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The essential guide for expats and foreigners buying property in Singapore

The essential guide for expats and foreigners buying property in Singapore

By Hamish McDougall

You can, and doubtless should spend a fair amount of time investigating the ins and outs of expat property ownership in Singapore. But if you’re just getting started and want no more than the cheat sheet for now, here are five key things to know about buying real estate in Singapore as a foreigner.

And then, yes, you can go back to dreaming about that divine, strata title shophouse (hello, Wharf Residences).

Shophouses and gardens at the Wharf Residences

1.What types of real estate can foreigners buy in Singapore?

There’s a long answer to this question, but the short one is that foreigners can largely buy the following property types in Singapore:

  • Most condos;
  • Strata landed houses;
  • Landed houses on Sentosa;
  • An executive condominium that is more than 10 years old.

2. Does it make a difference if I’m a Singapore permanent resident (SPR)?

It does. Most notably, Permanent residents enjoy more (but not complete) access to HDB flats and executive condominiums. They can also apply to the Singapore Land Authority to buy a landed house (but will have to demonstrate an economic contribution to the country).

And moreover, tax. (See #3.)


3. What taxes do foreigners need to pay to when buying a property in Singapore?

Sorry, long one here.

Anyone buying a property in Singapore must pay a Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD), which is calculated as follows for residential properties.

Foreigners buying a property in Singapore will pay Buyer's Stamp Duty

On top of BSD, foreigners must pay an Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD), which is different for permanent residents and non-SPRs.

  • SPR first property: 5%;
  • SPR second and subsequent properties: 15%;
  • Non-SPR foreigners: 20%.

Major caveat: no ABSD applies for foreign nationals of the following countries:

  • Iceland;
  • Liechtenstein;
  • Norway;
  • Switzerland;
  • United States.

You may also be up for Mortgage Duty, legal and other administration fees.


4. Can foreigners apply for mortgages?

Foreigners can indeed apply for mortgages in Singapore. It’s worth noting that there are limits on the loan to value (LTV) ratio of your mortgage, as well as mandated minimum cash downpayments.

The loan to value ratio is typically 75% for a first home loan (but depending on your age and the tenure of your loan, it can be as low as 55%). The cash downpayment required is typically 5% (but, similarly, it can be as much as 10%).

Unsurprisingly, the LTV is lower and downpayment higher on second and subsequent home loans.


5. Do I need an agent to buy a property in Singapore?

It’s not required, but it’s probably advisable to have a buyer’s agent on your side to assess and negotiate pricing, as well as to navigate the paperwork, taxes and fees.

Speaking of which, buyer’s agents will typically charge a fee of around 1%.


Where to now?

By Hamish McDougall

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