Buying condos and apartments in Singapore

Usually high quality though expensive

Usually high quality though expensive

Singapore may have expensive real estate for Asian standards but is one of the safest and easiest places to invest in property as a foreigner. Unlike many other nations in Southeast Asia, you can own a condo or apartment outright without the need for risky partnership agreements with a local citizen. You can also expect steady growth on your investment unlike the boom and bust scenarios that are part and parcel of life elsewhere in the region.

The Residential Property Act allows foreigners to buy a condo unit by an approved developer without too many restrictions although for vacant land and houses, the rules are more stringent and requires permanent residency status and a minimum investment requirement.

Depending on the type of employment contract you have in Singapore, you can convert your status to permanent residency, which enables you to purchase cheap HDB flats and even take out a mortgage with a local bank to fund this. Would be foreign property owners need to apply through the Land Dealings Approval Unit prior to this and each application is based on its own merits.

Expats are allowed a loan of up to 80 per cent of the purchase price for condos and HDB flats which are dependent on similar financial criteria you can expect from banks back home. It is also possible to get permanent residency for non-working expats such as those seeking to retire in Singapore although there are quite strict rules on minimum investments and medical insurance.

Choosing the ideal location to live in Singapore is no easy task. Location is probably slightly less important than larger cities with erratic transportation, as you can always get around the island quickly and cheaply. If you really must be in the thick of the action with the best shopping and entertainment right on your doorstep, expect to pay more than twice as much for a similar place located in the tranquil northern suburbs.  

Singapore is a small island and land is in short supply and HDB flats and high rise condos make up the vast majority of housing here. Like any major city there are localised markets including highly desirable areas that are all but out of the reach of the average Singaporean. These include the Orchard area, the expat enclave of Holland Village and leafy Bukit Timah. This is Singapore’s prime real estate area dotted with smart condo resorts and urban style loft apartments.

You can expect to shell out in the region of SGD$500,000 and more for a three bedroom condo in developments such as Richmond Park or Cairnhill Plaza and even million dollar homes are not unheard of. This is the most strategic location for work, leisure and shopping although there are much better (and less expensive) options if you prefer fresh air and wide open spaces. 

No longer quite the bargain it once was, the peaceful east coast is a popular haven for expats with families and offers a much more agreeable way of life with access to a host of outdoor activities and close to the island’s best beaches. You can escape the hustle and bustle in condo communities such as Camelot and Costa Rhu where you can enjoy a resort-style way of life.

In the west of the island and the northern suburbs around Sembawang and Yishun it is still possible to find eye catching bargains and the few condo developments situated around here are generally more spacious in mixed gated communities that include maisonettes and duplex apartments. Older condo properties here can be had for around SGD$175,000 or less and perhaps half as much for a medium-sized HDB flat.

It will pay dividends if you take things slowly and research the market thoroughly. Get a feel for your desired locality beforehand and factor in commuting times, schooling, entertainment and shopping amenities. Always ask for advice and recommendations first from fellow expats.

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