There is nothing bold in saying that Singapore is one of the best places in the world to live in. The city-state has topped numerous global ranking charts and is known as one of the best-planned cities in the world, where the quality of living and housing is at the highest of standards. However, as the land is scarce here in the Republic, the category of real estate or residential property that you are eligible to acquire lies heavily in your residency status — whether you are a Singapore Citizen (SC), Permanent Resident (PR) or non-resident.
The Current Singapore Population
New statistics have been released by the Department of Statistics Singapore on September 2019 where it reported a 1.2% growth in total population over the previous year to see the numbers peaking at 5.7 million. Of this, the number of SCs rose to 3.5 million, up from last year’s reported 3.47 million, according to the annual Population in Brief report.
The rest of the population comprises of PRs at a stable 0.52 million while non-residents (consisting of dependants, foreign students and workers who may or may not qualify or be eligible to become a PR) make up about 1.64 million.
This makes SCs naturally the largest demographic when it comes to residential property acquisition. They are eligible to buy any real estate in the little red dot and are merely limited to what they can financially afford. Next in line are PRs who qualify for more property options than non-residents, albeit fewer than the first group.
Before we dive down and explore further into the different kinds of real estate available for PRs, let us first take a look at the properties that are off-limits for PRs and foreigners alike.
Restricted Properties for Singapore PRs and Foreigners
Navigating your way through Singapore’s real estate maze can be overwhelming, especially if you are new to the country. However, bear in mind that you are dwelling in a country with a rich and varied urban landscape that offers a diverse set of market place (landed, non-landed private, BTO, HDB resale) to cater to all segments of the Singapore society. As such, the majority of property types here in the city-state are more a boon than a bane.
Under the Residential Property Act, only an SC, Singapore company, Singapore society and Singapore limited liability partnership are eligible to acquire landed housing without any prior relevant approval from the relevant authorities. Here is the list of all restricted properties that are off-limits to non-citizens as well as foreign entities:
- Vacant residential land
- Bungalow or detached dwelling
- Semi-detached house
- Terrace home
- Strata landed house not within an approved condominium project, such as cluster homes or townhouse
- Serviced apartments, boarding house & workers’ dormitory that are unregistered under the provisions of the Hotels Act
- Place of worship
- Association premises
If you are a PR or foreigner who wishes to buy any of the abovementioned properties, you will require the consent of Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and may apply for approval with their Land Dealings Approval Unit (LDAU). Essentially, each applicant will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and typically takes into account the following factors, but not limited to:
- Being a PR of at least 5 years
- Provide “exceptional economic contribution” to the country, determined from the taxes you generate
- Your investments in Singapore, your business activities and the number of workers employed in your company may also be taken into consideration
Unrestricted Properties for Singapore PRs and Foreigners
The list below highlights all of the properties that non-Singaporeans and foreign companies are able to acquire without having the need to seek prior approval from the relevant government authorities:
- Private condominium
- Flat unit
- Strata landed housing in an approved condominium project
- Landed housing in Sentosa Cove
- A leasehold estate in a landed residential vicinity for a term not exceeding seven years, including any extension or renewal terms
- Shophouse (for commercial use)
- Industrial and commercial properties
- Hotel properties registered under the provisions of the Hotels Act
- Executive condominium, HDB flat and HDB shophouse (subject to certain eligibility conditions and guidelines)
Unlike the landed housing and freehold estate in mainland Singapore which are off-limits to PRs, foreigners and expatriates without prior approval of the government, they are allowed to acquire the landed homes located at the prestigious Sentosa Cove. However, these houses are on leasehold and are intended for owner-occupational purposes — subletting of rooms or renting out the entire space is not allowed.
If you are new to the Lion City, the two comprehensive lists above may seem daunting and confusing at the first read, so we have shortlisted a couple of the most common types of residential properties in the country to help clear your doubts and dispel the confusion, if any.
Can a Singapore PR Purchase a BTO Unit?
Built-to-Order (BTO) units, or commonly referred to as “new” flats by the locals, are the most affordable form of housing as they are purchased directly from the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and are heavily subsidised. However, if your family nucleus does not consist of any SCs, you are not permitted to purchase a BTO unit. Only PRs who are married to a Singaporean spouse are eligible to purchase these new public housing units from HDB.
If you have already tied the knot with an SC, the two of you are eligible to apply for a new BTO unit via the Public Scheme or Non-Citizen Spouse Scheme. Similarly, if you are engaged and wedding bells are on the way, you may apply for such property under the Fiancé/Fiancée Scheme. The prerequisites for a PR intending to purchase a unit from HDB are simple:
- You must be at least 21 years of age at the time of application
- You must be residing in Singapore as a PR for at least three years
In the event that your application for a BTO is successful, you are not permitted to dispose of the BTO unit or rent it out in its entirety before it reaches the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) of five years. You and your spouse must also not be in possession of any other private properties elsewhere, locally or overseas. Otherwise, you will need to dispose of those properties within six months of completion (getting the keys to your unit).
In addition, it is important to note that first-timer households comprising of an SC and one or more PR must fork out an additional $10,000 premium to acquire these subsidised BTO units. However, you are poised to get this amount back in the future by applying for the $10,000 Citizen Top-Up Grant when you or your spouse converts to a Singapore citizenship, or when you have a child who is an SC.
