When I first arrived in Singapore as a founder in 2018, it was not immediately clear to me where I should live. Should I be living alone, or with others? Where would be the most convenient location that can ensure I'm still connected to daily necessities, entertainment, and exercise? Do I optimize for work from home, or work from office?
Ultimately, every founder is different and they will have their own priorities for a living space - so hopefully my reflection on the different places I've lived will be helpful for you in finding the best space for you - no matter how long you plan to spend on this little red dot.
If you're short on time, and want to make a quick decision for your future home - scroll to the bottom.
Harbourfront - Reflections
Coming from Toronto, Canada where half the year is filled with snowy days that make you want to stay cooped indoors, it felt amazing to be on a sunny tropical island and I wanted to maximize my exposure. I found a condominium that was generously spacious, and had plenty of outdoor amenities like swimming pools that I could enjoy.
It really felt like I was living in a resort, and the tradeoff was that getting around was inconvenient - but only because access to public transportation was not direct. The closest bus stop was 10 minutes walk away - and it was here that I learned the value of having a public transportation option within 5 mins or less walking distance, or otherwise you will be relying a lot on private hire cars (hint: use TADA, its often the cheapest option). From Harbourfront, its around 20 mins travel time by car to major destinations in the central areas of Singapore.
There is a really big mall close by, called Vivocity where you can get everything imaginable for your home - from groceries, to mattresses, and everything else. However, it was still inconvenient to bring the groceries from the mall to home without a car, because you'd have to carry them onto the bus and then walk 10 minutes into the condominium complex. This definitely gave me second thoughts whenever I went shopping, to buy enough to justify calling a car for the 5 minute drive, or to buy less so its easier to carry home.
I chose to live alone to focus on my startup - so I got a 2 bedroom flat so I could use the other room for a study or extra room for when my colleagues from overseas would visit the office (unfortunately that idea fizzled out when COVID restrictions limited travel in and out of the country). I signed a 2-year lease since most landlords require a long term lease for foreigners new to the country.
Rent Range: $1.5k - $2.1k / month (per person)
Room Size: ⭐⭐⭐ / 5
Location: ⭐⭐⭐ / 5
Convenience: ⭐⭐⭐ / 5
Orchard - Elizabeth Heights
After living alone for 2 years and with the circuit breaker restrictions limiting the number of people I can interact with at a time, I felt disconnected to the world and limited in my growth. I hypothesized that living with like-minded founders and professionals would help us unlock breakthroughs and level up together.
So, I shared with my community that I would be looking for a large unit in Singapore to start a co-living space for growth-minded individuals and asked if anyone would be interested. We immediately got interest, and I knew the house had to happen, and our project was borne - Our Family Without Borders. I eventually found a 2-story maisonette in Orchard, which is known for its unrivalled access to amenities and proximity to Orchard Road, the ultimate shopping paradise of Singapore.
It was sheltered from the activity of Orchard Road, in a quiet and leafy area, so it was an amazing place to work and play (thus we dubbed it "The Playground"). Typically, living in Orchard would be quite expensive, but because we shared the rent with housemates, it was quite affordable and there are amazing food options around at different price points. Our office had also moved nearby, so it was convenient for me to bike to work and not have to call cars that often.
However, I would still say that this location suffered from the inconvenience of having the closest public transport around 15 mins walking distance from home. It's definitely the most central location I've ever lived - but its hard to appreciate that when walking to the transport takes up the majority of the travel time. At this point, we started ordering groceries on RedMart as we realized the price point and freshness was comparable to buying at the local grocery - and it saves us the time from having to pick up groceries for 4+ people every week.
We learned one big learning lesson living here - if you have a shared house, try to make sure there is a bathroom for every occupant - it reduces the potential for conflicts and opens up the door for more tenants who prefer the privacy of their own bathroom.
Rent: $1.8k - $2.2k / month (per person)
Room Size: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ / 5
Location: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ / 5
Convenience: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ / 5
West Coast Park - Pasir Panjang Road
After a year of living in Orchard, we decided that we had outgrown our home and wanted to move to a place that would give us the space we needed for comfortable co-living and hosting events. Having lived in Singapore and doing the house search for the third time, I had a strong sense of what I was looking for.
I had enough of the city life, as it was getting really crowded with COVID restrictions easing up. I missed having walking access to parks, and to have peace and quiet away from traffic noises at all hours of the day. And if the tradeoff is to be just a 30 minutes car ride away from central Singapore, then that was a great trade for me - especially since I only go into office two days a week.
We moved to a landed detached property, which is rare in Singapore to find. For slightly increased rent we got 10x the space, over 7,000 sq ft of property to enjoy. Every room is extremely spacious with their own bathroom - and each is comparable to the size of a studio you would find in the city. We are surrounded by nature, and West Coast Park is just a few minutes walk away.
The best part is - the bus station is a 2 minute walk, so travelling around is more convenient than ever. We are right next to the National University of Singapore, and the startup center of Singapore, One-North, is 10 minutes away. Location wise, this is one of the best places to learn and grow.
I had an amazing, serendipitous moment one day after we moved in. I looked across the street and I realized that 1 year before, when I was looking for houses for The Playground, I had visited the condominium across us. I had walked out after a bad showing and I had told myself that someday, I wanted to live in a detached house in Singapore just like the ones across the street. Little did I know that it'd be the very same house that I call home now.
Rent: 2.8k - 3.5k / month
Room Size: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ / 5
Location: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ / 5
Convenience: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ / 5
So Where Should You Live?
Overall, I've found the major considerations as follows:
Most rooms in Singapore are small - barely fitting a bed and a work desk. Personally, I prefer enough space to fit a couch or lounge area in my room, and also have plenty of space in the living areas. Make sure the room is over 300 sq ft and the house to be over 750 sq ft for comfortable living.
Getting groceries and daily necessities is achievable anywhere with convenient and affordable grocery delivery services like Redmart.
As long as it takes less than 30 minutes car ride to get to the city center, you're close enough. It's good to have time to reflect or read while you're commuting.
The most important thing is how close you are to the nearest bus stop or MRT station. If you have to walk a long time to get there, it doesn't matter how well connected the station is, the travel time will feel long and tedious.
When you're new to a country, I highly recommend to live with others to maximize your learnings and accelerate your growth. There's been so many learning lessons and growth opportunities that I only got because I was in the right place, at the right time.