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The Hidden Costs of Owning a Home in Singapore

Buying a house in Singapore is a long-term commitment that requires proper planning. Knowing how much it costs and the home loan interest rate is not enough.

To avoid unwanted surprises, you should know the charges that come along with buying the property. In this article, we will debunk some myths surrounding home ownership and list the fees you can expect when you buy a house in Singapore.

Home ownership myths

1. Capital appreciation of property = profits

Many Singaporeans think that they will profit from owning a property as its value will go up over time. But just because housing prices are rising does not mean a huge windfall.

Buying a house requires a large upfront cost. This includes application fees, stamp duties, renovation costs, and more. There are also property taxes, interest on your loan, and maintenance fees to pay regularly.

Assume you bought a house for S$500,000 25 years ago, and it is worth $1 million today. After deducting the fees and costs, you would likely be left with less than S$200,000 in profit.

2. You have to use more CPF savings than you thought

The current down payment rate is 20% for HDB loans, and 25% for bank loans. For HDB loans, if you have more than the required down payment sum in your CPF Ordinary Account (CPF OA), you can either choose to use up all your money in the account, or keep up to S$20,000 in it.

For instance, if your down payment is S$50,000 and you have S$100,000 in your CPF OA, you cannot choose to only pay off the minimum down payment and keep the remaining in your CPF. You can only keep up to S$20,000 while the rest goes towards your home purchase.

Pro-tip: Use this mortgage calculator to determine what monthly mortgage repayment you can expect based on property price.

Upfront costs

1. Application Fees

New HDB flat applications cost S$10. Applications for resale one-room and two-room flats cost S$40, and S$80 for larger units.

2. Option fee

An Option To Purchase is the agreement between the buyer and seller of a home. It is used by buyers to “reserve” the property. The fee depends on the type of property you purchase.

Flat TypeOption Fee
2-roomS$500
3-roomS$1,000
4-room, 5-room, Executive Flat
S$2,000
Resale FlatUp to S$5,000
Executive Condominium or Private Property
5%

3. Down payment

The down payment amount depends on:

  • Value and type of property
  • Existing housing loans and tenure of a new loan
  • Loan-To-Value (LTV) limit of the property

HDB Loan:

Flat TypeOption Fee
Build-To-Order (BTO),
Resale flats
20% of the purchase price
(cash and/or CPF money)

Bank Loan:

 0 mortgages1 mortgage
2 or more mortgages
Minimum Cash Down Payment
5% (LTV of 75%)
10% (LTV of 55%)
25%25%
Rest of Downpayment
Can be paid using cash and/or CPF money

4. Stamp Duty

A stamp duty is a tax you have to pay when you buy a home. There are two main stamp duties:

Buyer’s Stamp Duty:

Fee structure based on the purchase price of property
BSD Rates
First $180,0001%
Next $180,0002%
Next $640,0003%
Remaining amount
4%

Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty:

Buyer’s ProfileFirst PropertySecond PropertyThird Property
Singapore Citizens, Nationals and Permanent Residents of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland,
Nationals of the United States of America
Not Applicable17%25%
Singapore Permanent Residents
5%25%30%
Foreigners30%30%30%
Trustees buying any residential property
35%35%35%

5. Property valuation fee

For the bank to approve your loan, it needs to know how much the house you are buying is worth. If you buy a HDB flat, you can submit a Request for Value that will cost you S$120. If you are buying a private property, you would have to contact one of the bank’s listed valuers, which will cost between S$120 to S$400.

6. Agent commissions

This is the fee paid to agents who help you to find your home and arrange for viewing sessions.

If you buy a resale HDB flat, you usually pay 1% of the purchase price as a commission.

7. Legal fees

When you’re buying a house, there are documents you need to process with a lawyer. Besides making sure the paperwork is in order, your lawyer also checks if the seller has the right to let go of their property.

HDB’s fees go at the following rates:

  • First S$30,000: S$0.90 per S$1,000
  • Next S$30,000: S$0.72 per S$1,000
  • Remaining amount: S$0.60 per S$1,000

This would typically cost you a few hundred dollars. If you engage a private law firm, the average fee is S$2,500.

8. Survey and lease In-escrow registration fee

This is the survey fee that goes to the surveyor inspecting the condition and value of your flat. It costs between S$160 and S$400.

9. Caveat registration fee

A caveat is an official notice that you are buying the property. Filing the caveat means the house cannot be sold to anyone else. The buyer’s caveat would cost you S$64 while the Title Search Fee costs S$10. If you are taking on a home loan, you have to pay another S$64 for a Mortgagee’s Caveat.

10. Renovation, moving, and furnishing costs

This largely depends on your budget and aesthetic preferences. You will save more if you come up with your own layout, but those who hire interior designers and buy branded furniture can easily spend over S$100,000.

Recurring costs

1. Utilities/Property Tax

Remember that you have to pay the costs of power, gas, and water you use every month. On top of that, you have to pay an annual property tax that is a percentage of the annual value of your home. This amount is an estimation of the annual rent your property fetches.

2. Home loan interest

Remember that a mortgage can sometimes last decades. If you dig into your monthly mortgage payment, you will see that a large portion of it goes towards paying the interest.

To reduce the amount of interest you pay, you can either try and pay off your loan as quickly as possible, or refinance your loan when interest rates slip.

Read more: HDB Loan vs Bank Loan: Which Should You Choose?

3. Fire/Home insurance

Fire insurance, which covers structural home damages, is compulsory for all HDB flats. Fortunately, the cost ranges from S$1.60 to S$8.20 for five years.

You will have to buy home insurance as well. Depending on the type of coverage you opt for, a policy can cost anywhere between S$50 and S$350 for every S$100,000 of coverage.

4. Private property maintenance fees

If you buy a private home, you will have to pay monthly or quarterly maintenance fees that are used to run the facilities in your estate, such as the swimming pool and gym. The fees can cost a few hundred dollars every month, even if you do not use the amenities.

5. HDB service and conservancy charges

This is HDB’s version of the maintenance fees. Other than the type of flat you own, these charges also depend on the area you live in. The money collected goes towards the general upkeep of your neighbourhood, which includes maintaining the lift, fumigating the grounds, and cleaning the estate.

TLDR: Summary of one-off and recurring costs

One-Off Costs
Recurring Costs
Application Fee
Utilities/Property Tax
Option Fee
Home Loan Interest
Down Payment
Fire/Home Insurance
Stamp Duty
Maintenance Fees (Private Properties)
Property Valuation Fee
Service and Conservancy Charges (HDB Flats)
Agent Commissions
 
Conveyancing/Legal Fees
 
Survey & Lease In-Escrow Registration Fee
 
Caveat Registration Fee
 
Renovation and Moving Costs
 

The cost of your new home does not stop at your down payment, so remember to have enough cash and CPF savings before you make your big purchase.

Read more: What Happens to an HDB Flat When the 99-Year Lease Is Up?

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