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5 FREE or Cheap Housing in Malaysia (Read #3 & #4 Before You Rent a Room)

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You don’t need me to tell you that cost of living in Malaysia, including housing cost, is high. It is extremely hard for someone making RM2xxx a month to save money if they are paying a third or more than that on rent or mortgage.

‘But what choice do I have?’, some of you said. ‘I can’t just move and rent a room somewhere, I can’t/don’t want to live somewhere small, inconvenient and lacks security and amenities.’

Okay, I hear you. Here are 5 strategies you can try – each of them can significantly help you cut down housing expenses, so you can channel the money towards paying off debt, building savings and investing instead.

#1 – Live with your family

Let’s just get the most obvious one out of the way – yes, living with family members, especially with parents who have paid off their house, is a great way to save money on rent and housing cost.

Different families have different expectations, but worth mentioning – sure, you can live for free, but please don’t be a freeloader. Take the initiative to contribute to household bills and groceries. Many parents spend money meant for their retirement on their children, so don’t take advantage of their love.

(Also, even if they die die decline the offer, the act of you making the offer would make them very happy!)

Pro: Common in Asian culture

Con: Experience living at home depends on the relationship with family members

#2 – Get housing cost subsidised by your employer

If you are skilled and/or lucky enough to get job offers, particularly the ones that need you to relocate, they might throw in subsidised or free accommodation.

I know this type of employee benefit exists because my parents had it. When my dad was thrown into projects in rural areas (back in his youth), his employer prepared a house for them. My mom is a retired high school principal – one of the perks she received was a house within the school compound, which the whole family could live in.

Pro: If you’re offered this, you’re probably a valued employee. Your company really wants you to stay

Con: Not all jobs offer this perk. Seniority also may play a role.

#3 – Rent/Buy a whole place, then find housemates

I personally did this method and enjoyed the experience 🙂

Back in the early 2010s, I rented a whole unit in Bistari Condo in KL (the one next to PWTC are – prime area!), stayed in the master bedroom and rented out the medium and small bedrooms. After deducting rental income, effectively my rent was just RM150* per month.

*In case anyone is planning to criticise me – I priced the rooms below market rate. I also forked out the 2+1 deposit and paid for the tenancy agreement cost, and paid for bills and WiFi, ranging around RM300-500 per month. In addition, I was the primary caretaker and responsible for miscellaneous household repairs. All my housemates had to do was rent a room

If I were SUPER frugal, I could’ve stayed in the small room and rented out the master and medium bedrooms and made my housing rental cost free via this method.

Note: If you choose to do this method on rental property, please check first and get approval from your landlady/lord.

Pro: Life is so fun if you get awesome and responsible housemates

Con: You need a lot of capital (if buying) and buffer (if renting- someone has to pay for the 2+1 deposits). Less privacy

#4 – Rent/Buy a whole place, then AirBnB out some rooms

Kind of similar to #3. You can buy or rent a studio apartment, but the difference is you’ll have (1) temporary housemates instead of long-term housemates, and (2) you’ll be managing the room booking and cleaning (unless you outsource this out, but that’ll incur fees).

I’d imagine this method will work extremely well for housing type with dual-key condo units – your spaces are completely separated and everyone maintains own privacy.

Note: If you choose to do this method on rental property, please check first and get approval from your landlady/lord.

Pro: This is considered a business – you can deduct some costs as business expenses

Con: Have to allocate hours to list the room on AirBnB and overall management

#5 – Live an alternative lifestyle

Not into #1-4 and still looking for other options for free or cheap housing? Well, if you are flexible with your living arrangement, you could consider any of these living arrangements:

  • House sitting gigs – get paid to take care of a house while the owners are away
  • Pet sitting gigs – similar to house sitting but you also take care of pets
  • Be an au pair – basically, get hired to be a nanny and live with the family
  • Van living – you’ll want to check out r/vandwellers if you’re interested in this lifestyle
  • Move out from cities – you can’t deny housing rental is way cheaper outside of city areas (you can still make money by working online!)

There may be more types of lifestyles 🙂 Like I mentioned in my Thought Experiment: Can We Live Without Money In Malaysia?, life isn’t expensive; modern life is.

Pro: Gain a lot of interesting life experiences!

Con: Less ‘rooted’ and less ‘like other people’. This can be a good or bad thing depending on your personality

What’s your housing situation like? How do you save money on rent or mortgage?

So those are the 5 options to significantly save money on accommodation – which one are you inclined to do, if you have to?

Important: if you don’t like any of these options, consider (1) just doing it anyway and accept the short-term pain for long-term gain, or (2) save money on food and transportation instead.

Let me know what you think in the comments section!

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