Buying Property in Singapore as an Expat: Everything You Need to Know

Singapore is a popular destination for expats, and many people consider buying property there as a way to invest or secure their future. However, there are some restrictions on foreign property ownership in Singapore. 

In this article, we will discuss the rules and regulations governing foreign property ownership in Singapore and explore whether expats can buy property in Singapore.

Expats Buying Property in Singapore: Who’s Considered a Foreigner?

For the purposes of buying property in Singapore, a foreigner is defined as:

  • A person who is not a Singapore citizen or permanent resident.
  • A company that is incorporated outside of Singapore and that is not majority-owned by Singapore citizens or permanent residents.

The following examples can further clarify the definition of a foreigner:

  • A person who is a Singaporean citizen but who holds a foreign passport is considered a foreigner for the purposes of buying property in Singapore.
  • A company incorporated in Singapore but majority-owned by foreigners is considered a foreigner for the purposes of buying property in Singapore.

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Can Expats Buy Property in Singapore?

Australian expats can buy property in Singapore, but there are some restrictions you need to consider. Here are some of the restrictions that apply to foreigners buying property in Singapore:

  • Quotas: Australian expats are subject to the same quotas as other foreigners when buying property in Singapore. This means they can only own up to 80% of the private properties in condominium development and up to 30% of the landed properties in Singapore.
  • LVR Ratio: The LVR ratio for Australian expats is the same as for other foreigners. This means that they can only borrow up to 55% of the value of the property when they take out a home loan.
  • Stamp Duty: Australian expats must pay the same amount of additional stamp duty as other foreigners when they buy property in Singapore. The amount of additional stamp duty depends on the type of property and the value of the property.

Eligibility Criteria: How to Qualify to Buy Property in Singapore

In addition to these restrictions, Australian expats who want to buy property in Singapore should also be aware of the following eligibility criteria:

  • Must be a foreigner: This means that you are not a Singaporean citizen or permanent resident.
  • Must have a valid work visa or permanent residency in Singapore: This is to ensure that you have a long-term stay in Singapore and can afford the property.
  • Must have a minimum income of S$12,000 per month: This is to ensure that you have the financial means to maintain the property.
  • Must have a minimum bank balance of S$200,000: This is to ensure that you have the financial means to pay for the property if you need to sell it in the future.

In addition to these requirements, foreigners may need to obtain approval from the Land Dealings Approval Unit (LDAU) if they want to buy a landed property.

If you meet all of the eligibility requirements, you can start buying property in Singapore. You will need to find a property you want to buy, make an offer to the seller, and sign a sale and purchase agreement. You will also need to apply for a loan from a bank, and you may need to obtain approval from the LDAU if you are buying a landed property.

Once you have completed all the necessary steps, you can own property in Singapore.

If you are an Australian expat who is considering buying property in Singapore, you should consult with a property agent or a lawyer to get more information about the restrictions that apply. You should also ensure you meet all the eligibility requirements before you start the buying process.

What Properties Can Foreigners Buy in Singapore?

Foreigners can buy public and private properties in Singapore, subject to certain restrictions.

Public properties include Housing & Development Board (HDB) flats. Expats cannot buy HDB flats directly, but they can buy resale HDB flats that are already on the market.

Private properties include condominiums, apartments, and landed properties. Expats can buy any type of private property in Singapore, subject to the approval of the Land Dealings Approval Unit (LDAU).

Here is a list of properties foreigners can and can’t buy in Singapore:

Properties that Foreigners Can Buy

  • Private properties: Condominiums, apartments, and strata landed houses in an approved condominium development.
  • Resale HDB flats.
  • Landed properties in Sentosa Cove.

Properties that Foreigners Cannot Buy

  • New HDB flats.
  • Vacant residential properties.
  • Terrace houses.
  • Semi-detached houses.
  • Detached houses/bungalows.
  • Strata landed houses not located in an approved condominium project under the Planning Act (e.g., cluster house or townhouse)
  • Shophouses (for non-commercial purposes)
  • Association premises
  • Places of worship

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list; other restrictions may apply depending on the specific property. 

Understanding the Rules for Foreigners Purchasing Real Estate in Singapore

For Non-Singapore Permanent Residents (Non-SPRs) Buying Individually

Non-SPRs can buy privatised executive condominiums (ECs), provided they are over 10 years old. Such properties have passed the compulsory occupation period and hence are available for foreign purchase.

For Singapore Permanent Residents (SPRs) Purchasing Solo

SPRs have a wider range of property options, but there are still restrictions in place. Apart from brand new Housing Development Board (HDB) flats, SPRs are not permitted to purchase a resale HDB flat on their own. They are, however, allowed to buy resale ECs that have completed their Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP) of five years.

For SPRs Co-purchasing with Another SPR

If both buyers are SPRs, they can consider buying a resale HDB flat, provided they obtained their PR status at least three years ago. Additionally, they can buy resale or privatised ECs over five and ten years old, respectively.

For SPRs Buying with a Non-SPR

In situations where an SPR is partnering with a Non-SPR to buy property, they can invest in a resale EC older than five years or a privatised EC over ten years old. This ensures the property has passed the necessary MOP requirements for foreign ownership.

For Non-SPR Couples Buying Together

Couples who are both Non-SPRs are only permitted to purchase privatised ECs that are over a decade old. This rule is in place to maintain a degree of control over foreign ownership within Singapore’s real estate market.

These guidelines help ensure that there is a balance in property ownership between Singaporean citizens, SPRs, and foreign investors, maintaining a diverse and harmonious community. However, it’s always advisable for potential buyers to conduct due diligence and seek advice from real estate professionals or legal counsel to understand Singapore’s exact property regulations and eligibility criteria.

