Essential Tips for Newlyweds Buying a Home in Singapore

April 12, 2024

The quest for homeownership within Singapore's dynamic urban environment and changing dynamics is a crucial journey for newlywed couples as it intertwines aspirations with practical considerations amid strict regulations and a lively housing market. Even with a population of approximately 6.05 million people spread across a 734.3 square kilometres area and a population density of about 8646.73 individuals per square kilometre, Singapore as an island country is characterised by its limited space and scarcity of natural resources.  

According to the market research company, Mordor Intelligence, the Singapore real estate market is expected to reach USD 46.58 billion in 2024 and is projected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 6.57%, reaching USD 64.04 billion by 2029​. This necessitates efficient use of land to fulfil fundamental requirements such as transport, communication, and basic amenities. It also gives us even more reason to employ strategic planning and thoughtful decision-making while eyeing a future in Singapore and looking to buy a new home as a couple.

Being aware of the regulations, Singapore's property market outlook and what it means to transform a house into a cherished home, and then examining the decisions that extend beyond finances is paramount. We should also explore the legal and lifestyle choices involved thoroughly. With the hope that this narrative shed light on this path and will make the journey fulfilling, let’s guide you through the complex array of choices and decisions that shape the foundation of a new home in Singapore with our beloved.

A Glimpse into Singapore's Housing Landscape and Different Housing Types

Singapore's housing landscape is diverse and caters to a wide range of needs and preferences of those who are keen to buy a house. The country offers a range of properties, from Housing & Development Board (HDB) flats to private properties and Executive Condominiums (ECs), each with specific eligibility criteria. For instance, HDB flats are available to Singapore Citizens and PRs, while foreigners can buy private properties and older ECs. The Singapore government is also doing their part to help Singaporeans own a home by implementing various housing policies. Understanding these nuances helps in planning our finances effectively for a property that aligns with our needs and budget​ as a newlywed couple.  

  • HDB Flats:

HDB flats are public housing units provided by the Housing Development Board — they are the backbone of Singapore's housing. They cater to a larger population who don't have much idea of what they want but a roof over their heads. HDB flats come in various sizes — from 2-room Flexi to the more spacious executive and jumbo flats. They are notable for their community-centric living and affordability and are a common choice for many Singaporeans​. However, living in an HDB comes with crucial guidelines on top of the general do’s and don’ts.  

The housing landscape of Singapore is intricately linked with its urban planning where HDB blocks are clustered into townships equipped with modern amenities like shopping centres, public transport, health facilities, playgrounds, parks, and schools. HDBs ensure a comprehensive living experience regardless of the area we choose. The city-state's approach to public housing is aimed at achieving over 80% home ownership among citizens and it emphasises affordability through government subsidies and grants. This makes it a significant consideration in our home-buying journey​.

On top of that, the introduction of HDB’s ‘Plus’ category has brought about notable shifts in the property sector, especially in the resale market. It aims to offer units in prime locations with added amenities. This new model provides equitable housing opportunities with an enhanced living standard, and it is crucial for those considering future property value​​.  

  • Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) Flats: DBSS flats are built by private developers but are designed to be more affordable than fully private properties. Although the scheme was suspended, existing DBSS flats are sought after for their unique blend of HDB and condo-like features​​. We need to keep the renovation guidelines in mind while giving our flats a makeover, and that is something we can’t avoid.
  • Executive Condominiums (ECs): ECs offer amenities like private condos but at a more affordable price and they cater to the ‘sandwich class’ of buyers. They are subject to public housing rules for the initial years before they can be fully privatised​​. However, there are conditions after buying for executive condominiums.
  • Private Properties: This category includes condominiums, apartments, and landed properties. These properties offer a range of amenities and come with fewer restrictions compared to HDB flats but all at a higher price point​​. The private residential property market in Singapore is predicted to see a measured growth of 3% to 4% in overall home prices for 2024 — this indicates a stable yet dynamic market environment.

Considerations For Buying a Home in Singapore

  • Impact of Location on Lifestyle

    We need to explore housing options by considering the impact of location on lifestyle and vice versa. This helps us make an informed decision that aligns with our financial capabilities, lifestyle preferences, and long-term goals as a newlywed couple.  
  • Comprehensive Amenities in Townships

    Most neighbourhoods in Singapore, especially those with HDB housing, are planned as self-sufficient townships. They offer a range of amenities such as shopping centres, public transport, healthcare facilities, playgrounds, parks, and schools. This integrated approach to urban planning ensures a high standard of living across different areas​​.
  • Affordability and Government Support
    The Singaporean government has made strides in ensuring over 80% of its citizens own their homes largely through the provision of HDB flats. Several government subsidies and grants enhance affordability, which makes homeownership more accessible for more newlywed couples. Understanding these financial support mechanisms can significantly impact our housing choices​​.

