Buying private property in Singapore – Guidelines and procedures for expatriates

The Lion city, Singapore is an extremely popular expat destination, it has been ranked as the best country in the world to live and work for three years in a row by the HSBC expat explorer survey. It’s no wonder that you might be considering making the move yourself. If you’re an expat who’s looking to buy private property in Singapore, there are few restrictions laid out the Singapore government. This expats property guide to buying private property in Singapore will tell you a bit more about the process and why it has become so difficult in the first place.

A brief background

There are clear segments in the property market in Singapore and Singaporean citizens are certainly favoured when buying property. The reason for this is quite simple, given the limited land space of Singapore, it is logical that the property market has a limited supply. The underlying concept is to offer Singaporeans a stake in their own country, which means that the government needs to take steps to keep property affordable for Singaporeans.

More about the Residential Property Act

Back in 1973, the Singapore Government decided to impose restrictions on foreign ownership of all Singaporean private residential property. The act that governs these restrictions is the Residential Property Act (RPA). The concept behind the act was to allow Singaporeans to have a greater ownership in their country by making residential property more affordable. It was also meant to stimulate foreign companies and permanent residents to purchase properties to occupy and provide an economic contribution to Singapore.
On 19 July 2005, the Residential Property Act was amended to allow foreigners to buy certain categories of property without requiring prior approval.

What type of property can you buy as a foreigner in Singapore without requiring prior permission?

Common properties that can be bought by foreigners without prior permission include condominium units, flat units and some properties with land that are part of an approved condominium development. Various commercial properties can also be purchased by foreigners without prior permission. As the categories of properties vary, it is always important to do your due diligence, to make sure that the property you are interested in is available to purchase as a foreigner.

When do you need permission?

If you are planning on moving to Singapore and want to buy private property in Signapore such as terrace houses, semi-detached houses, bungalows or vacant land, you will need permission to do so. In Singapore, this type of property is commonly referred to as landed property. You can apply for permission from the Singapore Land Authority – Currently the Sentosa Cove area of Singapore is excluded from this rule, making it important to research the restrictions with local experts if you are in the market to buy a property.

What counts as a foreigner in Singapore?

Fortunately, the answer to this question is straightforward. If you are not a Singaporean society, Singaporean limited liability partnership, Singaporean company, or a Singaporean citizen you are defined as a foreign person for the purposes of buying property.

What you can do next

If you are enjoying expat life in Singapore and want to buy private property in Singapore, you will have to apply for a special permit. You can download the application form at and will have to offer several supporting documents to prove your eligibility. Alternatively, you can let professionals handle the process for you and make the purchase and the move much easier.
It might be interesting to note that if you do intend to buy restricted residential property, it must be used for your own occupation or for the occupation of your family members. It is illegal for you to rent out such a property. If you are caught renting out the property and found in breach you can face upwards of three years in prison and a fine of $200,000.
It is certainly possible to purchase property as a foreigner in Singapore. Depending on your preferences it can be a great opportunity to invest in an asset for longer term residents. If it is a consideration for you, do your research and find a local expert who can provide the advice that you’ll need.
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