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Furnishing Your New Home Abroad

Rent or buy? Pack or leave behind? Here’s your start-to-finish guide to settling your furniture needs throughout your stay in Malaysia.

by / Published: 7 Mar 2018

Furnishing Your New Home Abroad

Decisions, decisions. There’s a lot to consider before beginning the search for the most ideal furniture options available to you in Malaysia. Factors like the length of your stay, the type of residence you’ve secured, your family’s preferences, or your budget, will affect your decision to rent, buy or both. On top of that, the pressure that comes with getting everything done in the limited amount of time you have before the big move can take its toll on you, and very quickly escalate the whole process into a nightmare. But it certainly doesn’t have to be; not with proper planning, a little foresight, and some help from the experts who have long dealt with the diverse furniture needs of expatriates in years past. Here’s our first big tip of the day: take a nice deep breath, and read on.


Many expatriates with allocated budgets to do so often rent furniture, while others simply prefer to buy it at a local retailer because it may actually be the cheaper option of the two. In the event that you are not leasing a fully furnished house, it’s helpful to consider the advantages of both to see which best suits your relocation needs.


Renting furniture is an option preferred by most expatriates; the rental costs are, more often than not, paid for by the company to which they are attached. Here are some helpful areas to examine when renting furniture:

What not to rent: Expatriates are discouraged from renting glass furniture that’s heavy or brittle, and white-coloured items which easily show stains and damages over some time. It’s helpful to plan ahead; renting practical, highly durable items that are not as difficult to move in the eventuality of another relocation.
Family size: Couples or families with two to four children who are allocated a house-rental budget between RM5,000 and RM21,000 per month usually consider furniture rental when leasing an unfurnished or semi furnished space. Renting is a minimum commitment option that allows singles, couples or families to conserve capital and return the furniture easily and quickly upon the end of their stay.
Budget: Renting furniture is a more flexible option than buying furniture. Expatriate tenants with higher allocated house rental budgets usually consider newer and more expensive furniture and take a rent-to-own option, while lower-budget tenants can rent used or ex-rented furniture at discounts of up to 40 per cent or more.
Added Value: Many expatriates prefer a rent-to-own arrangement in which their company pays the rental while the ownership of the items is transferred to the expatriate after a period of time. Tenants using this rent-to-own option must usually pay a risk premium at an additional 35 per cent for a 24-month agreement, making for a more costly option.
Return Options: Rented furniture is easy to return, a high-convenience element of this option. Furniture rental companies usually have no issues taking back furniture that has undergone natural wear-and-tear upon the termination of rental, and as per any furniture rental policy, replacement costs will be charged for furniture that’s damaged, broken or missing some parts.


Buying furniture has its own set of advantages, though it’s not as popular a choice for expatriates unless the duration of their stay is long term or indefinite, both cases in which, the expatriates will likely have to fork out their own money for these expenses.

What to buy: Furniture such as sofas and mattresses are usually in high-demand for expatriates due to hygiene issues. Similar to renting furniture, it’s safer to purchase more durable furniture that’s less likely to be damaged should you decide to pack them up and ship them back to your home country at the end of your stay in Malaysia.
Family Size: If an expatriate family is allocated a house rental budget of more than RM10,000, they may already have a budget to bring in their own furniture from their home country, eliminating the need to rent or buy. Additionally, with a higher budget, they may decide to purchase furniture in Malaysia if they don’t like the design or quality of existing furniture pieces when leasing a furnished house.
Budget: In the long run, buying furniture is actually a cheaper option than renting it. Furniture rental stores on average charge approximately RM1,500 to RM2,000 per month to rent new furnishings for a three-bedroom area (1,800-2,200sqft) and about RM2,500 to RM3,500 per month for a four-bedroom area (3,000-4,000sqft). Some expatriates prefer buying cheaper furniture online, at affordable retailers like IKEA, or second-hand furniture from other expatriates who are looking to sell off their furniture items quickly before returning to their home countries.
Resale or Disposal: Whether you’re homeward bound or moving again to a different country, there are a few ways to get rid of the furniture you’ve bought. One way is to advertise the items you wish to sell on condominium notice boards, online expatriate forums or even by word-of-mouth, all of which may take a considerable amount of time. A faster option is to sell unwanted furniture to a second-hand furniture trader between three to five per cent of their original price. Alternatively, websites like or are great platforms on which to sell off second-hand furniture. And the most hassle-free option? Simply leave the furniture with your landlord to pass on to the next tenants.


Ultimately, it’s essential to research beforehand the size and type of residential unit in which you’ll be living in Malaysia. Large furniture items like sofas and mattresses are best left behind, as it’s less of a hassle to rent or buy these if they are not already installed in your living quarters. Consider leaving behind garden tables and chairs if your Malaysian house comes with a cramped garden area, or if local climate conditions will adversely affect these outdoor furnishings.

It’s best to leave behind electronic appliances and equipment, as the plugs and voltages in your home country may differ from that of Malaysia, while some electronic goods require an import permit to be shipped over.

As a rule, always compare the usefulness and advantage of items versus the cost and effort required to bring them in. Factors like the risk of damaging fragile furniture, how extensively your chosen insurance policy will account for these risks, and how long before you return to your home country should influence your decision of which furniture is best left behind.


Antique furniture that’s been in the family for ages, or the most sturdy and durable furnishings that have outlived the ravages of time, are items that many expatriates pack up and bring to their new location.

Moving into a furnished house or apartment, at best, eliminates the need and the cost of shipping bulky items like tables, desks, chairs, cupboards and bed frames over to your new place.

On the flipside, whatever items of sentimental value that you don’t bring along with you will either have to be sold, left with family or friends, or most likely kept in storage back in your home country, the last of which will be a considerable cost depending on how long you’ll be staying overseas. In those cases, it may be more suitable to make arrangements to ship these items over and simply rent similar furnishings in Malaysia for one to three months while waiting for their arrival.

Some items you wish to ship to Malaysia may be subject to a certain duty fee, tax or have import permit requirements imposed. Furniture, however, comes under the ‘household effects’ category of duty-free items that may be shipped, provided that you can prove that you have owned the items in question for at least three months prior to shipping them and that you won’t dispose of them for at least six months after the date they arrive in Malaysia.