Property Buying and Selling Laws in Singapore

Rick Magliano

Laws regarding real-estate ownership and sales are transparent and fairly standard. Due to escalating prices, however, and a favoring of its own citizens, foreign investment is tightly regulated.

General buying and selling laws

The principal legal instrument governing the purchase of real estate is the Residential Property Act (RPA). For selling property, the overriding laws are governed by the Housing Developers (Control and Licensing) Act (HDCLA) and Sale of Commercial Properties Act.

Buying and selling laws for foreign ownership and investment

Applicable legal provisions

Foreign persons are not permitted to purchase all residential titles in a building or in an approved condominium building without the approval of the Minister for Law. An application may be favored if the foreign buyer is a permanent resident or a qualified professional who can contribute to the welfare of the economy.

  • They are not permitted to buy or own restricted residential except only by mortgage, charge or re-conveyance.
  • They cannot offer property as to a gift to a fellow foreigner.
  • Any transactions entered into by foreigners which contravene the Residential Property Act are deemed null and void and of no effect.
  • Foreigners may not buy land in Singapore except on Sentosa Island.
  • Legal restrictions on buying and ownership of real estate

Predictably, in terms of property, the laws of Singapore lean towards its citizens who are empowered to freely acquire and ownlands and residential property. Organisations and foreigners on the other hand have very limited ability in buying and owning real estate.

Buying and owning restrictions

Singapore companies, partnerships and societies must seek the permission of the Controller of Residential Property.

Foreigners with permanent resident status, foreign companies, limited partnerships and societies can freely buy non-restricted residential property such as:

  • Any flat for residential purposes but not a dwelling house upon any land
  • Any unit in an approved condo building
  • Any executive unit in a project sold under an executive scheme.

Legal restrictions on developing and selling

The relevant provisions of the HDCLA, is the overriding control on how land is developed and sold for accommodation purposes.

Developing and selling restrictions

A licensed housing developer is the only person authorized to develop and sell more than 4 units of housing accommodation.

The Controller of Housing is empowered to formulate the type of contract to be used with further powers to approve any amendments made to the contract. Any contravention by the developer will be deemed to be an offence.

The sale of commercial buildings, are under the control of the Sale of Commercial Properties Act (SCPA) and contracts for these sales are also approved by the Controller of Housing.

4-unit buildings do not come under the scope of the SCPA but it does thwart the ability of a foreign developer to extend development activities.

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