How to Buy House in Singapore - Your Complete Guide

Your complete guide to buying a house in Singapore.

Buying a house in Singapore can be a daunting and expensive process. Before you start house hunting, get a basic understanding of the existing regulations, as well as factors like the type and location of a home, that would impact your eligibility, budget and ultimately influence your final decision. Read on for a 7-step guide to help you plan your finances and home buying process!

Guide to Buying a House in Singapore

  1. Understand Property Types and Eligibility Criteria

    In land-scarce Singapore, buying a house can be a pretty expensive investment which is why there are different types of property catered for different needs and segments of society. Each type of housing also comes with its own set of eligibility criteria for potential homeowners. So, do take the time to understand these requirements before setting your sights on a certain property type. 

    1. Types of HDB Flats

      About 80% of Singaporeans live in a Housing Development Board or HDB flat, which is the most affordable option here. There are two types of HDB flats that you can apply for depending on your personal preference and eligibility: New HDB Flats and resale HDB Flats.

      As these flats are catered for the majority of Singaporeans, they are heavily regulated and comes with a list of requirements and restrictions. For instance, a single person needs to be at least 35 years old to own an HDB and is restricted to a 2-room Flexi unit under the new Build To Order (BTO) scheme. So, do keep up to speed on these requirements or book an appointment with an HDB representative before purchasing these government housing

      There is also a limit to the number of HDB flats you can buy. In essence, an eligible Singapore Citizen is only allowed to buy HDB properties (new flats, resale flats or Executive Condominiums) twice in their lifetime. If you have bought two such properties, you will not be eligible to apply for a new flat or be listed as an essential occupier in an application. Furthermore, if you own a private property and wish to downgrade, you must sell your private property within six months upon purchasing your HDB. In summary, the Eligibility Criteria for HDB Flats are as follows:

      1. Type of Family Nucleus/ Applicant
      2. Citizenship Status
      3. Age at the time of application
      4. Income Ceiling
      5. Property Ownership
    2. Executive Condominiums

      Similar to HDB flats, Executive Condominiums come with a five-year Minimum Occupation Period (MOP). This means that you'll have to live in the property for at least five years. This type of public-private hybrid property is available to local citizens. Foreigners are only allowed to buy an executive condominium ten years after the construction is completed. For first time EC buyers, you’ll need to be a family nucleus.

    3. Private Properties

      Private properties in Singapore are considered the luxurious versions of housing and are held under three main leasehold types: Freehold, 999-year, and 99-year leases. Since the property does not have restrictions on foreign ownership and income ceiling, expats and the high-earning Singaporeans tend to opt for it. Here are the types of private properties:

      1. Private Condominiums - properties that come with amenities and services such as swimming pools, a gym and security.
      2. Apartments - features fewer amenities but closely similar to private condominium properties.
      3. Landed Property - essentially a bungalow or house and where some are surrounded by a garden or land. This type of property in Singapore may require more maintenance.
  2. Understanding your Needs and Preference

    Knowing what types of properties you can buy is just a start to narrowing your options. Whether you are hunting for a house to live in, or as a property investment or a form of passive income, here are some factors worth thinking about:

    1. Can you rent the property out?

      If you want to buy a house in Singapore for investment purposes, you need to be aware that the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) prohibits HDB homeowners from renting their houses for a short period (six months). If you don't comply, you will be imprisoned for a year with a fine of $200,000.

    2. Do you want to stay near your parents?

      If you're buying HDB flats, you can enjoy Proximity Housing Grants (PHG) when you apply for flats within 4 km from your parents' home. Being in close proximity with your parents also allows you to visit your family or elderly parents quickly in the event of an emergency. 

    3. Is proximity important to you?

      If you are planning to start a family, is your new house located near a school of your choice? If you are elderly or have a medical condition, is your new house near to medical facilities?

      Ultimately, you’d want your children’s school to be close to your home for their convenience. Also, it keeps them near your home, especially when an emergency arises. Speaking of emergencies, living near a medical facility can be beneficial when you have elderly parents or a sick family member living with you.

