What an Expatriate Need to Know About Home Ownership in Singapore
Singapore is a multi-racial island city that welcomes foreigners. Furthermore, the country’s political stability, low crime rate, high efficiency and absence of natural disasters together have made Singapore an ideal workplace and investment haven for foreigners. Thus, they may contemplate buying a residential property here for investment or owner-occupation. However, due to the limited land in Singapore, the Government has to impose some rules to restrict foreigner’s acquisition of residential property. This article will outline some regulations surrounding foreign home ownership in the country.
Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD)
Since 8 December 2011, foreigners who want to acquire a residential property here has to pay an additiona1 buyer’s stamp duty (ABSD) on the higher of the total purchase price or market valuation. The ABSD rate has been revised from 10% to 15% from 12 January 2013.
Previously, foreigners only have to pay a Buyer’s Stamp Duty, on the higher of the total purchase price or market valuation, of
1% on first $180,000
2% on next $180,000
3% for the remainder
However, citizens and PRs (Permanent Residents) of a few countries that have signed free trade agreements (FTAs) with Singapore are exempted from ABSD. These are
|Nationals and Permanent Residents of:-
In addition, married couples that have a Singapore citizen can enjoy a full or partial reduction in ABSD for their first property purchase. Refund of ABSD is also possible for the second property purchase if the first property is disposed of within 6 months from the date of purchase. For more details about remission and the application process, please visit Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) website (IRAS, “Remission/ Refund”).
To offset the cost of ABSD, some developers may offer a rebates of the ABSD.
While about 80% of Singapore’s population dwells in public housing, or what is commonly known as HDB (Housing Development Board) flats. Foreigners are not eligible to purchase this category of housing as these are subsidied flats. An exception applies if you have a Singapore citizen spouse. Under HDB’s Non-Citizen Spouse Scheme, a SC-Foreigner couple can buy a HDB flat from the resale market. Please refer to HDB website for the details (HDB, “Eligibility To Buy: Non-Citizen Spouse Scheme”).
Single foreigners or foreigners with non-Singapore citizen spouse have their choices limited to strata-titled private residential properties only. For this class of property, they can purchase non-landed ones without any special application. However, if a foreigner wants to acquire all the apartments within a building or all the units in an approved condominium development, he must first obtain the approval of the Minister for Law.
Landed properties fall under the purview of the Restricted Residential Property Act. Foreigners acquiring “detached house, semi-detached house, terrace house (including linked house or townhouse)” (SLA,“Foreign Ownership of Properties”) have to obtain prior approval from the Minister for Law. And the land area of the property cannot be more than 1,393.5 sq metres (15,000 sq ft). The application process usually takes 6 weeks and is subjected to approval.
For the full details of the restrictions governing foreign ownership of properties, visit the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) website (SLA,“Foreign Ownership of Properties”).
Sales of the landed property is allowed only after a minimum occupation period of three years [SLA, “FAQ on Foreign Ownership of Land under the Residential Property Act (The Act)”].
Landed: Sentosa Cove
Since August 2004, Singapore relaxed its foreign ownership rules to allow foreigners to purchase landed properties on Sentosa Cove with an express process of 2 days. Applications have to be made with the Land Dealings Unit. Further there is no minimum occupation period.
Whether the landed residential property is on Sentosa Cove or elsewhere, it must be owner-occupied (ie. No renting out) and the foreign owner is only allowed to own one restricted residential property at any one time in Singapore.
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