As Covid disrupts international travel habits, Singapore’s jet setters cash in on real estate

Being confined within a small island has nudged the elite to focus on home renovations, hotel stays, and more

Singaporeans and overseas investors have been helping the sector recuperate as they continue to snap up residential properties. RichieChan/Shutterstock

In 2016Visa predicted Singaporeans to be the 7th top spenders overseas by 2025, propelling them to be in the top 10 globally and top 3 in Asia Pacific, and are expected to spend roughly USD45 billion.

The city-state’s population is known to be well-off, with 3,732 people including 26 billionaires boasting a net worth of at least USD30 million, according to Knight Frank.

Andrea Savage, a partner at high-end interior design firm Design Intervention, said, “The lifestyle here — it doesn’t matter whether you’re a local or an expat — is very much about being on a plane and seeing the region and doing weekends away to Vietnam.” 

“It’s sort of equivalent to going to the Hamptons,” she added.

In 2015, for instance, the residents managed to shell out a combined USD22.5 billion in travel spending, earning them the title of the world’s 7th highest spenders.

But since the outbreak interfered with their regular spending habits and with minimal options for local travel in the island that is 170 times smaller than New York CityInsider uncovered that Singapore’s elite have turned to real estate to keep themselves occupied amid the pandemic.

“What clients are spending money on hasn’t changed during the pandemic, as much as where they’re spending it has changed,” explained Veron Shim, CEO of Singapore-based Envysion Wealth Management that handles the wealth of affluent families. 

Staycations in 5-star hotels

As soon as the control measures eased and the threat of infection grew less, and with no definite timeline as to when international travel can resume, experts revealed that Singapore’s rich have forked out on staycation packages in five-star hotels across the city-state.

Goh, an event planner, shared that most of his clients basically go around Singapore trying all sorts of hotels. They’ve probably never stayed in hotels in Singapore all their life — they’re always flying.

On the other hand, Mike Harlow, the general manager of global luxury travel operator Scott Dunn, said that even though some clients direquest stays in premier hotels, the ultrawealthy still preferred to stay home.

“The majority of them live in very nice landed properties on the edge of central Singapore, and they don’t necessarily see the value in doing the staycations,” explained Harlow.

Home renovation projects 

As for residents who favoured their own homes over hotels, some have taken this time to touch up their properties. 

Andrea of Design Intervention said that by the end of 2020, their company saw a “huge increase” in clients who want to spruce up their primary homes in Singapore.

“It’s not about having people over or showing off their homes,” clarified Andrea. “It’s actually more about creating a space of well-being for them that makes them feel really good and gives them stability and a grounding factor in this pandemic.”

 New property investments

The real estate industry in Singapore may have taken a hit during the outbreak, but Singaporeans and overseas investors have been helping the sector recuperate as they continue to snap up residential properties, even with prices at a two-year high.

Among the developments that have been blessed by this buying frenzy, particularly after the vaccine rollouts, include major winners at the 10th PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards (Singapore) 2020, namely GuocoLand, Aurum Land (Private) Limited, Macly Group, and Qingjian Realty (South Pacific) Group Pte Ltd.

More: 6 reasons why Toa Payoh in Singapore is poised to become a sought-after neighbourhood

Real estate firms told Insider that they have witnessed an increase in sales of landed luxury homes and penthouses as newly remote working employees search for larger spaces.

Shim of Envysion said that they have even observed renewed interest from foreign investors who are planning to set up family offices in the city-state.

“With the influx of wealthy family offices from overseas into Singapore, these families have been buying up real estate, as well,” added Shimindicating that Singapore’s stability, safety, and multiculturalism has drawn their attention.

And despite the travel restrictions and the uncertain economic futureAsia’s high-net-worth individuals have chosen Singapore as the top choice for luxury homes in the region, based on Knight Frank’s 2020 Wealth Report.

Know of any award-worthy homes, condos, flats, or other real estate projects in the Singapore? Nominate them for the 11th Asia Property Awards (Singapore) on or before 17 September 2021. Simply visit for more details.