Tips for Buying a Condo in Singapore
If anything is gaining traction in the Singapore property market this year, it’s condos. Besides having a city-state that boasts an array of distinctive neighbourhoods, bank interest rates plunged by more than half, and home interest rates are at an all-time low.
But condominiums, like most sleek, attractive things, also come with a hefty price tag. That is why a new launch condo might be the most economical choice to owning your own unit. They come with a myriad of discounts from the developers, like early-bird discounts, vouchers, and even stamp duty reimbursements.
Indeed, buying a condo is a huge thing. But how to buy a condo in Singapore, anyway? To make it seem a little less daunting for you, we’ve compiled a simple guide and tips for buying a condominium in Singapore.
Search for the Right Condo for You
Purchasing a resale condo in Singapore can also be a great alternative to buying a condo in a new launch because you can start renting out or living in your condo much sooner. The store value in buying a condo in Singapore makes it ideal for those who are seeking an asset to invest in.
However, if you’re a first-timer, purchasing a resale condo in Singapore can be a complicated process at times. Aside from saving up for a sizable downpayment for the resale condo, there are plenty of administrative deadlines to abide by and steps to take.
If you’re considering a resale condo in Singapore, here are a checklist of steps to take.
When buying property in Singapore, the first step is to browse a new condo or resale condo listings online. There are a host of excellent online portals to visit. Upon visiting these sites, check how many other similar units in the neighbourhood or resale condo were recently transacted for. This gives you a good idea of the conditions and market price.
Also, shortlist some properties within your budget that interest you and then make appointments to view them. Most agents, generally, will be making a list of properties across all the potential platforms, so it is not improbable that you will find the unit you’ve been dreaming of.
Find an Agent
The second step to buying condos in Singapore is to look for a real estate agent. All sellers have a property agent who does the showing and marketing of the property along with sorting the paperwork and sealing the deal.
Many agents work with certain developers and are the interface between the buyer and the property developer. Even when the developer advertises the condos directly on their own website, they will still have an agent dealing with certain properties.
While it is not required to have a property agent as a buyer, it is still strongly advised. They are there to help negotiate the best price, find the best property and take you through the details and paperwork of the deal.
Typically, the buyer’s agent charges about 1% of the agreed-upon purchase price. The best way to find an agent is by word of mouth. Make sure you work only with one agent who is knowledgeable with a typical expat’s requirements. Otherwise, you will end up being marketed with their own property instead without realising.
What to Consider Before Buying a Condo
What to look for when buying a condo in Singapore? Consider the following factors:
Another good step when buying a condo is to look for the right location for you. Singapore may not be a large country but there is still a huge difference among the residential areas. Websites and property agents refer to districts.
There are 28 of these, though no one besides the property industry really applies for these district numbers anymore, and plenty of property portals filter according to more common terms such as Central Business District (CBD).
CBD / Marina Bay
This is Singapore’s king of areas; the district with the most exclusive and luxurious city access and properties. You have good transport, a waterfront, international dental clinics, high-end shops, and are right in the thriving hub of the City and the beating heart of the culture with Little India and Chinatown nearby. The downside is you are in the thick of the only area in Singapore with traffic congestion and leisure options are mainly limited to tourists attraction.
Orchard & Central
Some very exclusive apartments and a myriad of shops. The extensive Orchard area is highly sought after, not least because it also expands to include those prestigious roads surrounding the Botanic Gardens such as Cluny Road. The downside to this area is that your savings might not appreciate you for the daily shopping hit.
The East Coast is for those seeking a more chill, laid-back vibe. There is certainly a different feel to life here with its stretch of cycling & running tracks running along with the cool sea breeze and beachfront. Its vicinity to both the CBD and Changi airport simply increases its attraction for those expats hunting for the ultimate life-work balance.
Sentosa is considered the billionaire’s playground of Singapore, and it is commonly dubbed as the only area where you can buy landed property as a foreigner, but it has some remarkable condos available to purchase. If you want a touch of the glamourous lifestyle and sea views, this could be the area for you, but be prepared to dip into your wallet hugely.
