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Guide for a Foreigner Buying Property in Singapore

Can foreigner buy property in Singapore
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Despite the effects of the pandemic, there is still a boost in real estate purchases, especially with foreign buyers. Key factors, such as Singapore’s status as the world’s best place to be during COVID, make the country attractive to foreign buyers and investors. But does Singapore allow foreigners to buy property?

The short answer is “yes”. Foreigners can buy property in Singapore, but it comes with certain restrictions. For instance, foreigners can purchase a private apartment or condominium unit. On the other hand, foreigners are not allowed to purchase new HDB flats (BTOs) or Sale of Balance Flats (SBFs).  However, foreign Singapore Permanent Residents can purchase an HDB resale flat under the HDB Public Scheme.

Are you planning to purchase a property in Singapore? Below is a more detailed explanation of what foreigners can and can’t buy. Plus, steps in buying a condo for foreigners.

What Types of Residential Property Can Foreigners Buy in Singapore?

Under the Residential Property Act, expats in Singapore are allowed to purchase a condominium without approval.

According to the Singapore Land Authority, foreigners can also purchase the following without approval:

  • Strata landed house in an approved condominium development
  • A leasehold estate in a landed residential property for a term not exceeding 7 years, including any further term which may be granted by way of an option for renewal.
  • Shophouses, industrial and commercial properties 
  • Hotel (registered under the provisions of the Hotels Act)
  • Executive condominium unit, an HDB flat, and an HDB shophouse.

You can learn more about purchasing executive condominiums on the HDB eligibility guidelines at hdb.gov.sg or email HDB at hdbsales@mailbox.hdb.gov.sg

But who is considered a foreigner in Singapore?

Foreigners in Singapore are considered to be in one of the three categories:

  • Not a Singapore citizen.
  • Not a Singapore company, a Singapore Limited Liability Partnership, or a Singapore society.
  • Hence, Singapore Permanent Residents, also known as SPRs, are also regarded as foreigners.

Properties Foreigners Can Or Cannot Purchase

Purchases a Singapore permanent resident can make Purchases a non-Singapore permanent resident can make
Private condos Private condos
Privatized ECs Privatized ECs
Landed properties in Sentosa Cove Landed properties in Sentosa Cove
Landed properties (with special permission from Singapore Land Authority Landed properties (with special permission from Singapore Land Authority
A resale executive condominium unit that has reached its 5-year MOP  –
Resale HDB flats (with another Singapore PR or Singaporean)  –
Strata-landed homes  –

Public/Public-Private Hybrid Homes

Public residential property is subject to certain restrictions overseen by the Housing and Development Board (HDB). It’s also important to note that neither Singapore PRs nor non-PRs can buy new HDB flats such as Sale of Balance Flats (SBFs) or Build-to-Orders (BTOs) properties. Among these conditions, there are also a few others.

Eligibility

Property types that foreigners may own are the following:

  • Individuals who are non-Singapore Permanent Residents can only purchase Executive Condominiums (ECs) that are more than a decade old.
  • A Singapore PR buying alone can only buy a resale HDB flat or EC that has reached its 5-year Minimum Occupation Period (MOP).

Singapore PRs jointly buying together can purchase:

  • Over-five-year-old ECs for resale.
  • HDB resale flat  (3 years after obtaining permanent residency).
  • 10 years old privatized ECs.

Property options you can purchase as a Singapore PR with a non-Singapore citizen:

  • Over-five-year-old ECs for resale
  • More than 10 years old privatized ECs

For Non-Singapore PR couples who are looking to buy together:

  • Privatized ECs that are more than 10 years old

real estate agent shaking hand

Steps in Buying a Condo for Foreigners in Singapore

Step 1: Check The Affordability Of The Property

Before deciding which condo unit to purchase, you must first consider how much you can comfortably afford. There are tools, such as an affordability calculator that can help you estimate the maximum loan amount as well as the property purchase price you can afford. This estimate will be based on your income, age, and existing loan obligations.

Step 2: Check What Taxes Need To Be Paid

When checking for affordability, you must also consider the taxes and stamp duties that come with purchasing a property. 

Buyer’s Stamp Duty

Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) is a tax paid on the documents signed when you purchase a property in Singapore. It must be paid whether you’re buying from the public or private housing markets. Additionally, this stamp duty must be paid regardless of your nationality.

Here are the BSD rates after 20 Feb 2018

Purchase price or market value of the property BSD Rates for residential properties BSD Rates for non-residential properties
On the first $180k 1% 1%
On the second $180k 2% 2%
Next $640k 3% 3%
Remaining Amount 4% 3%

 Additional Buyers Stamp Duty

Aside from Buyer’s Stamp Duty, foreigners are also required to pay the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD). With the new December 2021 Singapore property cooling measures, there were revisions in the ABSD rates.

Take a look at the table below:

Property ABSD rates for Singapore Permanent Residents (SPRs) ABSD rates for Foreigners
1st property 5% 30%
2nd property 25% 30%
3rd property 30% 30%

 

US Nationals or Nationals and Permanent Residents from Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Iceland do not need to pay ABSD.

Step 3: Apply For A Loan

Bank Loan

The most popular option is a home loan given by the state or banks to help individuals buy a residential property in Singapore. You can borrow up to 90% of the property’s value, and it can be used for any interest-bearing purpose.

To borrow from a bank, you have to first meet their criteria, including making sure you have a stable income, have savings available, and check your credit rating.

If your credit score is good, they may accept you for a personal loan, too, which will enable you to use it for other related expenses like furnishing the place or acquiring a leasehold estate instead.

Young Couple looking happy in front of their new house

How much can foreigners borrow?

Banks in Singapore offer home loans for foreigners. You can get up to 75% home financing for the first property and 55% for the second and subsequent property.

