Buying in Singapore, Getting Started, General

99.co’s guides: Buying property in Singapore as a foreigner

August 8, 2015

Basically, everything a foreigner needs to know about the buying property in Singapore can be found in the Residential Property Act (Chapter 274) of the Singapore Law. Yet, seeing that a couple hundred pages of legal jargon could be a little overwhelming.

If you're new to Singapore, you'll realise buying property in Singapore is going to be a challenge

If you’re new to Singapore, you’ll realise buying property in Singapore is going to be a challenge

We at 99.co have put some of our minions to work and crunched out the essentials. Whether you are aiming to dip your toes into buying property in Singapore or jump in head-first, here are some pointers.

Knowing the brief background before actually buying property in Singapore

First up, some background. The property market in Singapore is segmented and favours Singaporean citizens. What, why, how? The story goes something like this: since the early ‘70s, the Singaporean government has had a hand in the property market, gradually imposing a series of thresholds and restrictions on foreigners looking to buy property in Singapore.

These regulations are implemented in the context of a property market that has limited supply (given the limited land space of tiny Singapore). The broad idea underlying this all is to keep property affordable for Singaporeans, and give them a stake in their own country – while at the same time allowing foreign talent who are economically invested and deemed financial contributors to be able to purchase property nonetheless.

As a foreigner you should not be worried, for there remain plenty of opportunities to buy a home in Singapore. That said, finding property, especially in an unfamiliar country, can be challenging.

When are you considered a foreigner?

Basically, anyone who is not a Singaporean citizen, a Singaporean company, a Singaporean limited liability partnership or a Singaporean society is defined as a foreign person.

What type of property are you purchasing?

To know in what sort of boat you are, the first thing you should be asking yourself is what type of property am I aiming to buy? Essentially, there are two overarching types of properties in Singapore: residential and non-residential. The former can be restricted or non-restricted. These categories are generally demarcated based on the use, type and location of the property.

If your property is categorized as either “non-residential” or “non-restricted residential” you are treated just like any other Singaporean and can purchase it without seeking approval from the government.

These properties typically include condominium units, executive condominium flats, strata landed houses in an approved condominium development, shop houses for commercial use, and industrial or commercial property. The full list of such properties is set out here.

If, however, the estate you seek to purchase falls under the category of “restricted residential property” you, as a foreigner, cannot purchase it without approval from the government.

These properties typically include what Singaporeans refer to locally as “landed property”, including terrace houses, semi-detached houses, and bungalows. The full list of such properties is set out here.

So how do you get approval, and what does it depend on?

Is your Singaporean dream estate a restricted residential property? All is not lost, for whilst the system of restricted properties is designed to bar foreigners from this segment of the market, the Singaporean government leaves open a window of possibility for those foreigners who are (a) a permanent resident (PR) and (b) make “an adequate economic contribution” to the Singaporean state and society.

See more on how to become a PR here. Factors such as your academic background, technical or professional qualifications, career scope, and history of investments in Singapore, can all be viewed as economic contributions.

In addition, even if you are a foreigner (who is not a PR), the government has carved out an exception such that you are eligible to buy a restricted residential property at Sentosa Cove. For these properties, you can obtain a fast-track approval (approx. 48 hours) from the Singapore Land Dealing Unit.

The Process: The Steps Foreigners need to take before buying property in Singapore

For foreigners looking to buy property in Singapore, there may be certain restrictions to look out for. The Residential Property Act of 1973 regulates foreign ownership of property, land, and housing. The act applies to everyone who is not a citizen, e.g. temporary and permanent residents.

However, there are still ways/steps you can take to purchase property in Singapore.

The process typically involves the signing of the Option to Purchase (involving your payment of 1 to 5 percent cash to the Seller, which reserves the property exclusively for you as the buyer), and then exercising the option (typically within two weeks) by way of parties entering into the Sale and Purchase Agreement. This involves your payment of a deposit, and the setting in place of deadlines for payment of other fees (such as stamp duties).

Do take note that if you plan to take loans from financial institutions to purchase your property, there are some restrictions placed on the quantum of loans obtainable, as set out here.

