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Upfront Costs and Fees When Buying A House In Singapore!

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Your financial obligation when buying a home isn’t just limited to a down payment. There are some extra costs too you mustn’t forget to take into account when figuring out how much it will really cost you. Only if you are aware of such not-so-obvious costs in advance, you can factor them into your financial planning and ensure your home buying process is smooth and hassle-free.

Before you sign the dotted line for property purchase, read this article. It will be a guide for first-time homebuyers in Singapore to help keep track of unexpected or hidden property costs, so they are never caught off-guard when it is time to actually pay up.

What are the hidden fees when buying a house in Singapore?

The true cost of buying a house in Singapore includes a multitude of hidden expenses beyond the monthly mortgage repayments. Many prospective home buyers assume the cost of a home the same as its purchase price as quoted by the developer/seller – but this is a big mistake.

Whether you are purchasing a new or resale HDB or upgrading to private property, there are a plethora of other costs to consider than just the property selling price. These hidden costs are inescapable and can amount to thousands of dollars, which add to your stress.

Before we move forward, let’s understand what is the property selling price. Well, the property selling price will help determine the hidden costs in a property transaction. It will help determine the option fee and the down payment you will need to make.

Let’s take a look at the different property fees you might incur when buying a home in Singapore.

Type of ExpenseTypical Cost
HDB Private Condo
Option fee$1 to $1,000Usually 1% of the property selling price
Agent’s commission1% to 2% of selling price1% to 4% of selling price
Stamp duty feeBased on market value or purchase price of the property
Legal and conveyancing fees$1,800 to $3000 $2,500 to $5,000
Valuation fee$120 – $220$163 – $700
Property taxBased on owner-occupier and non-owner-occupier tax rates
Fire insurance$7 to $60 annually$80 to $150 annually
Maintenance fees$20 to $90$250 to $1,000
Renovation fees$55,000
Electricity and utility bills As per monthly utilisation

Without a carefully planned out budget, you are likely to feel the heat of expenses throughout the home buying process. Let’s look at some of the most common hidden costs of owning your first home in Singapore.

Option fee

In Singapore, an option fee, or Option to Purchase (OTP), is a contractual agreement between the prospective buyer and seller of a property. If the buyer has paid the option fee, the seller is obliged to make the property available exclusively to the buyer for an agreed time.

What is an option fee?

Consider the option fee as the booking amount you must pay to reserve the property of your choice. However, you can still change your mind on whether to go ahead with the purchase.

Please note that the option fee is non-refundable, so you won’t get it back even if you don’t end up buying the property. This means if the buyer decides to terminate the purchase transaction, the option fee will be forfeited.

If you have decided to acquire the property after physical inspection and have your finances sorted out, you will pay a deposit (option exercise fee) when you exercise your Option to Purchase.

The amount of option fee you pay depends on whether you are buying an HDB or a private property.

For private property, the option fee is typically 1% of the property’s agreed purchase price, and then another 4% or 9% as the option exercise fee, depending on the agreement. The option period is usually 14 days, but is negotiable depending on the seller.

For HDB flats, the option fee can range between $1 and $1,000. The option period is 21 calendar days.

Get Smart Tip: One easy way to reduce the risk of losing your option fee is to get an IPA (In-Approval Principle) so that you have a clear idea of what you can afford and what you cannot.

Agent’s Commission

For buyers who engage with property agents to purchase a property will have to factor the agent’s fee into the purchase price. This commission fee of the agent depends on your agreement and property selling price.

Usually, you should be prepared to shell out at least 1% of the agreed property selling price as a commission to the agent who has helped you find an HDB resale flat. For private property, homebuyers need not pay anything as commission as the agent fee is split between the seller’s and buyer’s agents.

This fee is negotiable, so make sure you discuss this transparently with your property agent beforehand. Please note that it needs to be paid in cash as you can’t use CPF for this.

Get Smart Tip: If you don’t already know a trustworthy property agent, it may not be a good idea to choose any random agent in haste. To help you out in this, DollarBack Mortgage can be your trusted partner in finding and purchasing a new property in Singapore.

Stamp duty fee

A property stamp duty is a tax paid on documents signed when you are buying or selling a property in Singapore. When purchasing your first property, all buyers (whether Singaporean, PR or otherwise) will need to pay a Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD). BSD incurred depends on the percentage of the market value of the property or the purchase price of the property, whichever is higher.

