Guide to Buying A Private Property in Singapore
A property is always an investment, regardless of whether you are buying it to live in or not.
In this guide, you will find essential insights applicable to all private property purchases in Singapore— from the fundamental processes and timelines, to more thought-provoking factors crucial to consider when searching for a home or an investment property.
Remember this: Property purchase is not like buying stocks; it can be a dynamic process in which every step and decision is dependent on multiple factors. This guide serves the purpose of giving you a comprehensive overview of the purchasing journey, but if any of your questions are left unanswered, please feel free to reach out to us here.
Table of Contents
Purchase Process & Timeline
What is the process like for a typical purchase?
The process of buying a property in Singapore involves several steps.
Here’s a general overview:
1. Engaging a Property Agent (Optional but recommended):
You might want to consider involving a licensed property agent to assist you.
A good property agent will:
- Understand your purchase objectives and tailor recommendations to you according to these objectives.
- Make sure sound financial planning has been done (see next point).
- Help you navigate the market and bring your attention to important factors / potential pitfalls to look out for.
- Advise on the right price by conducting past transacted data and comparative market analysis.
- Handle all negotiation of terms in your interest, and handle all necessary paperwork which you may not be familiar with.
- Given that this purchase is likely to be one of the most significant investments you’ll make, enlisting the help of professionals is highly advisable. Here’s an overview of the services we provide to all our clients to ensure comprehensive coverage of all aspects.
2. Financial Planning:
- Apply for an In-Principal Approval (IPA) of loan from a bank to ascertain your maximum loan amount which will form up to 75% of your total property budget. Please do not assume that the numbers generated from online loan calculators are accurate; we cannot highlight enough the importance of getting an official IPA done to avoid wasting time working with a wrong budget. Reach out to us and we will put you in touch with the right people who can get this sorted for you.
- Review your finances and ascertain the total amount of cash and CPF OA funds you can set aside for this property purchase. These will be used for your 25% down payment, legal fees and Buyer Stamp Duty. Please be as detailed as possible; do not work with round numbers.
- Ascertain how much monthly mortgage you are comfortably able to commit to. This would impact the eventual loan amount that you should take up with the bank. For example, your income might be able to get you a far higher loan that what you should be applying for, so you would need to work out the loan with your maximum comfortable monthly mortgage instead.
- With the above 3 numbers, you can now work out the final budget you can work with. Now you are ready to commence your search.
3. Property Search and Selection:
- The following would be done with or by your property agent if you have engaged one.
- Identify and rank the factors that would influence your decision. We have a home buying checklist below that can help you with ranking your priorities, especially if this is a property you plan to live in. Do not skip this step— it would save you a lot of time and hassle subsequently.
- Shortlist property listings carefully to ascertain suitability and invest-ability before arranging for viewings:
- Look through all available material such as photos, videos, floor plans and virtual tours.
- Use StreetDirectory to analyse the location and transport links.
- Ask the listing agent questions related to maintenance fees, sinking funds, and past transacted data, etc.
4. Offer To Purchase
- Once you find a suitable property, discuss with your agent regarding the negotiation strategy and make an offer to the seller.
- It is very important to clearly include terms such as price, option period (the time you get to confirm your decision and secure your financing), completion period (the time from you exercise your option to you becoming the legal owner), furnishings, and other conditions if any.
- This way, the seller can consider your offer with a full picture and there would not be any miscommunication subsequently causing the deal to fall through midway.
5. Acceptance and Option to Purchase (OTP):
- When the seller accepts your offer, an Option to Purchase (OTP) is signed, accompanied by a deposit (usually 1% of the purchase price unless negotiated otherwise).
- Your agent will perform the due diligence necessary, such as obtaining a Proof of Ownership, before you proceed with the payment of the deposit.
- You will now have 2 weeks (unless negotiated otherwise) until the expiry of this OTP. If you do not exercise this OTP by the expiry date, your deposit will be forfeited.
