Black and White Houses in Singapore: What Are They and How to Rent (2021)

Black and white houses, or colonial bungalows, in Singapore have a long, storied history. They were built from the 19th century up till the end of the 1930s and mostly housed European colonial and expatriate families. 

If you happen to take a stroll down the Singapore Botanic Gardens, you would have likely noticed the Atbara House nestled on top of a hill along Gallop Road. Constructed in 1898, the structure paved the way for this type of architectural style in Singapore. While its colours are black and white, it technically is not a black and white bungalow, but a very ‘close cousin’ instead.

Regardless, the Atbara House and black and white houses look awesome. You may be wondering how amazing it would be to live in a house like that. Well, spoiler alert: you can. 


What Is a Black and White House?

As you can probably already guess, the house gets its name from the monotonous colours of the dark timber beams and whitewashed walls. 

Built and designed by the British in the 19th century, they were once the homes of high-ranking government officials, high court judges and rich businessmen. Black and white houses were also used as military administrations and boarding schools for children of British soldiers.

The architecture of the house is based on a Tudorbethan style, and also adapted features from Malay kampong houses, such as high ceilings and stilts for ventilation (remember this was pre-aircon days). Some homes are also elevated from the ground to prevent termites attacks and flash floods.

Today, there are about 500 of these structures remaining. They are mostly state-owned and are managed and preserved by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). While most black and white houses are rented out for commercial purposes (e.g. restaurants and businesses), some are reserved for residential stays. 

In order to preserve the heritage of these colonial bungalows, owners are not allowed to make changes to the look and feel of the home.

Related article: Landed property in Singapore: Terrace houses, bungalows and semi-detached houses


What Makes Black and White Homes So Highly Coveted?

As you may have guessed, black and white homes are highly in demand because of their limited supply and unique colonial-style architecture. After all, not everyone can say that they live in a historic home that’s rich in heritage.

Apart from their design and appeal, they are also big and spacious — even when compared to good class bungalows (GCBs). Some colonial houses are bigger than 5,000 sq ft and have a land area of over 31,000 sq ft.  

They’re typically two-storey high, have airy rooms, grand halls, big verandas, large windows, and lush gardens. Some homes include a swimming pool. 

Often, these homes are snapped up quickly as soon as they’re listed on the market. So if you’re on the lookout for one, it’s best to be quick!


Where Can You Find Black and White Houses?

Many of these houses can be found in Sembawang, though they’re also distributed in different areas throughout Singapore. Here are some of their popular locations:


Where to find black and white colonial houses 


Goodwood Hill, Dempsey Hill, Ridley Park, Adam Park, Chancery Lane, Barker Road


Wessex Estate, Rochester Park, Nepal Hill, Mount Pleasant, Fifth Avenue


Sembawang Park, Sembawang Seletar Camp, Cyprus Road, 


Mount Faber, Alexandra Park, Gillman Barracks


Changi road


Can You Buy a Black and White House? 

You can’t buy a black and white house but you can apply to rent one from SLA. They’re rented out via an open-bidding system where the homes are leased out for two years. Prices are also determined by the demand, and will likely cost a bomb!  


How To Rent a Black and White House

Still interested? Here’s how you can apply to rent a black and white house from SLA:

  1. Visit SLA’s site and view available listings
  2. Contact the managing agent
  3. Send your application and submit the required documents 
  4. Wait for the result
  5. Sign the tenancy agreement, and pay the deposit and stamp duties 

Step 1: Visit SLA’s Site and View Available Listings

SLA will put up available black and white units for rent on their site. Simply shortlist the ones that you like.

Step 2: Contact the Managing Agent

Found one that you like? Reach out to the managing agent (the contact details are provided in the listing) and schedule an appointment.

Be sure to read the full terms and conditions, and check your eligibility before going for the viewing. If you’re applying as an individual, your average monthly income must be at least three times the offered rent

Step 3: Send Your Application and Submit the Required Documents

Prepare the documents needed to officially submit your tender. Head to the individual listing page and download the application form. Fill in your particulars and submit them together with the necessary documents. Now all you need to do is to wait for the result.

Step 4: Wait for the Result

If you’re shortlisted, you may have to attend a tender interview and SLA will evaluate your tender as well as other factors such as your intention and concepts for the home, track record and financial health.

Step 5: Sign Tenancy Agreement, and Pay Deposit and Stamp Duties

If successful, you need to prepare the documents in the Letter of Acceptance including signing the Tenancy Agreement, pay a month’s rental in advance, three months’ worth of security deposit, stamp duties and an administrative fee of $200.  


Alternatively, Find Bungalow/Landed Houses for Rent on PropertyGuru

Find black and white houses too expensive? Why not rent a regular landed property or bungalow house on PropertyGuru instead? They’re also spacious and are way more affordable. Discover available homes here.


More FAQ on Black and White Houses in Singapore

Can You Buy Black and White Houses in Singapore?

You can rent but, not buy, black and white houses in Singapore from the Singapore Land Authority. They are leased for two years at a time.

What Is a Black and White House in Singapore?

They are colonial bungalows built between the late 19th century and the end of the 1930s.

Who Owns the Black and White Houses in Singapore?

The Singapore government owns most of the colonial bungalows in Singapore. 

Why Are Colonial Houses Also Called Black and White Houses?

This is due to the characteristic dark timber beams and white-washed outer walls.


For more property news, resources and useful content like this article, check out PropertyGuru’s guides section

Are you looking to buy a new home? Head to PropertyGuru to browse the top properties for sale in Singapore.  

Already found a new home? Let PropertyGuru Finance’s home finance advisors help you with financing it.


This article was written by Victor Kang, Digital Content Specialist at PropertyGuru. When he’s not busy churning out engaging property content* or newsletter copies, he’s busy being a lover of all geeky things. Say hi at:

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