As an area, Woodlands has a host of merits. It has big historical significance as one of the main battlegrounds of WWII. It is a major connectivity point to Malaysia, with the causeway bridge into Johor Bahru, and it is the favourite neighbourhood of many American families looking for closeness to Singapore American School. Prices drop dramatically in this part of town, as it is the furthest point possible from the CBD.
A broad area that can be broken into several different parts. As the name suggests, this area is west of the exclusive neighbourhoods of Orchard Road, the CBD, and Bukit Timah. The leafy green suburbs of the western areas offer some genuine treasures with nature and space on your doorstep.
MRT and Other Transport Access
It’s also a good step to consider staying near a transport or an MRT line as it always has its merits. Other than commuting convenience, home seekers can easily find amenities like community centres or malls nearby, which aren’t as comfortably accessible if you choose a more ulu condo.
But there’s another reason why living near transport and MRT lines should be a top consideration. If your condo happens to be just a short range from any upcoming stations, you can expect that the value of your property will skyrocket over the next few years-something to think about if you plan on renting out or selling the condo in the future. Check resources like the URA master plan for pointers that lead towards higher values of your unit.
While the 2020 Real Estate Market Outlook of CBRE reveals that new condo sales had control over the private residential property market with private units of 9,912 sold in 2019, a year-on-year increase of 12.7%, it is not inevitably true to say that new is best. It all depends on what the person is looking for.
Old condos in Singapore are well-known for having more space, developers back in the 1970s and 80s did not have to be concerned about space, and developments were built with larger rooms and balconies to enable more natural airflow. Often older properties are considered among the more high-priced. Prices reflect the varying degrees of privacy and space that an individual unit delivers, no matter the age.
The same is true with amenities, whereby they are not, as a necessary result, the driving factor in condo price. In fact, most developers assume that if an individual is buying a condo, that person is driving a swish car and doesn’t need amenities nearby.
They only have to look at Sentosa to view that condos there charge the highest apartment prices in Singapore, yet there isn’t even a decent supermarket within easy reach. Besides with many bragging state-of-the-art amenities, it is no wonder these more “atas” homes hold a spot among the big 5 C’s countless Singaporeans chase after.
Another factor that is regarded as significant in Singapore is the direction in which an apartment faces. Never overlook the implacable glare of the afternoon sun. Because they get the morning sun without the afternoon exposure, south-east facing units are considered the most desirable.
Another thing to take into account is light. Many individuals will go for a double facing apartment, one with windows on two sides since they get double the light, which can help even the smallest of apartments feel larger.
Visit the Showflats
This is another important step to consider when buying condominium in Singapore. Armed with your budget, begin looking around for new launch condo properties that you might be interested in purchasing. About 1-2 weeks prior to the official date of a new launch condo, potential home buyers are given permission to visit the developer’s show flats.
Keep in mind that submitting the cheque and EOI form will not obligate you to go through with the purchase; they will be returned to you, without penalty, if you decide not to proceed. You’ll have to go down to the show flat early and present your ballot number on the day of the official launch.
Then, you just have to wait for your ballot number to be called and book away. It is also a good idea to have a shortlist of some new launch condo units at hand so you have fallback options in the event the unit of your choice has already been taken.
Imagining yourself living in that unit is one of the best parts. Particularly the case with resales–depending on the owners, various units in the same condo can give you completely different vibes, and you can pick which parts of the home’s interior design to infuse with your own character and which parts to keep.
Check the Size if Suitable for You
Condos these days are generally narrower than their older counterparts, so do make sure that the one you want is suitable for you. Single pringles will do fine in smaller units like studio condos and lofts, but if you’re planning to start a family, it’s best to seek a bigger space.
Some condos have kitchen fittings that can spare you from additional renovation costs. Show flats on the ground floor tend to have larger balconies and higher ceilings, so ask beforehand if the dimensions match the ones for your desired condo.
Check the Amenities
When purchasing a private unit in a new launch, you only have the brochures and show flat to go by. The finished product may differ from what is advertised. For a resale condo, however, you can check the actual unit, which not only allows you to view exactly what you will get but also allows you to think about a few factors such as noise level and sunlight.
