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Purchasing a Property in Singapore

Purchasing a Property in Singapore

Persons interested in purchasing a property in Singapore should know the legislation available here before starting the buying process. The Singaporean legislation restricts, to a certain degree, the purchase of property here by foreign individuals under the 1973 Residential Property Act.

Still, foreigners are allowed to buy a property in Singapore, but in some cases it is required to receive approval from local authorities; our law firm in Singapore can offer you more information on the properties that are available for purchase for foreign individuals or foreign companies. 

 Quick Facts  
Types of properties foreigners can purchase  

Purchasing a property in Singapore involves a more complex system compared to other countries, as foreigners are restricted from buying specific units.

Currently, foreigners can purchase:

– private apartments;

– condominiums;

– landed properties – only with governmental approval;

– executive condominiums – only if the property is older than 10 years old. 

 Mandatory legal representation (yes/no)

 No

 Main legal responsibilities of property lawyers 

A lawyer specialized in real estate law will help clients in preparing the sale-purchase documentation, will intermediate the sale procedure and will assist foreigners in obtaining the necessary accreditation for buying property.  

 Due diligence (yes/no)   Yes
 Documents necessary for the property purchase 

 The documentation varies based on the type of property you want to purchase.

You need to have a valid sale-purchase contract, proof of having the financial resources to buy the property and identification documents (identity card, residence permit card, marriage certificate – certain properties can be purchased only by married couples), governmental approval (necessary for non-residents). 

 Main property taxes 

 Purchasing a property in Singapore requires foreigners to pay the following taxes:

– Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) charged at progressive rates based on the sale prices;

– BSD varies from 1% to 6% for residential properties and from 1% to 5% for non-residential properties (properties sold for other purposes than long-term residency);

– foreigners (including foreigners who are permanent residents in Singapore) must pay the Additional BSD, varying from 5% to 65% depending on the number of properties owned and the entity of the owner. 

 Parties involved in the sale/purchase of a property 

It varies on the nature of the foreigner (non-resident, resident) and the type of property.

Parties involved can be:

– the seller;

– the buyer;

– the lawyer;

– the notary public;

– the Housing&Development Board (HBD) – for public properties (not available for foreigners, although exemptions are prescribed in specific situations);

– the Land Dealings Approval Unit – grant approval for certain types of properties bought by foreigners. 

 Fees charged by notaries/lawyers (if applicable)

Notarial certificate – S$75, authentication fees – S$80, signing the power of attorney – S$40 to S$80, etc.

Lawyers' fees can be around S$2,000, but it can vary on the services and the property to buy.    

 Law regulating property and property sales in Singapore  

 The Residential Property Act 1976

 Conditions to purchase for EU nationals   There aren't specific procedures for purchasing a property in Singapore for EU nationals. 
 Conditions to purchase for non-EU nationals 

 EU and non-EU nationals must follow the same regulations for the purchase of properties, as Singapore does not differentiate between the 2 categories of citizens. 

 Documents necessary for the purchase of commercial/industrial property 

 Sale-purchase contract, identity documentation (for individuals), corporate documents (where the buyer is a legal entity), documents attesting having the necessary financial resources, loan documentation (for those who have applied for a bank loan for the sale). 

 Institutions involved in the registration of new ownership 

 Singapore Land Registry 

 The mandatory provisions of a property sale contract 

 The parties involved (the seller and the buyer), the price, the conditions agreed by the parties, the term at which the conditions must be fulfilled, the conditions in which the property will be handled to the buyer, matters concerning the title deed, cancellation of contracts, provisions for the sale of property to a foreigner.

 Types of property contracts to sign in Singapore  

 – Agreement for the Sale and Purchase of Private Residential Property;

– Option to Purchase (for reserving a property available for sale) – the document is signed for HBD and private properties;

– the same types of documents are used for the sale of commercial property. 

Types of properties in Singapore 

Singaporean housing legislation divides propertyin the following classes:

  1. public housing, which is not available for purchase for foreign individuals;
  2. private residential housing, which allows foreign ownership in certain conditions;
  3. executive condominiums, available to foreigners 10 years after the condominiums have been completed. 

The Residential Property Act, signed in 1973, was enforced with the purpose of giving Singaporean citizens the possibility of buying their own property; the Act states that foreign companies and persons who have received a permanent residency are also allowed to buy property here.

In 2005, the Act has been amended, allowing foreigners to buy property in non-condominium buildings with less than 6 levels, without receiving further approval. As a general rule, foreigners are allowed to buy property in Singapore as long as the respective property is non-landedour lawyers in Singapore can offer you further information on the subject. 

The process of buying property in Singapore 

When you have found a certain apartment you’d like to purchase, you should contact the seller or the real estate agency which represents the seller. It is required to be represented by a lawyer throughout this process;the lawyer will prepare the “Option to Purchase” document, which obliges the buyer to pay 1% of the property’s selling price.

The document states that the buyer will pay up to 10% of the selling price at a certain deadline which both parties have agreed upon. The followingtaxes apply at the selling of a property

  • if you want to buy a property in Singapore for residential purposes, you do not have to pay value added tax (known as the goods and services tax, currently charged at a rate of 8%) – this tax is charged for the sale/rent of non-residential property, according to the Inland Revenue Authority;
  • stamp duty, ranging from 1% to 6% based on the selling price of the property;
  • legal taxes, in the value of 0.3% of the selling price of the property;
  • the real estate agent will be paid with 1% of the selling price;
  • at the transfer of ownership, it is required to pay registration fees ($68,30 for the transfer).

When is it recommended to buy a property in Singapore? 

As a foreigner, it is recommended to buy a property in Singapore when you plan to relocate here on a long-term/permanent basis. Singapore has its own unique immigration policies, restricting to a certain degree the easy access to the local market of foreigners. 

We refer here of those who arrive here on a long-term basis, as those who arrive in Singapore for a limited period of time, for tourism-related purposes, can easily obtain the necessary approvals. Therefore, if you plan to relocate here on a long-term basis, we invite you to address our immigration lawyers in Singapore for in-depth legal advice on any formalities you must comply with.  

Please know that even if you have permanent residency in Singapore, it will still be more complicated to purchase a property, compared to the procedure applicable to Singaporean citizens. Although this rule is not met in most of the countries, where there aren’t any distinctions between citizens and permanent residents in this sense, in Singapore it applies.  

As per the Singaporean rule, permanent residents are still considered foreigners, as they are not citizens. Therefore, their right to buy property is limited in certain aspects. For instance, as said above, foreigners can’t purchase public housing units

However, they do have some rights when referring to public housing – they are entitled to purchase resale properties of this sort. Still, it must be noted that the foreigner, who is a Singapore permanent resident, has this right as long as the purchase is made with another Singapore permanent resident or a Singapore citizen

This means that the person can’t own a property alone, if the property listed is public property. Individuals can still purchase their own property (as individual owners) if they find available properties for sale, listed as privatized executive condominiums that have been built for more than 10 years. 

There are many rules, regulations and restrictions, therefore we advise you to address our lawyers if you want to buy a property in Singapore. Our lawyers in Singapore can present the options you have available based on your residency status, marital status and other variables that are of importance in this case. 

For instance, for some types of properties, you do not have to initiate any particular formalities, you can simply apply for the purchase of the property and provide the paperwork required for that type of property, but in other cases, you will need an approval.  

Applying for property purchase approval in Singapore  

The property purchase approval is mandatory for certain categories of properties – this rule applies to foreigners only, Singaporean citizens do not need to obtain approval for the purchase. There is a large category of properties for which you need to obtain an approval from the Land Dealings Approval Unit.  

The approval is granted case-by-case, there isn’t a certain regulation to follow and in most cases, foreigners will be approved if they can show evidence on how they have been of contribution to the Singaporean society

Considering these, we advise you to request legal assistance from our team of lawyers in Singapore. In order to buy a property in Singapore, you will need approval for the following: 

  1. detached house;
  2. bungalow; 
  3. terrace house;
  4. semi-detached house; 
  5. vacant land that is for residential purposes only; 
  6. strata landed house.  

If you need further information on the purchase of a property in Singapore,  please contact our Singaporean law firm  for legal assistance. Furthermore, in case you need professional plumbing services for your new property, we can recommend you our partner plumbing company.