Furnished vs Unfurnished Rental Apartments

Understanding the Difference

When choosing an apartment in Singapore, it is essential to understand the difference between furnished and unfurnished accommodation. Fully furnished apartments will usually be available with furniture for every room plus most appliances you will need. These include a television, major kitchen appliances (fridge, microwave, oven), beds, couches, and closets. Still, don’t expect that fully furnished is the same as you’d get in a hotel or serviced apartment, for example, you wouldn’t normally get cutlery, tea towels, toasters or sheets. You may also encounter apartment owners offering you a partially-furnished unit, which only comes with the essentials that you need such as lighting, curtains and maybe closets, plus often - but not always - including major appliances like fridge and washing machine.

Choosing an unfurnished apartment usually means that the unit will be bare with no furniture or appliances at all, except for the lights. Unfurnished is common for brand new developments, where the landlord doesn’t want to make assumptions yet about what the tenants may want. Landlords in Singapore can be very accommodating, and you can often request for them to add some of the appliances that you need, but usually it will add to the rental fee unless the landlord already advertised it at a higher price, ready for negotiation or requests. You may be surprised to learn that Landlords are often more accommodating to add furniture than remove, assuming the price is right. Because space, including storage, is a premium in Singapore, landlords may need to throw out furniture or sell it at a large loss if you insist you don’t want it.

Furnishing the Apartment Yourself

Should you find it more interesting to buy your furniture and design your interiors, you can do so by communicating your preferences with the landlord. However, you should consider the costs and the effort that it may take before you can finally settle comfortably once you move in. Also, keep in mind that the hardest requirement is where you want an apartment “half furnished” – i.e. you might insist on your own bed and dining table but want the landlord to provide everything else. In this case, you will make it harder on yourself as you need to find either a partially furnished apartment where the landlord is willing to buy lots of furniture to add, or a fully furnished apartment where the landlord is OK to take some out.

If you think you will be in Singapore long enough to move apartments, paying for a furnished one may be a smart choice. This will save you from the hassles of hauling the furniture that you bought from one place to another. Furnished apartments are always ready for accommodating expats. You may find the need to buy some appliance that you feel you want to have, but the essential appliance and furniture for comfortable living are already ready for use.

Rental fee difference

The rental fee for an apartment will usually be based on the size of the area of the apartment, the quality of its furnishings and the location and amenities of the condo complex it’s in.

The extra monthly rent that you pay for a furnished apartment versus an unfurnished one, with all other things being equal, averages only about $300 per month. Of course, it can very widely based on the quality of furnishings, and indeed, you may have a preference towards apartments with only near new and quality furnishings, which would make the value much higher.

The following reasons favour furnished apartments, assuming you don’t already have furniture:

• The difference you pay for furnished may be less over 24-48 months than it would cost you to furnish the apartment yourself out of pocket. Even buying second hand can be difficult because it’s not easy to arrange transport of large items. • The cost to ship furniture back to your home country afterwards may be nearly as much as it cost in the first place • Singapore’s second hand market is not a good one and you are unlikely to get much back for your furniture when you leave. Not to mention the inconvenience of selling off your furniture while you’re still living there! If you have furniture in your home country and have a choice whether to send it, consider whether you really need to: • Assuming your company would have paid for furniture shipment, see if they will substitute it instead for a furniture purchase allowance, or increased rent allowance. • Having to wait for your furniture to arrive can cause significant inconvenience to finding an apartment, assuming you want to move in quickly. • Most people we talk to say they overestimated how important it would be to have “familiar” furniture. Just a few things from home can be nice – you don’t need everything! • More chance to pick up some quality reminders of your Singapore time if you leave space to buy a Chinese cabinet or something like that to take home.

Conclusion and Advice

As a rule of thumb, we recommend renting furnished apartments instead of partially-furnished, unless you have existing furniture you absolutely must ship to Singapore, or you have a strong desire to buy and furnish an apartment yourself. Even then, we recommend trying first to find a landlord who is flexible in giving you a budget to choose some items yourself.

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