A Foreigner’s Guide To Purchasing Property In Singapore

Published: Jul 26, 2021 by 
PropertyGiant Singapore

In recent news, the property sector in Singapore is now witnessing an increasing trend of foreign buyer groups purchasing properties with the intent of home ownership despite the economic limitations imposed by the pandemic. What’s driving the behaviour of this growing buyer group and why is Singapore considered a top choice when it comes to property acquisition during these uncertain times?

Several key factors include Singapore’s status as the leading investment destination in Southeast Asia right now. On top of that, Singapore has also attracted a global network of buyers and investors due to its safe-guarded property rights and transparent regulation environment which provide buyers and investors confidence and security when engaging in the property sector.

Here at Property Giant, we’ve prepared a useful foreigner’s guide to navigate purchasing property in Singapore. It includes an extensive range of essential definitions and regulations. Overall, we can assure you that Singapore is the best choice to expand your investment prospects or to purchase a residential property to settle in and call Singapore home.

The definition of "foreigner" is determined by the Singapore Land Authority.

Who is defined as a 'foreigner' in Singapore?

According to the definition provided by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), a person who is considered a foreigner who is not any of the following; Singapore citizen, Singapore company, Singapore limited liability partnership or Singapore society. Notably, Singapore Permanent Residents (SPR) are recognized as foreigners.

Residential properties are separated into two categories which are restricted and non-restricted properties.

So, what properties can foreigners buy in Singapore? 

Under the Residential Property Act, residential properties are separated into two categories which are restricted and non-restricted properties. The approval of restricted properties must be sought through the Land Dealings Approval Unit (LDAU) under the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). Foreigners may purchase non-restricted properties, however, can only purchase restricted properties in Singapore with approval from the LDAU. 

The criteria required for a successful approval are as follows; you must be a permanent resident of Singapore for at least five years and you must provide exceptional economic contribution to Singapore. The assessment also takes into consideration factors such as your employment income assessable for tax in Singapore.

List of non-restricted property types foreigners can buy without approval from the Land Dealings Approval Unit (LDAU) under the Singapore Land Authority (SLA):

  • Condominium unit
  • Flat unit
  • Strata landed house in a condominium development
  • Lease of restricted properties for a term not exceeding 7 years (including any extension or option for renewal)
  • Shophouse (for commercial use)
  • Industrial and commercial properties
  • Hotel (registered under the provisions of the Hotels Act)
  • HDB shophouse
  • HDB flat
  • Executive condominium unit after privatization

*HDB shophouse, HDB flat and Executive condominiums are subject to the Housing Development Act.

List of restricted property types foreigners cannot buy unless they have obtained approval from the Land Dealings Approval Unit (LDAU) under the Singapore Land Authority (SLA):

  • Vacant residential land
  • Terrace house
  • Semi-detached house
  • Bungalow/detached house
  • Strata landed house which is not within an approved condominium development under the Planning Act (eg. townhouse or cluster housing)
  • Lease of restricted properties for a term exceeding 7 years (including any extension or option for renewal)
  • Shophouse (for non-commercial use)
  • Association premises
  • Place of worship
  • Worker’s dormitory/service apartments/boarding house (not registered under the provisions of the Hotels Act)

Our team of award-winning agents can help you determine which residential properties you are eligible to purchase. Contact us now at +65 6100 6199 to find out more!

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

The Buyer's Stamp Duty (BSD) is mandatory for both foreigners and Singaporeans when purchasing residential property. As a general rule, BSD is calculated based on the price point and market value of the property. Simply put, residential properties with higher purchase prices translate to higher tax rates.

The BSD rates for residential properties are as follows:

BSD is rounded down to the nearest dollar, subject to a minimum duty of $1. Source: www.iras.gov.sg

Foreigners are also subjected to the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) which is an additional 30% of the market value of the property. ABSD is only exercised on Foreigners (FRs) and mainly Singapore Citizens (SCs), Singapore Permanent Residents (SPRs) with the intent of purchasing more than one residential property.

The Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) are as follows:

Nationals from countries such as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and the United States are exempted from ABSD due to trade agreements Singapore has with the United States and with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) allowing these nationals similar property privileges to Singaporeans.

On top of that, further payable fees for foreigners are registration fees, maintenance fees and legal services fees.

Need help calculating the overall fees including the hidden charges of a property you're interested in purchasing? Give us a call now at +65 6100 6199 to know more!

Getting to know the regulatory guidelines on foreign property ownership and learning which home loans foreigners are qualified for is an important part of the process.

How can foreigners apply for home loans in Singapore?

It's advised for foreigners to familiarize themselves with the regulatory guidelines on foreign property ownership and understand which home loans they're qualified for. The procedure of applying for home loans for foreigners is similar to Singapore Citizens (SCs) and Singapore Permanent Residents (SPRs). However, the type of loan packages and financing options will differ between banks.

Factors influencing the eligibility of foreigners when it comes to lenders include source of income, employment status, age and residency status and most importantly, good credit standing. The Loan-to-Value ratio offered to foreigners ranges between 50-70% and will vary depending on the bank of your choice.

Wondering which home loan you're qualified for along with which loan packages complements your financial plans? Don't hesitate to drop us a line at +65 6100 6199 for a consultation.

Foreigners with Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident spouses are allowed to buy specific public and private housing in Singapore.

Can foreigners buy property with their Singapore Citizen/PR spouse?

The answer is yes. In fact, Singaporeans with foreign spouses are a buyer group that's on the rise. As of 2019, it’s estimated 1 in 4 citizen marriages involve a foreign spouse.

Foreigners with Singapore Citizen (SC) or Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR) spouses are allowed to purchase selected public and private housing in Singapore. If you're a foreigner and married to an SC, you can apply for the Non-Citizen Spouse Scheme which permits you to apply for 2-room flexi BTOs or resale flats. Apart from that, you're also eligible to buy resale EC units after their 5-year MOP as opposed to just privatized EC units at least 10 years old.

Are you purchasing your dream property with your spouse? Find out which schemes and public housing is applicable to you by contacting us at +65 6100 6199!

Foreigners are prohibited from buying HDB flats unless they have a fiancé or fiancée, or spouse who's considered a Singapore Citizen.

Can foreigners buy HDB flats in Singapore?

The answer is both yes and no. The eligibility to purchase an HDB (Housing Development Board) flat is dependent on whether or not a foreigner has a fiancé or fiancée, or spouse who's considered a Singapore Citizen (SC).

Foreigners are not allowed to purchase new HDB flats such as Build-To-Order Flats (BTOs) or Sale of Balance Flats (SBFs) regardless or not if they're a Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR).

However, following the Housing and Development Board (HDB) regulations, foreign SPR can purchase an HDB resale flat under the HDB Public Scheme or Fiancé/Fiancée Scheme. Similarly, a Non-Permanent Resident (NPR) is allowed to purchase an HDB resale flat under the Non-Citizen Spouse Scheme provided their spouse is an SC.

Need guidance on navigating the HDB Public Scheme, Fiancé/Fiancée Scheme or Non-Citizen Spouse Scheme for you and your partner? Give us a call at +65 6100 6199 and our team of real estate professionals will be pleased to consult you.

In order to purchase landed property, foreigners must gain approval from Land Dealings Approval Unit.

Can foreigners buy landed property in Singapore?

The answer is yes but with certain conditions.

Under the Residential Property Act, landed properties are considered restricted properties which include good class bungalows, bungalows/detached houses, semi-detached houses and strata landed. Foreigners can only buy landed property in Singapore with approval from the Land Dealings Approval Unit (LDAU).

Landed properties in Sentosa Cove  are an exception to the rule and are available for sale to foreigners. Approval from the LDAU is still needed and conditions such as purchasing landed property in Sentosa Cove with the intention of renting it out is strictly prohibited as stated by the Residential Property Act.

Before seeking their desired property, foreigners are encouraged to apply for an in-principle-approval (IPA) from the LDAU before entering a contract to purchase a restricted property to prevent forfeiture of monies in the event they're not granted approval to the property of their choice.

Looking to purchase restricted landed property in Singapore but need recommendations on which suits your financial and personal preferences? Give us a call at +65 6100 6199 now and we'll be happy to help!

Foreigners are allowed to purchase multiple properties with the exception of residential properties from Sentosa Cove.

Can foreigners own multiple properties in Singapore?

The answer is yes.

However, upon every additional property a foreigner acquires, the payment of 20% ABSD tax will still be compulsory. However, Sentosa Cove is a special case as foreigners will only be able to purchase one property in the enclave at a time.

Here at Property Giant, we'd be more than happy to help you get started in obtaining your second property. Call us at +65 6100 6199 for more!

We highly recommend employing an experienced property agent to the help foreigners navigate the local property market.

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

As a foreigner, we understand that purchasing your desired property while navigating through the property market in Singapore can be overwhelming. For a hassle-free experience, we highly advise employing an experienced property agent.

With extensive knowledge and expertise on the local property market, property agents are equipped in helping select the right property and secure the best deal on the market for you while protecting your best interests in the process. Besides that, they're involved in handling the required assessments provided by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) which include paperwork, fees and taxes.

A property agent will typically charge a 1% fee for their services.

Are you a foreigner who's getting started on their property journey in Singapore? Let our team of award-winning agents make your property acquisition process as smooth as possible! Give us a call at +65 6100 6199 now!

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