With effect from 15 Feb 2023, the BSD rates vary based on the property type – whether residential or non-residential.

BSD Rate w.e.f. 15 Feb 2023
Market Value of the PropertyBSD Rates for Residential PropertiesBSD rates for Non-residential Properties
First $180,0001%1%
Next $180,0002%2%
Next $640,0003%3%
Next $500,0004%4%
Next $1,500,0005%5%
Remaining Amount6% 

BSD is rounded down to the nearest dollar, subject to a minimum duty of $1.

How much stamp duty do I need to pay?

Let’s understand this with the below example.

For example, suppose you purchased a condo at $4,500,000 market value on 17 February 2023.

Market Value of the PropertyBSD RatesCalculation
First $180,0001%= $1,800 (1% x $180,000)
Next $180,0002%= $3,600 (2% x $180,000)
Next $640,0003%= $19,200 (3% x $640,000)  
Next $500,0004%= $20,000 (4% x $500,000)
Next $1,500,0005%= $75,000 (5% x $1,500,000)
Remaining $1,500,000 6% = $90,000 (6% x $1,500,000)
BSD Payable for residential property= $209,600 ($1,800 + $3,600 + $19,200 + $20,000 + $75,000 + $90,000)

Thus, if you buy a property that is worth $4.5 million, you will need to pay $209,600 in BSD to IRAS. Those who own multiple properties will also be subject to Additional Buyer Stamp Duty (ABSD).

If you are a Singapore citizen planning to buy a second or subsequent property, you will be required to pay ABSD on top of the BSD. The amount payable is dependent on whether you are a Singapore citizen, permanent resident, or foreigner, along with the number of residential properties that you own.

Along with other stamp duties, the ABSD is payable within 14 days of completing the Sale and Purchase (S&P) Agreement of any property. ABSD is not applicable for home buyers looking to buy their first home, assuming they are Singapore Citizens.

Depending on the nationality of the investor on the date of purchase, here’s what you will have to pay:

ABSD Rate w.e.f. 27th April 2023
 1st Property2nd Property3rd Property
Singapore CitizensNot Applicable20%30%
Permanent Residents5%30%35%
Foreigners60%60%60%
Corporate Entities65%65%65%

ABSD is rounded down to the nearest dollar, subject to a minimum duty of $1.

Get Smart Tip: While there is no way to get away with the BSD, ABSD can be avoided by what is known as decoupling. In simple words, decoupling means one of the owners taking over the full ownership of existing property so that the other co-owner does not have any property under their name, thus bypassing ABSD.

However, decoupling isn’t a sure-win. If you are planning to buy a second property, you can get in touch with DollarBack Mortgage consultants to get a better idea regarding costs and savings incurred during decoupling and then decide on whether decoupling makes economic sense based on your current financial situation.

Legal, conveyancing, and valuation fees

In addition to the stamp duty, there are other costs incurred when taking up home loans such as legal & conveyancing fees and valuation fees to cover the loan amount.

Legal & conveyancing fees: At some point in the purchase, you will need to engage with a conveyancing property lawyer in Singapore, who can handle all the legal paperwork, including transferring the ownership title, discharge of mortgage, background checks, etc. on your behalf.

You can also find your choice of a property lawyer (other than the bank’s default law firm) to handle conveyancing, but make sure it is not only cost-effective but just as good at their job. The key requirement is that the law firm you choose must be on your bank’s board.

How much are legal and conveyancing fees when buying a house?

The non-discounted legal and conveyancing fees in Singapore range between $1,800 and $3000, depending on the property value and type you are buying. This fee is mandatory in any property transaction and you can’t get away with it.

Valuation fees

As the name suggests, it is what you pay to get your property valued. It is an indicative value of how much a property is worth so that you know that you are paying a ‘fair price’ for said property.

You can get a detailed property valuation report from professionally qualified appraisers and valuers. An industry rule says that you should seek at least three different quotes to see what’s the average to obtain a more accurate estimate of your property’s price.

How much does a property valuation report cost?

If you are looking to obtain a detailed valuation report from a licensed valuer, the fee involved can range between $200 and $500, depending on the property type.

For HDB flats, you can get a valuation report directly from the Housing & Development Board for a non-refundable processing fee of $120.

