So you’re about to inherit a house. Before you pop the champagne and start yelling “rental income”, there are a few things you’d better consider. If you’ve never had to own and manage your own property before, there are a dozen places where you can trip up, and suddenly find yourself staring at a five-digit bill. Here’s what you have to brace for:
If you’re inheriting a flat, you may not be able to keep it
So you already own a house, but now you’re inheriting a flat. Before you start looking for a tenant, you should know you may not be able to keep it.
If you already own an HDB flat, then you’ll have to sell the one you’re inheriting. You can’t own two HDB properties. If you own private property, then you may or may not be able to keep the flat.
If the person you’re inheriting it from bought it without subsidies, before August 2010, you can keep the flat. However, if the flat was bought after that date, or with subsidies, then you must sell the flat.
Also, if you are inheriting a flat in which the Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP) of five years isn’t met, you’ll have to move in if you want to keep it.
The restoration and renovation costs will burn a hole in your pocket
The first shock comes when you want to move into an old house, or rent it out. If you think you can just do that tomorrow, then you either inherited it from a very neat home owner, or haven’t actually seen the inside of an old house before.
Brace yourself, because renovations just for maintenance (i.e. redoing the flooring, fixing the sagging doors) can cost anywhere between $10,000 to $15,000, as a safe estimate for condos. For HDB flats, you still should expect costs to run up to between $5,000 and $10,000. This excludes the cost of new furnishings and air-conditioning, as well as services like pest extermination.
For landed properties, such as a semi-detached house, go ahead and double that estimate.
The average renovation loan from a bank (don’t use a personal loan, the interest rate is higher) is either six months of your income, or $30,000, whichever is higher.
One thing to note: if the house you’re inheriting is already in poor condition, do not hold off on renovation. An old house with maintenance issues is like a sharp pain when you’re over the age of 40: whatever it is won’t clear up on its own by Thursday, and it will get more expensive to fix the longer you wait.
The restoration and renovation cost might also be too much for you to handle. It is a good idea to consider selling the property before the damage worsens. As the holes in the walls get bigger, it also gets harder for your property agent to convince a buyer.
If you inherit a condo and have never paid maintenance before, take a deep breath before you see the bill
Many people are used to conservancy charges on HDB flats, but if you inherit a condo – and are now saddled with condo-worthy maintenance costs – you’d better take a deep breath.
In general, the bigger the floor space of your unit, and the fewer the residents, the more you’ll be paying. It’s not uncommon for the monthly cost to range between $300 and $500, with some of the fanciest condos having monthly costs that reach four digit figures (common if there’s a concierge service).
The other thing to note is that, for many condos, the management committee will try to minimise collection frequency. This means many condos send a quarterly bill, so don’t get a heart attack when the first one arrives, and the amount is something like $1,200. There may also be an interest charge for paying late, so don’t take your time.
You CAN end up paying Seller Stamp Duty when you sell an inherited property
Let’s say it’s too much of a hassle to keep the house, and you want to sell it. Most of the time, you won’t be affected by the Seller Stamp Duty (SSD), as you can apply for SSD remission – you can use the date the property was originally bought as the acquisition date.
However, if you’re one of the unfortunate few who inherited a property soon after it was bought (on the first, second, or third year after the purchase), you could end up paying the SSD.
If you were just about to buy a house, remember that the ABSD now applies to you
Remember that inheriting a property raises your property count. If you’re a Singapore Citizen, for example, buying a property after you inherit one would incur a seven percent Additional Buyers Stamp Duty (ABSD).
Paying an additional seven per cent, when you’re a home owner and not an investor, makes about as much financial sense as cinema priced popcorn. You’ll most likely have to choose between the home you wanted to buy, and the one that you’re inheriting.
This can result in having to sell the inherited house quickly, which might mean getting a bit less than your normally would. One way to fix that is to list it on 99.co, for maximum visibility.
Don’t let the inheritance become a liability
One common issue is a stubborn refusal to sell the inherited property, for various emotional reasons. Don’t let that happen to you. If you can’t afford to maintain the property, or you have another dream house you want to live in (but can’t get without incurring ABSD now), then sell.
If you do decide to keep the house, then it’s time to learn to play landlord. No matter how unprepared you may be, don’t let the house become a drain on your finances instead of a boon – you still need to pay maintenance and taxes, even if you don’t live in it.