Considering moving to Singapore and making this sunny island your new home? You’re not alone – Singapore is the 5th most popular destination for expats and is currently home to 1.64 million non-residents. Despite its size, our little red dot holds a solid reputation as a land of opportunities.
That said, Singapore’s rental rates are also one of the highest in Asia, leading many to wonder if it’d be more cost-effective to purchase a property in the long-term.
The most affordable options are the government-subsidized public housing units affectionately termed “HDB flats.” But these are typically reserved for Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents. And if you’ve got the cash to spare, there are more options within your reach.
(Read also: What Type of Property Can I Buy in Singapore?)
Here’s a look into the different types of properties in Singapore:
Property Type #1. Public Housing – Housing Development Board Flats (HDBs)
This is the most common type of property in Singapore and a prime choice if you want to be immersed in the local culture. You’ll get to experience a myriad of ethnic cultures and dialects in just one community.
To date, our 1.2 million HDB units house over 3.3 million residents, including an estimated 100,000 expats. The common models you’ll find are the 2-room, 3-room, 4-room, and 5-room HDB flats.
2-rooms are compact spaces for young couples or single individuals, with only a bedroom and bathroom.
3-room flats usually consist of 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. This may be a suitable choice if you’ve got a family with young children.
4-room and 5-room HDB flats offer more personal space for families with older children.
There are also lesser-known models like the maisonettes and jumbo flats built in the 1980s. These were designed for multi-generation households to help them better care for their elderly. They’re good choices if you’ve got a large family or if you love to host people — just be prepared to pay a premium for these “rarer” types.
Considerations for HDB:
- Citizenship/Residency – Only citizens and Singapore PRs can buy HDB flats. If you’re a foreigner in Singapore for the long haul, you can get around this by buying the flat with your Singaporean spouse (or getting Permanent Residency for you and your foreign spouse). You’ll find more details in this article.
- Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP) – With any HDB property, you have to adhere to a MOP of 5 years. During this period, you aren’t allowed to sell or rent out your entire flat — nor can you purchase any other property.
- Ethnic Ratio – Singapore’s big on racial harmony. To ensure every race gets a fair chance in the bidding, HDB bids are proportioned accordingly. This is good news if you belong to a minority race as you stand a higher chance of getting a flat in the location of your choice. You can check out the ethnic quota for specific areas with HDB’s handy ethnic quota tool.
- Household Income Limit/Grants – Props to the gahmen: they’ve provided a ton of financial aid to help the working class purchase their own homes in Singapore. Provided your household income is below $14,000/mo and you meet all the other eligibility criteria, you can apply for a flat. Just take note that the higher your household income, the less in CPF grants you’re likely to get.
Property Type #2. Hybrid Housing – Executive Condominiums (ECs)
ECs are a cross between public and private housing: they’re typically slightly cheaper than private condominiums but offer many of the same amenities. These may be the right property type for young professionals/couples who earn too much to qualify for HDBs but are unable to afford a private condominium.
The regulations on ECs change depending on the age of the unit. For the first 5 years, ECs will face the same regulations as BTOs (i.e. cannot be sold, and only Singapore citizens are eligible). In their 6th – 10th years, they face the same regulations as resale flats (i.e. only Singaporeans & Permanent Residents are eligible).
From the 11th year onwards, ECs become private property and can be sold freely in the open market. That means if you’re a foreigner, you can only buy ECs older than 10 years of age.
Considerations for ECs:
- Minimum Occupancy Period – Within the first 5 years, owners cannot sell or rent out the entirety of their ECs.
- Selling Limitations – If the EC is less than 10 years old, you can only sell to Singaporeans or Permanent Residents (PR).
- Household Income Limit – If you’re buying an EC directly from the developer, your monthly income must be less than $16,000 per month. If you’re buying it resale, there’s no such restriction.
Property Type #3. Private Housing
Private residences are good for people who prefer more serenity, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. It’s also the type of property with the least restrictions and the only kind that foreigners can purchase in Singapore. You can even purchase multiple units if you’ve got the cash for it.
Private housing can be categorized into non-landed and landed.
Condominiums are the most common form of non-landed private housing and feature an array of shared facilities that cater to the residents’ recreational needs. You can find them as studios, multiple-bedroom units, or penthouse units. Condominiums typically have a management team maintaining the shared facilities.
(Read also: The REAL Costs of Buying Property in Singapore)
Private condominiums come with either a 99-year, 999-year, or freehold lease. Freehold lease being a perpetual term costs the most. Due to the limited land availability, most condos come with a 99-year lease today.
Landed properties are often home to those in the upper echelons of society. They offer the ultimate privacy with large spaces for personalised living quarters. Some include facilities like swimming pools, massive gardens, or even extension wings.
The common models of landed property are:
- Townhouses – A hybrid between terrace houses and condominiums. While smaller in size, there are shared amenities like the gym and clubhouse. Unlike with landed terrace houses, there’s no need to maintain the facilities on your own.
- Cluster houses – A group of condominium-style houses situated in a landed property.
- Shophouses – Built as early as 1840, shophouses carry a rich heritage from colonial times and often feature a blend of Chinese and Malay cultures. They’re commonly found as 3-storey low-rise buildings.
- Terrace houses – Medium-sized houses joined together by a common boundary. The side walls are often shared with neighboring terrace houses.
- Semi-detached houses – Semi-Ds are arranged in pairs. Each half is an exact copy of the other in terms of its layout and measurements. They are only separated by a wall.
- Bungalows – Standalone houses with a land space of 400sqm to 1400sqm. Owners of these have the most autonomy to develop their land with little restrictions.
- Good Class Bungalows – This is the definition of Crazy Rich Asians. They’re minimally 1400sqm in size and contain extravagant facilities like a personalized cinema, Olympic-size swimming pools, personal parks, and four standard-sized carparks. Fun fact – there are 1,000 of these in Singapore!
Considerations for Private Housing:
- Higher Costs – Private properties cost minimally $1 million. You also have to consider the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty if you’re buying the property as a foreigner.There are also monthly maintenance costs to upkeep the property (e.g., hiring maintenance staff, regular cleaning and pool maintenance, and so on.)
- Higher Cash Amounts Required Upfront – Unlike with HDB units, you can’t tap on any grants. And unlike the HDB loans that’ll give you 90% of the purchase price, you can only take out a maximum bank loan of 75% for private properties — meaning you’ll need the other 25% in cash already saved up.
- Inconvenience – In exchange for greater privacy, most landed properties are located in more secluded areas. Be prepared to travel to get your groceries or take-outs. It won’t be a stone throw’s away to your nearest convenience store.
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