Get smart tip: You may have to pay as high as $2,800 and $3,000 conveyancing fees for a new HDB and private property purchase respectively in Singapore – or you can get in touch with us.

With long-standing relationships with reputable law firms on all panels of major banks, DollarBack Mortgage specialists can help you find the best conveyancing lawyers in Singapore and save up to $900 in fees for your property purchase.

Not just that, DollarBack Mortgage brokers can also manage the time-consuming job of communicating with different banks to acquire the best-accepted property valuation for you – at no additional cost.

Property tax

As a homeowner, you are required to pay taxes for it – every year. How much? This may vary depending on the location of your property.

Property tax payable annually in Singapore is computed based on a percentage of the Annual Value (AV) of your home. It is the estimated amount that you could fetch annually by renting out your property, regardless of whether you actually rent it out or not.

There are two types of property tax rates for residential properties: (1) owner-occupier tax rates and (2) non-owner-occupier tax rates. To calculate the taxes that you will have to pay, multiply the AV of your property with the tax rate applicable to your property.

If you stay in your property, your tax rate will be:

Owner-occupier Tax Rates
Annual Value ($)Effective 1 Jan 2023Property Tax Payable
First $8,000 Next $22,0000% 4%$0 $880
First $30,000 Next $10,000– 5%$880 $500
First $40,000 Next $15,000– 7%$1,380 $1,050
First $55,000 Next $15,000– 10%$2,430 $1,500
First $70,000 Next $15,000– 14%$3,930 $2,100
First $85,000 Next $15,000– 18%$6,030 $2,700
First $100,000 Above $100,000– 23%$8,730

Table 1 (Source: iras.gov.sg)

Annual Value ($)Effective 1 Jan 2024Property Tax Payable
First $8,000 Next $22,0000% 4%$0 $880
First $30,000 Next $10,000– 6%$880 $600
First $40,000 Next $15,000– 10%$1,480 $1,500
First $55,000 Next $15,000– 14%$2,980 $2,100
First $70,000 Next $15,000– 20%$5,080 $3,000
First $85,000 Next $15,000– 26%$8,080 $3,900
First $100,000 Above $100,000– 32%$11,980

Table 1.1 (Source: iras.gov.sg)

If you own a house but don’t live in it, your tax rate will be:

Non-owner-occupier tax rates
Annual Value ($)Effective 1 Jan 2023Property Tax Payable
First 30,000 Next $15,00011% 16%$3,300 $2,400
First $45,000 Next $15,000– 21%$5,700 $3,150
First $60,000 Above $60,000– 27%$8,850

Table 2 (Source: iras.gov.sg)

Annual Value ($)Effective 1 Jan 2024Property Tax Payable
First 30,000 Next $15,00012% 20%$3,600 $3,000
First $45,000 Next $15,000– 28%$6,600 $4,200
First $60,000 Above $60,000– 36%$10,800

Table 2.1 (Source: iras.gov.sg)

In Singapore, the tax levied on a non-owner-occupied residential property is higher than an owner-occupied property, and the tax rate scales up based on the annual value. Therefore, you pay lower property tax if you live in the house you own, compared to when you rent out your house. It is mainly to discourage people from buying houses just for rental yield.

Let’s understand how property tax is calculated with an example.

Suppose the Annual Value of an owner-occupier residential property is $84,000. The property tax will be calculated referring to Table 1 above.

Owner-occupied residential properties
Annual Value ($)Tax rate effective 1 January 2023Property tax payable
First 8,000x 0%= $0
Next 22,000x 4%= $880
Next 10,000x 5%= $500
Next 15,000x 7%= $1,050
Next $15,000x 10%= $1,500
Next $14,000x 14%= $1,960
Total property tax payable= $5,890

Fire Insurance Premiums

Fire insurance: For buyers taking out an HDB home loan (either via HDB or a bank) need to pay the mandatory fire insurance every year. Singapore government requires anyone buying a HDB property with a home loan (i.e. not paying in full) to take up fire insurance to insure their house from fire or a similar mishap in case anything happens before they fully repay the loan.

The basic fire insurance for HDB flat covers the internal structure as well as original fixtures and fittings but does not include damage to any furniture and home contents. It ranges from $1.50 (excl. GST) for a 1-room flat to $7.50 (excl. GST) for an executive or multi-generation property for a 5-year term.