We further recommend that you contact your bank in advance and apply for an Approval-in-Principle (AIP), for many sellers will not accept your Option to Purchase (OTP) without it. AIPs expire after six months, and can be renewed when necessary.

The last stages involve pre-completion checks (typically conducted by your agents or solicitors), and the completion itself (where further documents are executed, and the keys are handed over to you). For more information on the guidelines, and specific guidelines involving uncompleted residential properties, click here and here respectively.

How much is buying property in Singapore?

Regardless of the type of property you are purchasing, a stamp duty will have to be paid. That said,  the amount and type of stamp duty will depend on the type of property purchased, the number of properties the owner already holds and the owner’s status (Singaporean citizen, PR, or foreigner).

So, let’s break it down for you. There are three layers of stamp duty in Singapore: the Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD), Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD), and the Seller’s Stamp Duty (SSD).

The BSD is a 3 percent ad valorem tax payable by the buyer, irrespective of whether it is the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd property purchased and regardless of whether you are a Singaporean citizen, Permanent Resident, or Foreigner. “Ad Valorem” – big word, yes – simply entails that the buyer shall pay 1 percent tax duty on the first S$180,000, 2% on the next S$180,000, and 3% on everything thereafter.

Unlike the BSD, the ABSD is only applied to residential property, where foreigners pay a flat 15 percent tax duty for any residential property, regardless of volume, while Singaporean citizens and permanent residents pay 0% and 5% respectively for their first purchase, 7% and 10% for their second and 10% and 10% for any purchase thereafter.

Good news here if you are a national from the USA, or a national/permanent resident from Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland: you pay the same stamp duty rates as a Singapore citizen.

Lastly, similar to the ABSD, the SSD is only applied to residential property, and this tax falls on the seller. When you sell your property within four years’ time after your purchase, an SSD will be due. Principally, when sold within the first year after being bought the SSD will be 16% high; when sold in the timeframe of one to two years after the purchase 12% will be due; when sold between two and three years after the purchase the SSD would be 8% ; and lastly, when sold between three and four years after the initial purchase SSD will amount to 4% of the property value. No SSD shall be levied when the property is sold later than four years after its purchase.

Where to go from here?

Interested but not sure which property to purchase?

Visit 99.co and kick-start the search for your dream estate.

Got your eye on a non-restricted property?

Decide if you wish to employ an agent or not. If yes, there are plenty of agents who’ve posted their available properties on 99.co. Visit our website and/or app and enquire agents about their listings using our Free SMS feature.

Locked on a restricted residential property?

Apply for approval here (you will be subjected to a $1220 fee). The entire procedure will take about 3 months.

Almost there!

A few last caveats on the purchasing of property in Singapore:

*As stipulated in the application form (page 3), certain types of property are prohibited from sale for up to 5 years.

*The purchase of restricted residential property is to be used solely by you for your own occupation and that of your family members. Renting it out is actually illegal, and if breached you shall be liable for a fine of S$200,000 and up to 3 years in prison.

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41 Comments

  • Reply Jyotsna Arora November 13, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    Hi ,
    I would like to know , if we can buy a residential property (HDB) in singapore , my husband is a PR for the last three years , is working with a local bank and we recently got married (i am on long term visa pass with my PR application under process ) .
    Look forward .
    Thanks and regards
    Jyotsna Arora

    • Reply Marouan Fatti November 19, 2015 at 5:47 pm

      Hey Jyotsna, that’s a great question!

      We know HDB eligibility rules can be quite a maze, So let’s try and straighten this out 🙂

      The deal on HDB eligibility is as follows: there is two markets, the first is the Build To Order (BTO) HDB market, and the second is the HDB Resale Market. As for the former, it is only for Singapore Citizens and Singapore Permanent Residents cannot apply, so that’s unfortuantely a dead end. The latter has more opportunities for you. In the HDB Resale market, you can as an Singapore Permanent Resident buy an HDB flat, given you comply with certain rules – which can be found here: http://goo.gl/U7Lwlr (under the heading of “Public Scheme”).

