8-step guide to buying a new-launch condo in Singapore

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Condominiums, like most shiny, pretty things, come with a hefty price tag. That's why buying a new launch condo might be the most cost-effective option to owning your own unit.

They come with a whole host of discounts from the developers, like vouchers, early bird discounts, and even stamp duty reimbursements.

The downside, of course, is that you've got a three-year wait ahead of you for the unit to actually be built. But if you have the time to spare, we say: Go for it!

So how do you go about getting yourself one of these gems?

Step 1: Get your finances sorted

Agreed, it's a pain, but evaluating your finances and finding out how much you can actually afford to pay for your home, is by far one of the most important steps when it comes to buying a property.

It'll save you a lot of money (not to mention heartache) if you sort this out right from the start, rather than enter into a financial transaction you can't afford and have to abandon afterwards.

Check out our article on financing a condominium purchase if you want an idea of all the costs involved in buying a unit.

Get an Approval-in-Principle (AIP) for a bank loan

Even though you might think you're worthy of a huge loan, it's the banks that ultimately control the purse strings. That's why we recommend getting an AIP from a bank, so you have a good idea of how much you'll actually get when you apply for a loan later.

An AIP sets out how much a bank is willing to loan to you, and what your monthly mortgage obligations would be for that loan. Make sure you're comfortable with the monthly payments expected of you when you're setting your budget.

Pro-tip: Not all banks offer the same deal, so shop around to get a package that works for you.

Check your CPF funds

Apart from your bank loan, you can also use your CPF funds to help buy your new launch condo.

Check out how much you have by logging into your CPF Account via their website.

If it's your first property, you should be able to use all the savings in your Ordinary Account up to the Valuation Limit (which is the lower of the purchase price or the value of the property at the time of purchase).

But if it's your second or subsequent property, you'll need to set aside the Basic Retirement Sum (presently that's $96,000) before you can use the excess savings in your Ordinary Account.

Consider miscellaneous fees and costs

You're legally required to pay at least 20 per cent of the property price (the downpayment) in a mixture of cash of CPF - this consists of the five per cent Option Fee and a 15 per cent Exercise Fee.

You should also factor in incidental costs like legal fees and Buyer's Stamp Duty (BSD), all of which can come up to quite a sizeable sum. 

Do note that BSD is rounded down to the nearest dollar.

On or after Feb 20, 2018
Purchase Price or Market Value of the Property BSD Rates for residential properties BSD Rates for non-residential properties
 First $180,000 One per cent One per cent
 Next $180,000 Two per cent Two per cent
 Next $640,000 Three per cent Three per cent
 Remaining amount Four per cent

While you can use your CPF savings to help pay these costs, if you don't have enough savings to cover the total amount, you'll need to pay the balance out of pocket.

Additional buyer's stamp duty

The Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty (ABSD) was introduced in 2011 as part of the property market cooling measures. Under the ABSD regime, certain groups of home buyers will be required to pay the ABSD in addition to the BSD already payable.

In accordance with the latest round of cooling measures, the government raised the ABSD in December 2021.

The ABSD rates payable are as follows:

Types of buyers Rates from July 6, 2018 to Dec 15, 2021 Rates on or after Dec 16, 2021
Singapore Citizens First residential property Zero per cent Zero per cent
Second residential property 12 per cent 17 per cent (+5per cent)
Third and subsequent residential property 15 per cent 25 per cent (+ ten per cent)
Permanent residents First residential property Five per cent Five per cent (unchanged)
Second residential property 15 per cent 25 per cent (+ ten per cent)
Third and subsequent residential property 20 per cent 30 per cent (+10per cent)
Foreigners Any residential property 20 per cent 30 per cent (+ ten per cent)
Entities Any residential property 25 per cent 35 per cent (Plus additional 5per cent for housing developers (non-remittable)) (+15 per cent)

If a property's bought by a mix of buyers (e.g. a Singapore Citizen and Singapore Permanent Resident), the higher ABSD rate will apply.

Step 2: Shop around

After you're armed with your budget, you can start looking around for new launch condo developments that you might be keen on purchasing.

