a more spacious variation on the previously mentioned flats, including an additional dining area space that some people convert to an additional room by building partitions.
This one is a heads-up for Singaporeans – HDB is trying out a new type of design dubbed the 3Gen Flats, or 3 generation flats, specifically tailored to multi-generational families.
Compared to the 5-room flat, it’s considerably more spacious with an estimated 115 sqm (1237 sqft), making way for an additional bedroom and bathroom.
3Gen flats were piloted at Yishun, where 84 units were built. If you’re looking to snag one, check out the August 2022 HDB BTO launch in Ang Mo Kio, where there are a handful of such flats available at an estimated price range of between S$715k to S$840k.
This mammoth of an HDB flat has an estimated 130 sqm (1400 sqft) of floor area. The highlights include an extra space, ideal for a study room or alternative television corner. Additionally, some of the executive flats come adorned with a balcony.
In the spirit of offering greater choice and wider variety to meet the housing aspirations of higher income flat buyers, HDB introduced the Design, Build and Sell Scheme in 2005. While put under review in 2011, a total of 13 DBSS sites were launched.
The DBSS falls somewhere in between the larger HDB flats and an Executive Condominium. In terms of class, it caters to the segment of society that is affluent enough to buy or rent the better HDB flats, yet are not ready to make the jump into the private market space.
2. Public – Private Hybrids
The executive condominium is a type of property starts off as a public housing unit, then phases into private housing after 10 years of ownership.
Tailored to young professionals who can afford more than an HDB flat but find private property still a little out of reach, the executive condominium share most of the design and facilities of a private condominium yet has the affordable edge of being HDB-issued.
So why would anyone go for a private condominium when you can basically get the same deal, just cheaper in the HDBs executive condominium? Apart from considerations of status, there are some noteworthy differences.
When putting the metaphorical magnifying glass on the fine print, it becomes clear that there are three noteworthy differences:
- The executive condominium comes with some ownership restrictions. Designed to dissuade investment and stimulate ownership driven purchasing, the executive condominium comes with a 5-year Minimum Occupation Period (MOP), which means that you have to live in the condominium for at least 5 years before you are granted the rights to sell it on the open market to Singapore Citizens and PRs. And after another 5 years, the executive condominium acquires “privatised” status, and effectively becomes a normal condominium, opening the buyer pool further to foreigners.
- Yet another difference lies within the CPF housing grants. For executive condominiums, where eligible, you can apply for government assistance and get a subsidy of between S$10,000 and S$30,000, depending on your household income.
- While condominiums can be either 99-year, 999-year or freehold, all executive condominiums come with a 99-year leasehold.
Decades of strong economic growth combined with the more or less continues influx of affluent foreigners, and relatively limited supply of land (it’s a tiny dot!), have led to decades of private residential property appreciation.
This in turn has made Singapore a hotspot for real estate investments, a phenomenon which in turn feeds into the property appreciation. Economic gibberish aside, bottom line is that prices of private residential property have, when put in a historical perspective, been on a rising trend.
This has led Singapore to host a dynamic and diversified private housing sector.
The different types of private residential property can be subdivided into two main cadres: landed property and condominiums/apartments.
Condominiums and apartments form the most popular destination for private property enthusiasts. Essentially, they’re a more luxurious version of HDB flats, and can widely be categorised into condos, apartments and a variation that is called a “walk-up”.
Condominiums can be regarded as the liberated, and relatively unrestricted brother of the executive condominium. Home to recreational facilities such as swimming pools, security, gyms and at times tennis courts, basketball pits, and well-maintained gardens, condominiums are the go-to option for those who are looking for private housing yet find landed properties either too expensive or too much maintenance.
Apartments are similar to condominiums, yet they tend to be part of smaller developments and are home to less generous provisions of communal and recreational facilities.
Apartments are generally more affordable than both landed property and condominiums yet more expensive than the subsidised HDB flats.
Brilliantly coined the “walk-up”, this special breed of dwelling is a condominium or apartment that does not include lifts, hence the name. Naturally, such dwellings are low-built so that even though a lift is absent, no extensive trekking is required to reach one’s unit.
3. Landed property
Landed properties are viewed by many Singaporeans as the housing equivalent of reaching the top rungs of the society’s social ladder. While admittedly high maintenance, landed properties are unrivalled in terms of their sheer size, spacious living quarters and privacy.
