S guides: Buying property in Singapore as a foreigner

S guides: Buying property in Singapore as a foreigner

Heres everything a foreigner needs to know about the buying property in Singapore can be found in the Residential Property Act (Chapter 274) of the Singapore Law. Yet, seeing that a couple hundred pages of legal jargon could be a little overwhelming.

We at 99.co have put some of our minions to work and crunched out the essentials. Whether you are aiming to dip your toes into buying property in Singapore or jump in head-first, here are some pointers.

Like most countries, Singapore does play favourites with its citizens.

The property market in Singapore is segmented and favours Singaporean citizens. The story goes something like this:

Since the early ‘70s, the Singaporean government has had a hand in the property market, gradually imposing a series of thresholds and restrictions on foreigners looking to buy property in Singapore.

These regulations are implemented in the context of a property market that has limited supply (this is a tiny island, despite the growing population). As such, restrictions exist to keep property affordable for Singaporeans, and give them a stake in their own country.

Nonetheless, foreigners shouldnt be worried. There are plenty of opportunities to buy a home in Singapore. That said, finding property, especially in an unfamiliar country, can be challenging.

When are you considered a foreigner?

Anyone who is not a Singaporean Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident, or any entity not incorporated in Singapore, is a foreigner.

What type of property are you purchasing?

First, decide if you are purchasing residential or non-residential property.

Residential property can be restricted or non-restricted (see below). Foreigners typically face more restrictions and taxes for residential property ownership.

Non-residential property, which includes most commercial property types, can be owned by foreigners as easily as citizens. For example, the Additional Buyers Stamp Duty (ABSD) is not levied on foreigners who buy, say, a warehouse or office building.

Non-restricted and restricted residential property types

The following residential property types are non-restricted, and can be owned by foreigners (although additional taxes are often levied on foreign buyers):

  • 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 seven years, including any further term which may be granted by way of an option for renewal
  • Shophouse (for commercial use)
  • Executive condominium unit after privatisation, or HDB shophouses if eligibility conditions are met (contact HDB for further details)

The following residential property types are restricted they can only be bought if you have permission from the government (see further below for the link):

  • 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 (e.g. townhouse or cluster house)
  • Shophouse (for non-commercial use)
  • Association premises
  • Place of worship
  • Worker’s dormitory/serviced apartments/boarding houses*

Note that Sentosa Cove is an exception, as its intended for foreigners to purchase landed properties in the area. Most foreigners get approval to own a Sentosa Cove landed property in just 48 hours.

*Restriction only applies if these places are not registered under the Hotels Act. For example, a foreigner could own and operate serviced apartments as a commercial venture; but approval is needed to purchase such a property and turn it into a owner-occupied home.

So how do you get approval, and what does it depend on?

Besides becoming a Permanent Resident, you may be able to acquire approval by making “an adequate economic contribution” to the Singaporean state and society.

Factors viewed as economic contributions include:

  • Academic background
  • Technical or professional qualifications
  • Career scope
  • History of investments in Singapore

Additional taxes for foreigners when buying property in Singapore

Besides the usual taxes, most foreigners pay an added stamp duty in the form of the Additional Buyers Stamp Duty (ABSD). This is an added tax of 25 per cent of your property price. This is payable within two weeks of completing the Sale and Purchase Agreement of any property.

An exception exists for US Nationals, or Nationals and Permanent Residents from Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland. If you fall under this category, you will pay the same tax rates as a Singapore citizen.

Note that besides the ABSD, foreigners pay the same taxes such as the Buyers Stamp Duty (BSD) or regular property taxes as Singaporeans.

Capital gains and inheritance taxes

Good news! There are none, whether you are foreign or local. However, note that there is a Sellers Stamp Duty (SSD) aimed to prevent house-flipping. It only applies for three years, and affects foreigners and locals alike:

The SSD is 12 per cent of the property price if you sell within the first year of buying, eight per cent on the second year, and four percent on the third year. There is no SSD from the fourth year onward.

Where to go from here?

Interested but not sure which property to purchase?

Visit 99.co and kick-start the search for your dream estate.

Got your eye on a non-restricted property?

Decide if you wish to employ an agent or not. If yes, there are plenty of agents whove posted their available properties on 99.co. Visit our website and/or app and enquire agents about their listings using our Free SMS feature.

Locked on a restricted residential property?

Apply for approval here. Approval usually takes around three months (except for Sentosa Cove landed property, which typically takes about two working days).

