Frequently Asked Questions

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Whether it's your first home for newly married couples,a growing family looking to upgrade, or retirees looking for a cozier place after the children have left the nest, we have your commonly asked questions answered below.

Q. As a first-time home buyer, how do I decide between a BTO or resale HDB flat?

A. The choice between a BTO vs resale flat comes down to a few factors.

Eligibility: Check if you meet the eligibility criteria for a BTO flat on PropertyGuru. 

Price: BTO flats generally cost around 20 percent lower compared to resale units in the same area. First-time buyers also enjoy certain priority privileges, such as the Parenthood Priority Scheme, which allows first-timer married couples with children to get their flat more easily or the Multi-Generation Priority Scheme, which aims to help married children and their parents secure flats in the same BTO project. 

CPF Housing Grants: First-timer HDB applicants may also be eligible for CPF Housing Grants of up to $80,000 depending on the household income.

Waiting time: BTO flats can take up to five years to be completed, while resale units can be moved into almost immediately.

Size: For the same unit type, older resale units are generally bigger by around 10 percent.

Location: Resale flat buyers have more unit choices in the open market, while the location of BTO developments is usually "fixed".

Renovation costs: BTO flats will incur additional renovation costs since they generally come as a "blank canvas", whereas you may move into a suitable resale unit with minimal or no renovation.

You can read more about this in our HDB BTO Guide

Q. What are the different types of homes or properties in Singapore?

A. Below is an overview of the types of residential properties available in Singapore:

1. Public housing (HDB flats)
2-room flexi flat: a one-bedroom unit of about 36 to 45 sq m, with a bathroom, kitchen and storeroom-cum-shelter for the elderly or smaller households.
3-room flat: a two-bedroom unit of about 60 sq m, with an ensuite bathroom, a common bathroom, kitchen, living area, service yard and storeroom-cum-shelter for households with one child.
4-room flat: a three-bedroom unit of about 90 sq m, with an ensuite bathroom, a common bathroom, kitchen, living area, service yard and storeroom-cum-shelter for households with children.
5-room flat: a three-bedroom unit of about 110 sq m, with an ensuite bathroom, a common bathroom, kitchen, living area, service yard and storeroom-cum-shelter, providing ample space for larger families.
3Gen flat: a four-bedroom unit of about 115 sq m, with two ensuite bathrooms, a common bathroom, kitchen, living area, service yard and storeroom-cum-shelter, only multi-generational familites i.e. couples and their parents, or widow/divorcee with kids and parents, with a household monthly income limit of $18,000.
Executive flat: a three-bedroom unit about 130 sq m, with an ensuite bathroom, a common bathroom, kitchen, living area, dining area, a storeroom-cum-shelter and possibly space for a study and/or balcony - the biggest flat type available from HDB.
DBSS: public housing built by private developers originally intended to bridge the gap between HDB flats and private properties, the scheme has been suspended indefinitely after just 13 DBSS projects were launched.

2. Public-private hybrid
Executive Condominiums (EC): ECs are units constructed and sold by private developers, with amenities similar to private condominiums, but are more affordable as their land cost is partly funded by the government.

3. Private residential properties
Private Condominiums: Similar to ECs but are privately owned from the start, with many amenities such as gated security, gyms, swimming pools and sports facilities.

Apartments: Compared to private condos, apartments are typically part of a smaller residential project with fewer amenities, but are also usually cheaper as well.

Landed Housing:
Semi-detached Houses: a single-family landed residence that shares a common wall with another similar unit, typically spotting similar layout and external appearances.
Terraced Homes: single-family landed residences in rows that share walls and similar appearances.
Cluster Houses: landed properties (either terraced, semi-detached or bungalows) built in a cluster with shared communal amenities such as gyms and swimming pools.
Townhouses: a spacious and private terraced home that shares communal facilities such as gyms and swimming pools with residents of other units.
Shophouses: prized for their heritage and historical importance, these are terraced housing with the first floor meant for commercial purposes while the upper floors can be used as offices, hotels or residences.
Bungalows: a one or two-storey stand-alone home of 400 to 1,400 sq m that does not share a wall with other units.
Good Class Bungalows (GCB): a bungalow but much bigger, with a land area over 1,400 sq m and luxuriously decked out with huge gardens, swimming pools and other amenities for the super-rich. GCBs command the highest prices in Singapore.

