Buying landed property in Singapore
While owning a landed house in Singapore might seem like an elusive dream, it’s a serious consideration for those who’ve built up a nest egg over the years. Some for investment’s sake, while for others, a treasured family home – but whichever it is, a landed property is something you’ll want for good.
Now, it’s not exactly an easy step-by-step process. With steep upfront payments and monthly mortgages in mind, we do have a few factors to thoroughly think about before putting pen to paper. Here’s everything you need to know about buying a landed property in Singapore, so you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.
What types of landed property are there?
In Singapore, landed property isn’t simply land you own – there are different types of landed property to consider. Are you a terrace house, semi-detached, or perhaps even a bungalow owner?
Image adapted from Google Maps
No, this isn’t at all related to the popular Japanese reality TV show. A terrace house is, simply put, a house that shares its walls with neighbours on both sides. You won’t be getting full privacy, but you’ll have your own land. In Singapore, the minimum plot size of a terrace house is 150 sqm.
Tip: Look for a corner terrace house, since it’ll be similar in layout to a semi-detached house, but you would certainly be saving on cost.
Average transaction cost from June to Dec 2021*: ~$3.2M, ranging from $1.32M to $10.5M.
Image adapted from Google Maps
Similar to a terrace house, but with just one neighbour that you share a common wall with. You have slightly more privacy here. The minimum plot size is 200 sqm.
Average transaction cost from June to Dec 2021*: ~$4.7M, ranging from $1.2M to $18.6M.
Similar to a condo in that there’ll be a tonne of facilities, but cluster housing can mean either terrace houses, semi-detached or even bungalows – just that these are all held under the title of a main strata-titled project. And yes, this means that you’ll still have to fork out a monthly maintenance fee.
We like these for the landed feels and condo-like facilities, but often, you’ll be losing out on privacy and absolute freedom over reno choices.
No data is given on average transaction cost for cluster houses from June to Dec 2021.
Conservation houses are not a first choice for most. First off, their conservation status means that they’ll be in dire need for renovation. Then, throw in the very specific URA renovation guidelines, meaning that you’ll have to apply for a licence for almost every reno decision you make, and you might be in a little bit of a pickle.
Yet, people do like these homes for a mix of reasons: its heritage, potential value and knowing that you own something that has been in Singapore for decades.
No data is given on average transaction cost for conservation houses from June to Dec 2021.
Detached houses or bungalows
Unlike a terrace or semi-detached house, a detached house or bungalow doesn’t share any common walls with their neighbours. A typical bungalow is usually at least 400 sqm with a site coverage of up to 50% – meaning that your main residence can’t be any more than 50% of the total plot size.
Image credit: @narlap
Average transaction cost from June to Dec 2021*: $11.3M, ranging from $1M to $86M.
Good Class Bungalows
Good Class Bungalows – a.k.a. GCBs because they’re so renowned that they deserve an acronym – are most commonly associated with the Rich Crazy Asians of Singapore. It takes a minimum of 1,400 sqm land to be classified as a GCB, and these are often found in neighbourhoods like Bukit Timah, Holland Village and various other prime districts.
No data is given on average transaction cost from June to Dec 2021, as GCBs are classified under detached houses or bungalows.
*Data taken from property analysis site SquareFoot.com.sg, excluding outlier transactions for a better gauge.
How much does it typically cost?
Based on the transaction prices of recent months, we can safely assume that landed property in Singapore will cost more than most HDB flats and condos. Let’s play with the idea of buying a $3,000,000 landed property by delving into the nitty-gritty of it all:
Buying a property involves putting down a downpayment. This isn’t any different to buying a HDB, just that for a private property, you’ll need to fork up at least 25% of the property price. A minimum of 5% has to be in cash while you can use your CPF to cover the other 20%.
In comparison to the HDB route, buying a BTO or resale flat will set you back 15% downpayment by either CPF or cash. You also have the choice between a HDB loan or a private bank loan.
Estimated downpayment for a $3,000,000 landed property: $750,000 – and at least $150,000 in cash
We all know there’s a home mortgage to pay once you buy a property – unless you pay 100% cash upfront, that is. A monthly mortgage varies based on the price of your property, and since private properties only allow you to take a bank loan, the rates may not be as favourable.
For comparison, as of Jan 2021, HDB rates are 2.6% per annum and you can assume that the best private bank loan rates are about 1.2% to 1.3%. Use CPF’s Mortgage Calculator to estimate your monthly mortgage, so you can gauge the sort of price range you should be looking at.
Estimated monthly mortgage on a $3,000,000 landed property (25-year loan, 1.25% interest rate): $8,684.89
Remember that you’ll also have to factor in your Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) which also includes all debts you might have – car loans and student loans included. They’ve also just shifted this from 60% to 55%, meaning that your monthly loans can’t exceed 55% of your monthly income.
Like all big purchases, you can expect a major onset of legal fees. With landed or even private property, make sure to set aside enough money to cover you through all the paperwork deets as well as stamp duty. While legal fees range from $2,000 to $3,000, stamp duty can be quite pricey and even set you back hundreds of thousands.
It’s tiered as such, based on either the purchase price or market value:
- First $180,000 – 1%
- Next $180,000 – 2%
- Next $640,000 – 3%
- Remaining amount – 4%
Estimated stamp duty on a $3,000,000 landed property: $104,600
Take heed that this is just for your first property – any subsequent properties will then have to also pay up the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD). As part of the government’s cooling measures, it was also just announced in December 2021 that they’ll be increasing the ABSD: 17% for your second and 25% for third and subsequent properties.
