Tips & Tricks: Expat Tips
Expat Tips on Housing

Query: We are a family of 4 (kids 8 & 5) considering a move to Singapore. Living in Melbourne I am used to open spaces and big houses. What advice can anyone give me as I negotiate with the company for a housing allowance. I expect we will want to send our kids to the Australian International School so we will want to be close to that. As an Aussie the culture of apartment and condo living is quite foreign. Are the townhouses all they are cracked up to be or is it better to opt for a more communal living approach? At the end of the day its a personal quality of life decision, but I would welcome feedback from others who have had to make the transition.

Tip #1: I hate to be the voice of dissent among all the pro-condo advice, but here goes. We have been here for nearly three years. We started off in a condo, but moved to a house later. Over time nearly all my friends have done the same. I found condo living lonely, but here in my little cul de sac we know all our neighbours. In fact, my son is out right now riding his bike around with some other boys. However most housing here doesn't come cheap, and frankly, the prices people have been quoting you are way below average. I would estimate that most families at AIS with 2 kids would be paying $5 -12 thousand a month. Those really are the going rates, so don't be afraid to ask. Grab yourself a copy of the Straits Times (not Saturday - Monday is better) and have a look in the classifieds. We live in district 11, and sometimes I feel an awfully long way from the AIS, which is in District 10. You should also consider the Sunset area of d21. Other points to consider are whether you will have a car (get a quote from citylimo for the best rates on a 2 year lease and whether you join a club (you would probably want the British of Dutch Clubs.
If you have no car or club, then you want a condo in d10, with, then go for a semi or bungalow in d 11 ($5k-$10k). All the prices are in the paper - your employer must take responsibility for providing you with a reasonable lifestyle - otherwise it would be better not to come because you'll only be unhappy (having kids in tow ups your needs considerably - please consider that some of these responders may not. Why don't you and your wife do a flying visit to work things out? (This, also, is pretty common).
  The package you could aim for is around $6,000 a month. Sure there are may for less but with all your kids you will want somewhere big and with good facilities. Aim high and then the options are there. Lots on nice attached houses around for this price but no facilities such as pool or play area.
The area for the AIS is anywhwere in 9, 10,11, 21. They have a good school bus system but it depends on how often Mum wants to visit the school.

- contributed by Lisa

Tip #2: You would find that your family - especially your wife who is unlikely to be working here, will settle in more easily if you live in a condominium. There will be most likely lots of other non-working expat wives whom your wife can meet easily around the pool. (Pretty essential in this climate). And of course kids find friends quickly and it is so much easier for them to do so on a condo. No worries about them crossing roads etc. to visit kids living nearby. In fact, some condos have townhouses anyway so you can have the best of both worlds if you are wary of living in a high-rise! We live in a low-rise condo (just 4 storeys high) with great facilities, even coffee mornings and barbies with all the condo residents. I know from talking with other wives who live in houses that they often get lonely as they don't get to meet other women very often (neighbours are full-time working locals), made worse by the transient nature of expat life when after building up a friendship the new friends leave Singapore.
- contributed by Feedback

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