One thing to look out for, though, is issues with the neighbours or the condo and past defects. An online search will help you bring out common complaints of other residents in the condo development. However, complaints about your specific unit might be difficult to find, which is why undertaking a thorough inspection is essential.
If you think you’d be regularly amenities like gyms, tennis courts, or swimming pools, think about choosing a unit nearer to them. Note that some condos have huge grounds, so walk around the space to ensure you won’t have to take 5-minute walks back to your unit when you forget to bring your goggles to the lap pool.
Make Sure Your Finances are Enough
This final step is where the fun or the pain begins; it all depends on your finances. The property price in Singapore is never going to be cheap so you want to look at ways to make it easier to take. But the property price is usually open to negotiation in Singapore, so make sure to haggle to get a more attractive price. Do your research on similar properties in the area so you’re aware of how much you can reasonably lower the price.
It might be a good idea as well to examine the property’s valuation with professional property valuers. That’s because the property valuation affects the Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) and your home loan quantum (which is fixed to 75% loan-to-value (LTV)) that you need to pay.
Fees You May Need to Pay
When you buy a condo in Singapore, it is likely to secure a renovation loan in addition to your purchase loan. This is limited to SGD 30,000, or 6 months of your income, with interest rates ranging from 3 % to 5% per annum.
If you’re hoping to secure a home loan then you have to do your research ahead to find your property and apply for an Approval-in-Principle (AIP) from your preferred bank. Even though you might think you are worthy of a huge home loan, it’s the banks that primarily hold the financials. That’s why it is recommended to get an AIP from a bank, so you have a good idea of how much you will actually receive when you apply for a home loan later.
An AIP arranges how much the bank is inclined to loan, and what monthly mortgage obligations would cost for that loan. Be sure you are comfortable with the monthly payments expected of you when you are allocating your budget.
Word of advice: not all banks offer the same deal, so shop around to have a package that works for you. At this juncture, you are ready to spring back into the same procedure as those who are purchasing a condo unit or a resale property in Singapore in a formerly launched development.
OTP (Option to Purchase)
Once you and the seller have agreed on the final purchase price or condo price, deposit a 1% Option Fee (i.e., 1% of the purchase price) as compensation for an Option to Purchase (OTP)–this is basically means chope-ing the property.
For this part of the home-buying process, you’ll need to hire a conveyance lawyer to assist you with the legal bits. Conveyancing is the legal process of passing on the property from one owner to the buyer and usually costs between SGD 2,000 to SGD 3,000 for a condo transaction.
This also includes administering a title search to verify that the seller has a “good root of title”. In simpler terms, their title to the development is not defective or ensuring they can sell, if not how to buy condo in Singapore.
As for the Option to Purchase (OTP) will typically be prepared by the seller’s lawyer and forwarded to your lawyer, and usually includes:
- Details of each party: the seller and buyer’s names, registered addresses, and identification numbers, etc.
- The OTP’s details: The option period, Option Fee, and if the OTP is not exercised before the expiry date, the Option Fee will be forfeited.
- The property’s details: The address of the property, sale price, floor area, the move-in date, an inventory list if applicable, whether the property is sold furnished, etc.
- The seller and the buyer’s responsibilities and rights: e.g. that each party must pay their respective withholding tax and stamp duties.
Before placing the Option Fee, be sure about your decision. If you back out, that Option Fee will be handed down to the seller. This is the reason why getting an AIP beforehand is crucial–there have been cases of keen buyers depositing the Option Fee for a property, only to give it up when they realise their borrowing capacity cannot cover the remaining OTP home costs.
The OTP is valid for fourteen days, during which the seller is forbidden to sell the property to any other potential buyers; prior to this window expires, you may exercise your OTP with a 4% Exercise Fee. By exercising your OTP, you can now go in for a Sales and Purchase Agreement (S&PA) with the homeowner–the terms must be the same as those in the OTP.
Your conveyance lawyer will lodge a caveat on the property with the Singapore Land Authority (SLA)–meaning your chope is now legitimate–preventing the owners from attempting to sell to another buyer. Remember that the Exercise Fee and Option Fee must be fully paid in cash i.e., not with your bank loan or CPF funds. At this point, you would have paid 5% of the condo’s purchase price.