      The problematic bit in the puzzle for now is that you do not have a Permanent Resident status. And under the current eligibility rules only a Singapore Citizen is allowed to buy an HDB flat together with a non – Singapore Citizen or non – Singapore Permanent resident. (This is under the non-citizen Spouse scheme).

      It is however possible for two Singapore Permanent Residents to apply under the “Public Scheme”. Thus, you will have to wait with the purchase until you too have received SPR status. There is unfortunately no option where a SPR can apply together with a non-citizen/non-pr.

      The good news is that your husband has already had his PR for 3 years. (A PR-household has to wait at least 3 years before they can purchase an HDB), so as soon as you have received your PR, you and your husband will be eligible to buy an HDB.

      Hope this helped, and good luck with the PR application!

  • Reply Nay Min Py November 30, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    Hello
    If I have a student Visa , May I buy any Room in Singapore ? if Yes , Please explain me what will be difference between me and Singaporian on that condition ? Also , where can I learn Singapore Apartment Prices ?

    • Reply Marouan Fatti November 30, 2015 at 5:24 pm

      Hello Nay Min Py,

      So as a Student Visa holder you are counted as a foreigner and you will be allowed to buy any non-restricted residential property in Singapore. Generally they don’t sell by room though, rather by apartment. The difference between you and a Singaporean Citizen kicks in at the stamp duty. You will have t pay a higher rate (as can be viewed here: https://goo.gl/dMZNBz). There is several ways to check what apartment prices are like in Singapore. The most tenuous way is to go to the URA website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/realEstateIIWeb/transaction/search.action. A far more fun way is to simply go to our website (www.99.co) filter to your desire and compare apartments with similar perks (size, location, type, amenities etc).

      Hope this helped :)!

    • Reply Darius Cheung January 29, 2016 at 7:27 pm

      hey yes you can buy private properties in singapore as foreigner – but i dont think you can buy a “room” though.

      you can however definitely find studio apartments and 1-bedroom apartments!

      • Reply Gary lim February 25, 2016 at 9:43 pm

        Being active in the condo market it seems that foreign buyers are slowly coming back.
        Its a good time to pick up good properties especially in Prime District 9/10/11 or District 1/2 which is more for investment.

        If you need any assistance feel free to contact us today.

        Gary Lim
        garylim.property@gmail.com
        +65 94507545

  • Reply Francis Oh March 18, 2016 at 11:04 am

    What are the guide line for foreign buyers wanted to purchase Singapore building.

    Thanks,
    Francis Oh
    90070008

    • Reply Jamal March 22, 2016 at 12:39 pm

      Hi Francis, basically, everything a foreigner needs to know about the purchasing of property in Singapore can be found in the Residential Property Act (Chapter 274) of the Singapore Law. Yet, seeing that a couple hundred pages of legalese could be a little overwhelming, we at 99.co have put some of our minions to work and crunched out the essentials. I hope all your answers will be covered in our article at http://www.99.co/blog/singapore/singapore-property-buying-guide-for-foreigners or otherwise please feel to reach us again. Thank you for your comment.

  • Reply wky March 30, 2016 at 11:23 am

    Hi, my husband is a Singapore citizen and I’m a pr. We are looking to buy our first property in spore. We are thinking of condo. Are we subjected to absd if joint purchase as a married couple? However my pr is expiring in Oct. If my pr is not renewed ( we are currently residing overseas), this means our purchase will be a joint purchase of a Singapore citizen and foreigner. How does this impact absd rate? Thanks

    • Reply Jamal March 30, 2016 at 3:02 pm

      Hi there, thank you so much for asking a question on our comments section 🙂 First of all, being a Singapore citizen, your husband can buy a property easily here and it’s not necessary to include your name on it (or buy as a couple). The only problem you might find here is the loan approval by the bank if the loan amount is too big. But if you are also working and earning, it would be easier since the combined bank statements would show good numbers. I would advise you to read our article https://www.99.co/blog/singapore/a-singapore-permanent-resident-what-property-can-you-buy/ and https://www.99.co/blog/singapore/the-future-of-absd/ This should answer your questions. Please feel free to reach again if you have further doubts.

