by OrangeTee & Tie Pte Ltd.

Staying in Malaysia to save on rent: Exchange students return to NUS, but some face housing crunch


SINGAPORE – To save money on rent after he could not get a hostel room at the National University of Singapore (NUS), foreign exchange student Antonio Lobeck chose to miss classes and stayed in Malaysia for 12 days.

Mr Lobeck, an international management student at Britain’s Warwick University, was paying $1,100 a month for a rental room in Singapore that a friend helped him find. But it busted his budget so he went to Malaysia to cut back on expenses.

Previously, he was sharing a hostel room in Chinatown with nine others after failing to get a room on campus.

Accommodation at NUS costs between $480 and $850 a month.

Mr Lobeck said he plans to move back into a hostel only for the last two weeks of the term in November.

The 22-year-old is among some foreign students who have grappled with housing-related woes as students from abroad return in force for short stints at NUS.

Fifteen of these students, who came from countries such as Spain, the United States and Britain for programmes at NUS lasting up to nearly a year, said a messy application process, limited hall rooms and poor communication by the university created a stressful situation that left them paying more than they had budgeted for.

The situation has been made worse by a supply crunch in Singapore’s rental market and the difficulty of getting a lease of less than a year – which the students require. 

Ms Christine Sun, senior vice-president of research and analytics at real estate consultancy OrangeTee & Tie, said the strong rental market means most landlords prefer leases spanning at least one or two years. Most exchange students are on programmes lasting less than a year. 

Rental prices have also gone up between 20 per cent and 40 per cent, said Ms Sun. 

She said: “For those who still want shorter leases under one year, some landlords may ask for very high prices. 

“They may not be able to secure a unit at short notice, given the high demand now.” 

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