With rental rates on par with glitzy condos, are co-living spaces in Singapore worth the money?
Hot on the heels of the coworking movement comes co-living, which is basically the same thing, but with even more fun (or awkward, if you’re an introvert) chit chat at the kitchen sink.
In all seriousness, though, co-living sounds like a dream — moving into a gorgeously designed home with your own private bedroom, sharing the kitchen, living room and other common spaces and amenities with other free-spirited, selfie-ready millennials. Like your very own version of Netflix’s Terrace House.
Well, one can hope (c’mon, outside of a TV show, how many cool housemates have you personally encountered?). Co-living spaces may simply turn out to be an alternate living arrangement where you swap out rostered housework and naggy parents for forced small talk and passive-aggressive notes.
And a pocket-burning one at that.
What is a co-living residence?
The concept of co-living is simple. You live in an apartment or a house with other people, and yet have your own private space (most commonly your bedroom, and if you pay enough, your own bathroom too), while sharing the rest of the house and its amenities with the other occupants. Yes, sometimes the bathroom too.
The spaces — from shophouses and condominium units to mixed-use properties with addresses that are fittingly hip — are beautifully designed and fully furnished, ready for you to move in, just your suitcases in tow. Some of them even come with amenities like gyms, swimming pools and business centres.
But more than the Insta-worthy surroundings, it’s the people that’s the exciting part. Co-living is touted as an exclusive opportunity to join a community of interesting individuals with rich life experiences, compelling backgrounds, diverse worldviews and lofty life goals — you know, all the missing magic ingredients in your staid, Singaporean life that inspire and propel you towards the true purpose of your life.
Co-living operators go as far as to help you get to know your housemates and community, by hosting activities such as game nights and get-togethers. For one, it’s a wonderful opportunity for adventurous young adults to move out and be independent. Yes to #adulting! And since you’re essentially sharing a house, co-living should be pretty affordable, right?
How much do co-living spaces cost in Singapore?
Queenstown, Novena, East Coast, Orchard Road
From $1,200 (common bedroom)
Various condos throughout Singapore
From $1,300 (standard room)
Various throughout Singapore
From $1,260 (Pocket room)
Aljunied, Bukit Timah, Lavender, Newton, Novena, one-north, Paya Lebar, RedhillRiver Valley
From $1,300 (standard room)
Oxley, River Valley, Orchard, Tanglin, Holland
From $2,500 (common room)
Little India, Orchard, Balestier, Joo Chiat, Geylang, Tanjong Pagar
From $1,600 (private suite)
Yes, affordable, if you’re taking home about $5,000 a month and don’t have any hobbies, won’t eat out, go partying or shopping, and don’t have to travel because your Norwegian coder housemate is keeping you up-to-date on the latest in Euro-synth pop. Every. Single. Day.
Okay, maybe you like Euro-synth.
But, more to the point, co-living spaces in Singapore are not cheap. Given the combination of prestige, exclusivity and aesthetics, you’d better believe rents reach eye-popping levels.
We’ve listed the lowest prices we could find for each of the companies in the above table, and for comparison, HDB or condo room rentals in similar locations (right-most column, sourced from PropertyGuru.com). Now let’s find out what exactly your rent will buy you.
Starting from $1,500 a month, you can get to enjoy co-living in famed heartland towns like Queenstown, East Coast or Novena. You’ll get your very own bedroom (singles only, please), complete with bedframe and mattress, a wardrobe and side tables. Included in your rent is unlimited WiFi and utilities and once-a-week housekeeping.
If you’re in the market for something more upmarket, go for the Orchard Road properties instead. You can rent your very own common bedroom at a condominium starting at just $2,185 per month.
One of the larger co-living players in Singapore, COVE prides itself on its range of condominium properties that come in a variety of heights, gardens, views, rises and made-up words like ‘trillium’.
From just $1,300 a month, you can experience elevated residential living in sought-after districts like Newton, peering out from your private Junior Standard Room. You’ll get to enjoy unlimited use of the kitchen, living and dining areas, along with all the utilities and comforts of home.
The downside? You’ll have to share a common bathroom (or pay more for your own), but nobody needs to see that. Not when your Instagram will be filled with photos of you lounging by the pool or pumping iron at the gym.