  • Reply alvin July 1, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    hi there,
    i am an aussie citizen, may i know if i can buy a condo in singapore?
    i am not working or living there. just buy a unit there to stay whenever i visit my friends and family.

    • Reply Adam R. July 15, 2016 at 3:06 pm

      Hi Alvin,

      Yes it is definitely possible for you to buy a condo, however, it will be more costly to do so as compared to a local citizen/PR.

      For example, on top of the Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD), expats have to pay an additional 10% (of the unit’s price) Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duty (ABSD).

      Regards,
      Adam R.

  • Reply Jaymee July 25, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    Hi, I am a Singapore citizen and my boyfriend is a foreigner (Norwegian nationality). He doesn’t have PR status or EP yet. He is flying in later this week to look for an apartment. During the 4 days of his stay, would it be possible to make full payment and secure keys to the apartment?

    • Reply Adam R. August 4, 2016 at 1:26 pm

      Hi Jaymee,

      Yes, it is possible to obtain and exercise the OTP in the same day of purchase. However, do bear in mind that because your boyfriend is a foreigner, he will have to pay 15% ABSD on top of the purchase price.

      Regards,
      Adam R.

    • Reply Pierre Tan March 25, 2017 at 10:31 pm

      Hi Jaymee

      This reply probably came too late. In fact, your boyfriend, a Norwegian nationality, if buying 1st property in Singapore, does not need to pay ABSD. Just need pay the normal stamp duty as per Singaporean.

      Pierre Tan

  • Reply Ron September 9, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    Hello, i’m a Singapore Citizen with a Work permit foreigner Fiancee, is it possible to purchase a EC? or the only property that i can look at is Private condos?

    • Reply Adam R. September 19, 2016 at 5:05 pm

      Hi Ron,

      Afraid you are correct. For application for an EC, you must be a Singapore Citizen and the other applicant must be a Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident to qualify.

      Regards,
      Adam R.

  • Reply THET H.A October 11, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    Hi,

    I am just wondering if Foreigners bought the condo in Singapore, how can they stay in Singapore without valid pass if they are not working in SG.

    I am not sure the following statement whether true or not.
    The foreigners who bout the condo I Singapore are eligible to get the Long term pass for their family when the main occupant reached the age of 45.

    Please correct and advice my statement.
    Thank you.

    THET

    • Reply Adam R. December 1, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      Hi Thet,

      Foreigners who are not working in SG will only be considered to be on a tourist visa. Depending on your nationality, they can visit Singapore for 30 or 90 days, and this is counted from the day that they enter the country. As such, they are allowed to own the property, but can only stay in it 30 or 90 days.

      Do also note that long term pass is offered only to foreigners who are :

      – Holding an Employment Pass or S Pass.
      – Earning a minimum fixed monthly salary of $5,000
      – Sponsored by an established, Singapore-registered company (usually your employer)

      This is regardless of age.

      Regards,
      Adam R.

  • Reply Sdas December 2, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Hi, If I being a foreigner, buy a condo, then at the time of moving to another country permanently, can I still hold the ownership of my condo. Or should I sell it. Can I rent the condo? What are the terms and conditions.

    • Reply Adam R. December 7, 2016 at 11:24 am

      Hi Sdas,

      Yes you can still purchase a condo as a foreigner. Just note that you’ll have to foot 15% additional buyer’s stamp duty for your purchase (For more info on ABSD, you can read about it here http://buff.ly/2g82mOf.

      You can also rent it out to tenants after purchasing it.

      Regards,
      Adam R.

  • Reply Wee Ping December 14, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Hi, I am a PR (just start 2nd year) and my husband is EP holder. If we plan to by a property in Singapore, what type of property that we are eligible to buy? And do we need to pay 15% for the ABSD? If the property only put my name, is that we can pay only 5% of ABSD? (Will it be difficult to get mortgage loan if we purchase the property by just using my name?)

    Can we buy second hand EC? or only Condo?

