Singapore: Foreigners are less likely buying Singapore homes for now


Number of non-landed property deals transacted by international buyers from Q1 2018, to Q4 2020

Foreigners made up 6.3% of all private non-landed home purchases in the island before the pandemic. During these two years, foreign purchases averaged 277 non landed residences each quarter or approximately 1,109 plus units per annum prior to Covid-19.

Although there were times (between Q1 and Q3 2018) when the number foreign buyers exceeded 300, the government wasn’t compelled to take measures to limit the demand from this group.

The quarterly average of 231 units remained constant, even during the worst days of pandemic in Q1 2020 through the fourth quarter of 2021, when travel restrictions largely hampered transactions by foreigners.

The number of foreign transactions has never exceeded 300 in any quarter between Q4 2019 to Q1 2023. This includes the pandemic as well as the recovery.

Until recently, the small numbers of non-residents buying residential property in our country did not pose a threat. What has changed?

Foreign buyer demand has been effectively curtailed by the doubling of additional stamp duty (ABSD) for foreign buyers in Singapore. This will increase from 30 to 60% from April 2023. Foreign buyers were flooding the residential property market with such force, that it was unbalanced and Singaporeans’ housing aspirations marginalised.

When the government announced higher ABSD in April 2023 it claimed that the change was pre-emptive. Looking at the volume of foreign buyers in recent years will reveal whether these purchasers are making a difference.

The average number of foreigners in non-landed sales was 4.7% per quarter, between the start of the pandemic and just before the 60 percent ABSD rate was introduced for foreign buyers.


The percentage of foreign buyers is higher in the Core Central Region. This region has the most luxury homes, and the highest proportion of sales.

The CCR has a higher percentage of foreigners due to the high net worth individuals and family from the region who have traditionally viewed Singapore as a secure destination for setting up investment properties, for both capital appreciation and preservation.

Singapore’s government has been proactive in implementing pro-business policies to attract foreign investment and develop infrastructure. It also regulates business and society so that wealth is stable and secure.

Even in this context, foreign buyers have remained below 200 per quarter in the CCR (the highest number was 162 in Q1 of 2023), since the early years of the pandemic up until the present.

It is inevitable that the ultra-rich are a minority, regardless of demographic. The presence of less than 200 foreign buyers per quarter was not a threat before or during the pandemic. After the pandemic it was surprising to hear alarms sounding when there weren’t any symptoms of a trend change.

Should the government lower the ABSD rate to foreign buyers, as transaction volumes have dwindled in the CCR and the foreign buyer market is virtually at a standstill, given the waning of the overall market? Particularly now that supply is catching up with the incredible domestic demand that arose from the pandemic.

You could consider imposing some kind of restrictions on the concession.

The ABSD rate can be reduced for only homes located in CCR or for tickets larger than S$5M, as this is the exclusive range of any wealthy family.

The ABSD for foreign buyers need not be returned to the 30% rate that was in place before April 2023.

If you qualify for a reduction, it could send a message to the world that Singapore remains open to wealth, investment, and those with talent and resources who want to grow together.

Headlines do not represent statistics

Headlines are made when foreign buyers buy multiple properties for new benchmark prices.

The anecdotal evidence of these deals does not reflect the true influence that foreigners have on the private housing market.

The non-landed CCR price index shows that prices dropped by 0.4 percent in 2020. Prices rose by moderately 3.8 percent in 2021.

These movements were well behind the overall index, as well as indices for Rest of Central Region(RCR) and Outside Central Region(OCR) during these years. Years in which the main driver of price increases was the Singaporean demand.

Foreign buyer participation in CCR decreased due to the increased ABSD from an average 50 per month during January and May of 2023 down to an average 13 between June and Dec 2023. Most of the foreign buyers in the CCR were from countries that had free trade agreements with Singapore and pay the same ABSD as Singaporeans.

Foreigners from FTA-countries are not increasing their participation on the CCR private home market, but they continue to be interested (though at a much more subdued rate) in these opportunities rather than looking for other wealth centers.

Singapore is known as a center for wealth and investment. This reputation of safety and stability was further enhanced by the fact that the government kept Singapore’s economy afloat while keeping its citizens safe during the worst pandemic.

In Knight Frank’s wealth report 2022 attitudes survey, 25 per cent regionally mobiles from Asia selected Singapore as the place they would be most likely to consider buying a new house outside of their home country. In the 2023 report, this percentage was 26 percent. The Monetary Authority of Singapore reports that the number of family office grew from 50 by the end of 2018 to 1100 by the end of 2022. This shows the popularity of Singapore.

The increased ABSD rate may cause foreign investors to look for other alternatives in the region or around the globe.

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