This may be the result of high rental rates. The most common answer we got, when asking why someone would operate a business from home, is rent.
Even for businesses that can use a co-working space (definitely not the Nasi Lemak or barber variety…), the cheapest options tend to start from around $180 per month; and costs of around $250+ are far more likely. In the more central areas, this can cost a whole lot more, from about $300 – $700 and up. Of course, these will come with additional perks like yoga studios, gyms, coffee, and for some, even massages.
As for opening a shop, it’s simply beyond the means for many. Realtors told us that in most places, you would pay at least $1,200 to $1,500 per month, for a small store with decent foot traffic. While there are options for $1,000 or under, they noted that these are mostly corner spaces (e.g., one corner of an existing store, like a data card seller in a clothing store), or in extremely niche areas (e.g., in an obscure corner of an industrial building).
As for setting up an actual hawker stall to sell your Nasi Lemak or other food… forget it unless you’re giving your life to it. Monthly rent is usually between $1,500 to $4,000, before you even factor in the service fees for cleaners, or the cost of hiring an assistant.
So if you want to run a business in your flat, what’s allowable?
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need approval from HDB for small-scale home businesses. Examples of “small-scale” include the usual tuition businesses, as well as hairdressing or baking.
(Do note, however, that for tuition services the maximum limit is three students at a time; and that massage services are not permitted in HDB flats).