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Q&A – What foreigner buyers need to know

If you are a foreigner planning to purchase your first property in Singapore. The following frequently asked questions (FAQ) should address your concerns.

Ownership

Q – Are there any foreign ownership restriction?

Foreigners are welcome to invest in most Singapore properties from residential, commercial, retail to industrial properties. However, there are some restrictions. Foreigners are not eligible to purchase any landed properties unless they have approval from the Land Dealings Approval Unit (LDAU). LDAU is a department within the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). SLA is a government department that regulates all land matters in Singapore. Alternatively, foreigners are eligible to invest in landed properties in Sentosa. Foreigners are also not eligible to buy any HDB flats (Public housing) or Executive Condominium. The HDB flats and Executive Condominiums are reserved mainly for citizens.

Q- Can any nationality buy property in Singapore?

Yes. Singapore properties are open to all nationalities to buy for own stay or for investment.

Q – Is there any minimum sum on the purchase that I make?

There is no minimum purchase price for foreigners when buying any property in Singapore.

Q-Should I buy the property jointly with my spouse or children?

There is no restriction to buy it solely or together with your spouse or children. However, only the buyers can secure a mortgage loan. Singapore banking regulation does not allow non-buyers to secure loan.

If the buyers plan to buy jointly, they can have the option to buy under “Joint Ownership” so that both of them own the property equally. This is also commonly known as “The right of survivorship”. This clause is used by couples or parents and children buying together. In the event of one passing away, the property automatically goes to the other 100%.

Another type is called “Tenancy in Common”. This allows multiple ownership whereby each person has a fixed share of the property. In the event that one party passes away, that person’s share in the property will be distributed according to his/her will.  This is frequently used for unrelated parties buying a property together for investment.

Buyers can also buy under trust for their children if they fall below the legal age which in this case is 21 years old. However, certain condition apply. Please consult a lawyer for more information.

Q-Can I buy the property under a company name such as a virgin island-based company?

Yes. You can use any incorporated company whether registered locally or overseas to purchase a property in Singapore. However, it is always good to check with locally based solicitors for more complex transactions.

Q – What are the taxes that I need to pay?

Foreigners purchasing a residential property in Singapore are required to pay taxes on their purchase. The BSD and ABSD are the 2 main taxes. Please refer to the Tax Section of this page.

Q- Is there tax for property rental income?

Yes. Rental income refers to the full amount of rental income you receive and related payments you make when you rent out your property. This includes rent of the premises, maintenance, furniture and fittings. Rental income is subject to income tax. This means that any profit or net amount left once you have added together your rental income and deducted any allowable expenses is taxable.

There are 2 types of tax rates. Net rental income earned by foreigners who are tax residents of Singapore are taxed at resident rates. Net rental income earned by foreigners who are non-residents are taxed at the prevailing non-resident rate of 22%. (www.iras.gov.sg)

Tax

Q- Are there capital gains tax for property?

Yes and No. Generally, the gains derived from the sale of a property in Singapore are not taxable as it is a capital gain. The gains may be taxable if the individual buys and sells property with a profit-seeking motive. When a person is deemed to be trading in properties, the gains from the sale of property in Singapore is considered taxable income. Whether a person is deemed to be carrying on a trade will depend on individual circumstances.

Some criteria used to assess if you are trading in properties are as follows:

  • Frequency of transactions (buying and selling of properties);
  • Reasons for acquiring and selling of property;
  • Financial means to hold the property for long term; and
  • Holding period

Q-Do I need to pay capital gain tax when I remit the money back to my home country?

Every country has different regulations and it is advisable that you check with your home country on this matter.

Mortgage

Q- As a foreigners / non-resident could I get a mortgage?

Yes – currently foreigners / non-resident can get a mortgage with most banks in Singapore, subject to credit approval.  In any event, if the mortgage is insufficient, you would need to use your own funds to purchase.

Q- How much can I borrow as a foreigner?

If this is your first housing loan in Singapore, the financing is up to 75% of the purchase price or property market value, whichever is lower. Some banks at their own discretion may offer financing up to 60-75% of the purchase price. If you already have an existing residential property loan, the refinancing is up to 100% of your loan outstanding, or 90% of the property market value, whichever is lower. This varies across banks. Please check with your banks for more information.