BSD (Buyer’s Stamp Duty)
You must pay Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) within 14 days of completing your sale. The Stamp Duty will be calculated on the purchase price as stated in the market value of the property, or the Sales & Purchase Agreement, whichever is the higher amount.
There is an Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) which foreigners need to pay at a different rate to Singapore Citizens. Locals get to escape the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) for their first residential property but to everyone else–Singaporeans who are already PRs, property-owners, and foreigners.
For foreigners, the ABSD rate is 20%, compared to 5% for Permanent Residents or Singapore citizens buying their first property, or 15% for their second. There is a major caveat here if you’re a foreign national from the United States, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, or Liechtenstein, then you pay the same rate as the locals.
If it’s your first property, you can use all the savings in your Ordinary Account up to the Valuation Limit (which is the lower of the value of the property or the purchase price at the time of purchase). But if it’s your subsequent or second property, you’ll have to set aside the Basic Retirement Sum (currently around SGD 80, 500) before you can use the extra savings in your Ordinary Account.
Now, you’ll also need to pay the remaining down payment of the condo. If it is your first housing bank loan, your Loan-to-Value (LTV) ratio is 75%, which means you can only take up a bank loan for up to 75% of the purchase price or the value (whichever is lower) of your home.
The rest of the home costs, i.e. 100% – 75% bank loan – 4% Exercise Fee – 1% Option Fee = 20% has to be paid upfront with CPF and/or cash.
Your LTV ratio, and so corresponding down payment, depends on how many times you have taken up a housing loan:
- First housing loan: 75% LTV, i.e. 25% to be paid upfront ( 20% remainder down payment, 4% Exercise Fee, 1% Option Fee)
- Second housing loan: 45% LTV i.e. remaining 55% to be paid upfront ( 50% remainder down payment, 4% Exercise Fee, 1% Option Fee)
- Third housing loan onwards: 35% LTV i.e. remaining 65% to be paid upfront ( 60% remainder down payment, 4% Exercise Fee, 1% Option Fee)
When it comes to knowing how much cash you need to purchase a resale condo in Singapore, again you can only loan up to 75% of the purchase price from the home loan from the bank. Hence, you should pay a 25% down payment in CPF/cash. Out of this 25%, you should pay at least 5% of the purchase price in cash while the remaining can be taken from your CPF OA.
To obtain an Option to Purchase (OTP), you need to pay a 1% Booking Fee of the purchase price in cash. Once the OTP is obtained, the homeowner cannot agree to sell the property to anyone else until it has expired or you exercise the option.
Besides the IRAS fees, you will also be liable for legal fees collected to draw up the conveyancing fees, sales documents, and any other services used. Before commencing with the lawyer’s services, it is worth requesting a quote on these fees. There is also a Caveat Registration Fee, payable to the SLA of $ 64.65, which your property lawyer will typically include in the conveyancing fee.
What You Need Know if You are a Foreign Buyer
With PR Status
If you’re a foreigner who has taken PR status, then you’re dealing with a different set of regulations. Although still not entirely unrestricted, the most appealing being that you can now have access to executive condominiums and HBD flats. You’re also able to purchase a landed property with approval from the Singapore Land Authority.
With Singaporean Spouse
A foreign resident can only buy an Executive Condominium in an HBD Block on the resale market, and only after the local owner has held it for ten or more years. But if you’re married to a Singaporean citizen, then the landscape changes, as you can purchase HBD flats. However, it also modifies for your spouse and not beneficially.
Singaporeans marrying foreigners have to follow the Non-Citizen Spouse Scheme rules, which reduces their options. For instance, they have to displayed that you, their spouse, meet various visa requirements and they are now only eligible for a 2-bedroom build-to-order flat in a non-mature estate.
There are a plethora of factors to consider when buying condo in Singapore. Ultimately, going for the most ideal one encapsulates your personal preferences–take some time to think about your priorities and check some property news for ideas before leaping to land your dream home.
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