      How about your office? You wouldn’t want to spend too much time travelling to work, and should always consider the distance to your office. If you depend on public transport like most Singaporeans, consider a home that provides you a direct route to office like a direct bus or direct train ride. This would definitely saves you time as you do not have to spend time changing your transport modes. 

    4. Would you prefer a quiet neighbourhood or bustling town centre?

      You can check the URA master plan for upcoming shopping malls, MRT stations and amenities in the neighbourhood of your new property. If you plan to buy a house in Singapore as an investment, these future developments can help to increase the market value of your property. On the other end, if you are a person who cherishes a tranquil and quiet neighbourhood, you would not want to buy a house where a new shopping mall or new train station will be built in the future.

  3. Factors affecting House Costs

    The cost of buying properties in Singapore will vary depending on many factors such as the proximity to the city centre, maturity of the estate (mature towns are 20 years or older while non-mature towns are generally newer with more amenities), condition, age, and type of property. The average price of a house in Singapore according to an article in TodayOnline.com is $1,183,375.

    Besides the cost of the house itself, do cater for additional expenses such as legal fees, maintenance fees, stamp duties and home insurance when you plan your finances. In essence, here are the factors that could affect the cost of the house: 

    1. Location/ District
    2. New/ Resale
    3. Type of Property
    4. Proximity to Public Transport Hubs (MRT Stations and Bus Interchange)
    5. Market History (recent property transactions in the vicinity)
    6. Neighbourhood/ Future Developments
  4. Setting a Budget

    Now that you already have an idea of what type of house you want, the next thing you need to think about is your budget. You'll need to take into consideration the following factors when calculating how much you can afford:

    1. Personal Finances
      1. Your income
      2. Your debt obligations and existing loans
      3. Your age
      4. Your available funds
      5. Type of property and available subsidies or grants
      6. Your housing loan eligibility and tenure
    2. Other Costs to Factor In
      1. Realtor / Agency Fees
      2. Property Taxes
      3. Stamp Duties
      4. Maintenance Fees
      5. Home and Fire Insurance
      6. Property Valuation Costs
      7. Option to Purchase (OTP) Processing Fees
      8. Renovation Costs
      9. Mortgage or Loan Interest Rate
      10. Home Inspection Fees
  5. Find that Dream Home

    If you are looking at buying a resale flat or property, there are two ways you can find your dream home: hiring an agent and searching online on your own. 

    An agent is skilled in the art of negotiating. They will advise you on how to get the best offer. Not only are they powerful negotiators, but they also know what to look for in a house. If you decide to go for an inexpensive approach to look for your dream home, you can search online for properties for sale. Online platforms such as 99.co and PropertyGuru will help you find suitable properties around your preferred location. It is also advisable to conduct a house inspection to ensure that the shortlisted properties are indeed what you're looking for. 

  6. Apply/ Make an Offer and Negotiate

    Now that you have your list of dream properties ready, the next step is to make an offer and negotiate with the property owner. Negotiating helps you get a good price on the property you’re planning to buy. Here are some negotiation tips for buying a resale HDB unit:

    1. Know your market. Whether it is a buyer’s, seller's or a balanced market, you should know where you fit as this can affect your approach when negotiating.
    2. Create a plan. Prepare for a counter-offer in case your first bid gets rejected. Most buyers experience rejection and you shouldn't worry about that.
    3. Ascertain the seller's interest. Figure out what's motivating the seller. Learn the reason why he/she is selling the house.
    4. Consider hiring an agent. One thing you can benefit from an agent is that they'll be responsible for all the homework like finding private property or resale flats and arranging viewings.
    5. Do your research. Base your offer on the value of the property in Singapore. Researching the type of properties you want to buy will help you with this.
  7. Buy Home Insurance

    Whether you're planning to buy a private property or an HDB flat in Singapore, it is just as important to purchase home insurance to safeguard against losses and damages to your biggest and most important asset. MSIG offers home insurance plans with many added benefits to enable you to better protect your home and your loved ones.

    While owning a property is a huge responsibility and commitment, it also marks a rite of passage into adulthood. Set out with a plan as prescribed and you will soon find that owning a property in Singapore is not beyond one’s reach!

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