However, the maximum loan amount may vary depending on various factors. One of the factors that banks consider is your Loan-to-Value (LTV) ratio. The Loan-to-Value is the loan amount as a percentage of the property’s total value. The LTV limit determines the maximum amount a person can borrow for a housing loan.

The following LTV limits apply to foreigners:

Outstanding Housing loans LTV Limit Minimum Cash Down Payment
None 75% or 55%* 5% (for LTV of 75%)10% (for LTV of 55%)
1 45% or 25%* 25%
2 or more 35% or 15%* 25%

 Additionally, bank loans are subjected to floating rates. This means the interest rate can go higher or lower.

Licensed Money Lender in Singapore

A majority of licensed moneylenders in Singapore offer personal loans to foreigners looking to own property, such as Loan Advisor- a highly-regarded loan provider in Singapore.  This is an attractive option for foreigners to save up for long-term investment.

These loans are usually cheaper than bank loans. Moneylenders also provide more flexible terms that allow borrowers to secure a more tailored loan to their particular needs.

That said, before dealing with any moneylender, make sure to verify their license by checking the complete list of licensed moneylenders on MinLaw’s website.

But how much can foreigners borrow from a licensed moneylender?

For secured loans, you can obtain any amount. For unsecured loans, expats can borrow up to 6x their monthly income.

Borrower’s annual income Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents Foreigners residing in Singapore
Less than $10,000 $3,000 $500
At least $10,000

and less than $20,000

$3,000
At least $20,000 6 times monthly income 6 times monthly income

 Step 4: Hiring An Agent

You can look for a property on your own or you can hire an agent. Some home buyers choose to do it on their own to save on the agent’s commission. Want to try it out?

  • First, look into local property portals.
  • You can filter your search according to location, price, amenities, and more.
  • Visit the property and determine if it is the right fit for you

Hiring a real estate agent, on the other hand, can help you look for the best deals. They can also do your financial calculations, settle all the paperwork necessary, and other nitty-gritty details. Typically, agents charge a 1% fee.

Before engaging with an agent, make sure to visit the Council of Estate Agents’ (CEA) website to find the list of all the licensed property agencies and registered agents.

Step 5: Hire a Property Lawyer

You may also need to hire a qualified property lawyer. The lawyer can confirm ownership. In addition to drawing up legal documents, the lawyer will confirm the ownership of the property and ensure the sale has legal standing. Your lawyer can also help perform due diligence checks on the seller. 

Step 6: Secure the Property

To secure the condo unit you want, you’ll need to sign the Option-to-Purchase (OTP). But before that, make sure to get your bank’s In-Principal Approval (IPA) which is basically a promise to finance your property purchase. The IPA is valid for up to two weeks.

For condominiums, you’ll need to pay an option fee of 1% of the purchase price. After you secure financing, you can pay the remaining option fee of 4% within a month.

Once this is done, you’ll need to pay a downpayment of 15% in cash. SPRs can use their CPF savings to pay for the downpayment.

Singapore’s Top Areas Where Foreigners Buy Property

  • Robertson Quay, Districts 03 &09– Located within walking distance from the central business district, these districts also identify as the best in the country regarding social and recreational amenities.
  • Sentosa / Keppel Bay, District 04– Sentosa offers stunning architecture and some of the best views in Singapore. 
  • Cairnhill, District 09– Cairnhill enjoys exclusive status as a bungalow estate favored by the Singapore elite, with top-rated schools in the surrounding area – it’s no surprise that it is one of Singapore’s most sought-after suburbs.   
  • Amber / Meyer Road, District 15– This neighborhood is situated on Singapore’s East Coast, a bustling, family-friendly neighborhood that dwells close to many approved condominium development which offers the most breathtaking and serene view of the ocean.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Foreigners Buy Property With Their Singapore Citizen/PR Spouse?

When buying executive condominiums, only full citizen couples or citizen-PR couples are allowed to purchase brand new EC flats.

However, resale EC flats that are less than 10 years old are available for purchase for anyone – including citizen-foreigner couples.

What about landed properties?

Only Singapore citizens are allowed to purchase landed property. Singapore PRs or foreigners can apply for approval with SLA if they wish to jointly purchase with a Singapore Citizen spouse.

Can Foreigners Buy Resale HDB in Singapore? 

Foreigners cannot purchase HDB flats in Singapore. Under HDB rules, only Singapore Permanent Residents may buy resale flats – only if they form a family nucleus meaning the two or more applicants are related by blood or marriage.

Can Foreigners Buy Landed Property in Singapore? 

Foreigners who wish to purchase landed residential property in Singapore are required to seek approval from the Land Dealings Approval Unit (LDAU).

Can Foreigners Own Multiple Properties in Singapore?

Yes, foreigners can own multiple properties in Singapore. However, every additional property that a foreign individual acquires will require a payment of 30% ABSD tax. 

Note: Foreigners can only purchase one property in Sentosa Cove at a time.

Closing

As a foreigner in Singapore, you may find the process of purchasing a property intimidating and overwhelming. However, it is not impossible. Certain types of properties are available for purchase. You only need to learn about your options, restrictions, and potential limitations.

Key Takeaways

  • Foreigners in Singapore can purchase a private apartment or condominium unit.
  • Singapore Permanent Residents can purchase an HDB resale flat under the HDB Public Scheme.
  • Regardless of nationality, you will need to pay the Buyer’s Stamp Duty when purchasing a property. Foreigners will need to pay for 30% Additional Buyers Stamp Duty on top of the BSD.

Need financing for your goals? Loan Advisor, a loan comparison tool, will help you find the best loan package that is tailored for your needs. They have the best loan rates, tenure, and terms from the top licensed moneylenders in Singapore. Request up to three loan quotes today for free!

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