Read in detail about these different kind of residential properties

Q. What's the difference between freehold vs leasehold property in Singapore?

A. The common understanding is that freehold properties can be held indefinitely by the buyer, while 99-year leasehold properties will revert back to the state after the tenure ends. Freehold units generally carry a higher value (10-15 percent premium) and have theoretical advantages (such as "permanency"), while leasehold units have been shown to offer better rental yields. As the remaining lease period gets shorter, bank loans may also be harder to get approved, and CPF money cannot be used to buy a home with less than 30 years of lease remaining.

To complicate matters,this freehold vs leasehold comparison are muddied by many long-held myths and misconceptions. Avoiding these, what it boils down to is the intention of the buyer. Choose freehold if you plan to live in the property for the long term; while leasehold makes more sense for rental income.

Q. What are Singapore's property ownership rules for HDB?

A. A quick rundown of some key ownership rules for HDB:

1. A HDB flat owner(s) must be at least a Singapore Citizen or two Singapore Permanent Residents.
2. You may not have more than one HDB flat under your name. If you just purchased a resale HDB flat, you need to dispose the other HDB unit within six months of the resale flat purchase.
3. If you own a private property, either locally or overseas, you will need to dispose of the private property within six months of the resale flat purchase.
4. HDB owners may purchase a private property once they've met the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) for the HDB flat.
5. Singapore PRs cannot own both a HDB and a private property (either locally or overseas) regardless of the MOP.

Q. When is a good time to buy property in Singapore? Are there cooling measures or crashes I should note?

A. The best time to buy a property is when you are ready. There are some home purchase preparation steps to take even before you start looking for your new home.
1. Ensure you have a stable pay cheque.
2. Have a good credit score.
3. Prepare a sustainable budget plan.
4. Save more to afford the downpayment.
5. Understand your wants versus needs, and decide what goes, what stays.
6. Decide on your type of home based on what you can afford now.
7. Research the URA Master Plan and future development for locations you are interested in.
8. Clear as much of your outstanding debt as you can, to improve your credit score and Total Debt Servicing Ratio.
9. Get pre-approved for a mortgage.

The Singapore government has also implemented some cooling measures to keep the property market from overheating. Here are some measures that would affect home buyers.
1. Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) where buyers can only use a maximum of 60 percent of their income to pay all their debts (which includes items such as housing loans, car loans and credit card bills).
2. Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty (ABSD) for the second and subsequent purchase. This starts at seven percent for Singapore Citizens, and is in addition to the existing Buyer's Stamp Duty.
3. Seller's Stamp Duty (SSD) for properties sold within the first three years of purchase. This starts at 12 percent if sold in the first year of purchase, eight percent in the second year, and four percent in the third year.
4. Tighter Loan-to-Value (LTV) limits of 80 percent for first-time home buyers. For example, the maximum loan available for a $1 million property is $800,000. This drops to 50 percent or lower for the second and subsequent purchase.
5. A minimum cash downpayment is the smallest amount that must be paid by the buyer. Any shortfall between the loan and downpayment may also need to be paid in cash.
6. Restricted loan tenure, which is capped at 35 years, with loans over 30 years subjected to tighter LTV limits.
7. Mortgage Servicing Ratio (MSR) for HDBs and ECs, which caps monthly loan repayments to banks at 30 percent to prevent borrowers from becoming overstretched in the event of a market crash.

Q. I'm looking for a HDB resale flat. How do I know if I am eligible?

A. To be eligible to purchase a HDB resale flat in general, applicants need to take note of or meet certain criteria:
1. Citizenship: At least one Singapore Citizen or two Singapore Permanent Residents must be listed as the flat applicant.
2. Age: Applicants must be 21 years old and above. If applying for the Single Singapore Citizen Scheme, applicants must be 35 years and above.
3. Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) and SPR quota for the block or neighbourhood must be met.
4. Income ceiling: There's no income ceiling for HDB resale flats.
5. Ownership of other HDB flats or private property: Applicants need to dispose of any other HDB flats and/or other private property (local or overseas) within six months of the HDB resale purchase.
6. Special conditions: Other special conditions may apply for the particular scheme you are interested in.
7. CPF Housing Grants: You may be eligible for certain CPF Housing Grants depending on the scheme you are interested in.

Q. I've decided on home ownership. How do I know what property can I afford?

A. Use our Affordability Calculator to break down the maximum property value, loan amount, deposit value, as well as the fees and duties for your next home purchase.

Q. As a first-time home buyer, what are the procedures to follow?

A. As first-time home buyers, the key is preparation, knowledge and forward planning. Before you go house hunting, there are nine steps you should take before considering purchasing a home.
1. Ensure you have a stable pay cheque
2. Have a good credit score
3. Plan a reasonable budget limit to loan repayment
4. Ensure you have sufficient savings
5. Decide on your wants vs needs
6. Choose the type of home
7. Research the future development plans for the area you are interested in and visit showflats (even if you don't plan to buy) to understand what's available in the market
8. Improve your Total Debt Servicing Ratio
9. Get pre-approved for a mortgage

Once you are ready and in the market for a condo, follow these steps to begin buying a new launch condo in Singapore

Q. How can I buy a house in Singapore if I'm single?

A. Because of Singapore's property laws, a Singapore Citizen who is single has the following options:
1. Apply for a 2-room Flexi flat via HDB's BTO scheme if you are 35 years old and above.
2. Purchase a resale HDB flat from the open market if you are 35 years old and above.
3. Purchase a private property from the open market. You are not restricted by age.

Remember you can utilise your CPF grants for HDB flat purchases.

Q. What grants are available for first-time home buyers?

A. First-time home buyers can choose to buy a flat directly from HDB at a subsidised rate, or a resale flat from the open market with the help of housing grants. These housing grants, which can go up to $120,000, comprises of:
1. Enhanced CPF Housing Grant of up to $50,000 for families and $25,000 for singles (for 4-room or smaller flats) or up to $40,000 for families and $20,000 for singles (for 5-room or larger flats)
2. Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG) for eligible lower and middle-income first-timers. This is given on top of the CPF Housing Grant. Depending on their income, the AHG can be up to $40,000 for families and up to $20,000 for singles.
3. Proximity Housing Grant (PHG) for those who wish to buy a resale flat to live with or near their parents or married child for mutual care and support. Eligible families will receive a PHG of up to $30,000, while eligible singles will enjoy a PHG of up to $15,000.

Q. What are the property taxes I will need to pay if I buy a home?

A. Property buyers should be aware of a few duties or taxes:
1. Buyer's Stamp Duty (BSD): A tax paid upon signing of the Option to Purchase/Sale & Purchase agreements, based on the actual price or market value, whichever is higher. The Buyer's Stamp Duty rates are progressively tiered.
2. Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty (ABSD): An additional tax which applies depending on the buyer's residency status and the number of properties owned by the buyer. Singapore Citizens buying their first property have no ABSD.
3. Annual property tax payable: Property owners who are staying in the said property pay lower rates. The tax is based on the Annual Value of the property.

We did some sample calculations about Stamp Duty payable based on a few scenarios for Singaporeans, Singapore PRs as well as foreigners.

Q. How do I calculate my home downpayment?

A. Use our Affordability Calculator to break down the maximum property value, loan amount, deposit value, as well as the fees and duties for your next home purchase.

Q. Do I need a real estate agent to buy a home in Singapore?

A. You do not necessarily need an agent to buy a home in Singapore. There is however value provided by a property agent that you may find useful.

A good agent can advise on potential problems, take care of the tedious paperwork, knows how to navigate the many property rules, can liaise with the seller's agent on your behalf, and has an industry network that helps with your buying process. However, if you are familiar enough with the process, are meticulous enough to handle all the details, and willing to work closely with the seller's agent and your lawyer, you can definitely buy a home without a property agent in Singapore.

