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Buying Property in Singapore
- Buying property in Singapore can be complicated when you’re an expat, but as long as you’re familiar with the rules and regulations on non-nationals purchasing properties, you should be fine.
- It is seriously unadvised to try and purchase property or land in Singapore without professional help from a lawyer.
- Including maintenance costs and general utility bills, you also have to pay taxes on Singapore properties, so make sure to factor this into your budget.
First of all, you should check if you are permitted to purchase the property that has caught your eye. There are certain restrictions on foreigners buying property in Singapore.
The Residential Property Act of 1973 regulates foreign ownership of land and housing. It applies to everyone who is not a citizen of Singapore, i.e. temporary and permanent residents alike. The act classifies the following sorts of property as restricted:
- vacant land intended for residential use
- landed property (e.g. bungalows)
- property in housing developments that are not officially classified as approved condominiums
Before buying property in Singapore, you may need to apply for permission with the Land Dealings Approval Unit.
On the private market, you are free to purchase condominiums or apartments in smaller building units. You can also buy so-called leasehold estates under certain conditions.
Public housing, though, is subject to restrictions. If your plans for buying property in Singapore involve an HDB flat, you need to get in touch with the Housing Development Board.
Mortgages and Capital Investment
In order to finance your purchase, you can borrow up to 80% of the price (or the estimated value, whichever is lower) from local banks. If you already own a property in Singapore, this amount drops to 60%. Various banks offer home loans to foreigners keen on buying property in Singapore. You should talk about the mortgage conditions and your personal situation with a financial consultant.
The same applies to property purchases made for the purpose of capital investment. If you want to rent out or resell your newly acquired apartment to make a profit, you should take the market situation into account.
Firstly, be aware that rental yields in Singapore tend to be fairly low (normally just over 2.5%), in comparison with other Asian countries like Indonesia or Thailand. Secondly, the government has introduced various “market-cooling” measures in order to curb prices in the real estate sector. Indeed, prices for buying property in Singapore seem to be rising more slowly now, though further developments remain to be seen.
Again, this is a complex topic that depends very much on your individual finances and investment goals. Please talk to your financial advisor about buying property in Singapore before you commit to anything.
Buying Property in Singapore: Step by Step
Once you have found the apartment of your dreams, the property purchase process works like this:
- You contact the seller or their estate agent to express your interest and agree upon a price.
- Your lawyer draws up an “Option to Purchase”. For 1% of the price, it gives you an exclusive right to purchase the property in question for a period of around three weeks.
- The Option to Purchase usually states another deadline for paying up to 10% of the price. This shows the seller that you are serious about the purchase. It is customary to forward the signed option together with this sum.
- Your lawyer will then prepare the documents for the property transfer. They will also advise you on the amount of money you still need to pay in order to complete the sale.
When buying property in Singapore, you should not forego professional help from a lawyer. In addition to the assistance mentioned above, property lawyers will look into the ownership details of the property, check the owner’s credit history, and more.
Costs for Property Buyers
Obviously, buying property in Singapore entails certain costs. They normally include:
- up to 3% in stamp duty for your first purchase (depending on the property value)
- legal fees for the property lawyer, generally around 0.3% of the price
- 1% of the price for the real estate agent
- registration fees for the official transfer of ownership
In addition to maintenance costs, you have to pay taxes on your property in Singapore. You can calculate your property tax according to the formula “tax = annual value x tax rate”.
The annual value of your property is the estimated annual rent you could earn with the property. This figure is adjusted yearly to reflect current market conditions. For the calculation, it does not matter if you actually let the property, or if the rent differs from the assumed value.
The tax rate is a progressive 0-16% as of January 2015, depending on the amount of the annual value. For owner-occupied flats, it is much lower, with the hope that these lower rates will encourage home ownership in Singapore.
Taxation of Rental Income
Last but not least, if you earn rental income after buying property in Singapore, you need to declare it in your income tax return. Rental income must be listed in the taxation form under “Other income: rent from property”.
The taxable rental income equals the annual rent minus deductible costs. Among other things, the deductibles for rental income in Singapore include:
- interest paid on home loans
- property taxes
- fire insurance
- costs for maintenance, repairs, replacement of furniture and fittings
- utility bills (if not reimbursed by the tenant yet)
Local residents pay a progressive income tax of 0-20%, depending on their tax brackets. As a rule of thumb, fiscal residency status applies to all permanent residents, as well as all foreigners who spend at least 183 days of the tax year in Singapore.
Everyone else counts as a non-resident for tax purposes. Their income — including rental income – is taxed at a flat rate of 20%.
We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.