Buying Property as a Singaporean-Foreigner Couple

If you’re part of a couple with one Singaporean citizen and one foreign national, you need to be aware of specific rules and eligibility criteria when purchasing property in Singapore.

Purchasing Under the Public Scheme

This scheme allows a Singaporean citizen partnered with a non-Singaporean (who holds a valid Visit Pass or Work Pass) to apply for a new or resale Housing Development Board (HDB) flat. The foreign partner must possess a Long Term Visit Pass (LTVP) or LTVP+ or a valid work pass like an Employment Pass, S Pass, or Work Permit at the time of the application.

Purchasing Under the Non-Citizen Spouse Scheme

In this case, a Singaporean citizen with a non-citizen spouse can apply for a new 2-room Flexi flat in a non-mature estate or purchase a resale flat of any size and location.

It’s important to note that only the Singaporean citizen is considered the legal owner of the property under these schemes. While integral to the application process, the foreign spouse is listed as an essential occupier, not an owner.

Process for Buying Property in Singapore

Acquiring a property in Singapore involves several stages. Here’s a simplified guide to the process:

Eligibility Check

You must first determine your eligibility to purchase property in Singapore. This will depend on your citizenship status, income, and other factors. Different rules apply to Singapore citizens, Permanent Residents (PR), and foreigners. For example, PRs and foreigners have certain restrictions on buying public housing (like HDB flats).

Property Search and Viewing

Once you’ve confirmed your eligibility, you can start looking for properties that meet your needs. Engage a real estate agent, if needed, who can shortlist properties, schedule viewings, and provide valuable market insights.

Option to Purchase (OTP)

When you’ve decided on a property, you can secure an Option to Purchase (OTP) from the seller. This is a contract that grants you exclusive rights to buy the property within a specified period, typically 14 days, upon paying an option fee.

Secure Financing

Next, secure your financing. If you’re taking a loan, obtain a Letter of Offer from your bank. For HDB flats, you can apply for an HDB housing loan.

Exercise the OTP

If you decide to proceed with the purchase, sign the OTP and pay the down payment balance. This step makes your intention to purchase the property official.

Sales and Purchase Agreement

The seller’s solicitor will then prepare the Sales and Purchase Agreement, which needs to be signed by both parties.

Stamp Duty

If applicable, pay the Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) and Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD). The stamp duty must be paid within 14 days after signing the Sales and Purchase Agreement if the property is in Singapore.

Completion

Finally, upon completing the transaction, the property is legally transferred to the buyer. You’ll need to pay the purchase price balance and legal fees.

Remember, buying a property involves legal obligations and substantial financial commitment. Always conduct due diligence, engage a lawyer to handle legal work, and seek advice from property or financial professionals.

What about Buying Property in Australia from Singapore?

Buying property in Australia as a Singaporean or while living in Singapore involves its own specific process and rules. The following steps provide a general overview:

  • Obtain Approval: Most non-residents or foreign investors need to get approval from the Australian Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) before buying property in Australia.
  • Secure Financing: Consider your financial options, and if necessary, obtain pre-approval for a loan. Foreign investors may face more stringent requirements and lower Loan-to-Value ratios.
  • Identify Property and Conduct Research: Research the property market in different regions of Australia and understand property prices, potential rental returns, and property taxes. You may want to consider hiring a real estate agent or buyers’ agent to assist in this process.
  • Property Inspection: If possible, visit the property yourself or have a trusted representative do so. If this is not feasible, consider engaging a professional building inspector to evaluate the property and provide a report.
  • Make an Offer or Bid at Auction: Depending on the buying process (private sale or auction), you either make an offer or bid at an auction. If your offer is accepted or your bid is successful, you’ll typically sign a contract of sale and pay a deposit.
  • Legal Process: Engage a conveyancer or solicitor to handle the legal process, which includes preparing the necessary documents, conducting a title search, and managing the settlement process.
  • Finalise Mortgage: Finalise your mortgage details with the bank if you’re taking a loan.
  • Settlement: After all checks are complete and financing is in place, you’ll proceed to settlement. This is when ownership is legally transferred to you, and you pay the purchase price balance.
  • Manage Your Investment: If you’re buying the property as an investment, consider whether you’ll manage the property yourself or hire a property manager.

Secure your Home Loan with Odin Mortgage

If you are an expat or overseas resident looking to secure a home loan in Australia, Odin Mortgage is the perfect choice for you. We have helped thousands of expats and overseas residents secure home loans in Australia.

Odin Mortgage offers a range of services to help you secure your home loan, including:

  • Pre-approval: This will give you an idea of how much you can borrow and the terms of your loan before you start looking for a property.
  • Loan application: Odin Mortgage will help you prepare and submit your loan application to lenders.
  • Settlement: Odin Mortgage will handle all the paperwork and logistics for settling your loan.

Contact us to learn more about how you can invest in property in Australia.

Get a free Australian mortgage assessment today.

Apply online to get a free recommendation with real rates and repayments.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, expats can own property in Singapore, but with certain restrictions. They can buy both public housing and private properties, but there are restrictions on what they can buy. For example, they cannot buy landed property without government approval.

No, you cannot get permanent residency (PR) in Singapore simply by buying property. You must meet other requirements, such as having a job in Singapore and earning a certain amount of income.

In some cases, foreigners who buy property in Singapore may be eligible for PR. However, this is not guaranteed, and the government will consider several factors, such as the type of property you buy, your employment status, and your contribution to the Singapore economy.

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