Q. What is the stamp duty for private property?

A. Stamp duty is a tax on the transfer of ownership of properties. In Singapore, three types of stamp duties exist:
Buyer's Stamp Duty (BSD): A tax paid upon signing of the Option to Purchase/Sale & Purchase agreements, based on the actual price or market value, whichever is higher. The Buyer's Stamp Duty rates are progressively tiered.
Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty (ABSD): An additional tax which applies depending on the buyer's residency status and the number of properties owned by the buyer. Singapore citizens buying their first property have no ABSD.
Seller's Stamp Duty (SSD): A tax on the seller for properties sold within the first three years of purchase. This starts at 12 percent if sold in the first year of purchase, eight percent in the second year, and four percent in the third year.

Take a look at some Stamp Duty payable sample calculations based on a few scenarios for Singaporeans, Singapore PRs as well as foreigners.

Q. What should I know about property refinancing?

A. Refinancing means to replace your current home loan package with a new one from another bank, usually with improved terms to lower your mortgage payments.

As good as that sounds, refinancing comes with some caveats.
1. You will incur legal fees, usually $2,000 to $3,000. If the refinancing package saves you less than that, you may want to reconsider.
2. Ensure your original loan's lock-in period is over (usually one to three years). Otherwise you will incur a penalty fee, usually 1.5 percent of the outstanding loan.

Other than refinancing, you may want to consider repricing the home loan package with your existing bank.

Q. I'm buying a property for investment. What is the most important thing to know?

A. Three important considerations before buying a property for investment are:
Funding:
The Loan-to-Value that you can borrow from banks will vary depending on your existing properties and mortgages. Your Total Debt Servicing Ratio, which is the percentage of your monthly income used for paying your loans and credit card bills, also cannot exceed 60 percent. These factors will determine the maximum property value that you can potentially buy. Use our Affordability Calculator to get an indicative idea of where you are.
Location:
This greatly determines the future prospect of the property you are buying. Ask several property agents and research the price statistics of different areas on the HDB and URA websites to help you decide whether a location is worth your investment.
Property taxes:
Unlike tax rates for owner-occupied properties, which starts from zero percent, non-owner occupied residential properties tax rates start from 10 percent.

Check out this guide for further reading on investing in Singapore

Q. How long should I hold an investment property in Singapore?

A. In Singapore, sellers of residential properties need to be aware of Seller's Stamp Duty (SSD), which is a tax on properties sold within the first three years of purchase. This starts at 12 percent if sold in the first year of purchase, eight percent in the second year, and four percent in the third year. You can avoid this penalty if you wait to sell your property in the fourth year, while renting out the space in the meantime.

That said, when to sell also depends on whether the price is right i.e. has the initial price investment "matured". Sometimes, it may be more prudent to hold a property as development of the estate or area is still ongoing.

Q. What is en bloc?

A. An "en bloc" sale is a term for the collective sale of two or more property units to a single purchaser. In Singapore, en bloc is commonly used to refer to full-development sales to a property developer or the government.

In essence, it means the property owners agree to collectively sell their units in exchange for payment. This payment is usually higher than the current market price of each individual unit as it removes the hassle and risk of the buyer having to negotiate with each individual owner.

For an en bloc deal to go through, at least 80 percent of the residents (based on property value and strata area) must agree to the sale if the development is more than 10 years old. 90 percent must agree if the development is 10 years old or below.

While a windfall is generally the main reason for any owner looking to an en bloc sale, not everyone may be looking to make a profit - as there are advantages and disavantages in the en bloc process.

Q. Can foreigners buy property in Singapore?

A. Foreigners can buy property in Singapore, with certain restrictions.
1. HDB flats are available only to Singapore citizens and Singapore Permanent Residents. A foreigner that has received Permanent Residency may be able to purchase HDB resale units, if meeting certain HDB criteria.
2. Private residential properties. No limit or restrictions to foreigners.
3. Executive condominiums, a public-private unit, can be bought by foreigners only after 10 years of construction completion (five years for Permanent Residents).
4. Landed residential properties, such as terrace housing and bungalows, require government approval and depends on the foreigner having made adequate economic contribution.
5. Commercial properties such as offices and shops. No limit or restrictions to foreigners.

That said, there are other factors you may need to consider as a foreigner looking to purchase a property in Singapore.

