How to Rent a Room to Foreign Students: A Step-by-Step Guide

Let’s fetch a few key figures from the good people at the Singapore Ministry of Education - MOE - as of April 2022, there are approximately over 65 thousand foreign students in Singapore. That’s a 10% increase from previous years. Main countries of origin? Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, India, and South Korea. That’s a potential tenant pool of 65K able bodies. A niche few businesses in the region actually have. One that’s just lying there, ready for the taking. But it’s also a niche rife with risks, threats, and a couple of pitfalls. In the following few sections, we’ll take a scalpel to the whole affair — pry open and dissect it. Give you the story on the process of renting a room to foreign students. Provide you, and them the legal tools, the practical tips, and the cultural insights to make a go at the situation. Let’s dive into the tricks of renting out a room to foreign students. 

Singapore — A market in growth 

Singapore is an international hub for all those hungry for knowledge. The country boasts some of the world’s best - and top-ranked - international universities. A major draw due to their level of excellence.

All those Universities - with programs created specifically for English-speaking students - are well connected. What does this mean? They have strong ties to international conglomerates and Fortune 500 companies. Giving graduates a fringe benefit on the competitive job market.

Also, the region is known for its innovative infrastructure, and its low crime rate — translation, it's safe and secure. It’s also a vibrant, globalised metropolis making it a cultural hub. Its central location in Southeast Asia makes it a great base for exploring the Orient during breaks.

If we paraphrase and simplify all those benefits into a concise conclusion, it would probably go something like this: “Singapore is great for students, and the country is going to continue to attract them by the millions.”

That means there is a demand in the market for student-ready rooms — And, crafty realtors and property owners need to meet that demand head-on and spark up some supply.

Renting rooms to foreigners — why do it?

Renting out a room to foreign students is sort of like a double-edged sword — you can cut, but if you don’t know how to wield it, that sharp chap will slice back and give you a nice deep nick.

Let’s take a look at the benefits and the pitfalls of HDB rental to foreigners:

  • Consistent Demand: Universities attract a steady stream of international students needing housing, offering reliable rental income.
  • Higher Potential Rent: Student properties near universities can command higher rents compared to other areas.
  • Less Demanding Tenants: Students may be less picky about amenities and prioritise location and affordability.
  • Shorter Leases: Leases may align with academic terms, reducing vacancy periods.
  • Financial Backing: Some students have financial support from families or loans, leading to on-time rent payments.
  • Limited Credit History: International students may lack established credit, requiring additional verification of financial stability.
  • Potential for Damage: Accidents or neglect due to unfamiliarity with the property can occur.
  • Higher Turnover: Student graduations or program changes can lead to frequent tenant changes and vacancy periods.
  • Communication Issues: Language barriers can create difficulties in explaining lease terms or resolving issues.
  • Cultural Differences: Unfamiliarity with local customs or expectations might require adjustments.

How to rent a room to foreign students

Renting to foreigners is very close, in risk, to renting to locals. Why? Well, the truth is that the second you put your property up, you’re sort of playing Russian Roulette. You never know what sort of tenant you’re going to get.

Tenants are tricky. They, like anyone out there, are masters at creating and disseminating a great first impression. For them, this is a job interview. They’ll dot their Is and cross out their Ts — but it’s your job to properly screen them. The same happens when you rent a room to foreign students; you have to screen them. Luckily today, with the advances of tech and AI and cutting-edge services, that’s become less of an issue. The first big tip we have for you — is to check out our article on Tenant screening and how to properly do it.

Now let’s talk about what you’ll need to do and take into account when renting a room to foreign students.

Necessary furnishings and amenities to cater to their needs

Spoil your tenants with creature comforts. Think WiFi for scrolling, A/C for a chill atmosphere, and cozy heating for those chilly nights. These touches make your property a haven away from home. Additionally, consider adding stylish furnishings and décor to create a welcoming ambience.

Safety features and compliance with local regulations

Safety first — Install smoke detectors, and sturdy locks, and comply with local codes. It's like giving your tenants a reassuring hug, knowing they're snug as a bug in a rug. Consider investing in security cameras or alarm systems for added peace of mind.

Necessary permits and approvals for HDB and private properties

Navigate the paperwork maze like a seasoned explorer. For HDB pads or private digs, secure the green light from the powers-that-be. Stay shipshape and above board. Consult with legal experts to ensure compliance with all relevant regulations and obtain necessary permits.

Documentation required from landlords and tenants

Be fastidious with the redcap — do your paperwork with aplomb. Landlords, whip up watertight agreements — tenants, bring your best game with visa docs and references. Smooth sailing ahead. Keep meticulous records of all transactions and communications for future reference.

How to rent a room to foreign students — Tips on the trade
Online platforms and university bulletin boards

Cast your net wide on digital seas and academic cork boards. Reel in tenants with catchy listings and enticing offers. It's like fishing for the perfect match. Consider leveraging social media platforms and student forums to expand your reach and attract prospective tenants.

Write-up — Importance of clear, accurate, and appealing property descriptions.

Craft property prose that sings like a lark at dawn. Paint a vivid picture of your pad's charm and allure. Wordsmithery at its finest. Highlight unique features and amenities to capture the attention of potential tenants. Use high-quality photos to showcase the property in its best light.

Understanding cultural differences and setting clear communication.

Break down language barriers with charm and panache. Embrace diversity like a seasoned globetrotter. Bon voyage to miscommunication woes. Foster an inclusive and welcoming environment for tenants from diverse cultural backgrounds. Adapt your communication style to accommodate different linguistic and cultural preferences.

Key considerations: visa status, duration of stay, and educational institution details.

Mind the nitty-gritty like a hawk-eye detective. Scrutinise visa deets, tenure terms, and alma mater affiliations. Stay sharp, stay savvy. Ensure clarity and transparency regarding visa requirements, lease terms, and academic commitments. Provide comprehensive information and assistance to help tenants navigate administrative processes and legal obligations.

A new adventure

It’s not just about making money — well, not just about that. Sure, overall, renting to international students can be a good option for landlords seeking reliable tenants and potentially higher income. There’s also the fact that students, in general, are less picky and less demanding — they prioritise location. Close to nightspots or close to their university. And finally, there's the emotional advantage. The fringe benefit few landlords consider. The truth is that international students bring diversity to the mix. They bring a je ne sais quoi to the whole exchange. A new point of view, the appeal of the exotic, the lure of the unknown.You travel with foreign students, with their tales and their folklore. By sharing tales of their homeland to introduce you to exotic customs and traditions. International students inject a vibrant tapestry of cultures, perspectives, and stories into the landlord-tenant dynamic.