Good Class Bungalows (GCBs) have made the news around a week ago. This time, a bungalow at Cluny Hill was sold for a record S$4,291 psf. With a land area of 14,843 sq ft, the property was sold for S$63.7 million. Not much is known about the buyer, except that he’s a local tech entrepreneur...
In recent months, there have been announcements and discussions about having public housing in prime locations and making it inclusive, affordable and accessible to Singaporeans. These prime locations include the city centre and the Greater Southern Waterfront. Some of the suggestions include having shorter leases, increasing the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) and giving additional subsidies....
Whilst the typical homeownership journey for most Singaporeans is ‘upgrading’ from an HDB flat to a private property (e.g. a condo), however, the reverse is also true; there are some who would take the unconventional approach by ‘downgrading’ from a condo to an HDB flat.
If you’re thinking of selling your condo to buy an HDB flat, below is what you might want to consider first:
Reasons Why You Might Want to Consider Downgrading From a Condo To an HDB Flat:
1. When You Want a Larger (or Smaller) Home
Homeowners who need more space for their growing families might move from their smaller condo to a larger HDB flat. According to this CNA article, there has been an increase of owners who have sold their condominiums to buy larger HDB flats after the circuit breaker, driven by the work-from-home (WFH) norm and changing lifestyle needs. Some buyers also feel it’s more worthwhile to buy a larger and more well-located HDB flat.
On the other hand, an older couple may also choose to move into a smaller HDB flat once their children have moved out. Apart from a changing lifestyle, it also allows them to tap on schemes such as the Silver Housing Bonus (SHB) as well as the Proximity Housing Grant (PHG) if they choose to live closer to their children.
2. When The Maintenance Fees Are Too Much Too Handle
It’s no secret that condos have high maintenance fees, which can vary between a few hundred to four-digit figures. Add on other miscellaneous fees like the sinking fund, and the monthly amount you’ll be forking out will go to waste, especially if you don’t use the facilities regularly.
For retirees who have not fully paid off their mortgage, downgrading from a condo to an HDB flat would make financial sense because it lowers your monthly liabilities. This is especially true if you’re relying on your savings and do not have a source of income.
What You Should Know If You Choose to Downgrade From a Condo to an HDB Flat:
If you resonate with any of the above, and are considering to sell your condo to buy an HDB flat, here’s what you need to know beforehand:
1. You Need to Sell Your Condo Before Buying an HDB Flat
Whilst you can buy a private property if you own an HDB flat, you can’t buy an HDB flat if you already own a private property. According to HDB rules, you need to wait at least 30 months after selling your private property before you can:
For most condo owners, the 30-month waiting period is a turn-off (remember that you also need to ballot for a BTO flat and wait a few years for it to be built). On top of that, you’re not eligible for CPF Housing Grants (except maybe the Proximity Housing Grant), and also can’t take an HDB loan during this period.
2. You Have to Meet HDB’s Eligibility Requirements
HDB has specific requirements when it comes to buying the type of flat that you want, including citizenship, family nucleus, income ceiling, and ethnicity, among others.
For example, if you’re buying as a single Singaporean, you need to be at least 35 years old. And if you’re planning to get a BTO flat, remember that your monthly gross income must not exceed $7,000 and you can only buy a 2-room flat in a non-mature estate. However, you can buy a resale HDB flat without restriction on size, location, or income (again, this makes a resale flat more appealing).
On the other hand, if you’re buying as a married couple, then at least one of you must be a Singapore citizen, or both must be Singapore Permanent Residents if you’re planning to get a resale flat.
3. You Won’t Get The Maximum Loan-to-Value (LTV) If You Have an Outstanding Home Loan
The LTV is basically the amount that you borrow from a financial institution. If you’re getting a bank loan, the maximum LTV is 75%, meaning you can borrow up to 75% from the bank, whilst paying the remaining 25% downpayment.
Before buying your new HDB flat, it’s recommended that you pay off your condo’s existing loan, or you won’t get the maximum 75% bank loan for your HDB flat. In other words, it means you can borrow less and have to pay a higher downpayment.
Outstanding home loans
75% (25% downpayment, 5% of which in cash)
55% (45% downpayment, 10% of which in cash)
Two or more
35% (65% downpayment, 25% of which in cash)
As you can see from above, you would get a lower LTV if you have not paid off your existing loan (even after selling the property). As Paul Wee, Managing Director (Fintech) of PropertyGuru group says: "It depends on the bank. Whilst some banks will give 75% LTV subject to an undertaking to sell, others will give 55% and then raise it to 75% if the property is sold before disbursement of the second property."