Find the home of your dreams today at Singapore’s largest property portal 99.co!

Reader Interactions

Comments (44)

Hi ,
I would like to know , if we can buy a residential property (HDB) in singapore , my husband is a PR for the last three years , is working with a local bank and we recently got married (i am on long term visa pass with my PR application under process ) .
Look forward .
Thanks and regards
Jyotsna Arora

Hey Jyotsna, thats a great question!

We know HDB eligibility rules can be quite a maze, So lets try and straighten this out ��

The deal on HDB eligibility is as follows: there is two markets, the first is the Build To Order (BTO) HDB market, and the second is the HDB Resale Market. As for the former, it is only for Singapore Citizens and Singapore Permanent Residents cannot apply, so thats unfortuantely a dead end. The latter has more opportunities for you. In the HDB Resale market, you can as an Singapore Permanent Resident buy an HDB flat, given you comply with certain rules which can be found here: http://goo.gl/U7Lwlr (under the heading of Public Scheme).

The problematic bit in the puzzle for now is that you do not have a Permanent Resident status. And under the current eligibility rules only a Singapore Citizen is allowed to buy an HDB flat together with a non Singapore Citizen or non Singapore Permanent resident. (This is under the non-citizen Spouse scheme).

It is however possible for two Singapore Permanent Residents to apply under the Public Scheme. Thus, you will have to wait with the purchase until you too have received SPR status. There is unfortunately no option where a SPR can apply together with a non-citizen/non-pr.

The good news is that your husband has already had his PR for 3 years. (A PR-household has to wait at least 3 years before they can purchase an HDB), so as soon as you have received your PR, you and your husband will be eligible to buy an HDB.

Hope this helped, and good luck with the PR application!

If I have a student Visa , May I buy any Room in Singapore ? if Yes , Please explain me what will be difference between me and Singaporian on that condition ? Also , where can I learn Singapore Apartment Prices ?

Hello Nay Min Py,

So as a Student Visa holder you are counted as a foreigner and you will be allowed to buy any non-restricted residential property in Singapore. Generally they dont sell by room though, rather by apartment. The difference between you and a Singaporean Citizen kicks in at the stamp duty. You will have t pay a higher rate (as can be viewed here: https://goo.gl/dMZNBz). There is several ways to check what apartment prices are like in Singapore. The most tenuous way is to go to the URA website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/realEstateIIWeb/transaction/search.action. A far more fun way is to simply go to our website (www.99.co) filter to your desire and compare apartments with similar perks (size, location, type, amenities etc).

Hope this helped :)!

hey yes you can buy private properties in singapore as foreigner but i dont think you can buy a room though.

you can however definitely find studio apartments and 1-bedroom apartments!

Being active in the condo market it seems that foreign buyers are slowly coming back.
Its a good time to pick up good properties especially in Prime District 9/10/11 or District 1/2 which is more for investment.

If you need any assistance feel free to contact us today.

What are the guide line for foreign buyers wanted to purchase Singapore building.

Francis Oh

Hi Francis, basically, everything a foreigner needs to know about the purchasing of property in Singapore can be found in the Residential Property Act (Chapter 274) of the Singapore Law. Yet, seeing that a couple hundred pages of legalese could be a little overwhelming, we at 99.co have put some of our minions to work and crunched out the essentials. I hope all your answers will be covered in our article at http://www.99.co/blog/singapore/singapore-property-buying-guide-for-foreigners or otherwise please feel to reach us again. Thank you for your comment.

Hi, my husband is a Singapore citizen and Im a pr. We are looking to buy our first property in spore. We are thinking of condo. Are we subjected to absd if joint purchase as a married couple? However my pr is expiring in Oct. If my pr is not renewed ( we are currently residing overseas), this means our purchase will be a joint purchase of a Singapore citizen and foreigner. How does this impact absd rate? Thanks

Hi there, thank you so much for asking a question on our comments section �� First of all, being a Singapore citizen, your husband can buy a property easily here and its not necessary to include your name on it (or buy as a couple). The only problem you might find here is the loan approval by the bank if the loan amount is too big. But if you are also working and earning, it would be easier since the combined bank statements would show good numbers. I would advise you to read our article https://www.99.co/blog/singapore/a-singapore-permanent-resident-what-property-can-you-buy/ and https://www.99.co/blog/singapore/the-future-of-absd/ This should answer your questions. Please feel free to reach again if you have further doubts.

hi there,
i am an aussie citizen, may i know if i can buy a condo in singapore?
i am not working or living there. just buy a unit there to stay whenever i visit my friends and family.