From the upper left corner to the bottom right one the different dwellings are: 1. Bungalow 2. semi-detached house 3. Terrace Houses 4. Shophouses 5. Good Class Bungalow 6. Cluster 7. Townhouse
Terrace houses (or row houses) are properties which are part of a row of similar houses joined together by a common boundary. While joined, each terrace house is a property in its own respect and has its own walls and roof.
Rather self-explanatory, conservation houses constitute historically significant houses in Singapore which have been renovated and are conserved to fit within the urban fabric of modern Singapore.
The bulk of the conservation houses in Singapore are known as shophouses. In stark contrast to the modern and at times futuristic architecture that reflects Singapore’s rapid evolution in many buildings (yes, we’re talking about that spaceship-slash-hotel at Marine Bay, and the Durian-shaped theatre that we call the Esplanade), shophouses are a mashup of Chinese, Malay and European architecture and traditions.
Essentially, a shophouse is a special type of terrace house. Often two to three stories high, shophouses are conserved terrace houses. Due to their rich historical significance, they’ve grown into a type of special dwelling of their own in Singapore.
While not very common, the shophouses give the Singaporean urban landscape a distinct look and can be found in neighbourhoods such as Katong, Little India, Emerald Hill, and Chinatown.
The smaller (and mostly cheaper) brother of the Good Class Bungalow caters to the near-top-tier of the better-offs. With a minimum plot size of 400 sqm (4305 sqft), the bungalow house is still one of the larger estates, even amongst landed properties.
By definition, a bungalow is also detached, in that no other estate is in some way linked to it, further adding to its privacy and exclusivity.
Within the faction of bungalow houses lie four types or “classes”, differentiated on the basis of their respective plots of land:
- Class 1: 400 sqm to 550 sqm (4305 to 5920 sqft)
- Class 2: 550 sqm to 700 sqm (5920 to 7534 sqft)
- Class 3: 700 sqm to 1000 sqm (7534 to 10,763 sqft)
- Class 4: 1000 sqm to 1400 sqm (10,763 to 15,069 sqft)
Anything above that puts the property in the Good Class Bungalow class.
Good Class Bungalow
Semantically understated, the ahem “good” Class Bungalow is a type of landed property tailored to the ultra high net worth individuals (UHNWIs).
This is the type of dwelling you may see in a Singaporean version of MTVs cribs (you know, that program with rich people, big houses and lots of bling) or Crazy Rich Asians.
With a land plot of minimum 1400 sqm (15,069 sqft), the GCB has a wealth of space, often encompassing large gardens, swimming pools and other luxury facilities – yes, private cinemas and basketball courts are not unheard of here.
Stressing their exclusivity in land-scarce Singapore, there are approximately 1000 GCBs spread out amongst the authorised strips of land.
A semi-detached house is not really a type in itself, rather it denotes a category of different houses, all of which abide by a series of criteria. For a dwelling to be semi-detached, it has to be partially attached on one side to any number of other units.
Common examples are semi-detached bungalow houses and semi-detached terrace houses (also known as a corner terrace).
The townhouse is a bit of a hybrid between a condominium and a landed property. While it has the characteristics of a landed terrace house, the townhouse shares common facilities such as swimming pools, gyms and other recreational facilities with other houses.
Either part of a lager condominium establishment or an entire estate, townhouses offer both privacy, spacious living, and convenience of facilities.
Another hybrid, designed to combine the privacy and spaciousness of landed properties, and convenience of condo-style facilities such as swimming pools, gyms, and taken-care-off gardens, the cluster home constitutes a rare yet upcoming market in Singapore. Cluster developments can be home to terraces, semi-detached housing, bungalows, a mix of these and share facilities within their developments.
Ultimately, all these pieces come together to form the entirety of the real estate market here in Singapore. Familiarising yourself with the different types of houses can be a useful first step in the search for your new home.
Tailoring your search according to property type is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to separate the wheat from the chaff. Use 99.co‘s powerful property search function to filter the results to the types of housing relevant for your search, by simply ticking off a series of boxes.
[Additional reporting by Jamie Wong]
Want to know more about Singapore real estate? Let us know in the comments section below.
If you found this article helpful, 99.co recommends 99.co guides: A comparison of public housing in Singapore and Property types in Singapore for Dummies (Infographics).
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