Singapore is one of the world’s jet-setting capitals and hands down one of the countries with the best standards of living. This, however, comes at a price. Even if you’re a high roller, buying property in Singapore can get expensive. It does have its benefits, like Singapore’s red hot real estate market and the strong possibility that you’ll be able to turn a profit when selling. It’s still always better to look at both sides of the coin if you want to make the right decision for living in Singapore.
Let’s take a look at some of the factors you’ll need to consider before renting or buying property in Singapore. The location, the legal permissions, the duration of your stay and your budget are some key elements to take into account.
On top of that, do not hesitate to spend a bit of time there before making your decision. Like planning a few visits in Singapore staying at hotel or living like a local in a friend’s apartment.
Look at the Market
First, you should know that the government has an interventionist approach to real estate and will regularly step in to regulate it. So, the market will routinely switch between a buyer and a seller’s market. The good news is that we’re in a cooling period that was pushed by government regulation, so the market is very much in favor of buyers right now.
The market is especially good for owner-occupiers at the moment. At the end of the day, it makes sense to pay towards a place that you will own and be able to sell or sublet instead of paying someone else’s mortgage.
Speaking of which, you must look at the mortgage markets as well. The country has tons of great lending institutions. One of them is Hong Leong Finance, which you can read about via PropertyGuru. You can get a fixed or floating Hong Leong Finance home loan depending on where you think interest rates are going. They also routinely offer promotional rates, so we would suggest you keep an eye out for offers.
Know what You can Rent or Buy
While the country is much more open than others in the region when it comes to foreigners buying property, there are still some limitations on what you can buy. For instance, if you want to buy an HBD flat, which is a form of public housing in which a good portion of the population lives, you need to be either a Singaporean citizen or a permanent resident.
The only properties foreigners are allowed to buy are private properties like condominiums and apartments. Also know that you will need government permission to buy any landed property, like a bungalow, for instance.
Know, however, that all types of properties are open to foreigners for rent, and that includes HDB units. Don’t expect them to be of lesser quality though, as the definition of public housing is very different here than in America.
How Long do You Intend to Stay?
This is one of the most important questions that will need to be answered. You should know that the government will levy a stamp duty tax on anyone who sells their property within 4 years of purchase. So, if you weren’t thinking of staying there for the long term, know that this might not be the best idea for you.
It doesn’t mean that house ownership should automatically be out of the question if you’re thinking of leaving early, however. Another option could be to rent the property until it appreciates enough for you to sell it. The gross rental yield is around 2.5% and 5% in Singapore, but it all depends on the property market conditions.
How Much Are You Willing to Pay?
You probably already know that properties in the country aren’t cheap. You should also know that there are limitations to how much mortgage lenders can finance a purchase by a non-Singaporean. They can only fund you up to 80% of the value of the property, and you will also have to shell out a pretty substantial down payment. You could expect to pay as much as SGD $200,000 on an average city apartment for the down payment alone, so that’s something you’ll need to prepare for.
Not only that, but the government adds fees on purchases by non-Singaporeans to curb foreign speculation. You may have to pay an additional stamp duty tax of 15%. That’s on top of the stamp duty tax all buyers have to pay. Know, however, that you won’t have to pay that if you have your US citizenship as there’s a special trade agreement with the country.
Did You Think of the Opportunity Cost?
Last, you need to see if you might be missing out on the Singaporean experience by locking yourself to one apartment. One of the beautiful things about Singapore is being able to live in different areas and have a completely different experience and atmosphere.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for stability, buying is always a better option, especially if you are a retiree, for instance. Or maybe you want to build a nice nest egg for retirement? Again, investing in a property might be the best choice.
Now that you know a bit more about the benefits and disadvantages of buying and renting in Singapore, you’ll be able to make a better decision. We suggest that you speak with other foreign investors so you can get a clearer idea of the obstacles you might have to face and the real estate climate there.