    • Reply Adam R. January 9, 2017 at 12:30 pm

      Hi Wee Ping,

      Afraid the only option open to you and your husband are private condos, or ECs that have surpassed their 5 year MOP. You can get more info from this follow-up article we did recently – https://www.99.co/blog/singapore/property-foreigners-singapore-buy/

      Yes, the 15% ABSD is applicable if both of you sign as co-owners. IRAS takes into account the higher applicable
      ABSD rate if there are two or more parties involves. For your case, because your husband is considered a foreigner, the ABSD rate of 15% will apply irrespective of the number of properties each of you owns.

      You are also right in saying that if only you sign up as a sole applicant, you will only have to pay 3% ABSD because you are PR. Success in application for a mortgage loan does not take into consideration how many applicant are applying for the property – it has more to do with your TDSR, credit score, LTV, loan tenure etc.

      Hope this helps!

      Regards,
      Adam R.

      • Reply Martin Ng February 22, 2017 at 10:18 pm

        Hi Adam,

        May i clarify that SPR first property on ABSD rate would be 5% instead of 3%?
        and subsequent property for SPR would be 10% thereafter.

        Regards
        Martin Ng

        • Reply Adam R. February 27, 2017 at 10:08 am

          Hi Martin,

          Yes you are correct. The ABSD rate for SPRs buying first property is 5%, and subsequently is 10%, as of 2013 onwards.

          Regards,
          Adam R.

  • Reply Laxmi January 2, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    Hi, my husband and I are swiss citizens, both retired and having a combined pension of over US$15,000/- monthly. Can we purchase a condo in Singapore? Can we live there for longer periods or are we restricted to the maximum 90 days per visit?
    Would my husband and I be entitled to a long term pass?
    Thank you for any information you can provide on the above queries.

    • Reply Adam R. January 9, 2017 at 12:43 pm

      Hi Laxmi,

      Yes, you and your husband are eligible to purchase a condo in Singapore, but will be subjected to a 15% additional buyers’ stamp duty payable on top of the sale price of the unit.

      Unfortunately, ownership of a property will not grant you a longer period of stay outside of the tourist visa of 90 days. In order to stay in the country for longer, either you or your husband has to obtain employment to get a Employment Pass (EP). Other than that, you may wish to extend your short-term pass with the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA). Success for this is on a case-by-case basis. Here is a link you might want to take note of – https://www.ica.gov.sg/services_centre_overview.aspx?pageid=374 if you choose to venture with it.

      Hope this helps.

      Regards,
      Adam R.

  • Reply Carmine January 9, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    Hi there, my husband is a U.S citizen and I’m a New Zealand citizen. Neither of us have Singaporean PR or EP status but we like to come to Singapore on holiday as I have extended family here. Would we be able to buy an HDB resale flat under solely his name? I’ve read that US citizens, like Singaporean citizens, don’t incur the 15% ABSD due to the US-Singapore free trade agreement. Would we be able to rent the flat while we are not using it? Thanks

    • Reply Adam R. January 13, 2017 at 1:47 pm

      Hi Carmine,

      Unfortunately, foreign citizens are not allowed to purchase a HDB resale flat. The only option open for you and your husband are condos.

      Yes, you are right to say that US citizens are not liable to foot the 15% ABSD. Hence, your husband will just have to pay the purchase price of the condo should he buy one solely under his name.

      You will be able to rent it out after the purchase as well.

      Regards,
      Adam R.

  • Reply Oliver Barrow February 2, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    Hi Adam,

    My wife and I looking to buy a HDB resale flat. My wife is a Singapore Citizen and I am EP (PR Pending).

    Can I be added to the OTP as an Occupier for the purpose of obtaining a Bank Home Loan?

    Looking forward to your reply.

    Thank you

    Oliver

    • Reply Adam R. February 7, 2017 at 10:18 pm

      Hi Oliver,

      Unfortunately, that is not possible. As per HDB’s regulations, the mortgagee applying for the bank loan and the owner of the HDB flat must be the same person.

      Given that you are waiting for your PR status to be approved, it would be better to wait till it succeeds before applying for the resale flat. That way, both of you can place your names as owners, and apply for the bank loan at the same time without complications.