Home & fire insurance
You’ve just paid a substantial sum for your home, so you’ll certainly want to make sure that you’ve signed up for proper home and fire insurance plans. While not mandatory, it’s required by the majority of banks and other mortgage providers. With insurance, you’re protected from anything disastrous – fires, robberies, and even natural disasters like lightning strikes.
Estimated cost of home and fire insurance for a landed property: $500/year for $1,000,000 coverage
What else do you have to pay for once you have your property?
After getting the keys to your new home, you’d think it’s time to break out the champagne and celebrate. Not quite – we still have a couple of other costs to consider.
Renovation or rebuilding
Most landed property in Singapore aren’t exactly move-in condition. Land is sparse and if you’re on a budget, it’s more likely that your new abode isn’t gleaming like a BTO flat or new condo project. But think of the glass half full – this means you can entirely tailor your property for it to become your dream home.
Before and after – a bathroom in a conservation home.
Image adapted from PropertyGuru and Pailin Boonlong.
Of course, reno and rebuilding costs vary according to what you want. The more you change, the steeper the costs – and the longer the waiting time too. While HDB flat renovations can start from an affordable $35,000, it’s more likely that your landed property will run you into the six-figure mark.
You’ll also need to know that URA has very specific residential guidelines for each property type. With mandatory household shelters and a rule saying that two-storey homes aren’t allowed to be any higher than 12M, there’s a tonne of T&Cs to read up on. Might seem preemptive but will save a whole lot of trouble in the long run.
Estimated cost of renovation or rebuilding: Depends, but you can estimate a six-figure sum for a full renovation.
Not that utility bills are anything new to a homeowner, but a double whammy of steep electricity and water bills could cost more than a frugal person’s monthly food budget – if they eat cai fan every day, that is. The recent electricity hike from now to March 2021 isn’t helping either.
Throw in other miscellaneous bills like Wi-Fi, refuse disposal, pest control or even swimming pool maintenance, and your total monthly spend will increase tenfold.
Estimated cost of utility bills: Depends, but starting from around $300 for someone who doesn’t blast the aircon 24/7.
Owning your own place means that you’ll need to pay property tax. Much like our income tax, this isn’t something that any of us look forward to forking out annually.
It’s based on the annual value of your property: the more potential rental your place could fetch also means that you can expect to pay a higher property tax. It also depends on whether it’s an owner-occupied home or if it’s non-owner-occupied.
You can use IRAS’ Property Tax Calculator, but here’s also a nifty breakdown of the amount of property tax you’d have to pay for an owner-occupied home:
Owner-occupier tax rates
Screenshot taken from IRAS
Since a landed place tends to fetch higher rental, you can be sure that your property tax won’t come cheap.
Estimated cost of property tax if your landed property’s annual value is ~$60,000: $2,180
Is it worth owning landed property?
This is obviously a subjective question. Is it worth owning landed property? That’s entirely up to you: we’ve been through property types, the costs you can expect, the costs you don’t expect – it all depends on whether a landed property is suitable for your lifestyle or investment choices.
If your family’s outgrown a HDB flat or condo, a landed property might be a dream come true for you. There’s no doubt that there’s more privacy, more space and very matter-of-factly, lesser dealings with noisy neighbours.
Ample garden space – you can take on gardening or set up your own BBQ pit.
Image credit: @thejanys
Factor in that you’ve got more freedom to do unique things like plant a rooftop garden or set up a hot tub, and it’s clear that a landed house might be very beneficial for your lifestyle. But of course, it’s best to ignore the frivolous and to look at things practically.
While condos come with facilities, typically a gym, tennis court, swimming pool, and BBQ pits, living in a landed place means that you’ll need to fork out extra cash for such privileges. But at the same time, that means you’ll be saving on maintenance fees – in a condo, this could add up to ~$350 and up a month.
If you’re thinking of purchasing a landed property solely for investment gains, you’ll need to realise that the government is wary of people just like you – hence, the numerous property cooling measures over time. While Singapore’s top 1% might’ve made it rich with property back in the day, that’s no longer the case these days.
But that’s not to say that it’s a bad investment, per se, just that you’ll need to keep up to date with new regulations. You’ll also want to know if it’s a freehold or leasehold property – many lean towards private property simply because they know that the home will still be in their family name 99 years down the road.
It also depends on a multitude of other things: the location (is it a location with growth potential?), the house itself (how much reno needs to be done?), the property market (how easy is it to rent or flip the property?), current prices (is it worth investing right now?) – and it goes on.
Our tip? Do your research and make sure it’s what fits best with your investment strategy.
Other things you need to know
It’s not that straightforward buying landed property in Singapore – it comes with a few rules and restrictions that we didn’t even know existed.
Firstly, it’s a restricted property type. This means that you have to be a Singaporean citizen to reap the benefits – foreigners and PRs aren’t allowed to purchase a landed house.
Image credit: @donaldventures
You’ll also need to make fully well sure of what you’re purchasing. With this, we recommend searching for your land title, to make sure that you legally own what you’re buying and that it’s accurately recorded by SLA. We’ve come across instances, especially in older homes, where the owner had been using their backyard as their own – but it legally belonged to the next-door neighbour.
Another important thing to do is to check the plot ratio, meaning, how high can you build your house? Whenever you purchase a home, there’s value placed in the square footage, so if there’s potential to build upwards – snap it up ASAP.
Take the entire Paya Lebar and Geylang district – once it was announced that the Paya Lebar airbase was shifting, many speculated that the plot ratio would increase in the years to come.
Landed property in Singapore
While buying landed property in Singapore might be the ultimate goal for many, the process isn’t always as clear cut as it should be. The various property types, upfront and hidden costs, and even ongoing maintenance – it can be a nightmare to deal with, especially for a novice home buyer who’s interested in the landed property market.
For more useful property knowhow, you can also read up on the following: