Buying property in Singapore as a foreigner

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So you’ve decided to head to the little red dot that is Singapore to work, settle down and stay for the foreseeable future.

If you’re looking to buy a house, that might be a good choice if you’re staying for more than a few years.


With the money put into an appreciating asset, you would save more than, as they say in Singapore, coffee money over a period of a few years.

But where do you get started since you’re not a Singaporean? What rules, regulations and laws do you need to observe?

Here’s a quick guide on what to look out for if you’re a foreigner (non-Singaporean) deciding to buy a property in Singapore.

Who or what is a foreigner?

According to the Singapore Land Authority, a foreigner is any person who is not the following:

  • Singapore citizen;
  • Singapore company;
  • Singapore limited liability partnership; or
  • Singapore society.

You can’t buy landed properties

Properties in Singapore are generally categorized into landed and non-landed properties.

Landed properties include terraced, semi-detached, detached houses and bungalows.

Non-landed are generally multi-story apartments, walk up flats and condominiums.

Under the Residential Property Act, as a foreigner, you cannot buy and own landed properties, except for properties in Sentosa.

Read more: Martin Modern – a luxury condominium near Orchard Road

If you very much want to stay in a landed property on the main island (not Sentosa), you can try writing in to the Land Dealings Approval Unit to appeal.

The Residential Property Act goes further to list the following that cannot be bought by a foreigner.

  • 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 house);
  • Shophouse (for non-commercial use);
  • Association premises;
  • Place of worship; and
  • Worker’s dormitory/serviced apartments/boarding house (not registered under the provisions of the Hotels Act).



If you want to own a piece of Singapore as a foreigner, the following do not require approval for purchase under the Residential Property Act.if

  • Condominium unit;
  • Flat unit;
  • Strata landed house in an approved condominium development;
  • A leasehold estate in a landed residential property for a term not exceeding 7 years, including any further term which may be granted by way of an option for renewal;
  • Shophouse (for commercial use);
  • Industrial and commercial properties;
  • Hotel (registered under the provisions of the Hotels Act); and
  • Executive condominium unit, HDB flat and HDB shophouse

Purchase taxes and stamp duties

As a foreigner, you will have to pay additional stamp duties on your residential property purchase.

Note the following table on Buyer Stamp Duty (BSD) and Additional Buyer Stamp Duty (ABSD) rates from IRAS.

Also read: 2018 outlook on real estate capital flows

All purchasers, regardless of nationality, must pay BSD in the following manner of calculation

  • 1% on the first S$180,000
  • 2% on the next S$180,000
  • 3% for the remainder

A quicker way to calculate BSD is to use the higher of purchase price or market value multiplied by 3% – S$5,400.

For example, I buy a house at S$1m. The market value (valuation) is S$950,000. The higher of both is the price of S$1m.

The BSD is calculated as S$1m x 3% – S$5,400 = S$30,000 – S$5,400 = S$24,600.

In addition to the BSD, Permanent Residents (PRs) have to pay stepped up rates of 5 to 10% of the higher of purchase price or market value while foreigners have to pay a flat 15% of the higher of purchase price or market value.

Figures in the table refer to higher of the purchase price or market value.

Profile of Buyer  BSD Rates ABSD Rates from 12 Jan 2013
Singapore Citizens (SC)1 buying first residential property 1% on first $180,000

2% on next $180,000

3% for the remainder

 Not applicable
SC1 buying second residential property  7%
SC1 buying third and subsequent residential property  10%
Singapore Permanent Residents (SPR)1 buying first residential property  5%
SPR1 buying second and subsequent residential property  10%
Foreigners (FR) and entities2buying any residential property 15%  

Because of certain Free Trade Agreements (FTA) and Conditions for Remission under the FTAs, Nationals and Permanent Residents of the following countries will be accorded the same stamp duty treatment as Singaporeans.

  1. Nationals and Permanent Residents of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland
  2. Nationals of the United States of America

Sale taxes and stamp duties

For all sellers, regardless of whether you’re a Singapore Citizen, Permanent Resident or Foreigner, the following Seller Stamp Duties (SSD) apply.

Also read: HDB prices keep falling!

The idea of the SSD is to prevent speculators from buying and flipping the house in a short timeframe.


To get over this hurdle and make a profit with a purchase, you need the value of the property to rise more than 4% p.a.

  • If you sell within one year, you pay 12% of the actual price or market value, whichever is higher.
  • If you sell within two years but more than one year, you pay 8% of the actual price or market value, whichever is higher.
  • If you sell within three years but more than two years, you pay 4% of the actual price or market value, whichever is higher.
Date of Purchase or Date of Change of Zoning /  Use  Holding Period SSD Rate (on the actual price or market value, whichever is higher)
 On and after 11 Mar 2017 Up to 1 year  12%
More than 1 year and up to 2 years  8%
More than 2 years and up to 3 years 4%
 More than 3 years  No SSD payable

Bank loans

Singapore is a country that allows capital to flow relatively freely, so you should not have a problem securing a Singapore dollar denominated loan here.

The three big local banks – DBS, UOB and OCBC command a big proportion of the market.

Loans usually come in the form of a fixed or floating format.

The floating rate home loans are usually pegged to SIBOR rates, with different banks stacking on a spread on top of the SIBOR rates together with various lock in periods.

Some other loan providers include Maybank, HSBC, Bank of China, CIMB, RHB, Hong Leong Finance, Alliance, Singapura Finance, SBI, ICBC, Citibank, ANZ and Standard Chartered.

Also read: Singapore’s property outlook in 2018

Check out the various tools available on this site such as the new property loan calculator, refinance property loan calculator and bank property loan calculator among others.


Loan to value limits if you have more than one loan

With regards to bank loans, all buyers (Singapore citizens, Permanent Residents and Foreigners) need to note that the loan proportions of valuation they are taking will progressively be smaller the more outstanding loans one has.

The following loan comparison table from Moneysense clearly shows the maximum loan percentages a buyer can take under different outstanding loan scenarios.

Housing loan Down-payment  Source of funding
HDB flat with loan from HDB 10% of purchase price or market valuation (for resale flat), whichever is lower CPF savings and cash (if CPF savings are insufficient)
(A) Buyers taking out a loan from a bank and with no other outstanding housing loan(s), whether on HDB flat or private property.
HDB flat

• Loan tenure does not exceed 25 years; and
• Sum of loan tenure and age of borrower at the time of applying for the loan does not extend beyond retirement age of 65 years.

Private Property

• Loan tenure does not exceed 30 years; and
• Sum of loan tenure and age of borrower at the time of applying for the loan does not extend beyond retirement age of 65 years.

20% of purchase price or market valuation, whichever is lower First 5% strictly cash only
Next 15% cash and / or CPF
HDB flat
• Loan tenure exceeds 25 years (up to a maximum of 30 years); or
• Sum of loan tenure and age of borrower at the time of applying for the loan extends beyond retirement age of 65 years.Private property• Loan tenure exceeds 30 years (up to a maximum of 35 years); or
• Sum of loan tenure and age of borrower at the time of applying for the loan extends beyond retirement age of 65 years.
40% of purchase price or market valuation, whichever is lower First 10% strictly cash only
Next 30% cash and / or CPF
(B) Buyers taking out a loan from a bank and with 1 other outstanding housing loan, whether on HDB flat or private property.
HDB flat

• Loan tenure does not exceed 25 years; and
• Sum of loan tenure and age of borrower at the time of applying for the loan does not extend beyond retirement age of 65 years.

Private property

• Loan tenure does not exceed 30 years; and
• Sum of loan tenure and age of borrower at the time of applying for the loan does not extend beyond retirement age of 65 years.

50% of purchase price or market valuation, whichever is lower First 25% strictly cash only.
Next 25% cash and / or CPF
HDB flat

• Loan tenure exceeds 25 years (up to a maximum of 30 years); or
• Sum of loan tenure and age of borrower at the time of applying for the loan extends beyond retirement age of 65 years.

Private property

• Loan tenure exceeds 30 years (up to a maximum of 35 years); or
• Sum of loan tenure and age of borrower at the time of applying for the loan extend beyond retirement age of 65 years.

70% of purchase price or market valuation, whichever is lower First 25% strictly cash only
Next 45% cash and / or CPF
(C) Buyers taking out a loan from a bank and with 2 or more other outstanding housing loans, whether on HDB flat or private property.
HDB flat

• Loan tenure does not exceed 25 years; and
• Sum of loan tenure and age of borrower at the time of applying for the loan does not extend beyond retirement age of 65 years.

Private property

• Loan tenure does not exceed 30 years; and
• Sum of loan tenure and age of borrower at the time of applying for the loan does not extend beyond retirement age of 65 years.

60% of purchase price or market valuation, whichever is lower First 25% strictly cash only.
Next 35% cash and / or CPF
HDB flat

• Loan tenure exceeds 25 years (up to a maximum of 30 years); or
• Sum of loan tenure and age of borrower at the time of applying for the loan extends beyond retirement age of 65 years.

Private property

• Loan tenure exceeds 30 years (up to a maximum of 35 years); or
• Sum of loan tenure and age of borrower at the time of applying for the loan extends beyond retirement age of 65 years.

80% of purchase price or market valuation, whichever is lower First 25% strictly cash only
Next 55% cash and / or CPF

 

So there you have it, a few things a foreigner should look out for if they are interested to buy a property in Singapore.

The biggest item would be the ABSD as that usually runs up into the hundreds of thousands.

The amount usually needs to be paid in cash as most foreigners will not have any CPF monies.

If you’re a foreigner, let us know what other things you needed to look out for if you bought your property. If you’re planning to buy one in the near future, give us shout out at the comment box too.

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