At this point, you should engage a property agent. Although not mandatory, a property agent is immensely helpful in guiding you through the purchase process, and to also take the burden of researching available developments off your shoulders.

If you'd rather save the money and do the research yourself, you can find information on new launches in newspaper adverts or on property websites - 99.co lets you filter your search results by the Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP) date so you can search for new launch developments that have a TOP in 2019 or later.

Step 3: Visit show flats

About one to two weeks before the official date of a new launch condo, prospective buyers are given the opportunity to visit the developer's show flats.

At this point, the units aren't yet up for sale and the actual prices of the flat aren't revealed. Instead, developers may choose to provide 'indicative' prices of the units (which are usually not too wide off the mark).

If you're keen, you can complete an Expression of Interest (EOI) form to buy your new launch condo. The EOI form should be handed to the developer, along with a blank cheque addressed to the developer's project account.

The blank cheque is meant to be the 5per cent booking fee on the property (if you wish to proceed with the purchase) so when the prices are revealed, the amount will be inputted accordingly.

Of course, handing a blank cheque to anyone is pretty risky, so be sure to double check the name of the developer's account, and never address it to an individual.

The good thing about registering your interest is that you'll be able to participate in the ballot system on the day of the launch. You, along with the other people who have registered their interest beforehand, will be invited to book a unit in the development in the order of when your ballot number is called.

Note that submitting the EOI form and cheque won't obligate you to go through with the purchase; they'll be returned to you, without penalty, if you decide not to proceed.

Step 4: Book your flat

On the official launch day, you'll need to go down to the show flat early and submit your ballot number. Then, just wait for your ballot number to be called and book away!

It's a good idea to have a few new launch condo units shortlisted so you have fallback options in the event the unit of your choice has already been taken.

Once you've booked a unit, the developer will provide you with a set of Property Details Information (or 'PDI)' documents - this is a set of all the floor plans, rules and regulations, offered items and other documents relating to your unit. You'll be asked to read and agree to the terms and details in the PDI documents by initialling on all the pages.

The Option to Purchase will be given to you at this point, and you'll be deemed to have officially booked a unit. This means you'll forfeit a portion of your option fee (usually 25per cent) if you abort the purchase.

Step 5: Hire solicitors and finalise loan

With a copy of the Option in hand, approach your bank to finalise your loan for the new launch condo. This means having them issue you a Letter of Offer - a fancy name for the document containing the terms on which the bank is offering you a loan.

You want to get this sorted as soon as possible so your loan isn't delayed.

You'll also need to hire a solicitor to act for you in the purchase and take care of the conveyancing matters.

If you're taking a bank loan, the bank will usually be able to recommend a firm from its panel. You're not obliged to use them, so make sure to shop around to get the best rates!

Read this: Property Conveyancing in Singapore: What you need to know

Step 6: Sign the sales & purchase agreement

Within two weeks of providing you with the Option, the developer will deliver the Sales & Purchase Agreement (S&P), following which you'll have three weeks to sign it and exercise the Option.

If you do, you'll have to pay the 15per cent exercise fee (i.e. the remainder of the downpayment). This'll be due at the point of signing the S&P, or within nine weeks from the date of the Option, whichever is later.

You'll also need to pay the BSD (and ABSD if applicable) on the S&P within two weeks of signing it.

Step 7: Start paying

You'll have about six months to recover from the shock of handing over all that money at Step 6 before you need to get that cheque book out again.

And be prepared to keep doing that every few months.

For uncompleted developments, payments are made every few months, each time the developer hits certain pre-set milestones in construction.

This works out to a payment of about five to ten per cent of the purchase price every six months or so, until around the time the TOP is issued, at which point you pay the last 40 per cent on your unit.

You can find out more on the new launch condo payment schedules here.

Step 8: Collect your keys

Aaaaaaaand you're done! See, buying a new launch condo wasn't that hard after all, was it?

ALSO READ: House hunting: Which condos are the best for a family of 3 whose priority is school proximity?

This article was first published in 99.co.