Can a Singapore PR Purchase an HDB Resale Unit?
Resale flats are basically HDB units that are being resold in the open market. While these units typically cost more than their newly launched BTO counterparts, they are still preferred by buyers who do not wish to encounter the three to four years of waiting time for a BTO to be built or those who favour their flats to be in more developed mature estates.
Buyers targeting resale HDB units have a less stringent version of the Public Scheme or Non-Citizen Spouse Scheme imposed on them, where non-citizen family nucleus can qualify as long as they have fulfilled their requirement of attaining a PR status for at least three years. This means that you do not have to marry an SC in order to qualify for a resale HDB purchase.
1. Ethnic Integration Policy
Once you have made it through the preliminary requirements for a resale HDB purchase, you will be subjected to the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) quota before you can enter into a binding agreement with the existing owners of the unit. Under the EIP requirement introduced in 1989, you need to belong to the same race or ethnic group as the seller of the flat and must be within the block/neighbourhood’s ethnic limits. The quotas are updated on the first day of each month and can be found online via HDB’s e-service.
2. Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR) Quota
If either of the buyers of a resale HDB flat is at least an SC or Malaysian PR, you will only need to qualify for EIP quota. The SPR quota aims to ensure that SPR families can better integrate into the local community. Malaysians are excluded from this quota because of their close historical and cultural similarities with Singaporeans. For non-Malaysian PRs, however, you are required to fulfil both the EIP and the SPR quota. Under the SPR quota, a maximum of 5% of the total neighbourhood estate are allowed to be non-Malaysian PRs. For each of the block of flats, the maximum number of non-Malaysian PRs against the total number of residents is capped at 8%.
Can a Singapore PR Purchase a Condominium Unit?
1. Executive Condominium (EC)
An executive condominium (EC) is classified as a hybrid type of housing that falls in between the private and public housing category. It is meant to cater to the needs of the “sandwich” class, whose household income exceeds the ceiling for public housing but falls short of comfortably affording a private property. These property projects are designed and constructed by private developers but sold at a cheaper price than a full-fledged condominium because the land cost is subsidised by the government. As such, an EC falls under subsidised housing and the regulations to purchase one is similar to that of a BTO —
- If a PR wishes to acquire a newly launched EC, you will need to marry a Singaporean spouse, in addition to satisfying requirements akin to a BTO’s.
- First owners of ECs are prohibited from disposing, selling or renting out their apartments before the five-year stipulated MOP period.
- Thereafter, it can be resold in the open market to Singaporeans and PRs, with no restriction on family nucleus after MOP period.
- After a decade (remaining leasehold of 89 years or less), an EC unit essentially becomes a private condominium and can be sold to any buyers, including foreigners, without any restrictions.
2. Private Condominium
The most straightforward of the lot, PRs are permitted to purchase a newly launched private condominium or a resale unit without any restrictions as long as they possess the financial means to. This includes strata-titled landed houses with building plans approved by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) before 2012. While the MOP period of five years extends to private condominiums, you are allowed to rent out your unit straight after you get the keys for a minimum term of six months. Additionally, if you own any other existing local or overseas private properties, they remain unaffected by your private condo purchase and you are not required to dispose or sell them. Moreover, private condominiums are viewed as an excellent choice of investment in the eyes of many, having reported to yield one of the highest potential returns on investment based on historical trends of its transactional prices.
3 Additional Things to Note Before Buying a Property in Singapore
For the locals who are familiar with the property market in the Republic, narrowing down their options and shortlisting the properties located in prime and desirable districts may not be a problem at all. However, for those who are new to the country and are fairly unfamiliar with the island, searching for that ideal home may pose a daunting task. Here are some of the other things you may want to take note of before purchasing your first residential property in this city-state.
We have all heard it before — location, location, location. This phrase has been repeated often enough in property conversations that it does not take rocket science to conceive of its importance. And indeed, the location factor, ahead of size and pricing, came up as the single most important influence for buyers who are looking to own a property in Singapore, according to the latest Consumer Sentiment Survey findings from PropertyGuru. Consider buying a unit in mature estates for greater convenience as these developed neighbourhoods are usually close to essential amenities such as supermarkets, schools, community centres, bus interchange and MRT stations.
2. Buyer’s Stamp Duty
Regardless of whether you are a Singaporean, PR or foreigner, Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) is made compulsory for the documents involving the sales and purchase of real estate here in this Little Red Dot and is calculated based on the purchase price or market valuation of the property, whichever is higher. BSD is taxed at 1% for the first $180,000, 2% for the next $180,000, 3% for the next $64,000 and 4% for the remaining amount.
3. Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty
Originally implemented in December 2011, the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) was part of the State’s cooling measures to moderate the demand for residential property and applies on top of the mandatory BSD. However, as a PR, you pay a substantially lower ABSD rate as compared to the foreigners. For residential property purchases, foreigners are imposed a flat ABSD rate of 20% of the purchase price or market value, whichever is higher. This is up from the 10% (for first residential property) and 15% (for every consecutive residential property) imposed on PRs.
A Final Note
Unlock the myriad of property acquisition opportunities and benefits made available for Singapore PRs with the help of qualified professionals, and increase your probability of success with Paul Immigrations today.