By Dawn Ng
According to Mercer’s 2019 Quality of Living City ranking, Singapore is ranked highest for quality of living in Asia-Pacific (25th worldwide).
As one of the safest and cleanest countries in Asia, it’s no wonder that it’s a popular destination for expatriates or foreigners, including Hong Kong and People’s Republic of China (PRC) citizens, in search of a cosmopolitan city to settle down, find work and perhaps, even sink roots to raise their family.
While Singapore is known for its high property prices and cost of living, it’s comparatively more affordable on a per square foot basis compared to what you can get in Hong Kong.
Still, for foreigners, our housing jargon can be confusing.
Private condominiums (also known as condos) are high-rise apartments with shared amenities and facilities for residents in the condominium compound, such as swimming pools, gymnasiums, and 24/7 security. They draw the most similarities with New Apartments Blocks in Hong Kong, with modern bathrooms and kitchen fittings and a wide range of facilities which residents can enjoy.
These are often in prime locations, closer to the Central Business District (CBD), or conveniently near an MRT station. MRT, or Mass Rapid Transit, is Singapore’s public rail transit system (similar to Hong Kong’s MTR system).
For example, One Pearl Bank (estimated to complete, or TOP, by 2023) is in a prime location within a 3-minute walk to Outram Park MRT, and High Park Residences is right next to Thanggam LRT station. Both have stellar views and fantastic facilities.
TOP, short for “temporary occupation permit“, usually refers to the date that you can move into a newly-completed development.
There are also no restrictions for foreigners seeking to buy or rent condos. Because of that, more foreigners opt to stay in condos. So if you hope to find a stronger expatriate community, condos are your best bet.
Check out these five unofficial expatriate enclaves if you want to stay somewhere with a strong expatriate community.
Browse all the Condominiums in Singapore on 99.co’s Condo Directory, with featured condos and the latest condos for sale and rent to choose from!
Private condos are costly. In September 2021, condo resale prices rose by 8.9% compared to a year ago. A studio apartment can easily cost S$1 million, even on the outskirts of the city.
However, the Singapore government has introduced its latest round of cooling measures on 16 December 2021. Not only will these measures keep these escalating prices in check, but assure first-time Singaporeans and Singapore Permanent Residents have a better chance and access to ready-made homes.
Executive Condominiums or ECs retain the facilities and privacy of private condos, but most of them are located in suburban areas. They are also slightly cheaper, but this depends – some ECs reach the prices of private condos once they are privatised.
While ECs are similar to private condos, they are sold by the Housing Board Development (HDB) – a statutory board responsible for Singapore’s public housing – and have more stringent rules and regulations for purchasing and selling.
During the 5-year Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP), buyers cannot rent out the entire EC or sell the EC through the open market. But once the MOP of 5 years is over, Singapore Permanent Residents (SPRs) can buy ECs.
For non-SPR foreigners, you can only rent the whole apartment when the MOP ends. Only when the EC becomes fully privatised ten years after it is completed can non-SPR foreigners purchase ECs. So if you’re a foreigner, chances are, you can only opt for a resale EC once its 10-year run is due.
These are high-rise flats built by HDB and located in the heartlands. They are affordable public housing intended for Singaporeans, with strict restrictions on renting and selling.
Some expatriates would prefer staying in an HDB flat because it’s generally cheaper than condos.
And since HDB flats are located in the heartlands, you’ll be living among locals. This is an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture!
Sadly, HDB flats can only be sold via the open market after its five-year MOP is over. And only SPRs in a family nucleus can buy a resale HDB flat.
This means that you can only purchase a resale flat if you are an SPR applying with at least one other SPR applicant related to you by blood or marriage (i.e. a sibling, parent, or child under legal custody).
If you’re a foreigner wanting to rent an HDB flat, you’ll need a student pass or a long-term social visit pass. Tourists and expatriates with an employment pass are prohibited from renting one.
Landed properties afford more space (a luxury in Singapore!) and privacy. You can even have your garden and pool! Similar to town houses in Hong Kong, Landed properties in Singapore can come in many shapes and sizes.
Foreigners can rent any landed property. You can also purchase the following without needing to seek approval from the authorities:
● Strata landed houses in an approved condominium (not apartment) 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
● Properties in Sentosa Cove
Here’s a handy guide from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) on foreigner ownership of landed residential property here in Singapore.
Since space is a premium, landed properties like terrace houses are costly. There are few shared community spaces or facilities for a social life in the estate, which also means you’ll most likely invest in a car, which will add on to maintenance costs.
There are also many restrictions for foreigners who want to buy landed property. Besides those properties stated above, you’ll need to write to the Land Dealings Approval Unit (LDAU) if you’re going to buy the following:
● Vacant residential land
● Semi-detached house
● Bungalow or detached house
● Strata landed house not within an approved condominium development under the Planning Act (such as a townhouse or cluster house)
● Shophouses for non-commercial use
Approval depends on a case-by-case basis, but one criterion includes being an SPR for at least five years and “exceptional economic contribution to Singapore”.
Stamp Duties and Taxes
As of 16 December 2021, foreigners buying property as an individual must pay an additional tax of 30% of their property’s purchase price or market value, whichever is higher.
But some foreigners can opt for ABSD remission under existing Free Trade Agreements (FTA). Currently, citizens or PRs of the following countries will be accorded the same Stamp Duty treatment as Singapore citizens, which is 0% for their first property and 17% for their second:
● Citizens of United States of America
Take note: if you wish to sell your property within the first three years of acquiring it, you also have to pay a Sellers Stamp Duty (SSD)!
Forwarded by the landlord, this is an agreement confirming the commitment on both sides. It outlines the rental terms and other conditions, such as lease length, deposit, maintenance and repairs.
After signing the LOI, you’ll need to submit a Good Faith Deposit (usually a month’s rent for a one-year lease). Upon completing the property rental, this amount will become part of your security deposit. The Security Deposit is to ensure that the property is not damaged when you leave.
This is the final building agreement between the landlord and the tenant. Ensure that the TA matches the scope of the LOI before signing the contract! The diplomatic clause – which allows you to break your lease if you must leave Singapore due to a change in employment, visa status, or order by the government – should also be included in your TA.
Which should you choose?
Besides these options, there are also co-living spaces and serviced apartments that you can check out. You are now equipped with the knowledge of Singapore property and ultimately, which to choose depends on your budget and preferences.
Do you want to assimilate into local culture? If so, resale ECs (after 10 years) or HDB apartments for rent (subject to your profile and visa status) may appeal to you more.
If you prioritise space and privacy, landed properties like terrace houses (subject to regulations) will work best. Alternatively, Sentosa Cove is open to you if you’re a foreigner looking to own a landed property without restrictions.
And if you want to live somewhere near the CBD area with plenty of facilities (with better chances of securing a unit sans regulatory hurdles), you’ll want to check out private condos.
If you found this article helpful, check out 7 stunning sea view condos in Singapore and Thirty-year-old single foreigner polls Redditors on where to live in Singapore – gets a variety of responses.
Looking for a property? Find the home of your dreams today on Singapore’s fastest-growing property portal 99.co! If you would like to estimate the potential value of your property, check out 99.co’s Property Value Tool for free. Besides 99.co, you can also check our SRX, which provides data insights and price tracking information of different estates and apartments in Singapore.
(This article appeared first on 99.co – https://www.99.co/singapore/insider/terrace-house-condo-hdb-housing-considerations-foreigners-moving-singapore/ and has been edited for Hong Kong readers)