- You can now proceed to review bank loan packages and secure a Letter of Offer (LO) from the bank.
- You must now engage a conveyancing firm to handle all legal matters pertaining to this purchase.
6. Exercising the OTP
- Within 2 weeks, once you have signed your Letter of Offer (LO) with the mortgage banker and engaged a conveyancing firm, you will head down to the firm in person to exercise the OTP. This is accompanied by the remaining deposit, typically 4% of the purchase price.
- The conveyancing firm will also collect the payments for your Buyer Stamp Duty and legal fees.
7. Completion and Legal Matters:
- After exercising the OTP, what’s left is just the waiting time to completion date, which is when you become the legal owner of the property.
- You would need to pay the remaining down payment, which is 20% of the purchase price, before completion date.
8. Property Transfer and Handover:
- On the completion date, ownership of the property is officially transferred to you.
- You will receive the keys to the property and can take possession, unless you have purchased a property with tenancy.
- Set up your utility accounts 2 weeks in advance if you are in a hurry to commence your renovation or move in.
It is important to note that the process can vary depending on the type of property (new launch or resale), whether you’re a Singaporean citizen, Permanent Resident, or foreigner, and any specific conditions of the transaction.
In a nutshell, this is how the timeline for a typical purchase looks like.
Do note that this is just a standard timeline; certain timeframes can differ in special circumstances.
New Launch Condos:
How Does HausLife Help?
We are not “order-takers”.
We do not believe in being agents who simply ask for your requirements, bring you around to see properties until you find one that you like, and then assist with paperwork.
Because frankly, as you already know, you can almost do that on your own.
While your search usually revolves around what you like and want in a home right now (instant gratification), it is really important to know how to select the right properties with the right strategy, because the worst situation to be caught in is not being able to sell your property or having to sell at a loss in the event you need to sell it someday (long-term exit plan).
At HausLife, we make sure that when you engage us, we must value-add to the process.
Searching on PropertyGuru on your own gives you tonnes of listings at any point in time, but when we put them through our sieve— a framework that we created to find SAFE properties to invest in— there really isn’t that many at all.
So what we need to do is to first show you how and why we conduct this stringent selection, during our first consultation, and make sure we are all on the same page as we progress.
This streamlines the whole process to a very efficient point where once we discover something that hits a good spot between fulfilling 1) your personal preferences / objectives, and also 2) most of the criteria that we set in our HausLife Investment Checklist Framework from a logical investment perspective, there would be a clear decision and action plan for you to take towards making your final purchase.
What We Do To Make The Purchase Process Easier For You
- Initial consult to identify purchase objectives
- Understand your requirements (as detailed as possible)
- Streamline the search process by identifying suitable types of properties to focus on based on objectives
- Discuss important market fundamentals and outlook
- Long-term portfolio planning
- Advise on purchase timeline
- Calculation of budget for the purchase
- Assistance in getting In-Principal Approvals for loans
- Explain payment timelines
Product Shortlisting and Investment Analysis
- Locate and recommend suitable properties
- Conduct market research and competitor analysis
- Provide objective analysis on units that can help you make an informed decision (future resale-ability, layouts, etc. which will be covered more under the HausLife Investment Framework section)
- Arrange and manage viewings
Offers, Negotiations, and Acceptance
- Preparation of an offer strategy and providing advice on the right price
- Represent your interests in negotiations
- Preparation and explanation of Option To Purchase (OTP)
- Analysis of home loan packages and act as liaison between home loan banker and you*
- Engagement of law firm (conveyancing)*
*At HausLife, we offer these services even though they do not fall under the scope of a real estate agent, as we have come to realise the importance of our role as the one person who is aware of what is going on from all angles. This allows us to manage the entire process smoothly without our clients having to fret.
We can’t promise that every transaction will be 100% smooth as there can be factors beyond our control, but what we can promise is that you have our 100% effort.
Before you continue reading on, you are probably thinking: how much does it cost for this service?