With a name that eschews vowels and language rules, you know that hmlet (trendily, short for ‘hamlet’) avoids anything fussy. They have properties scattered all over Singapore, making them one of the largest players on the market.
And judging by how swankily designed their spaces are, it’s easy to see why hmlet is a popular choice. Think bright, airy interiors, clean lines and eye-catching fittings — all very Scandinavian and aspirational.
Another thing that hmlet also boldly does away with is the need for space and bathroom privacy. With their endearingly named Pocket Rooms (starting from $1,260 per month), you’ll get a single-sized bedframe and mattress, plus a personal wardrobe.
The shared bathroom arrangement simply means you’ll get to know your housemates that much more. Say, their favourite shampoo, a fact that will surely come in handy during the inevitable ‘Trivia Nights’!
What if, like most of us, you want your own personal bathroom? That option is available too — simply up your rent to around $2,700 a month. Check.
Priding itself on its range of co-living spaces in Singapore’s colourful suburbs, commontown offers a mix of walkup shophouses and condo units. The decor of the apartments are slightly more eclectic here with some featuring bold splashes of colours paired with classic fixtures, and others looking like they came right off the cover of a modern interior design magazine.
Rents start from $1,300 a month, and even the smallest rooms seem to include a queen-sized bed, a feature you’ll appreciate when you toss and turn about at night worrying about making rent.
Take heart that basic household supplies will be supplied as are weekly housekeeping, high-speed WiFi and a full set of beddings.
Looking for something a little more upmarket? Then Gnomadic is the company you want. With properties in chic neighbourhoods like Tanglin, Orchard and Oxley, you can look forward to elevating your net-worth everytime you take a breath.
Gnomadic offers a discerning selection of high-end condominiums. You know, the type that comes with a clubhouse, sun deck and rooftop gardens, on top of the customary gym, swimming pool and, of course, tennis courts.
Rents start from $2,500 per month. Even then, you may still have to share a ‘semi-private bathroom’ (we’d have to live here to fully understand what this means).
If you’ve ever wanted to live a fairy-tale life, check out Figment’s selection of fine private suites. Located in some of the best-kept shophouses on the island, these co-living homes are the perfect setting for an episode of Crazy Rich Peranakans. Just strike a pose in front of the immaculately-restored entrance courtyard.
Full-length windows, spiral staircases and reflecting pools are just some of the lovely fittings you’ll get to (co)-enjoy with your housemates, which Figment promises would be perfect for an “entrepreneur, creative spirit or design geek”. The perfect company to spur you on your quest to be the next Ernest Hemingway, in other words. Monthly rents start from $1,600.
So, what’s the difference between co-living and renting a room?
Besides rent that costs two times higher (or more), and perhaps more interaction, co-living is exactly the same as renting a room anywhere else.
The only difference is that you will not be living with your landlord in a co-living space even though your host may check in on you every once a while. But then again, with normal rentals, you may be able to rent a room from someone who is stationed overseas, which means you’ll have the run of the entire apartment without paying full price!
However, if you’ll only be in Singapore for the short term (say 3 months), you may find it difficult to rent a room locally, owing to a higher preference for long-term tenants among landlords. In that case, co-living spaces may be the ideal solution for you.
As an added bonus, you may actually get to meet some interesting housemates and create some unforgettable memories and relationships.
Co-living spaces — are they for you?
Well, maybe it’s because I’m a grumpy guy struggling to keep up with an increasingly accelerated world, but co-living doesn’t make much sense to me. At the end of the day, all I want is to do is come to my own space without feeling obligated to indulge in small talk.
And while I’d love to be fancy enough to shell out a couple of thousands each month just to move into a hip space (make no mistake, these co-living properties are gorgeous, at least in photos), I find myself wondering if all that moving about would get tiring.
Co-living spaces are designed to be move-in ready and many operators tout this feature as a major selling point. Maybe that’s why it’s perfect for working professionals living here for the short-term or Singaporeans who love the idea of making new connections.
Personally, though, I’m reminded that at a typical co-living residence, I either have to pay through the nose for the privilege of having my own bathroom or try not to think about who else was there before me that morning. And that’s enough for me to say no.
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By Alevin Chan
An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.