Ultimate Guide to Foreigners Buying Property in Singapore
Singapore is a popular place for foreign investments because of its strong governance, political stability, transparency, efficiency, and ease of doing business. As a result, one of the most often asked questions by international investors is, “Can foreigners buy property in Singapore?”
If you are short on time and want a direct answer to the question, the answer is yes, but with limitations. In this article, we’ll dive deep into answering this question. Specifically, we will look at the types of properties that foreigners can buy, the taxes that foreigners have to pay, as well as the loans that are available to finance the property that you are looking to buy.
The vast majority of foreigners looking to buy property in Singapore will purchase non-landed residential property, such as apartments or condominiums. Unlike most Asian countries, Singapore allows foreigners to buy condominiums rather easily and straightforward. Moreover, foreign buyers can purchase a condo in their own name, and they enjoy the same property rights as Singapore citizens.
1. What types of properties can a foreigner buy?
According to the Residential Property Act, a foreigner can buy both public housing and private properties. But there is a catch: there are still restrictions on what foreigners can and cannot buy. We’ve put together a list of restrictions for you so you don’t have to scroll through the Internet in vain!
1.1 What are the type of properties that cannot be bought by a foreigner:
- Vacant residential land
- Terrace house
- Semi-detached house
- Bungalow / detached house
- Strate 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
- Worker’s dormitory, serviced apartments and boarding house (not registered under the provisions of the Hotels Act)
1.2 Restrictions in the public housing market:
- Both SPRs and non SPRs are restricted from buying new HDB flats such as Build-to-Order (BTO) and Sale of Balance Flats (SBFs).
- Non SPRs buying alone can only buy a private executive condominium (EC) that is more than 10 years old.
- SPR buying alone are not allowed to buy a resale HDB flat, and can only buy resale ECs that have reached their 5-year Minimum Occupation Period (MOP).
- SPR jointly buying with another SPR can buy a resale HDB flat (3 years after obtaining your PR), a resale EC that is more than five years old, or privatised EC that is more than 10 years old.
- A SPR jointly buying with a non SPR can buy a resale EC that is more than five years old or a privatised EC that is more than 10 years old
- If you are a non SPR jointly buying with another non-SPR, you can buy a privatised EC that is more than 10 years old.
1.3 Restrictions for private property:
In terms of private property, there are lesser restrictions. Foreigners are eligible to buy an apartment or condominium 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, or a landed property on Sentosa Cove.
However, if you are a foreigner looking to purchase a vacant residential land, a terrace house, a semi-detached house, a bungalow/detached house, a strata landed house which is not within an approved condominium development under the Planning Act (e.g. townhouse or cluster house) or a shophouse for non-commercial use, you’ll have to write to the Land Dealings Approval Unit to seek for approval.
On the SLA website, it is stated that applicants who can show proof that they have made an “exceptional economic contribution to Singapore” will have a hire chance of being approved.
Some of the consideration factors viewed as economic contributions is assessed on a case-by-case basis are:
- Academic background
- Technical or professional qualifications
- Career scope
- Employment income assessable for tax in Singapore
- History of investments in Singapore
1.4 Types of Properties Foreigners can buy
- Apartment or condominium unit
- Executive condominium unit and HDB flat
- Strata landed house in an approved condominium development
- 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)
- HDB shophouse
- Residential property on Sentosa Island
2. Taxes for foreigners when buying a property in Singapore
Foreigners buying a property in Singapore are subjected to the same taxes as Singaporeans. This includes the Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) as well as other property taxes that you can find on the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) website.
2.1 Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD)
|Purchase Price or Market Value of Property, whichever is higher||BSD Rates|
Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) is a tax paid upon exercising of the Option to Purchase (OTP) a resale property or signing the Sale & Purchase Agreement (S&P) for new developments.
The BSD is applicable to either the purchase price or the market value, whichever is higher.
For ease of Calculation:
For Property < $1m: Property Price X 0.03 – $5400
For Property > $1m: Property Price X 0.04 – $15,400
2.2 Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD)
|Number of Residential Properties Owned||1||2||3+|
|Singapore Permanent Residences||5%||25%||30%|
However, in addition to these typical taxes, foreigners are subjected to one more: The Additional Buyers Stamp Duty (ABSD). The ABSD was introduced to manage the demand for properties in Singapore and to keep housing affordable for Singaporeans. It was also to discourage foreigners and entities from purchasing residential properties, especially multiple properties.
