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Singapore rental prices for mid-market accommodation drop for expat workers

  • Singapore drops down the rankings of most expensive accommodation in Asia
  • Hong Kong remains the most expensive location in Asia
  • South East Asian locations including Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta and Yangon, fall in rankings

Singapore has continued to fall in the list of the most expensive places in Asia for rental accommodation.

This was one of the findings of the latest research published by ECA International, the world's leading provider of knowledge, information and software for the management and assignment of employees around the world.

ECA International has been conducting research into accommodation costs for international executives for more than 20 years to help companies provide the right housing options as part of the overall compensation package for mobile employees. The research compares rental costs in accommodation in areas typically inhabited by expatriate staff in over 240 locations worldwide.

Rental prices for an unfurnished, mid-market, three-bedroom apartment in areas commonly inhabited by international executives in Singapore average USD 4 337 USD per month – over 175 US dollars cheaper per month than a year previously.

“Singapore is now the eighth most expensive location in Asia for rental accommodation, down one place from last year, and down from fourth in 2016. This is due to a slowing of economic growth and a net reduction in inbound assignments, exacerbating the surplus of higher-end properties on the market that would normally attract expatriates. This oversupply has reduced average rent levels in Singapore for the past three years.”

- Lee Quane, Regional Director - Asia at ECA International

To assist companies in formulating their accommodation policy and deciding what level of housing allowance to provide to international employees, ECA International publishes annual Accommodation Reports. These reports contain information on the types of accommodation and geographical areas usually favoured by international assignees – typically areas near to international schools, business districts or social focal points. Data from these reports is also used in ECA's Accommodation Tool for setting, managing and reviewing accommodation allowances for mobile staff.

Asia Highlights

The downward trend in accommodation costs in Singapore has also been witnessed in other locations in South East Asia. Declines in rental costs in districts commonly inhabited by international executives have also occurred in Ho Chi Minh city, Jakarta and Yangon. 

Similarly, Kuala Lumpur’s fall down the rankings shows no signs of stopping. The Malaysian capital is now out of the Asian top 40 most expensive rental locations and more affordable than places such as Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Kathmandu, Nepal.

“The property market in Kuala Lumpur has suffered from high levels of speculation over the past couple of years and high levels of new construction. The market is oversupplied, and landlords are having to compete significantly on price to secure tenants,” Quane said. 

“The domestic economy has not been strong enough to bolster demand for the excess of higher-end properties on the market. However, a slowdown in property construction and cooling measures from the Malaysian central bank should see the market stabilise in future years,” he added.

Elsewhere in the region, accommodation costs have been on the rise. Hong Kong remains the most expensive location in Asia for rental accommodation. Rental prices for an unfurnished, mid-market, three-bedroom apartment in areas commonly inhabited by international executives in Hong Kong average USD 10 461 per month. 

“With a high population density and a consistently limited supply of property, the average rent in Hong Kong continues to remain more expensive than in other high-profile Asian cities,” said Quane. “Rents have risen slightly in the past 12 months. However, despite the high rental costs in Hong Kong, rent for the type of accommodation featured in our research remains lower than it was in 2012.” 

Accommodation costs in many locations in China have increased in the past 12 months. Shanghai is the most expensive location in mainland China and the third most expensive location in the Asia region. 

“Rents in Shanghai have risen owing to an increase in the number of inbound relocations to the city. This elevated demand in an already tight market has caused the rent rises we have seen in 2018,” said Quane. 

“However, the fastest rates of increase have been witnessed in the Pearl River Delta where rents have risen in double-digit terms in both Guangzhou and Shenzhen due to high relocation rates to these cities. Supply is yet to match demand for residential accommodation, particularly in western Shenzhen, which has caused rents to increase at fast rates for the past seven years,” added Quane.

Rents in Tokyo have continued to go up, rising by 4% on average.

Mumbai, India, also continues to climb through the rankings and is now the fifth most expensive location in Asia for expats to rent. 

Quane explained, “Expatriates living in Mumbai are typically competing for properties in a relatively small number of districts relative to the size of the city as a whole. This high level of demand forces rents upwards, while developers are continuing to lift property standards in Mumbai which also raises the average rent level.”

Top 10 most expensive locations for expat rental accommodation in Asia
2018 ranking
2017 ranking
Hong Kong

Notes to Editors

Figures used in this release were taken from ECA's September 2017 Accommodation Survey.

The survey was based on the average rental prices for an unfurnished, three-bedroom apartment in the mid-range of the expatriate market.

About ECA International (

ECA International is the market-leading provider of knowledge, information and technology that enables businesses to manage their international reward programmes.

Partnering with thousands of clients on every continent, we provide a fully-integrated suite of quality data, specialist software, consultancy and training. Our unparalleled insights guide clients as they mobilise their most valuable resource: people.

We make the complex world of international mobility simple, providing clients with the expertise and support they need to make the right decisions - every time.

ECA International: Mobility solutions for a world that’s constantly moving.

ECA International's housing data

This ranking is based on data from ECA's accommodation reports, which we began publishing annually in 1996.

The reports provide comprehensive and reliable information for locations worldwide on the rental trends, types of accommodation and districts commonly sought by expatriates. To ensure impartiality and to maintain the accuracy of information, data from a number of sources is used to compile each accommodation report. ECA uses a global network of estate agents, relocation agents and extensive in-house research into worldwide property markets to establish and verify the housing data in the reports. Rental prices are collected annually. This housing data is also fed into ECA's Accommodation Tool which can be used to set, manage and review the right accommodation allowances for international assignees.

The rental prices were collected in September 2017 and have been converted into US dollars for ease of comparison using the September 2017 exchange rate.

Follow ECA on twitter: @ECAintl

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