Aside from existing loans, the LTV amount will also be affected by the borrower’s age and the loan tenure.
Specifically, you can only obtain a maximum 75% LTV if you fulfil these criteria:
You have no outstanding home loan
The loan tenure is not more than 30 years
The loan period does not exceed past your age of 65 years old
4. The Mortgage Servicing Ratio (MSR) Now Applies (In Addition to TOtal Debt Servicing Ratio; TDSR)
Aside from LTV, both TDSR and MSR also affect your home loan. Both TDSR and MSR help to prevent you from overborrowing to service your monthly debt repayments.
TDSR refers to the maximum amount you can use from your income to pay your monthly debt repayments. Under the current TDSR rules, you can’t use more than 60% of your gross monthly income to service your monthly debts. These include your home loans, car loans, credit cards, study loans, personal loans, etc.
MSR is the portion of your gross monthly income that goes towards repaying your monthly mortgage payments and only applies if you’re buying an HDB flat. You can only use 30% of your monthly earnings to service the loan.
If you had previously used your CPF monies to pay or service your condo, you will need to return the “borrowed” CPF monies back into your CPF account after selling your condo — plus accrued interest, which is the interest you would have earned if you had kept the money in your CPF.
However, when buying the HDB flat again, you are allowed to use your CPF monies again (according to your withdrawal limits, of course).
Meanwhile, ABSD is the tax that’s levied on top of BSD, and like BSD, is computed based on the purchase price or market value, whichever is higher. However, the amount is based on your residency status.
The good news is that downgrading from a private property to an HDB flat is actually one of the few exceptions where you don’t need to pay ABSD (since you need to sell your private property within six months of acquiring your HDB flat).
7. You Won’t Need to Pay HDB Resale Levy
The HDB resale levy is the cost you need to pay if you sell your subsidised flat to buy a second subsidised flat. You do not need to pay a resale levy if you’re selling your condo to buy an HDB resale flat. However, if you’ve previously bought a subsidised flat (i.e. BTO or SBF) or an EC from a developer, or had taken CPF Housing Grants previously, then you need to pay a resale levy. The amount you need to pay depends on the flat size that you’re buying.
Other FAQs About Downgrading From a Condo to HDB Flat
Can I Downgrade From a Condo to an HDB Flat?
Yes, you can. However, you would need to wait at least 30 months after selling your condo if you want to buy a new HDB flat, get an HDB loan, or CPF Housing Grants. If you plan on getting a resale HDB flat, you have to sell your condo within six months after moving into your new flat. You also have to meet HDB’s eligibility requirements.
Can I Buy an HDB Flat If I Own a Condo?
If you’re a condo owner, you can’t own an HDB flat at the same time. You would need to sell your condo before you can buy an HDB flat. Alternatively, you may buy a resale flat if you sell your condo within six months of moving in.
Can I Rent Out My HDB and Stay In a Condo?
Yes, you can. However, you would need to meet HDB’s eligibility conditions such as fulfilling the 5-year MOP, non-citizen quota, and so on. In addition, you would need to buy the HDB flat prior to buying a condo, as you can’t buy an HDB flat while owning a condo.
The Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) is one of the biggest concerns about multiple property investment. Ranging from 5% to 20% for individuals, ABSD is a hefty price for fork out; so it’s not uncommon that most would want to know how to avoid ABSD at all costs (pun unintended).
But it can be avoided. If you’re interested to know how, read on:
It was introduced in December 2011 as a ‘cooling measure’ to discourage Singaporeans, foreigners and entities from purchasing multiple properties and flipping them for profit, while helping to keep property prices affordable. Since then, the rates were adjusted twice, in 2013 and again in 2018, in line with market conditions.
ABSD is taxed according to the valuation or selling price of the property, whichever is higher. It is also based on whether the buyer is a Singaporean, Permanent Resident, or foreigner.
Who Needs to Pay ABSD and How Much Is It?
ABSD applies to the following group of buyers:
Singapore citizen buying first property
No ABSD charge
Singapore citizen buying second property
Singapore citizen buying third and subsequent properties
Singapore permanent resident (PR) buying first property
Singapore PR buying second and subsequent properties
Foreigner buying any residential property
Entities (company or association) buying any property
25% (additional 5% if entity is a developer)
As you can see, ABSD is a substantial amount; a Singapore citizen buying a second property for $1M for example, would need to pay $120,000 ABSD, and remember this doesn’t include other fees like agent’s fee, BSD, etc.
How Do You ‘Avoid’ ABSD?
So, with hefty ABSD rates, it’s understandable why people would want to avoid paying for it. So how and in what ways can one avoid paying ABSD?
