Real estate in Singapore is well-regarded as an asset not just to local property buyers, but also by foreigners who view local property as a stable asset. In a big part, this perception is down to our sustained economic and political stability. Also, as a currency, the Singapore Dollar is rock solid.
Another aspect that makes Singapore property attractive to foreign buyers is our country’s openness towards foreign investment. We are also a financial hub that draws corporations and talent all over the world, which directly contributes to property value appreciation over time and stable rental demand that benefits property investors.
While a growing number of foreigners want to invest in Singapore property or set up their home here for good, they are limited as to the type of property they can buy. Foreigners are also subject to higher stamp duties for buying property in Singapore, in addition to being excluded from being able to buy subsidised public housing.
What is the definition of "foreigner" in Singapore?
According to the Singapore Land Authority, which regulates land use and property ownership, an entity is considered a foreigner if he/she/it is not a Singapore citizen, a Singapore company, a Singapore limited liability partnership or a Singapore association.
As such, Singapore Permanent Residents (SPRs) are also considered foreigners.
What foreigners can and cannot buy
Public housing a.k.a. HDB flats
Set up in 1960, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) aimed to promote home ownership among Singaporeans. HDB builds and sells new flats directly at a lower-than-market rate, and it’s these flats that are entirely off-limits to foreigners.
A HDB flat is eligible to be sold in the open market five years after the day its first occupied. This no-sale period is known as the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP). Thereafter, the flat, which can be sold on the open market, is known as a HDB resale flat.
Under HDB rules, foreigners who are Singapore Permanent Residents (SPRs) may buy a resale flat if they form a family nucleus (i.e. two or more applicants related by blood or marriage). An SPR may not rent out the entire unit.
That said, living in an HDB flat can be an amazingly local experience. Check out these flats listed on PropertyGuru.
Private properties (non-restricted)
Since 1973, the Singapore government has imposed various restrictions on foreign ownership of all private property in Singapore under the Residential Property Act.
The Act specifies the private properties that foreigners are restricted from buying. That said, there’s a long of list of of non-restricted properties that foreigners can actually buy.
Here’s the list of non-restricted properties a foreigner may buy in Singapore, and is applicable to both freehold and leasehold properties:
- Condominium unit
- Including Executive Condominium units after an initial 10-year restriction period
- Private apartment unit (e.g. walk-up apartment)
- Strata landed house in an approved condominium development
- Strata landed homes in an condo with planning approval before 3 April 2012
- All Sentosa Cove properties
- Commercial shophouse
- Industrial and commercial properties (including hotels but excluding serviced apartments)
- HDB shops and shophouses
Private properties (restricted)
Properties listed as Restricted under the Residential Property Act aren’t exactly a 100% no for foreign buyers. Approval from a government authority will have to be sought, and the likelihood of approval is low. A recent high-profile example of a successful applicant is James Dyson, who bought a swanky S$45 million bungalow in Bukit Timah in July 2019.
Applicants stand a better chance if they can show proof that they have made an “exceptional economic contribution to Singapore”, as the SLA puts it.
The list of restricted properties include the following:
- Vacant residential land
- Landed houses with land titles (e.g. terrace houses, bungalows)
- Strata landed house which is not within an approved condominium development
- Shophouses on non-commercial zoned land, including mixed-commercial and residential shophouses
- Association premises
- Places of worship
- Worker’s dormitory, serviced apartments and boarding houses
I’m a foreigner and I want to buy a restricted property in Singapore. How do I apply?
Simply submit your application via SLA’s Land Dealings (Approval) Unit website.
Additional buyer’s stamp duty for foreign buyers
When looking for a property to buy in Singapore, be sure to factor in additional costs such as the ABSD.