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Singapore among world’s most expensive cities to rent property

20 Feb 2012


  • Strong Singapore dollar pushes up rental cost for foreign residents; average monthly rent for three-bedroom apartment rose 15% in US dollar terms over the past year
  • Hong Kong remains most expensive globally; three-bedroom apartments rent for an average US$11,810 a month
  • Monthly rents in Asia average $3,680, 20% higher than global average

Singapore remains the ninth most expensive city to rent property globally, and third most costly in Asia, despite modest increases in rental prices last year, according to the latest accommodation data from ECA International, the world's leading knowledge and solutions provider for international HR professionals.
 
The average rent for an unfurnished three-bedroom apartment in Singapore rose 3% last year in Singapore dollar terms, one of the lowest in the region. This is a much lower rate of increase than the previous year when rents rose over 10%.
 
“Singapore’s strong economic recovery following the downturn in 2008 has seen expatriate numbers increase significantly over the last two years,” explains Lee Quane, Regional Director, ECA International, Asia. “However, a number of new property developments in the market has led to pressure on rental property availability easing over the last year. This has resulted in only modest rent rises.”
 
On average, a three-bedroom property costs US$5,570 per month to rent in Singapore, the third highest among 22 cities in Asia.
 

Effect of strong Singapore dollar

ECA’s research shows that over 90% of companies sending employees on international assignment contribute to the cost of accommodation in the host country. This can be one of the most significant costs incurred during an assignment. Expatriates tend to gravitate towards particular areas within cities because of the location of international schools, embassies or social focal points. These often tend to be the more expensive, prestigious areas in a city.
 
"Depending on how companies provide housing or allowances to their assignees, currency movements can have a big impact on such costs for a company,” says Quane. “In Singapore rents have risen by just 3% in local currency, but the strength of the Singapore dollar means that when we convert these prices into US dollars for comparison, the increase stands at 15%. Companies need to regularly review their housing allowances and polices in order to keep up with fluctuations."
 

Hong Kong rental prices double Singapore’s

Hong Kong has the most expensive rental property in the world. An average rent for an unfurnished three-bedroom apartment in Hong Kong is $11,813 per month. This is a 15% increase over the past year in local currency terms and double the amount it costs to rent a similar property in Singapore.  In a much sought after area such as the Peak, the rent can go up to $19,900 a month.
 
"International assignee numbers in Hong Kong have increased again over the past two years, contributing to the demand for rental accommodation," says Quane. "This comes at a time when a significant proportion of the local population, unable to buy property due to steep increases in property prices, is looking to rent instead. This has put renewed pressure on the already limited supply of rental property here, resulting in these large rent increases."
 
Within the region, Hong Kong is followed by Tokyo, where a three-bedroom apartment costs approximately $9,450 to rent a month. Along with Singapore, Mumbai (13th globally) and Seoul (14th) make up the rest of the top five most expensive locations to rent a three-bedroom apartment in Asia.
 
Karachi in Pakistan has the cheapest rental accommodation in Asia and globally, averaging just $360 per month.
 
Published annually since 1996, ECA's Accommodation reports provide information on rental costs in over 130 locations worldwide, concentrating on the areas and types of accommodation commonly sought by international assignees. The data enables managers to make informed decisions about the provision of housing or housing allowances as part of their international assignment packages.
 

Asia overview – ups and downs

With many Asian economies performing well during 2011, expatriate populations have increased in major cities throughout the region. As a result, rental prices for three-bedroom apartments in Asia have gone up 5% in local currency terms over the last 12 months and 10% in US dollar terms. Rents in the region now average $3,680, nearly 20% higher than the global average of $3,080.
 
Mainland Chinese locations are among those that have seen the largest increases in the region. However, rental increases elsewhere in the world mean that Shanghai remains in 18th position globally and Beijing has actually slipped two spots to 26th year-on-year.
 
"There are a number of reasons behind rising rents in mainland China," adds Quane. "Continuing increases in international assignments into China are creating an on-going demand for rental property. Furthermore, with house prices continuing to fall there, many locals are looking to rent until the housing market bottoms out. These factors, along with municipal measures and tougher lending criteria, have driven an increase in demand for rental accommodation."  
 
Rents in India have also gone up considerably over the last 12 months. Rental prices in Mumbai and New Delhi have increased approximately 8 -10%, following falls the previous year.
 
The biggest fall in rents in Asia has been in Tokyo. This continues the trend of year-on-year rental price decreases witnessed there since the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008.
 
"Assignee numbers in Tokyo are still lower than before the financial crisis," explains Quane. "This means there is less demand for rental property in expatriate areas, and rents in those areas have steadily fallen since then, dropping almost 5% in Yen terms. Further falls in international assignee numbers following the tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster have continued to contribute to this trend.
 
"However, when the current strong Yen is factored in, rents in Tokyo are actually 5% higher in US dollar terms compared to the same time last year, despite the decrease. Effectively, the currency has increased by more than Tokyo landlords have lowered rents.”
 
“We have also seen a similar situation in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur,” Quane adds.
 
At the very top end of the rental accommodation market, Hong Kong remains the most expensive location surveyed. However, at the lower end of the market, Hong Kong falls from top spot: when rents for two-bedroom apartments in lower-cost areas are compared, Hong Kong slips to fifth while Tokyo takes top spot.
 

Around the world

Globally, rental prices for a three-bedroom apartment have risen to $3,080 - up from last year's $2,750 average. After rents fell in many cities in the immediate aftermath of the global downturn in 2009, many rental markets continued to stagnate during 2010. Many of these locations have picked up economically over the past 12 months, increasing demand and reversing the previous trend of rental falls. Rents, in local currency, have risen 4.5% on average over the past year.
 

Australasia

Rents in Australia continue to rise. Sydney has moved up two places to 15th position globally, followed by Melbourne, which rose 12 places to 29th.
 
The continued strength of the Australian dollar against other major currencies can be seen clearly in rental price increases. In Sydney, rents rose just over 5.5% in Australian dollar terms, but when converted into US dollars the increase is a dramatic 24%.
 
Of the Australian locations surveyed, Brisbane has seen the biggest rent hikes. Rents there have increased 10.5% in local currency and almost 30% in US dollars.
 

Europe

Moscow remains the most expensive location in Europe for three-bedroom rental property and is ranked third globally. Among European locations, Moscow is followed by London (5th globally) and Geneva (7th).
 
Despite economic uncertainty in the Eurozone, many rental markets in Europe stabilised during 2011 after two consecutive years of falls. Average rents for three-bedroom apartments within the region are approximately $2,900. This figure is up from the previous year's average of $2,520. The strengthening of the euro against the US dollar between surveys has again played a role in these fluctuations: in local currencies, rents have risen approximately 3% over the past year across Europe.
 
The biggest increases in rental prices in Europe were observed in Swiss locations as well as Stockholm and London.
 

Americas

New York, ranked fourth globally, is the most expensive place for three bedroom rental accommodation in the Americas. The US city is followed by Caracas (6th globally) and Bogota (8th), where international assignees typically live in high-security compounds that command higher rents. Some of the largest rental increases within the Americas were seen in Santiago, Chile which is now ranked 38th globally.
 

Middle East

Abu Dhabi has dropped from 10th to 19th position but it still has the highest rental prices for three bedroom apartments in the region, followed by Dubai, which fell 16 places to 37th globally.
 

Most expensive locations in Asia for three-bedroom rental apartments

Asia rank 2011

Asia rank 2010

Location

Global Rank 2011

Global Rank 2010

1
1
Hong Kong
1
1
2
2
Tokyo
2
2
3
3
Singapore
9
9
4
4
Mumbai
13
11
5
5
Seoul
14
12
6
6
Shanghai
18
18
7
7
New Delhi
20
22
8
8
Beijing
26
24
9
13
Taipei
43
52
10
12
Jakarta
49
47
11
10
Bangkok
51
38
12
9
Ho Chi Minh City
52
33
13
11
Hanoi
53
42
14
14
Metro-Manila
55
53
15
15
Guangzhou
82
89
16
16
Kuala Lumpur
95
95
17
17
Nanjing
106
107
18
18
Shenzhen
111
113
19
19
Bangalore
116
116
20
20
Suzhou
121
121
21
21
Karachi
122
122

Top 20 most expensive locations globally for three-bedroom rental apartments

Location

Rank 2011

Rank 2010

Hong Kong
1
1
Tokyo
2
2
Moscow
3
3
New York NY
4
4
London
5
5
Caracas
6
8
Geneva
7
13
Bogota
8
6
Singapore
9
9
Lagos
10
7
Zurich
11
15
Rio de Janeiro
12
16
Mumbai
13
11
Seoul
14
12
Sydney
15
17
Paris
16
14
Sao Paulo
17
23
Shanghai
18
18
Abu Dhabi
19
10
New Delhi
20
22

 

ECA's Accommodation webinar - global trends in expatriate housing

To listen to the recording of ECA's Accommodation webinar please go to http://www.eca-international.com/resources/webinars
 

Notes to editors

ECA's Accommodation Reports

This ranking is based on data from ECA's Accommodation Reports. These are comprehensive guides to the costs and intricacies of renting expatriate accommodation, and are available for over 130 locations around the world. ECA has been producing Accommodation Reports since 1996.
 
To ensure impartiality and to maintain the accuracy of information, data from a number of sources is used to compile each Accommodation report. The principal sources are ECA's survey data, specially-collected surveys and information from letting agents and relocation agents.
 
The rental prices were collected in September 2011 and have been converted into US dollars for ease of comparison using the September 2011 exchange rate.
 
 

About ECA

ECA is the world's leader in the development and provision of solutions for the management and assignment of employees around the world. Delivering data, expertise, systems and support in formats which suit its clients, ECA's offer includes a complete 'out-source' package of calculations, advice and services for companies with little international assignment management experience or resource; subscriptions to comprehensive online information and software systems for companies with larger requirements; and custom policy and system development projects for companies who manage thousands of international assignees around the world.
 
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