Step-by-step guide to buying a condo

PropertyGuru Editorial Team
Step-by-step guide to buying a condo
Despite their ever-shrinking sizes and ever-rising prices, condos in Singapore are still highly sought after. Many young couples buy HDB flats as “starter homes”, upgrading to condos once they’ve completed their Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) and have saved enough money. If you are thinking of buying one, here’s what you need to know.
This article will cover a brief overview of what you need to know to buy a condo. But if you want a more in-depth guide and know the exact breakdown of how much you’ll need to buy one, read our related guide!
Note: This article was updated in May 2023 for information only.

1. Hire a professional

The first step in your home-buying process is to hire not just a real estate agent but a lawyer, so you have the assurance of professional guidance. If you take a bank loan, the bank will assign a lawyer to you.
You can look for an agent via the Council of Estate Agents (CEA), the governing body for property agents in Singapore; the council does not charge any fees for this. You can also look for an agent by going to PropertyGuru’s agent database.

2. Pick a condo unit

Now that you’ve assembled your house-hunting team, you are ready to shop for a new home.
Bear in mind that newer condos tend to be smaller than most four- to five-room HDB flats. If you have no problem with that and would prefer a brand-new condo, you can keep an eye out for new condo launches or look for one that is ready to move in. For instance, you could look at condos which have received their Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP) in 2022 or a condo that will TOP in 2023.
However, if you prefer to have more living space and do not mind an older resale condo, you can browse all condos for sale on PropertyGuru. In general, older condos have larger living spaces and could potentially cost more than newer condos.

3. Mortgage stage

When you have picked a condo, you can “hold” it for two weeks so other potential buyers are not allowed to view it. This entails an option fee of 1% of the agreed-upon price. Within a month, you must secure your financing and pay a second option fee of 4%; failure to do so will see the first option fee you paid forfeited. Do note that both option fees must be paid in cash.
Once you pay the second fee, you’ll have to pay your down payment. The down payment can be paid using a combination of cash and CPF funds (with a minimum of 5% cash down payment). Depending on how much you many outstanding housing loans you have, it will affect your LTV limit.
75% or 55%*
5% (for LTV of 75%); 10% (for LTV of 55%)
45% or 25%*
2 or more
35% or 15%*
Source: Monetary Authority of Singapore
*Take the lower LTV limit only if the loan tenure exceeds 30 years (25 years for HDB flats), or if the loan period extends beyond the borrower’s age of 65.
There is also the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) which will affect how much you can borrow. This means you can spend a maximum of 55% of your monthly income on repaying debts. However, if you are buying an Executive Condominium (EC), you’ll also have to pay attention to the Mortgage Servicing Ratio (MSR) which caps the amount you can spend on mortgage repayments; this figure is capped at 30% of your gross monthly income (inclusive of CPF contributions).
Depending on the length of your mortgage, you will repay your loan at a fixed amount every month, subject to your bank’s interest rate. Not sure which bank loan to pick? You can start by browsing mortgage packages on ProperytGuru Finance or contact our friendly Mortgage Experts for help.

4. Paying stamp duty

Apart from your mortgage and TDSR, there are additional fees. Whether you’re a Singapore Citizen buying your first property or a foreigner buying any property, every body has to pay Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) when buying a property in Singapore. Here are the current BSD rates in 2023:

Current BSD Rates (Updated February 2023)

First $180,000
Next $180,000
Next $640,000
Next $500,000
Next $1.5 million
In excess of $3 million
Source: Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore
And depending on your citizenship status and the properties you own, you may be subject to Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD).

Current ABSD Rates (Updated April 2023)

Singapore Citizen buying first propertyNo need to pay ABSD
Singapore Citizen buying second property20%
Singapore Citizen buying third and subsequent properties30%
Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR) buying first property5%
SPR buying second property30%
SPR buying third and subsequent properties35%
Foreigners buying any property60%
Entities (company or association) buying any property65%
Housing developers for any residential property 35% (additional 5% if the entity is housing developer; non-remittable)
Trustee buying any residential property65%
Not sure how you can calculate your stamp duty amounts? Use our online stamp duty calculator to check how much you would have to pay.

5. Final fees

To top it all off, you must settle your legal and agent fees. As per industry practice, if you have bought a resale unit, the seller will pay his agent, who will split the payment between himself and your agent. If you have bought a unit at a new condo launch, the developer will pay your agent.
As for legal fees, they do not comprise only payment to your lawyer, but also to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), and mortgage duty to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS). Typically, your legal fees should not set you back more than $2,500, barring requests and requirements outside the norm.

6. Awaiting the keys

Once you’ve settled the relevant payments and paperwork, you can take a breath and look forward to collecting your keys and moving into your new home. If you have bought a unit at a new development, you may have to wait two years or more before it is ready for occupation.
If you have bought a unit in a development that will soon achieve its Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP), you can move in as soon as a month after its TOP.
If you have bought a resale unit, chances are you can move in as soon as its previous owner has signed it over to you and given you the keys. Of course, if you choose to renovate it, you will have to wait a few months to a year before you can move in, depending on the extent of the renovations.

7. Makeover time

If you choose to renovate your new home, you will have to either stay in your current home while waiting for renovations to be complete. If you have already sold your previous home and handed the keys over to its new owner, you will have to choose whether to live with family temporarily or rent a place.
Of course, you also need to get in touch with contractors and interior designers and shop for furniture. While consulting an interior design firm is not a must, it can help if you are lacking inspiration, or are unsure how to execute your ideas.
In any case, be sure to do your research beforehand, and stick to contractors and interior design firms that have a good reputation and track record. They may cost more but will save you money on repairs in the long run.

8. Moving in

Ensure you are prepared to move in before the day itself. Make a list of all the items you want to move into your new house, categorise them and pack them accordingly so you will have an easier time unpacking. Packing materials like newspaper, bubble wrap, boxes and tape are essential, as are trustworthy movers.
Many people prefer to save money and seek help from their friends to move, but otherwise, you can hire professional movers. If you are doing the latter, contact a few reputable moving companies and have their movers assess the items you are going to move so they can give you a quote.
Good movers will not only transport your belongings to your new home in a timely fashion, but they will also treat them with care and help you pack and unpack the heavy, bulky items.
For more property news, content and resources, check out PropertyGuru’s guides section.
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