Every Singaporean PR would like to know the answer to this question, "Can PRs buy condos?" The short answer is YES.
Permanent residents of Singapore are eligible for home loans and can purchase condominiums in Singapore.
Which Types of Singapore Properties Are Allowed for PRs?
In 1973, the Singaporean government created the Residential Property Act (RPA), and it was amended again in 2005 to yield the following restrictions for foreigners:
- An apartment or private condominium unit
- A strata landed house in an approved condominium development (the approval must be sought from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) purchase; however, the SLA typically only approves appeals from those who have made an exceptional economic contribution to Singapore)
- A leasehold estate in a landed residential property for a maximum of seven years (However, only on terms of prior approval. This is also very much contingent on your economic contribution)
- A landed property in Sentosa Cove
Which Types of Singapore Properties Are Restricted for PRs?
- Terrace homes
- Semi-detached houses
- Bungalows or detached dwellings
- Vacant residential land
- Strata landed houses not within an approved condominium project (e.g. cluster homes or townhouses)
- Places of worship
- Association premises
- Serviced apartments/boarding houses/worker’s dormitories (not registered under the provisions of the Hotels Act).
There are a few key things that you should know before you start purchasing a condo as a PR. This is our complete guide on things you will need to consider before buying a condo in Singapore, as well as some frequently asked questions!
How does Private Housing work in Singapore?
In Singapore, we divide private housing into landed property, and condominiums. The former refers to houses (bungalows), which are built on privately-owned land. Under this bracket is also cluster houses, which refer to a group of houses on one plot that share facilities. You might’ve heard of these being referred to as “strata landed homes.”
Private condos are built by property developers, then sold as individual units to private owners and/or investors – which is what this article will exclusively examine, because private condos are the only types of property easily available to foreign buyers.
What Regulations Do Foreigner Buyers Need To Know?
1. Buying with PR status
If you possess PR status, you have a slightly different bunch of regulations compared to foreigners. The best one? You now have access (though not fully unrestricted) to HDB flats, as well as executive condominiums.
And with approval from the Singapore Land Authority, you can purchase landed property as well!
2. Buying with Singaporean Spouse
Being married to a Singaporean citizen changes things – you can buy into HDB flats. However, your spouse may find themselves on the less beneficial end of the deal. This is because Singaporeans that marry foreigners must follow the Non-Citizen Spouse Scheme, which will essentially narrow one’s options.
For instance, they are now only eligible for a 2-bedroom BTO flat, and this must be situated in a non-mature estate. Plus, they must demonstrate that their spouse meets a number of visa requirements, which can be a rather tedious process.
What Are The Average Condo Prices in Singapore?
Since condos were first introduced to Singapore’s market, prices have exponentially increased. As one of the oldest condos in Singapore, Pandan Valley saw lows of $180 psf for a 6,114 sqft unit in 2004. Compare this with 2019, where a much smaller 1,647 sqft apartment skyrocketed to $1,488 psf!
Location is a big factor in causing condo prices to significantly fluctuate and rise. Particularly for units closer to the CBD, or Orchard Road, you’ll find they often carry much higher price tags psf than condos in outer or even heartland areas. Always look at the price per square foot rather than the total price, which will give you a much better relative estimate.
Prices also tend to fluctuate depending on a condo’s proximity to MRT stations, along with other community/condo facilities, and management services. It goes without saying: the more luxurious and well-connected a condo is, the higher its price will be.
All these factors make it difficult to state the average cost for a condo in Singapore, this SingSaver chart below helps round up prices for differently-sized units in private condos, which might be a good starting point for your estimate.
What You Should Consider Before Buying a Condo in Singapore?
Though Singapore is not a very big island, you’ll find a pretty substantial difference between different residential districts. You’ll find that a real estate agent will often refer to districts, of which there are 28 (though outside of property agents, people rarely use these numbers).
Of course MRT stations have a hefty effect on the purchase price of a property. MRT trains carry roughly 3.5mil passengers everyday and are a core component of Singapore’s transport system. Any property agent worth their salt will closely monitor residential properties and their proximity to MRT stations.
For example, when the government announced the Downtown Line in 2007, property prices near pre-constructed stations rocketed upwards up to 80%! We can assure you that buying units located close to MRT stations will never fail to be a good investment strategy.
Although CBRE’s Real Estate Market Outlook (2020) showed that new condo sales topped the private residential Singapore property market with 9,912 units sold in 2019 (a 12.7% annual increase!), be careful and avoid assuming that a brand new condo is always the way to go. Your criteria entirely depends on what you are looking for.
After all, old private condominiums are well-known to be more spacious, as developers previously didn’t have as many land constraints, so units were often built with larger floor spaces and balconies to allow for a more breezy airflow. For this reason, you may be surprised to know that older residential properties are often more expensive.
Although amenities may not necessarily be a key driving factor when it comes to price, most developers tend to assume that if you’re purchasing a condo, you’re driving a fancy car and don’t need many amenities close by. =
A quick peek at Sentosa Cove tells you that despite condos demanding some of the highest prices in Singapore’s property market, they might not even have a legit supermarket within walking distance!
Something new buyers often underestimate is the direction that their unit faces. Especially in Singapore weather, do not underestimate the intensity of the afternoon glare!
Units facing southeast are often highly sought after, as you get the best of both worlds – the morning sun, but without the afternoon heat and glare.
Buyers often look for double-facing units as well, because apartments with windows on both sides allows you to get double the light-flow – this will help any apartment feel bigger than it already is. And with how small condo units are these days, you’ll want to take all the space you can get.
How Does One Find Condos for Purchase in Singapore?
Lots of websites or online services are a great launchpad when you’re starting your condo hunt:
Property Guru: Easy interface, reliable filters, and we love this site for its ‘find an agent’ option.
99.co: Features a sturdy lineup of properties and some interesting additional features of content.
Oh My Home: Marketed as more of a homeowners listing site, but features a good number of agents that list properties, which we think will give a decent selection overall.
Mogul: another portal, another set of slick images, and more beautiful properties to choose from.
Generally, most agents will be listing properties across all the possible platforms, so its unlikely to be the case that you will find your dream property on one and not the other. So I would suggest you pick the portal which you find works best for you.
Generally, new developments often have showrooms you can visit in person, which you’ll typically see due to their huge billboards parked around nearby roads.
You can also check out the Straits or Business Times to look for advertisements on up-and-coming residential properties.
But it’s much easier to find details for resale market property in Singapore, so if you’re on the hunt for an older condo, you probably want to direct your search online instead.
WTG: With over 20 years of experience, we're here to help!
Every seller has an agent that helps them settle the property marketing and showing, along with sorting out paperwork to eventually seal the deal. Loads of agents work with specific developers, and are often the middleman between the developer and buyer.
Even when developers may market residential properties directly on their own website (e.g. Far East Organisation), they often still have agents that help to deal with individual properties.
For buyers, though you don’t necessarily need an agent, we highly recommend one. A property agent can be a great aid in finding the best residential property, negotiating best prices, and even helping you through paperwork and its nitty-gritty details.
However, do note that a buyer’s agent will typically charge around 1-3% of the purchase price.
How Do You Find An Agent in Singapore for Condos?
You can find an agent to help you buy/sell your condo through 3 main methods:
- Word of Mouth
- Online Platforms like Property Guru and 99.co
- Distributed Physical Flyers
We still think that word-of-mouth is consistently the most reliable way to find property agents, particularly since you’d want one who understands the regulations of buying property as a PR.
Loads of expats and PRs often waste time being shown condos that are worlds away from their search criteria because their property agent thought they would have the same criteria as a local buyer.
Conflict of Interest
Agents can work for both sides, as both a buyer’s agent, and a seller’s agent. Though they might tell you they are a neutral party and even show you a wide selection of property, do bear in mind that ultimately it is in their best interest to get you to purchase one of their own landed properties – so just be wary of these instances!
Good agents are really subtle about this, so make sure you’re on guard to avoid purchasing residential property you may regret later.
One Agent Rule
In the property market, agents often have an unspoken rule that you shouldn’t two-time agents. Singapore’s small pool of properties and agents means that you’ll likely get shown the same properties and both are likely to find out about the other.
Of course, if the agent you’re working with isn’t really working out, don’t be afraid to terminate and start afresh – but we’d advise against working with two simultaneously.
Is a lawyer necessary when buying a condo?
When looking to purchase property in Singapore, bear in mind that you must locate a property lawyer in order to draw up the necessary contracts, conduct searches, and legally confirm property details surrounding ownership and the like before you sign anything.
This is especially important if you’re buying a resale, so that your lawyer can help you conduct sufficient checks on the seller to prevent you from falling to any kind of scam.
Although your bank and agent can help recommend lawyers, we do recommend asking around for recommendations as word-of-mouth is typically the most reliable method.
What Are The Taxes and Fees Involved When Buying A Condo in Singapore?
1. Down Payment
When you buy a property, you must legally pay a minimum of 20% of the property’s price as a deposit or down payment. This comprises the 5% option fee, and the 15% exercise fee. As a foreigner or PR, you must pay this full 20% in cash upfront.
2. Buyers Stamp Duty
Once you’ve completed your sale, you have 14 days to pay Buyers Stamp Duty (BSD), which will be calculated on the purchase price (as stated in the Sales & Purchase Agreement), or the property’s market value – whichever is the higher amount.
Do bear in mind that in 2018, the government raised BSD from 3% to 4%. In order to calculate what you owe, check the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) BSD online tool to avoid any unwanted mistakes.
3. Additional Buyers Stamp Duty
Fret not – PRs pay an ABSD rate of 5%, the same as citizens – but only if you’re purchasing your first property. If this is your second, as a PR, you’ll pay 15%.
4. Legal Fees
Along with IRAS fees, you’ll be liable for legal fees that were incurred in the process of drawing up sales contracts and documents, conveyancing fees, and any other services you used from your lawyer. Do request a quote for these fees upfront before you engage any lawyer just so you know what to expect…a nasty shock from the bill is the last thing you want after all the stress from property hunting!
Also be warned: there is a Caveat Registration Fee that you’ll pay to the Singapore Land Authority of $64.65 – your lawyer will generally include this in the conveyancing fee.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are PRs considered foreigners?
Yes, PRs are considered foreigners when purchasing property in Singapore. Anyone who does not qualify as a Singapore citizen, a Singapore company, a Singapore limited liability partnership or a Singapore society is considered a foreigner in Singapore. Although PRs are considered foreigners, they do pay a different ABSD rate compared to foreigners that do not possess PR status.
What types of taxes do PRs need to pay when buying a property in Singapore?
As a PR, when you purchase property, you must pay the same taxes that a citizen must. This include ABSD, which is currently sitting at 7% for PRs. You also need to pay Seller’s Stamp Duty (SSD) if you intend to purchase resale property.
Can PRs buy property with their Singaporean citizen/PR spouse?
Foreigners with Singaporean citizen or PR spouses are eligible to purchase selected public and private housing in Singapore. If you are a foreigner married to a citizen, do consider applying for the Non-Citizen Spouse Scheme that permits you to apply for 2-room flexi BTO/resale flats! Aside from this, you’re also eligible to buy resale executive condo (EC) units after their 5-year MOP – instead of just privatised EC units that’re at least 10 years old.
Can PRs purchase condo units? (EC vs PC)
Executive condominiums (ECs) are a hybrid type of housing that straddle the line between private and public housing. ECs are primarily catered to those whose household income exceeds the ceiling required to qualify for public housing, but still falls shy of comfortably affording private property.
ECs are often designed and constructed by private developers, but sold at a cheaper price than a full-blown condo, as the land cost is subsidised by the government. This means that ECs fall under subsidised housing – and thus, be wary that the regulations surrounding purchasing one are similar to that of BTO units.
- If a PR wants to acquire a newly-launched EC, they must marry a Singaporean citizen spouse, as well as satisfy requirements similar to that of BTOs.
- First owners of ECs cannot dispose, sell, or rent out their apartments before the 5-year stipulated MOP period.
- Thereafter, the unit can be resold in the open market to Singaporeans and PRs without restriction on family nucleus – but only after the MOP period.
- After a decade, where the remaining leasehold is 89 years or less, an EC unit more or less becomes a private condo and can be sold to any buyer (including foreigners) without restrictions at all.
Can foreigners apply for mortgages?
Although foreigners can apply for mortgages, do note that there are limits imposed on the Loan to Value (LTV) ratio of your mortgage, along with mandatory minimum cash down payments.
For a first home loan, the LTV ratio is typically 75% (though when you factor in age and the tenure of the loan, this number can be as low as 55%). The cash down payment required is typically 5% (but along the same lines, this can be as high as 10%).
Of course, it is no surprise that the LTV is lower, and the down payment higher, on second (and subsequent) home loans.
Do I need an agent to buy a property in Singapore?
Although it is not necessary, we’d advise you to have a buyer’s agent on your end to properly assess and negotiate pricing, along with dealing with paperwork, taxes, and fees – all of which can get really tedious, especially if you aren’t familiar with SIngapore’s property laws like the back of your hand.
Do note that buyer’s agents often charge a fee of roughly 1%.
You can always engage WTG’s condo advisory services if you’re looking for an uber helpful, efficient, and quality real estate agency to work with!
Can PRs buy condos alone?
Yes! There are no restrictions on PRs buying condos solo. Do note, however, that you will be subjected to ABSD for your first property purchase.
Can PRs and Singaporeans buy condos?
There are no restrictions for PRs when it comes to purchasing private apartments or condos in Singapore. Just note that ABSD is applicable – and there are different rates for PRs and foreigners.
Can PRs buy a condo without selling HDB?
Unfortunately, PRs cannot buy a condo if they already own an HDB flat.
If you're a Permanent Resident (PR) wondering, "can I buy a condo and if I own an HDB flat?" the answer is no.
HDB says that even for those who have fulfilled MOP, PRs that own an HDB flat must dispose of their flat within six months of buying a private residential property in Singapore.
Only Singaporean citizens can own an HDB flat and a private condo at the same time – though they do need to comply with MOP before purchasing private property. This is the only order you can do it in – you cannot first buy private housing, then an HDB flat.
Can PRs buy Landed Property in Singapore?
No, foreigners – including PRs – cannot buy landed properties in Singapore. However, you can appeal to the SLA under the Residential Property Act if you have (1) been a PR for at least five years and, more importantly (2) made an exceptional economic contribution to Singapore.
Interested in finding out more? You can read our complete article above on buying property in Singapore for foreigners (PRs included).