But before we get into that, there are also situations where you can be exempted from ABSD:
1. When You Upgrade to an Executive Condominium (EC)
When you upgrade from an HDB flat to a private property, or if you purchase another private home, you will need to pay ABSD upfront in cash or CPF (within 14 days of signing the Sales and Purchase Agreement). You can apply for an ABSD remission if you sell your first property within six months.
However, when you buy a new EC, you don’t have to pay ABSD upfront. You do need to dispose of your home within six months after collecting the keys to your EC (or once your EC receives its Temporary Occupation Permit), but at least you don’t have to fork out the huge ABSD fee at the start. (You may need to pay the HDB resale levy though.)
2. When You Sell Your Current Property Before Signing the Option to Purchase For The New Property
You can sell your home first before buying a new property. However, this would mean that you need to rent a place or have a temporary place to live.
3. If You’re National/PR of These Free Trade Agreement Countries
Earlier, we mentioned that foreigners will be slapped with a hefty 20% ABSD when buying a property in Singapore. However, under the respective Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), nationals or permanent residents of the following countries enjoy the same ABSD rates as Singaporeans:
United States of America
In other words, they are exempted from ABSD for the first property, but will still need to pay ABSD for the second and subsequent properties.
Basically, when you decouple, you transfer your share of the property to your spouse, leaving you free to purchase a new property without incurring ABSD (since it counts as your first property).
For this to work, both of you would need to be tenants-in-common or joint tenants. What this means that both of you can either have different ownership stakes in the property (e.g. 70-30, 60-40), or equal stakes. Also, know that transferring your shares isn’t free as your spouse would need to buy them from you, which means that it will incur BSD.
For example, say that you both own a 50% share of your home which is valued at $1M. You sell 50% of your share to your spouse ($500,000). In case you forgot, below is the BSD rate for residential properties:
Purchase price or market value of the property
So based on the above, here’s how much your spouse would need to pay:
(1% X $180,000 = $1,800) + (2% X 180,000 = $3,600) + (3% X ($500,000 - $180,000 - $180,000)= $19,200) = $9,600
On top of BSD, you would also need to pay Seller’s Stamp Duty (SSD) if you decouple within three years of buying the property, as well as other costs such as conveyancing fees and penalties for taking a new mortgage, which could amount to thousands of dollars.
“If the cost of decoupling works out to be more than the cost of ABSD, then it makes more sense to pay ABSD instead”, says Grace Cheong, Senior Associate Marketing Director, PropNex Realty.
Lastly, when decoupling to buy a new property, also consider if the sole owner has the income to support the fresh mortgage. If you’re using your CPF funds, then you need to return your CPF monies (including accrued interest) back to your CPF account. If you need help, speak to our Home Loan advisors as we can help you to work out your finances.
Note:Transfer of ownership for HDB flats is only allowed under six special circumstances: marriage, divorce, death of an owner, financial complications, renunciation of citizenship and medical reasons; so HDB decoupling is trickier.
5. Buying Under One Owner’s Name
If you’re buying as a couple and both of you are first-time property owners, then you can buy under one spouse.
This allows the other spouse with the freedom and flexibility to purchase another property in the future without incurring ABSD when you both have saved enough
The repercussion of this is that the spouse would need to carry the weight of the mortgage single-handedly, and must have enough cash and CPF funds for the downpayment and mortgage.
6. Buying Under a Child’s Name
Buying a property under a child’s name has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially among wealthy parents who want to avoid paying ABSD, while acquiring properties for their children.
Whilst this might seem like a smart way to avoid ABSD while helping to secure a private property for your child, there are of course caveats to this method; for one, if your child decides to buy a new HDB home in the future and utilise grants (e.g. BTO or executive condo), based on HDB rules, they would need to dispose the private property 30 months before applying for the HDB home. Your children will not be applicable for government subsidies or GST vouchers as they would be considered a property owner.
Last but not least, it may also cause legal disputes or disagreements in the future, particularly when the child reaches the legal age and has the power to decide what to do with the property (e.g. selling, renting it out).
7. Buying a Commercial Property
Unlike residential properties, you won’t need to pay ABSD when you buy commercial properties. Besides that, commercial properties also command higher rental yields on average (5% compared to 2% to 3% for residential).
But do know that commercial properties come with their own risks; for instance, they cost more than residential properties. It also requires more cash outlay and the downpayment can only be paid in cash. And there’s also a 7% GST charge which must be paid in cash.
With dual-key units, you’re essentially buying a home with two units side by side, but for the price of one. As it’s considered as one property, you avoid incurring ABSD.
The main unit and sub-unit share a common foyer, but have their own living spaces. Depending on how the unit is designed, each unit may have its own living area and common facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms.