Just like BSD, the amount of ABSD to be paid is based on the property’s purchase price or market value, whichever is higher.
Therefore, SPRs buying their first residential property will need to pay an ABSD rate of 5% and 25% for their second and subsequent residential property. Foreigners will need to pay an ABSD rate of 30% regardless of the number of residential properties they have bought.
The good news for US nationals or nationals and PRs from Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland, is that they do not have to pay ABSD.
Refer here for more information on tax rates.
2.3 Property Tax
Besides BSD and ABSD, other taxes includes property tax. Property tac is payable on both types of properties – owner occupied and non-owner-occupied or properties that are rent out.
Foreigners that own property in Singapore may earn income by renting out their property.
A foreign buyer will need to pay property tax on the condo he purchase by multiplying the Annual Value (AV) of the property to the applicable Property Tax Rate in a same way as a Singaporean.
The Annual Value (AV) AV of buildings is the estimated gross annual rent of the property if it were to be rented out.
2.3.1 Non-Owner-Occupier Residential Tax Rates
|Annual Value||Tax Structure||Tax Rates||Property Tax Payable|
|Up to $45,000||First $30,000||10%||$3,000|
|Up to $45,000||Next $15,000||12%||$1,800|
|$45,000 - $60,000||First $45,000||-||$4,800|
|$45,000 - $60,000||Next $15,000||14%||$2,100|
|$60,000 - $75,000||First $60,000||-||$6,900|
|$60,000 - $75,000||Next $15,000||16%||$2,400|
|$75,000 - $90,000||First $75,000||-||$9,300|
|$75,000 - $90,000||Next $15,000||18%||$2,700|
|Above $90,000||First $90,000||-||$12,000|
|Above $90,000||Above $90,000||20%||-|
Let’s assume the unit is tenanted for a monthly rent of S$3,000 and the annual value id S$36,000. So the property tax payable for non-owner-occupied tax rates would be:
[($30,000 X 10%)+($6,000 X 12%)] = $3,720
2.3.2 Owner-Occupier Residential Tax Rates
|Annual Value||Tax Structure||Tax Rates||Property Tax Payable|
|Up to $55,000||First $8,000||0%||$0|
|Up to $55,000||Next $47,000||4%||$1,880|
|$55,000 - $70,000||First $55,000||-||$1,880|
|$55,000 - $70,000||Next $15,000||6%||$900|
|$70,000 - $85,000||First $70,000||-||$2,780|
|$70,000 - $85,000||Next $15,000||8%||$1,200|
|$85,000 - $100,000||First $85,000||-||$3,980|
|$85,000 - $100,000||Next $15,000||10%||$1,500|
|$100,000 - $115,000||First $100,000||-||$5,480|
|$100,000 - $115,000||Next $15,000||12%||$1,800|
Please also note that the foreign buyer is required to declare and pay income tax on the full amount of rent and related payments he receive less any allowable expenses when he rent out his property. So there is an additional tax levied as well.
2.4 Seller Stamp Duty (Tax on Disposing of Property)
When anyone regardless location or foreigner purchased a property, he has to keep it for a minimum holding period to avoid paying the Seller’s Stamp Duty (SSD).
However, should the buyer choose to sell it within the minimum holding period, he would be liable to pay a SSD.
SSD is applicable to either the selling price or the market value of the property you are selling, whichever is higher.
|Holding Period||SSD Rate|
|< 1 Year||12%|
|1 - 2 Years||8%|
|> 3 Years||0%|
Note: There is no Capital Gain Tax.
3. Loans to finance your property as a foreigner in Singapore
Now that you know what property you can and cannot purchase as a foreigner in Singapore, you may have your sights set on your dream home. How then, can you finance this dream property of yours? Luckily, foreigners can take out a housing loan and secure their dream home in Singapore. 1 of the many benefits to take a local bank loan is because of the low interest rate.