Yes it is definitely possible for you to buy a condo, however, it will be more costly to do so as compared to a local citizen/PR.

For example, on top of the Buyers Stamp Duty (BSD), expats have to pay an additional 10% (of the units price) Additional Buyers Stamp Duty (ABSD).

Hi, I am a Singapore citizen and my boyfriend is a foreigner (Norwegian nationality). He doesnt have PR status or EP yet. He is flying in later this week to look for an apartment. During the 4 days of his stay, would it be possible to make full payment and secure keys to the apartment?

Yes, it is possible to obtain and exercise the OTP in the same day of purchase. However, do bear in mind that because your boyfriend is a foreigner, he will have to pay 15% ABSD on top of the purchase price.

This reply probably came too late. In fact, your boyfriend, a Norwegian nationality, if buying 1st property in Singapore, does not need to pay ABSD. Just need pay the normal stamp duty as per Singaporean.

Hello, im a Singapore Citizen with a Work permit foreigner Fiancee, is it possible to purchase a EC? or the only property that i can look at is Private condos?

Afraid you are correct. For application for an EC, you must be a Singapore Citizen and the other applicant must be a Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident to qualify.

I am just wondering if Foreigners bought the condo in Singapore, how can they stay in Singapore without valid pass if they are not working in SG.

I am not sure the following statement whether true or not.
The foreigners who bout the condo I Singapore are eligible to get the Long term pass for their family when the main occupant reached the age of 45.

Please correct and advice my statement.
Thank you.

Foreigners who are not working in SG will only be considered to be on a tourist visa. Depending on your nationality, they can visit Singapore for 30 or 90 days, and this is counted from the day that they enter the country. As such, they are allowed to own the property, but can only stay in it 30 or 90 days.

Do also note that long term pass is offered only to foreigners who are :

Holding an Employment Pass or S Pass.
Earning a minimum fixed monthly salary of $5,000
Sponsored by an established, Singapore-registered company (usually your employer)

This is regardless of age.

Hi, If I being a foreigner, buy a condo, then at the time of moving to another country permanently, can I still hold the ownership of my condo. Or should I sell it. Can I rent the condo? What are the terms and conditions.

Yes you can still purchase a condo as a foreigner. Just note that youll have to foot 15% additional buyers stamp duty for your purchase (For more info on ABSD, you can read about it here http://buff.ly/2g82mOf.

You can also rent it out to tenants after purchasing it.

Hi, I am a PR (just start 2nd year) and my husband is EP holder. If we plan to by a property in Singapore, what type of property that we are eligible to buy? And do we need to pay 15% for the ABSD? If the property only put my name, is that we can pay only 5% of ABSD? (Will it be difficult to get mortgage loan if we purchase the property by just using my name?)

Can we buy second hand EC? or only Condo?

Afraid the only option open to you and your husband are private condos, or ECs that have surpassed their 5 year MOP. You can get more info from this follow-up article we did recently https://www.99.co/blog/singapore/property-foreigners-singapore-buy/

Yes, the 15% ABSD is applicable if both of you sign as co-owners. IRAS takes into account the higher applicable
ABSD rate if there are two or more parties involves. For your case, because your husband is considered a foreigner, the ABSD rate of 15% will apply irrespective of the number of properties each of you owns.

You are also right in saying that if only you sign up as a sole applicant, you will only have to pay 3% ABSD because you are PR. Success in application for a mortgage loan does not take into consideration how many applicant are applying for the property it has more to do with your TDSR, credit score, LTV, loan tenure etc.

Hope this helps!

May i clarify that SPR first property on ABSD rate would be 5% instead of 3%?
and subsequent property for SPR would be 10% thereafter.

Martin Ng

Yes you are correct. The ABSD rate for SPRs buying first property is 5%, and subsequently is 10%, as of 2013 onwards.

Hi, my husband and I are swiss citizens, both retired and having a combined pension of over US$15,000/- monthly. Can we purchase a condo in Singapore? Can we live there for longer periods or are we restricted to the maximum 90 days per visit?
Would my husband and I be entitled to a long term pass?
Thank you for any information you can provide on the above queries.