As such, dual-key units appeal to both home buyers and investors alike because you can rent out the sub-unit and still have your own privacy.
But given the uniqueness of dual-key units, they often come with a higher price per square foot and can cost up to 25% more.
But Does Avoiding ABSD Always Save Money?
So now that you know how to avoid ABSD, should you always avoid paying ABSD when you can? Are there scenarios where paying ABSD is more sensible?
Andrew Nair, Associate Division Director, ERA Realty Network says that sometimes it’s worth paying ABSD than to avoid it, particularly when the property has a huge potential for appreciation.
"It’s all about opportunity. If you miss a good buy because you are waiting for a situation where you can save ABSD, you might miss a good deal. Saving money does not mean you make more in the long run. There are some properties that have a good rate of appreciation and a good rental yield. In that vein, ABSD can be seen as one of the ‘costs’ of business,” he says.
He adds, “For example, most will sell their HDB and buy a condo to avoid paying ABSD. But what if they had kept the HDB and paid the ABSD? They would be able to rent out the HDB and get good rental yields, in some cases more than 10% per annum."
Tips if You Want to Upgrade or Buy a New Property
Remember, buying a property is a huge financial commitment, and it can be super tempting to buy a new property especially with the current low interest rate environment and good range of recent and upcoming new launches.
However, Grace cautions that buyers should always evaluate their finances thoroughly before proceeding to upgrade or buy a new property. “When the math is in place, it determines the availability of your options and the limitation of your property choices,” she says.
Meanwhile, Andrew’s advice is to buy a property when you’re younger and you would most likely get a bank loan with the maximum tenure.
“Use free-to-use mortgage tools to help with the bank loan assessment. Remember price is not everything. Cheaper does not mean better. Sometimes paying more for a property in a good location is better than buying a cheaper property in a not so ideal location.
“When is the best time to plant a tree? 10 years ago. But if you have not planted, when is the next best time? The time is now. This is the same with property."
More FAQs Related on How to Avoid ABSD
1. How Can I Avoid Paying ABSD?
There are a few ways to avoid paying ABSD, namely: decoupling, buying under one owner’s name, buying under a child’s name, buying a commercial property, buying a dual-key unit, buying an EC unit, selling your current property before buying signing the OTP for the new one, and if you’re national or PR of countries under the respective FTAs.
2. How Much Is ABSD for Second Property?
For Singapore citizens it’s 12%, Singapore permanent residents need to pay 15%, and foreign buyers have to pay 20%.
3. Can ABSD Be Refunded?
You need to pay ABSD within 14 days of signing the Sales and Purchase Agreement and can get a refund if you bought your new property as a married couple and sell your current property within six months.
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Landed properties are highly coveted in land-scarce Singapore, but they’re also known to be super expensive. However, that doesn’t mean you need to fork out astronomical figures to land one. In fact, you can buy a landed property for $3 million or less, which is more or less the price of a 4-bedroom condo these days. And as the cherry on top, these properties are freehold too!
So without further ado, below is a list of freehold landed properties in Singapore for under $3 million on PropertyGuru (note that these are correct at the time of writing).
1. Fortune View
1,948 sq ft (Four bedrooms, Four bathrooms)
Fortune View is a townhouse development in Serangoon and only has 12 units. Located along Somerville Walk, the homes consist of four bedrooms and four bathrooms, in addition to an attic and basement. There’s also a nice garden view at the top and residents will have their own basement car park lot.
Aside from that, nearby malls include NEX Shopping Mall and Paya Lebar Quarter Shopping Mall, whilst schools within 1km include St. Gabriel, Maris Stella High School and Yang Zheng Primary School.
The development is also minutes away from Serangoon MRT interchange station, and for those who drive, the PIE and Central Expressway (CTE) are just a short drive away.
MacPherson Garden Estate is a low-density neighbourhood located in District 13. For shopping, dining, and lifestyle pursuits, there are plenty of options around including POIZ Centre, NEX Shopping Mall, and PLQ Mall.
Families with schooling children will also be glad to know that schools such as Maris Stella High School, Cedar Primary School, Canossa Catholic High School, St. Andrew’s Junior School, Geylang Methodist Primary School, are all within 2km.
Nearby MRT stations include Mattar MRT station, Tai Seng MRT station, and MacPherson MRT station, and residents who drive can also commute to the CBD within 10 minutes via the Kallang – Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE).
Milford Villas is a freehold, strata-landed property development located along Lorong Selangat in District 13. Each of the 13 units features 4-storeys, including an attic, outdoor patio, and two basement car park lots. Aside from that, residents can enjoy the facilities within the development such as a 17-metre lap pool, wading pool, and a children’s playground.