In Singapore, the common practice is for a buyer’s agent to enter into a co-brokerage arrangement with the seller’s agent. What this means is that our remuneration would come from a cut of the seller’s agent commission from the seller.
Home-Buying Checklist (Emotional)
This section applies to you if you are looking for a home.
Pure investors can skip to the next section.
When you’re deciding where to live there are lots of things to consider. Some of it will be rational, but lots of it will be emotional. After all, choosing a home is a subjective thing.
In our experience working with so many buyers over the years, what we found extremely helpful for everyone is ranking your priorities and identifying your deal-breakers.
There is no perfect home. But we are aiming to find you one that is close to perfect.
Try ranking these in order of importance (non-exhaustive):
- Budget (E.g. If you know your budget is inflexible and requires a strict cap, it should be ranked high on the list)
- Location (E.g. Are you strictly looking only at certain districts or are you able to be flexible if other factors matter more?)
- Size (E.g. If budget and location is more important, are you able to sacrifice size for them?)
- Views, Noise, Vibes and Facilities (E.g. Is not having a tennis court a deal-breaker? Do you care for views?)
- Transportation Links (E.g. Must you live close to the MRT or are buses okay?)
- Amenities (E.g. Anything you REALLY need?)
There could be some other factors such as specific directions or floor level you require, etc. In essence, listing all these requirements / deal-breakers down would greatly help to streamline and narrow down this search.
HausLife Investment Checklist
The rule of thumb for property investment is always to purchase properties that have market demand. To a certain extent, you are going to need to set aside your personal perception and preferences when it comes to identifying SAFE investment properties.
1. Land Size
In developments sitting on larger plots of land, you would notice some things, such as a grander entrance, more landscaping, facilities, and space. You may not think this is important if you are one who doesn’t really care for it personally, but in the resale market, this matters and appeals to many buyers.
2. Number of Units
Transaction volume is important. We typically do not recommend small / boutique condos with <100 units due to the lack of transactions (and also because they typically sit on small land sizes). However, this number is just a guideline; when it falls below, we will have to evaluate other factors to determine if the condo is safe for investment.
3. Maintenance Fees
The maintenance fees must be reasonable to ensure a safe exit for your property. For example, if you are buying into a boutique project with barely any facilities, no security guards, and no proper swimming pool or gym, but the maintenance fees cost $500 for a 1 bedroom unit, it would definitely be tough for you to sell your unit in future.
At HausLife, with just the floor plan we are able to tell you immediately if the layout works in your favour in terms of future resale-ability. This comes with years of experience as we are in contact with large volumes of buyers/sellers/houses on a day-to-day basis.
More often than not, everyone wants a nice view. The key is to balance this with the entry price— what is the premium you are paying and is the difference something you can recoup when you resell it? There are also some notable deal-breakers for being hard to resell, for example, units which are looking right into another neighbour’s property at just <20m away, or units directly facing an aboveground MRT track.
There are too many common misconceptions surrounding the topic of freehold versus leasehold properties, so this is a topic always covered extensively in our initial consult. In a nutshell, no, as an investor you should not limit yourself to only freehold properties. We have conducted the analysis on price trends of different condos to prove that the tenure of a property matters LESS than other attributes listed in the HausLife Investment Checklist, when it comes to market demand and consequently, capital appreciation. The decision on tenure also depends on age of property and your expected holding period.
7. Proximity to MRT Station
Yes, this is a big factor contributing to demand. But it is not true that only condos near to the MRT Station are good investment properties. Please refer to this post on profitability of condos not within walking distance to the MRT Station.
8. Profitability Trends
We will utilise data such as transaction volume and percentage of profitable resale transactions in a condo to understand market demand and strength of a condo. In essence, these data will tell us whether units in this condo can give you a clear exit strategy down the road.
