Singapore Property

Property in Singapore


Singapore is an island state with a limited amount of undeveloped land.As the population continues to grow, mainly due to foreign influx, the trendis to build higher buildings to optimise the use of land.

Most Singaporeans (over 80%) live in apartments built and managed byHousing and Development Board (HDB). The rest of the Singaporeans ownand live in private apartments/condominiums or live in a landedproperty.

Foreigners moving into Singapore typically rent in oneof the private apartments/condominiums (varying from older/basic onesto luxurious ones with wide variety of facilities) or large landed houses.Expatriates form the majority of the private rentalmarket. However, most landlords are Singaporeans and investing in realestate is very common among wealthier Singaporeans.

The government recently increased the allowed floor space that can be builtper square foot of land ('plot ratio'). This combined with increasingoverseas demand for private apartments has resulted into a trend ofdevelopers buying up older (typically 20+ years old) private apartmentblocks via 'en-bloc sales'. These are then redeveloped into modern,taller and often much more luxurious developments.

Property Types

Residential properties in Singapore can be divided into three main categories:Private apartments, landed properties and HDB apartments. If you are aforeigner, you need to understand the difference as there are ownershiprestrictions on the latter two.

Private apartments areclassified either as apartments or condominiums by the government. Thedistinction is somewhat artificial, but typically apartments aresmaller developments and condominiums generally have more facilitiesand are larger. Most condominiums come with swimming pool, tenniscourt, gym, squash court, children playground and a BBQ area. They alsotypically have their own enclosed car park and security guards lookingafter the security at the entrances and the whole area around thecondominiums. Tenure of private apartments is commonly freehold,99-year leasehold or 999-year leasehold.

Landed propertyclassifications are, for example, terraced house, semi-detached house,detached house, good class bungalow and shop house. The main point tonote is that they are tied to the land title. Landed properties aretypically freeholds, but there are 99 and 999-year leaseholds in themarket as well. As land is scarce in Singapore, you can expect landedproperties with large plots to be very expensive - especially near thecity centre.

HDB apartmentsare flats built and maintained by Housing and Development Board, withthe government subsidising the purchase and financing of these. HDBestates with a concentration of a number of HDB apartment blocks aredesigned to be self-contained neighbourhoods - with coffee shops,supermarkets, food centres, clinics, schools, library, shopping malls,playgrounds and parks. HDB estates are also well served by publictransportation system (buses and MRT). HDB apartments are always99-year leaseholds and typically lack the facilities of privateapartments.

Executive Condominiums are somewhere betweenHDB apartments and private condominiums. There were created forprofessional young people who want better than HDB, but cannot affordprivate condominiums. They are government subsidised and can onlybe bought if a certain criteria is met - similar to HDB criteria. Theywill automatically convert into no restrictions private propertiesafter 10 years from construction. They cannot be sold at all during thefirst 5 years, and they cannot be sold to a foreigner during the first10 years from construction.

Restrictions for Foreigners

Foreigners can rent private apartments and landed properties, as long as they havea valid long-term permit to stay in Singapore. It is illegal forlandlords to provide accommodation for illegal immigrants, so a proofof valid stay is required when renting an apartment - typically anemployment or student pass. However, renting out a whole HDB apartmentis subject to approval from HDB and the tenant is advised to check thatthe landlord has the permission.

As in many other countries, Singapore has restrictions on foreign ownership of property. TheSingapore government has recently relaxed the restrictions in order toattract foreign investment as well as foreign talent as part of a driveto increase Singapore's population and economy - although few peopleexpect the restrictions on land ownership to be lifted any time soon.There are currently no restrictions for foreigners to buy privateapartments. However, foreigners cannot buy landed properties withoutspecific case-by-case approval from the government. And even then thereare restrictions on the use of the property e.g. most cannot be rentedout unless in a mixed commercial and residential area.

Foreigners holding Singapore 'Permanent Residency' or 'Citizenship' status canalso buy HDB apartments directly from the government or through there-sale market. To qualify for the HDB scheme:

  • Applicant must either be a Singapore citizen or PR with at least one other sibling who is a PR.

  • Applicants must be at least 21 years old.

  • Applicants must form a family nucleus - either married or intending to get married; or with parents, siblings and/or children.

  • (Optional) The combined income of all persons in the application must not exceed S$8,000 a month in order to qualify for CPF Housing Grant.

HDB has other schemes for special cases – please check for details.

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Christina Lee
Senior Associate Marketing Director
CEA Licence No.:
L3010738A / R004312I
+(65) 9742 1234