Schools around the area include Maris Stella High School, St. Gabriel’s Secondary School, Raffles Girls' School; whilst the Australian International School and Stamford American School are also nearby. The closest mall is NEX Shopping Mall in Serangoon.
In terms of accessibility, the development is served by Woodleigh MRT and Serangoon MRT stations. There are also several bus services in the neighbourhood, so residents can easily travel in and out of the area without relying on private transportation.
If you’re driving however, you can expect to reach Suntec City, Raffles Place, and Orchard Road via the CTE or Upper Serangoon Road in less than 20 minutes.
Medallion is a freehold bungalow development that is located along Braddell Road in District 13. Units come with three storeys (plus basement), with five bedrooms and five bathrooms spread across the 4,324 sq ft of space. You also have your own private jacuzzi, garden, and a roof terrace overlooking the surrounding area.
As a cluster house development, residents can look forward to facilities such as swimming pools, a steam bath, and security. In short, Medallion is perfect for families who require the privacy and space of a landed property with condo-like facilities.
Accessibility wise, the closest MRT station is Lorong Chuan MRT, whilst there are also several bus stops nearby. For those who drive, the CBD and Orchard Road Shopping Belt are 15 minutes away via the CTE, Upper Serangoon Road, or Bendemeer Road.
Schooling options in the area include the First Toa Payoh Primary School, Skylace Language School (Toa Payoh branch), and St Gabriel's Primary School, whilst there are also several international schools such as the Australian International School, Stamford American Early Learning Village, and Australian International School Singapore.
Sennett Estate is located along Wan Tho Avenue and MacPherson Road in District 13.
Like many of the landed properties on this list, the area offers utmost privacy whilst still offering a great range of amenities.
The area is served by three MRT stations: Potong Pasir MRT station, Woodleigh MRT station, and Mattar MRT station. Shopping and dining options are aplenty too, with NEX, PLQ, POIZ Centre and more just a stone's throw away.
Families with schooling children will also appreciate the perks of having good schools nearby such as Cedar Primary School, Cedar Girls’ Secondary School, St. Andrew’s Junior School, St. Andrew’s Secondary School, Canossa Convent Primary School, Stamford American International School, and Macpherson Primary School.
Bunga Rampai Place is a freehold landed enclave located in District 19. The 2-storey homes have a land area of 1,642 sq ft, and feature four bedrooms and three bathrooms. Apart from that, it also features spacious living and dining areas along with your own backyard and car porch.
In addition, the houses sit between Bartley and Tai Seng MRT stations, and both are about eight minutes walk away. It’s also well-connected to Bartley Road East, the KPE, CTE.
Nearby shopping malls include Paya Lebar Quarter (PLQ), Paya Lebar Square, and NEX. Those with children will also be glad to know that there are several reputable schools in the area such as Bartley Secondary School, Maris Stella High School, Cedar Primary School, Cedar Girls’ Secondary School, Canossa Convent Primary School, and Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School.
Why Are These Freehold Landed Properties $3M and Below?
So what makes these freehold landed properties more ‘affordable’?
Despite being freehold, the landed properties on this list consist of terrace houses, cluster homes , and townhouses. These are considered to be more affordable types of landed housing, despite still being larger than most high-rise residential homes.
Secondly, these properties are also located in the Rest of Central Region (RCR) and Outside Central Region (OCR). Though they are priced slightly below properties in the Core Central Region (CCR), they offer units that are a good mix between price and size. And despite being further away from the city, they’re fairly accessible via MRT and bus, whilst also located in a quaint and family-friendly neighbourhood surrounded by schools, eateries, markets, and low-density housing.
If you think $3 million is out of your budget, why not check out these landed properties that are $2 million or less? Although some of the properties are on 99-year or 999-year leases, and they’re located even further away, they're great alternatives if you want to live in a landed house that’s away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Plus, one benefit of buying a landed property is that you can tear down the house and rebuild it based on your taste and requirements.
Other FAQs Related to Freehold Landed Properties
Is Landed Property Freehold?
Like non-landed private properties, there are both leasehold and freehold landed properties.
Is Landed Property a Good Investment?
Landed properties in Singapore are rare as land in Singapore is extremely scarce. As land in Singapore becomes more scarce, demand for landed homes will become even higher in the future. Furthermore, they offer better prices per square foot compared to private condos.
How Much Does a Landed Property Cost in Singapore?
You should expect to pay around $2 million to buy a landed property in Singapore. A good class bungalow, or GCB, which is the most expensive type of landed property in Singapore, is at least $8 million and can go up to $231 million.