We need to understand the supply of similar units in the area and conduct a comparative market analysis to find out whether the condo/unit type has a strong unique selling point. For example, there could be a high supply of 2-bedroom units in the area we are looking at, but only the 2-bedroom units in ONE condo boasts of good layouts. At HausLife, market experience and extensive research allow us to discover condos and projects that can tick this box.
The URA Master Plan and being up-to-date with the latest news are important to understand if there are big changes happening in certain areas of Singapore. For investment, we like to look into properties in hotspots e.g. areas with government-focused transformation, upcoming MRT stations or malls, etc. However, we have to ascertain that these announced changes are not too far away NOR too close such that they have already been priced in.
11. School Zone
This is always a bonus to have— we do not list this as a key factor as to whether you should buy a particular condo (unless you are trying to enrol your kid to a certain primary school). But if the stars align and you happen to have a popular primary school located in the 1km zone or 1-2km zone, then this would definitely qualify as a factor that contributes to a strong exit strategy.
You’ve probably got a truckload of questions, especially if this is your first property or if it has simply been a long time since you last purchased a property. Here are some of the questions we find ourselves answering pretty often:
- Downpayment (25% of the property price, assuming a 75% loan)
- Buyer Stamp Duty (see below)
- Conveyancing fees and mortgage duty (~$3000)
- For properties below $1 Million, it is 3% * property value – $5,400.
- For properties between $1 Million and $1.5 Million, it is 4% * property value – $15,400.
- For properties between $1.5 and $3 Million, it is 5% * property value – $30,400.
- For properties above $3 Million, it is 6% * property value – $60,400.
*Latest updates from 14th Feb 2023
There is no fixed answer to this question. With our streamlined processes and guidance, our ready buyers should find themselves having purchased a place within 2 months of meeting us (or less) unless there are special circumstances or ultra-stringent criteria that require a longer time.
There have been many occasions where our buyers made their purchase just only after 1-2 viewings because we are all so clear on the direction; this is the result of very detailed discussions even prior to viewings.
Remember this: finding the right property is NOT about the number of properties you view; it is not the more the better. Our purpose of being here is to make your house-hunting efficient, not to take you on a wild goose chase.
We work directly with bankers from all banks in Singapore who can assist you to do an In-Principal Approval (IPA). This step is essential and must be completed before submitting any property offer. Through an evaluation of your credit history and financial well-being, a bank can determine your eligibility and pre-approve your home loan.
For people looking to buy a home for themselves, what matters most is finding a project that’s in a good location, has great facilities and amenities, all within their budget. The type of ownership (land tenure) is not the main concern.
Investors seeking high rental yields often prefer leasehold projects due to the lower cost.
Conversely, investors seeking properties for legacy purposes often opt for freehold tenure. This choice reflects their intention to retain the property indefinitely and avoid the potential risks associated with lease decay.
So, the choice really depends on why someone is buying a house. While land tenure is important, there are many other things to consider as well.
Speak to us if you would like to get more clarity on this!
Both new launch and resale properties have their own factors that can influence appreciation potential.
The better option for appreciation potential can vary based on market conditions, location, and individual property characteristics.
Reach out to us here if you would like a detailed consultation on this!
If you’re interested in buying a resale property and the price being asked is quite different from what similar properties have sold for in the past, it’s a good idea to get an estimated value from bankers (we can help you with this). This estimate matters because it affects how much money you can use from your savings, CPF, and loan. So, it’s really important to check this before you decide to buy.
Just remember: If you end up paying more than the estimated value, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if the property has been renovated in a way that saves you time and money.
Tip: It is possible to request that the valuer match the selling price so that you may obtain a higher loan and lower your cash/CPF outlay required.
Banks usually support the selling prices of brand new projects and matching valuations are seldom an issue.
Check the home-school distance category from Singapore Land Authority’s (SLA)
Tip: Note that it is possible that some blocks within a condominium are within 1KM of the school while some blocks aren’t. So do not assume and always check.
You can refer to the useful Enbloc Odds Probability tool by EdgeProp.