Q. Can Singapore PRs buy HDB flats in Singapore?

A. A Singapore Permanent Resident (PR) can purchase an HDB flat, if they meet certain criteria.
1. The PR needs to be at least 21 years old.
2. He or she must be a Singapore PR for a minimum of three years.
3. Upon buying an HDB resale flat, the PR is prohibited from selling the unit or leasing it out entirely under the five-year Minimum Occupation Period (MOP).
4. The buyer must not have any private property here or abroad. Otherwise, he will need to dispose of these within six months of purchasing a HDB resale flat. Nevertheless, the PR can acquire a private property like a condominium after fulfilling the five-year MOP, and he isn’t required to sell his HDB resale flat to do so.
5. A PR is only allowed to buy an HDB resale flat under two eligibility schemes, namely the Public Scheme or Fiancé/Fiancée Scheme. In a nutshell, a Singapore PR cannot purchase resale HDB flats by themselves.

Read about how Singapore Permanent Residents can buy HDB flats

Q. What are the rules on buying a second property in Singapore?

A. Singapore citizens who own a HDB flat, DBSS flat or Executive Condominium must fulfill the five-year Minimum Occupation Period before they are eligible to buy a private property.

Singapore Permanent Residents cannot own both a HDB and private residential property; they will need to dispose of a unit within six months of making the new purchase.

For those eligible, you should be aware of a few things that differ from your first property purchase:
1. Your Loan-to-Value (LTV) will be lower than the 80 or 90 percent of your first home. This means you'll need to have sufficient cash on hand to make up the remainder, which can go up to 70 percent of the purchase price.
2. The downpayment for your second property goes up to a minimum of 25 percent to be made in cash. Compare this to five percent if you take a bank loan for your first property.
3. The Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty (ABSD), on top of the regular Buyer's Stamp Duty (BSD). A second property incurs seven percent ABSD for a Singapore Citizen (up from zero percent in their first purchase) and 10 percent for a Singapore Permanent Resident (up from five percent on their first purchase).

In addition, here are three second property purchase questions you should ask yourself before making the leap.

Q. Can I use CPF for the downpayment of my house?

A. Your CPF Ordinary Account can be used for your home downpayment.
- New HDB flat using an HDB loan. 10 percent downpayment can be made in full using CPF savings.
- New HDB flat using a bank loan. 20 percent downpayment, of which at least five percent must be in cash and the remaining 15 percent can be from CPF.
- Resale HDB flat using an HDB loan. 10 percent initial payment can be made in full using CPF.
- Resale HDB flat using bank loan. 25 percent initial payment, of which at least five percent must be in cash and the remaining 20 percent can be from CPF.
- Private under-construction development. 20 percent deposit, at least five percent must be in cash and the remaining 15 percent can be from CPF.

In addition, you can use your CPF Ordinary Account to pay for other housing-related costs, such as stamp duty, legal fees and Home Protection Scheme premiums, as well as service your monthly housing instalments.

Q. Can I use CPF to finance my home loan?

A. You can use your CPF Ordinary Account to finance your home loans:
- By paying for the downpayment or initial payment of a HDB flat or private residential property.
- To repay the monthly housing loan instalments.
- To pay for the stamp duty, legal fees, Home Protection Scheme premiums, and other housing purchase-related costs.

Q. How much cash upfront do I need to pay to buy a condo in Singapore?

A. There is no quick answer to this as it is situational depending on:
1. Location
2. Unit type and size
3. Your residential status and number of existing properties
4. Your Buyer's Stamp Duty (BSD)
5. Your maximum Loan-to-Value (LTV)
6. Your existing home loans

However, based on an analysis of the Whistler Grand condo launch in Nov 2018, here's a quick summary based on a 3-bedder unit sold.
- Singapore Citizen buying first home, with 75 percent LTV has an upfront cost of $357,164
- Singapore Citizen buying second home, with unpaid first home loan and 25 percent LTV has an upfront cost of $1,145,556
- Singapore Permanent Resident buying first home, with 75 percent LTV has an upfront cost of $420,744
- Singapore Permanent Resident buying second home, with unpaid first home loan and 25 percent LTV has an upfront cost of $1,183,704
- Foreigner buying first home, with 75 percent LTV has an upfront cost of $611,484
- Foreigner buying second home, with unpaid first home loan and 25 percent LTV has an upfront cost of $1,247,284

You can read more on our analysis of the Whistler Grand condo launch here

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