When applying for a home loan, you’ll need to obtain an In-Principal Approval from the bank. Put simply, the In-Principal Approval indicates the maximum amount of loan you can borrow and the tenure. Your credit history plays a big role here! Banks will determine your eligibility based on your proof of income and net worth statement. As such, in order to take a Singapore Bank loan, you have to provide your passport, 1 to 2 years of local country tax income and also 6 months pay slip. Your chances to get a local loan will be higher if you are working in a multi national company. Talk to 1 of our friendly advisors on your case and see which banks our advisors can recommend.
The maximum amount you can borrow depends on the number of housing loans you’ll be taking or already have. This is known as the Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio. If you don’t have an outstanding mortgage loan, you can borrow up to 75% of the purchase price. If you already have any other outstanding loans that you are currently financing, you will only borrow up to 45%. And if you have 3 or more loans at the same time, only 35% will be granted.
4. Why are Foreigners Investing in Singapore Property?
- Singapore is strategically located in a region of opportunities
- Singapore has excellent infrastructure to setup a business.
- Singapore is well connected to the world.
- Singapore has Strong economic fundamentals
- Singapore has a well-structured legal environment
- Singapore had a clear investment process
- Singapore has explicit foreigner ownership laws
- There is no currency control
- There is also no capital gain tax
- Singapore is known for its world class education system and medical healthcare system.
- There is no estate duty
- There is security of property rights
- There is no withholding tax for disposal of property
- Foreigners are eligible for Singapore dollar mortgage loan – means they can obtain a loan from the local bank with low interest rate.
- Singapore has relatively low mortgage interest rate
- The active secondary market makes it easy for foreigners to exit their property investment
- The rental yield is generally higher than mortgage interest rate
- Law and regulations both protect buyers and investors
- There is no restriction on foreign ownership for condominium and apartments
5. Frequently Asked Questions
How to transfer money from Overseas to Singapore / pay for the property?
Singapore take a very strict stand when comes to payment. All will be done by Inter-Bank Transfer. Clients are advised to set up a bank account in Singapore. This is also a way for tenants to transfer rental income to owners. Do NOT by any means hand cash to the agent.
If foreigners invest money in properties, can they get PR or citizenship?
Owning a property in Singapore does not guarantee you getting PR or citizenship. However, it will help you in your chances of getting PR/citizenship easier.
How do foreigners sell their properties when they need to get back the money.
As mention in point 1, we would highly advise you to open a bank account in Singapore. When you sell a property in Singapore, you have to engage a lawyer who will assist you in conveyance. During the full completion of the sales of the property, the money will be transferred to your bank account. When you intend to sell your property, you may have to engage an agent. The usual commission of the property is 2% of the selling price. Do check with our friend staffs below for a valuation quote and procedure of selling your property.
Why should foreigners invest in Singapore properties?
Singapore is a popular place for foreign investments because of its strong governance, political stability, transparency, efficiency, and ease of doing business. Moreover, she is highly renowned for the education system and healthcare. Singapore is also very politically stable and we have many ties around the world. As citizens of South East Asia, business people like to come to Singapore to set up headquarters here due to the ease of doing business, political stability and low tax rates. Besides a country of safe haven, Singapore has favourable tax rate with corporate tax of 17%, personal tax of 22% and 0 estate tax.
When it comes to education, please refer to the PISA ranking – average score of mathematics, science and reading. PISA measures 15-year-olds’ ability to use their reading, mathematics and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges. Singapore top the PISA rank in 2020 and is 2nd in 2018.
What taxes and fee that clients have to pay when they invest in properties in Singapore?
Besides the Additional Buyer Stamp Duty Rate as mentioned above, there is a yearly property tax of an estimated of 1 month rent. There is no Estate tax nor Sales tax when it comes to selling of property.
6. Buying a property in Singapore as a foreigner
While it is possible to buy a house in Singapore, the process of doing so can be daunting, with the restrictions, limitations, numbers, and calculations that are involved. Therefore, it is advisable for you to engage an agent to be by your side to assess you specific situation, negotiate pricing, as well as deal with the massive amount of paper work that you’d not want to deal with!
If you’d need some assistance, feel free to contact us here at SG Luxury Condo We provide consultancy services and bespoke solutions to your buying, selling, investing and renting of Singapore luxury condominiums. We also manage personal financial advisory services and property portfolios connecting you to the best properties in Singapore.