Yes, you and your husband are eligible to purchase a condo in Singapore, but will be subjected to a 15% additional buyers stamp duty payable on top of the sale price of the unit.

Unfortunately, ownership of a property will not grant you a longer period of stay outside of the tourist visa of 90 days. In order to stay in the country for longer, either you or your husband has to obtain employment to get a Employment Pass (EP). Other than that, you may wish to extend your short-term pass with the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA). Success for this is on a case-by-case basis. Here is a link you might want to take note of https://www.ica.gov.sg/services_centre_overview.aspx?pageid=374 if you choose to venture with it.

Hope this helps.

Hi there, my husband is a U.S citizen and Im a New Zealand citizen. Neither of us have Singaporean PR or EP status but we like to come to Singapore on holiday as I have extended family here. Would we be able to buy an HDB resale flat under solely his name? Ive read that US citizens, like Singaporean citizens, dont incur the 15% ABSD due to the US-Singapore free trade agreement. Would we be able to rent the flat while we are not using it? Thanks

Unfortunately, foreign citizens are not allowed to purchase a HDB resale flat. The only option open for you and your husband are condos.

Yes, you are right to say that US citizens are not liable to foot the 15% ABSD. Hence, your husband will just have to pay the purchase price of the condo should he buy one solely under his name.

You will be able to rent it out after the purchase as well.

My wife and I looking to buy a HDB resale flat. My wife is a Singapore Citizen and I am EP (PR Pending).

Can I be added to the OTP as an Occupier for the purpose of obtaining a Bank Home Loan?

Looking forward to your reply.

Unfortunately, that is not possible. As per HDBs regulations, the mortgagee applying for the bank loan and the owner of the HDB flat must be the same person.

Given that you are waiting for your PR status to be approved, it would be better to wait till it succeeds before applying for the resale flat. That way, both of you can place your names as owners, and apply for the bank loan at the same time without complications.

Thanks for the great post. This is exactly what I was looking for. Some of my questions was answered from the comments section itself. Cheers!

Does one have to be living in Singapore for study or work to buy a property there? As a foreigner is it allowed to buy an apartment in Singapore purely as an investment or for future usage, even if I am not living there at the moment? Have been pondering on this question for a while, so any guidance or clarification will be much appreciated! Of course I assume this is after compying with all rules.

Yes, it is possible to purchase a property even if you are not residing here.

Thank you for your response, and let me give a brief reason for asking this.

I am planning to send my daughter for high school and graduation in Singapore. Our plan is for someone from family to accompany her there for this duration, and feel having own apartment will help make it convenient. Is it more advisable to buy or rent for such a requirement? We are looking at starting in year 2022 and a stay duration of 5-6 years.

From this forum I would like to have your views from a real estate buy/rent perspective, as we will be handling the visa related process questions seperately.

I think the question of a buy/rent for your case would be whether you see this opportunity (of your daughter studying in Singapore) as a chance to invest in Singapores property market or not. From the get-go, youre asking which is better to house your daughter and another family for 5-6 years. Your situation does not require buying a property no matter how you look at it, so if you consider buying it has to be a decision to invest. Additionally, with such a long lease, you could also potentially enjoy better rental rates so if its purely for accommodating, Id say rent instead.

However, if you wish to invest, the questions to ask are do you know enough about Singapores property market? Its trends, its policies and the overall outlook? The target market you wish to appeal to rent to for your investment property? The scariest thing about investing overseas is always the foreign legality and foreign market which one would not be familiarised with. Thus, you have to do your due diligence should you wish to invest, as some things cannot wholly be learned from the internet, especially if youre talking about a decision involving hundreds of thousands of dollars.

You also have to keep in mind that since youre only starting your lease 2022, a lot of things could change by then. Perhaps your daughter wont be studying in Singapore anymore, or perhaps Singapores property market hits some kind of a crisis. Either way, do make sure that you future-proof your plans! Lastly, properties in the RCR (Rest of Central Region) can be a good start should you want to invest, because theyre well received in the tenant market and also command good transactions. But like anyone else here, were all strangers to you so really, do your own due diligence ��

Thanks a lot for this detailed response, I have to say you have really understood and addressed my situation perfectly! Going through your suggestions I do get a feeling rent probably works better than buy for us to start with. And then as my timeline is 5 years into the future maybe it is too early to start detailed planning for renting property at this moment. I will be keeping an eye on this for sure and let us see then how it works out!

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