      Regards,
      Adam R.

  • Reply Indrajit Ghosh March 16, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    Thanks for the great post. This is exactly what I was looking for. Some of my questions was answered from the comments section itself. Cheers!

  • Reply Siddharth Joshi April 6, 2017 at 11:51 am

    Does one have to be living in Singapore for study or work to buy a property there? As a foreigner is it allowed to buy an apartment in Singapore purely as an investment or for future usage, even if I am not living there at the moment? Have been pondering on this question for a while, so any guidance or clarification will be much appreciated! Of course I assume this is after compying with all rules.

    • Reply Adam R. April 11, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      Hi Siddharth,

      Yes, it is possible to purchase a property even if you are not residing here.

      Regards,
      Adam R.

      • Reply Siddharth Joshi April 17, 2017 at 2:56 pm

        Hi Adam,

        Thank you for your response, and let me give a brief reason for asking this.

        I am planning to send my daughter for high school and graduation in Singapore. Our plan is for someone from family to accompany her there for this duration, and feel having own apartment will help make it convenient. Is it more advisable to buy or rent for such a requirement? We are looking at starting in year 2022 and a stay duration of 5-6 years.

        From this forum I would like to have your views from a real estate buy/rent perspective, as we will be handling the visa related process questions seperately.

        Thanks,
        Siddharth

        • Reply Doug April 18, 2017 at 12:08 pm

          I think the question of a buy/rent for your case would be whether you see this “opportunity” (of your daughter studying in Singapore) as a chance to invest in Singapore’s property market or not. From the get-go, you’re asking which is better to house your daughter and another family for 5-6 years. Your situation does not require buying a property no matter how you look at it, so if you consider buying it has to be a decision to invest. Additionally, with such a long lease, you could also potentially enjoy better rental rates so if it’s purely for accommodating, I’d say rent instead.

          However, if you wish to invest, the questions to ask are – do you know enough about Singapore’s property market? It’s trends, it’s policies and the overall outlook? The target market you wish to appeal to rent to for your investment property? The scariest thing about investing overseas is always the foreign legality and foreign market which one would not be familiarised with. Thus, you have to do your due diligence should you wish to invest, as some things cannot wholly be learned from the internet, especially if you’re talking about a decision involving hundreds of thousands of dollars.

          You also have to keep in mind that since you’re only starting your lease 2022, a lot of things could change by then. Perhaps your daughter won’t be studying in Singapore anymore, or perhaps Singapore’s property market hits some kind of a crisis. Either way, do make sure that you future-proof your plans! Lastly, properties in the RCR (Rest of Central Region) can be a good start should you want to invest, because they’re well received in the tenant market and also command good transactions. But like anyone else here, we’re all strangers to you so really, do your own due diligence 🙂

          -Doug

          • Siddharth Joshi April 18, 2017 at 12:43 pm

            Hi Doug,

            Thanks a lot for this detailed response, I have to say you have really understood and addressed my situation perfectly! Going through your suggestions I do get a feeling rent probably works better than buy for us to start with. And then as my timeline is 5 years into the future maybe it is too early to start detailed planning for renting property at this moment. I will be keeping an eye on this for sure and let us see then how it works out!

            Regards,
            Siddharth

        • Reply Doug April 18, 2017 at 12:16 pm

          Oh yeah, if you wish, I can furnish you with some data on Singapore’s property market e.g. price/volume trends, rental trends etc. I work in consultancy firm so yeah, I would be glad to help in my free time.

          -Doug

          • Doug April 18, 2017 at 12:17 pm

            I work in a consultancy firm*… Sorry OCD haha

          • Siddharth Joshi April 18, 2017 at 12:51 pm

            Excuse my basic level questioning, but can you elaborate which area gets covered under the RCR (Rest of central region)?

  • Reply Doug April 18, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    https://www.ura.gov.sg/maps/?service=MP

    Click on the link. Zoom out till you can see the whole of Singapore. RCR is generally the whole of the Central Region, excluding the CCR (area outlined in red). Hope it helps!
    -Doug

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