Q- What are the documents required for the loan application?

The following documents are required for a Home Loan application:

    • Duly completed loan application form
    • Copy of your passport
    • Copy of Identity Card for Malaysia Citizens
    • Latest certified true copy of your income documents:
      • Pay slip or employment letter AND bank statement (latest 3 months) showing salary credit.
      • For self-employed, latest 3 months’ bank statements and latest two years’ notice of tax assessment
    • Copy of property’s option to purchase or copy of Sales & Purchase Agreement.

Q- Is fire and mortgage insurance necessary?

Yes. fire insurance is required by the Bank to insure your property against the risk of fire. You may at your own discretion purchase mortgage insurance for your mortgage.

Q- Do I need a bank account to buy property in Singapore?

Yes – You will need a local bank account to pay for the monthly installment and also to collect any form of rental if you plan to rent out the property.

Q- How do I wire /transfer money to Singapore?

If you have an international bank account in your home country, you can always discuss with your private banker to open a local account in Singapore. Your banker will do the rest for you. Alternative, if you wish to save on hefty transfer fees, you can always use third party fund transfer platform found readily online.

Property Market & Information

Q- I want to buy an investment property. Where do I find them?

It is always good to invest in a property that is well connected via major transport network or within close proximity to commercial activities. Speak to me to understand more in details.

Q- How is the property market in Singapore?

The property market in Singapore is fairly stable over the years. Singapore is a financial centre in Asia with a stable government. It has attracted many MNCs to set up their regional headquarters. Singapore is a cosmopolitan city.  It is also an attractive place to live, work and play.  Property prices in Singapore has always been increasing after the last trough in 2015-2016 when prices has fallen after much government intervention to cool the market. Going forward, prices have been increasing so far from the beginning of 2017 till present. This is due to the pent-up demand from buyers and a strong economy.

Q – How do I search for my ideal property?

You can either search for a property by yourself or engage a qualified property agent. It will be tiring and stressful to search for a property in a foreign country. Alternatively, you can engage a qualified property agent who is familiar with the rules and regulations. You can benefit tremendously from their expertise and ground knowledge. Moreover, you do not need to pay them for their services as most of them will be securing their commission from the sellers/developers directly.

Q- Should I consider buying under-construction or off-plan property?

Buying an under-construction or “new launch” property which we often called here is pretty safe. Although there is always a certain degree of risk, local laws and regulations are rigid and put in place to ensure that the developers complete the property projects on time and deliver according to the contract. This is unlike other overseas market where extra care has to be taken to purchase property under-construction.

Q– Can I get a discount from the prices shown?

No. Most of the prices stated are generally fixed. There could be times when developers may offer some discounts / rebate off the published prices for certain units.  It is always good to check with your real estate agent on this.

Q- What kind of property should I choose for investment?

This depends on your budget, types, location and personal preferences to decide what kind of property to purchase.  It is advisable to consult the professional real estate agents for a detailed sharing on the various types of properties available for sale.

Q- Is there anything better for investment other than residential properties?

Yes. Foreigners are eligible to purchase non-residential properties such as offices, retail shops and industrial spaces. Speak to me for more details as such properties have varying degrees of risk involved.

Q- Will you help us to lease and manage the property?

Yes. We will continue to manage and secure a tenant on your behalf. Usual commission for securing tenants will apply here.

Q- What are the on-going expenses of investment properties?

You will need to set aside expenses for the monthly maintenance fees to upkeep the property. Such fees vary according to the property.  They could range from SG$200 to as much as SG1,000 for bigger property. You will also need to pay yearly property tax imposed by the tax department. In addition, you will need to pay for the usual repair works that are carried out on your investment property.

Renting Out

Q- Can I buy an investment property and immediately rent it out?

Yes and No. If you are buying a new launch which the property has yet to receive its Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP) or yet to collect key. You will need to wait till it obtains TOP before you can rent it out.  Alternatively, if you are buying a resale property or a new launch which the property has received its TOP, you can rent it out almost immediately.

Q- Can I use my property for vacation and rent out the rest of the year?

Yes. Singapore law now allows tenancy with a minimum duration of 3 months, if you plan to rent out your private properties. For the rest of the period, you may occupy it during your vacation. However, do note that the property may be left empty for a while before the next tenant moves in.

Q- If I want to re-sell my investment property after acquiring it for a few years, can you assist to do it?

Yes. We can help you market your property for sale. However, you should only do it after the 3rd year to avoid the seller stamp duty (SSD). 

Q-What are the rental rates like?

Properties in Singapore on an average has a rental yield of 2% to 3% or more.

Q – Do you sell only to overseas buyers?

No. Only a small percentage of homes are sold to foreign buyers. As Singapore is an open and cosmopolitan city, we welcome foreign buyers to invest in our properties. Most of the homes that are sold here are still sold mainly to locals, with the exception of luxury homes in the prime areas where the majority of buyers are foreigners.

Singapore Laws

Q – Does Singapore have strict laws on money laundering and terrorism financing?

Yes. Singapore is a member of an international task force, called FATF (Financial Action Task Force), which is formed to combat money laundering and terrorism financing. The FATF has published 40 recommendations for countries to adopt in combating money laundering and terrorism financing. Singapore has an obligation to implement these recommendations. The FATF recommendations apply to the real estate and other professional sectors. These include the financial sector as well as other businesses and professions such as the public accountants, casinos, moneylenders, pawnbrokers, company service providers, developers and lawyers.

Q – Does Singapore have strict rule of law?

A definite yes! Singapore as a financial hub and a leading economy in Asia has a strict rule of law. You will be assured that buying a property in Singapore is safe and secure. Singapore also has a very strong land registry whereby all property transactions will be recorded.

Q- Does Singapore give me any automatic visa or residency rights?

No. There used to be a policy that if you have invested in a certain amount of money in property and in other business, permanent residency status may be granted. However, this policy has since been abolished.

Q- Is the buying procedure secure?

Yes. Singapore respects the rule of law. In any property transaction, the contract will be clearly spelt out for you to go through.  If you have any doubts, you may consult your solicitors to go through with you. The property transaction will be registered with the Singapore Land Authority and conveyancing lawyers will be on hand to assist in a smooth transaction.

What is the difference between Freehold, 999 years Leasehold and 99 years Leasehold?

There are basically 2 main categories of tenure in Singapore.

Freehold and 999 years leasehold are usually grouped together. Freehold properties are termed as “Estate in Fee Simple” or “Estate in Perpetuity”. They are almost the same meaning.  999 years leasehold means the tenure start from a specific year. Since 999 years are a long time, the market value is approximately the same as any freehold property. Such properties are found across Singapore and mainly in more established towns. This is the best category.

Leasehold ’99 years’ or ‘107 years’ properties are available in many parts of Singapore. They are usually available in newer towns or near metro stations. These land parcels are traditionally sold by the state and thus their tenure is usually 99 years. Most of the properties fall into this category. The value of such properties is less, especially if they are old with fewer years remaining on the lease. If the lease gets shorter than 60 years, the value can be affected as mortgages can be more difficult to obtain. However, such properties have the option of being redeveloped by private developers and get the lease top up, subject to government approval. Rental yield for such properties tends to be higher compared to a freehold or 999 years properties.

There is no restriction for foreigners to purchase properties with either tenure.

Coming Down to Singapore

Q- How do I get to see you at your offices?

Please contact us in advance if you plan to visit Singapore on a property buying tour. We will need to make prior arrangement to visit the various properties. We can also take you to meet solicitors and bankers so as to ensure a seamless transaction.

Q- How can I view properties?

We will show you the different type of properties and locations based on your requirement. Such visit takes approximately 4 to 5 hours and prior arrangement is necessary.

Q- Can I buy a Singapore property without visiting Singapore?

Yes – you can theoretically view the property with the use of technology and buy from the floor plans. We can always appoint an experienced conveyancing lawyer to liaise with you to address any documentation issues. However, we still recommend that you do visit Singapore, meet us and view the various types of properties before making the decision.

Q- I am interested. What should I do next?

Please give us a call and discuss your requirements with us. Thereafter, you can plan to visit us so that we can take you around to view the suitable properties. We will assist you to open a bank account and liaise with a local solicitor when you are here.

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