Neighbourhood Choices in Singapore

Each neighbourhood in Singapore offers a distinct living experience and the choice of location can significantly impact our daily life — from our commuting times to access to leisure and entertainment options. We need to consider factors such as proximity to work, family, lifestyle preferences, and future developments in the area while we choose a location. Here is a breakdown:  

  • Central and City Fringe Areas
    Locations like Orchard, Bukit Timah, and the Central Business District are known for their prime positioning — they offer easy access to work, leisure, and entertainment options. However, the cost of living and property prices in these areas tend to be higher​​.
  • Heartland and Suburban Areas
    Neighbourhoods such as Hougang, Jurong, and Tampines offer a more heartland experience with a strong sense of community, ample local amenities, and generally more affordable housing options. These areas are ideal for families looking for a blend of convenience and affordability​​.
  • Emerging Estates
    Newer estates like Punggol and Sengkang are designed with modern living in mind, featuring integrated public transport, eco-friendly parks, and waterfront living. These areas attract many young families and first-time homeowners​​.

Understanding Loan Options and Aligning Our Financial Goals

One of the first steps in the home-buying process is to understand the different loan options available and align our financial goals. The choice between an HDB loan and a bank loan is crucial and requires a mutual understanding and agreement with our partner because a loan is more than a financial decision. It also depends on personal circumstances including income levels, savings, and long-term financial goals.  

HDB Loan vs. Bank Loan: A Comparative Overview

Additional Considerations Regarding Loans

  • Repayment Consistency: HDB loans offer more predictable repayment amounts due to their stable interest rates. They can aid in better financial planning for couples.
  • Downpayment Flexibility: HDB loans allow the entire downpayment to be covered using CPF savings, which can ease the initial financial burden on couples. Bank loans require a cash component — it can be a significant outlay.
  • Interest Rate Variability: While bank loans may start with lower interest rates, these are subject to change based on market conditions. This can potentially lead to higher repayments in the future.
  • Long-term Costs: Due to the higher LTV limit and potentially higher interest rates over time, HDB loans might result in higher overall costs, despite the lower initial outlay. Bank loans have lower initial interest rates and LTV limits, and they may offer savings in the long run even with higher upfront costs​.

We also need to consider our financial stability and risk tolerance while considering these options. It is also good to consult with financial advisors or use tools like CPF's housing loan calculator for a more personalised assessment​.

Financial Prudence and Planning

After understanding the nuances of HDB and bank loans, we need to adopt a financially prudent approach to home buying. This involves assessing our combined income, existing savings, and other financial commitments to determine a realistic budget for our new home. We also need to consider the additional expenses like legal fees, stamp duties, and maintenance fees in addition to the property's purchase price while budgeting for a new home. The cost varies significantly based on factors such as location, property type, and its condition.  

In addition to this, we must also explore government grants and schemes that can alleviate the financial burden — this is crucial for maximising our resources. Here are some notable government grants and schemes for home buyers.

Strategies for Managing Mortgage Payments

  • Refinancing Options: Explore refinancing when interest rates are favourable. This can lead to lower monthly payments or reduce total interest costs over the loan period. Reviewing and adjusting our loan according to market conditions can offer significant savings.
  • Mortgage Plan Review: Regularly assess our current mortgage terms. The financial market's dynamic nature means there might be new offers that better suit our financial situation or goals.
  • Extra Payments: Whenever possible, make additional payments towards the mortgage principal. This strategy decreases the loan tenure and the total interest paid. It will also help yield long-term savings.

Consulting with financial advisors like Property Guru Finance to understand the implications of refinancing and to find the best strategy that aligns with our financial goals is also important.  

Responsibilities, Legal and Administrative Considerations

Homeowners in Singapore have various responsibilities too, including property maintenance, renovation, and adherence to community rules set by regulatory bodies like the Housing and Development Board for HDB flats or management corporation for private estates. These rules can encompass aspects from renovation guidelines to noise control.

Navigating the legal and administrative landscape is another critical aspect of the home-buying process. This includes understanding the Option to Purchase (OTP) process, the common terms in the Sale and Purchase Agreement, and the various legal obligations and rights associated with home ownership. In Singapore, OTP is a crucial document in the home-buying process as it represents the buyer's right to purchase the property within a specific timeframe. It is a formal offer that, once accepted by the seller, legally binds both parties to the transaction.