Flat Type5-Year Premium (including 8% GST)Sum Insured
1-room          $1.63$29,000
2-room/ 2-room Flexi$2.73$48,700
3-room         $4.91$60,400
4-room/ S1$5.99$82,000
5-room/ S2/ 3-Generation$7.19$97,300
Executive/ Multi-Generation$8.18$106,200

For a condo or private apartment, if you are taking a mortgage loan from a bank, majority will require mandatory fire insurance to be taken via the bank’s appointed insurance provider (with the exception of a handful of banks).

Home insurance: Home insurance or home contents insurance is an optional form of insurance to supplement fire insurance but much more comprehensive and highly advisable.

It also protects homebuyers against losses sustained to personal belongings, furniture, electronics, renovations, interior/exterior house fixtures and may also include medical/accidental coverage and pet protection. It can range from $50 to over $300 depending on the insurance policy you buy.

Maintenance fees

A lot of first-time homebuyers in Singapore get excited about the idea of owning a home thinking that they will no longer have to pay the house rent, which will help them save plenty.

However, it is important to also take into account a range of recurring fees that come attached to purchasing a new home. These include the maintenance fees towards Management Corporation Strata Title (MCST) and the S&CC (Service and Conservancy Charges).

MCST is the managing body for your condo (known as a strata-titled property) in Singapore. As a unit owner, you have to pay a service charge as fee to the company in charge of managing and maintaining public facilities on a day-to-day basis. Usually, there is an additional sinking fund on top of maintenance fees for condos for future upgrading.

On the other hand, HDB flat owners (as well as offices, shops, food and stalls) have to pay S&CC every month to their town council to maintain the overall health of the HDB housing estate, including cleaning, maintenance and upgrading of common areas.

 The service and conservancy charges of HDB flats also differ according to the location of your HDB estate and flat type. This is payable by those living in public housing, same as condo maintenance fees for private homeowners.

While you may have to pay less than $100 per month as conservancy charges to your town council for your HDB flat, the maintenance fees for private properties such as condominiums and apartments averages around $250 to $350 per month—with some reaching up to $1,000.

Depending on the number of people living in the condo, the size and the type of condo they live in, and the amenities offered, this ‘hidden’ cost can easily add up to several thousand dollars a year. Therefore, it is crucial to factor in the maintenance charges before making the decision. Ask before you buy!

Renovation fees, electricity and utility bills

Bear in mind that new homebuyers will need to renovate their house, furnish it, and invest in electronics and appliances. One thing about home renovations is that they don’t come cheap. You will need to spend a substantial amount of time and money to renovate the house into your dream home.

Depending on the type of home, size of the home, type of renovation/ID style you chose will determine what you will be spending on renovation. A smart idea is to buy a home either with a similar ID style to what you want in your home or opt for a barebones home where demolition costs will be much lesser.

The total renovation cost depends on your aesthetic preferences and needs. Some opt to spend only about $5,000 while others may end up spending over $100,000. On average, homebuyers in Singapore spend $40,000 to $70,000 (median: $55,000) on home renovations.

In addition to the basic renovation costs, you are likely to spend some more on installation of air conditioning units, residential electrical works, and much more. In addition to that, electricity and utility bills can also rake up a few hundred dollars every month.

The average monthly electricity bill in Singapore for a condo was $163 in 2017, which is 43% higher than the average cost of an HDB’s electricity bill.

Don’t forget that these costs are add-ons on top of your home’s price tag.

Final Thoughts

After going through this long list of hidden costs, you may be feeling a little put off. But don’t despair! It is pretty normal to feel overwhelmed, especially for first-time homebuyers to realise that they have to pay for these additional ‘hidden’ costs on top of the price of their dream home.

Make sure you budget these extra expenses carefully and be realistic about what you can afford if you really want to enjoy your new home. Remember there are ways to reduce the overall cost of buying your first home, such as picking up low-interest mortgage loans to buffer through these additional costs.

DollarBack Mortgage is an independent mortgage broker that has partnered with all major banks in Singapore and can help you get the best mortgage loans according to your financial needs and situation.

Get the best home loan in Singapore across all major banks and compare mortgage rates with the highest rewards.

Enjoy the lowest mortgage loan rates when you refinance a home loan or buy a new property!

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