Singapore tops the ranks in Asia as the city with the best quality of living. The well planned infrastructure promotes efficient public transportation, minimal traffic congestion and steady availability of international flights, plus an abundance in supply of electricity, drinking water and quality phone services makes it an idyllic place for a foreigner to settle.
So, how does one get started in settling down in this heart of Asia?
Of course, buying your own home when moving to Singapore is the ideal solution. However, there are multiple ownership restrictions as stated in the Residential Property Act and it is highly regulated by the Singapore Land Authority. Let’s take a look at a simple guide to get you started.
6 Steps in Buying a Condo in Singapore for Foreigners
1. Search for your Property
A foreigner who wishes to purchase a landed residential property is required to seek approval under the Residential Property Act, however, there are types of property such as a condominium unit, which a foreign person can purchase without approval.
There are several ways to find a condominium for sale in Singapore, you can Do-it-yourself through the DIY platforms such or you may engage a local real estate agent to represent you during viewings and negotiations.
Estate Agents are granted licences by Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) and the salespersons of the estate agents are registered. They can perform estate agency work only if they have a valid licence or registration. In the Public Register, the validity period of the licence or registration is shown against the name of the estate agent or salesperson.
2. Plan your Budget
Property Taxes for Foreigners
In planning your budget, you also need to consider how long do you intend to hold on to the property. The Singapore government levies a 4-12% Seller’s Stamp Duty (SSD) for any individual selling a home within the first three years of purchase. You need to consider the property taxes too.
The Singapore government imposed an Additional Buyers Stamp Duty (ABSD) of 15% on foreign buyers to curb foreign property speculation on top of the regular Buyer's Stamp Duty (BSD) that every purchaser is subject to. However, if you're a citizen or permanent resident of countries under certain free trade agreements, such as Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and the USA (citizens only), you'll be exempt from the ABSD.
The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) collect the 2 stamp duties imposed on the buyer:
- Buyer’s Stamp Duty- the 1-3% ad valorem tax to be paid by the buyer. Irrespective of your nationality, Singapore citizen or foreigner, you need to settle this taxation charge.
- Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty -this tax is only applicable to residential properties. Foreigners should pay a flat tax duty of 15% upon acquisition of any residential property. Whereas if you’re a Singapore citizen, the tax percentage is pro-rated.
Here’s how BSD is calculated for example the property price is S$500,000:
|On the first $180k||1%||$1,800|
|On the second $180k||2%||$3,600|
|Thereafter (Remaining $140,000)||3%||$4,200|
Unlike the BSD, the ABSD is only applied to residential property. Here’s how ABSD is calculated:
|Citizen||Buying 1st Residential Property||Buying 2nd Residential Property||Buying 3rd and Subsequent Property|
|Foreigners and Non-Individuals||15%||15%||15%|
If you require financing for the purchase, you can borrow funds from the local bank. Bank financing for expatriates are available and the requirements needed typically depends on your credit evaluation.
Regardless of the type of property you purchase, its location and measurement, you need to pay certain taxes or Stamp Duty for the said asset.
Do not forget the “other” fees associated with your purchase like legal fees, agent’s commission, registration charges, transfer of ownership and all others. Once you add up all the fees you’ll have to pay as a buyer, you can expect to add from 7-16% of the property price onto your bill.
Summary of Other Fees as the buyer:
- Legal Fees
- Registration Fee
- Real Estate Agent Fee (if applicable)
3. Choose a Bank
When you have chosen the mortgage product that works best for you, you’ll need to make your application. Typically, this will mean that you must arrange a stack of paperwork and visit the bank in person to get approval. Each bank will operate slightly differently, so call your local branch to check if you need to make an appointment in advance.
Apply for an Approval-in-Principle (AIP) because you cannot secure a sale without it.
Bank Limit for Foreigners
- For individuals without outstanding housing loans, you can borrow up to 80% of the purchase price.
- For individuals with one or more outstanding housing loans, the limit is up to 60% of the price.
Ohmyhome has Free Mortgage Advisory Service. We have in-house mortgage specialists with over 10 years of experience to recommend the most suitable package across all banks suited to your needs. It's free, so feel free to ask.
4. Hire a Local Property Lawyer
If you’re buying a property in Singapore, it’s important to have a local qualified lawyer to help you. The bank will usually refer a lawyer in their panel list, if you have a lawyer referred by your friend, ensure that the lawyer is in the bank’s panel list.
The lawyer has an important role drawing up the contracts, performing searches to confirm details of the property and its ownership and making sure the property won't imminently be affected by any major infrastructure projects. The lawyer is also responsible for due diligence checks on the seller (for resale condominiums) and will liaise directly with the developer’s solicitor, which can ensure you’re not victim of a scam.
5. Secure the Property
Secure the property by signing the “Option to Purchase” which an estate agent will assist you with. Option to Purchase (involving your payment of 1 to 5 % 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).
Prepare your 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.
Proceed with the “Sale and Purchase Agreement” and pay necessary dues such as agreed deposit, taxes, stamp duties, etc.
6. Completion of Sale
The last step is usually performed by your lawyer and this involves the completion stages like finalizing documents as well as handling over the keys.
The lawyer will draw up the option, confirm the property ownership and that it can be legally sold Pay the 1% optional fee to reserve the property Pay the remaining deposit within the next 14 days to move on with the process
The lawyer will prepare the documents transferring title of the property, which are signed by buyer and seller The lawyer will then arrange documents transferring the title of the property, and ensure the sale is registered properly.
This is the process that one has to go through when buying a condo in Singapore. You may view show suites or discuss with Ohmyhome Real Estate Consultants about the following new launches: