Singapore homes are garnering less attention from foreigner buyers

Headlines and statistics are different

Reports about foreign buyers securing multiple properties with new price benchmarks have made headlines.

However, these transactions are not representative of the real influence foreign buyers have in the private residential housing market.

On the basis of the CCR’s non-landed price indicator, prices decreased by 0.4% in the year 2020. In 2021 they rose by an average of 3.8 %, then a more moderate 4.8%, followed by 1.9% in the year 2023.

The movements of these indices were much slower than the overall index and the indices of the Rest of Central Region, Outside Central Region, and Outside Central Region in the years when price increases in Singapore were mainly due to the homebuyer’s demand.

With the increase in ABSD, foreign buyers participation in CCR has declined from an avg. 50 per mth between Jan-May 2023 to an avg. 13 between Jun-Dec 2023. The majority of foreign buyers were those from countries which have signed free trade agreements, and who pay the exact same ABSD rates that Singaporeans.

There was no increase in foreigners buying private homes in CCR. Instead, buyers from FTA states continue to show an interest (albeit in a more subdued manner) in CCR opportunities.

Singapore is a hub of investment and wealth. Singapore’s reputation as a safe and stable place was boosted after the government maintained the economy and kept its citizens from being affected by the worst of pandemic.

In Knight Frank’s Report on Wealth 2022’s attitudes survey, 25% of Asia’s regionally-mobile chose Singapore as a country where they were most likely to buy a home in another country. The 2023 report had a similar percentage of 26 percent. According to Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS), the number of Singapore’s family offices grew by 50 from 2018 to over 1,100 at the end of 2020. This is a further testimony to the city-state’s appeal.

Faced with the higher ABSD rates, foreign investors may well turn to alternative locations around the world.

Should the ABSD be reduced for foreign purchasers as the volume of transactions on the CCR market has decreased and foreign buyer activities have almost come to a halt? Even more so now that domestic demand has finally caught up with supply.

Consider imposing certain conditions on the concession.

You can, for example, only allow a reduced ABSD for homes in CCR and ticket sizes exceeding S$5 million. This is normally the exclusive domain of wealthy households.

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The ABSD foreign buyer rate does not have to return to 30% as it was prior to April 20,23.

The reduction of the tax, even if it comes with conditions, can be seen as an olive leaf that shows that Singapore continues its openness to wealth and investment coming from all around the world and welcomes anyone with the ability and resources to grow.

It was not a concern before that a small number of people from abroad were buying residential properties here. What changed?

The doubled Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duties (ABSD), from 30 percent to 60 percent, for foreigners buying residential property in Singapore starting end-April 20,23, has reduced the demand from foreign buyers. Are foreigners flooding Singapore’s private residential sector with such force that they have distorted the market and marginalised Singaporeans housing dreams?

The government claimed that when it announced the increased ABSD rates for April 2023, the move was a proactive measure. Perhaps a recent look at foreign buyer numbers will help to show if this group is making a real difference.


From Q1 2018 to Q4 2030, the number of non-landed home transactions transacted by foreigners has increased.

Before the outbreak, foreigners purchased 1,216 non-landed residences in 2018 and 1001 in 2019. This represents 6,3% of all non landed private home sales islandwide. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, foreigners purchased an average of about 277 units non-landed per quarter.

Although the number was over 300 at times (between the 1st and 3rd quarters of 2018, as well Q3 2019), the government didn’t feel compelled to act to curtail the demand.

This average quarterly remained at 231 even in the darkest days, from Q1 of 2020 to the 4th quarter of 2021. Travel restrictions were a major obstacle for foreigners, which slowed down transactions.

Between Q4 2018 and Q1 2020, which include the pandemic that hit the country and its recovery, there was never a quarter where the number or sales to foreigners exceeded 300. These sales accounted for between 3.1 and 6.9 percent of all non-landed transaction each quarter.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, foreigners have accounted for an average of 4,7% of all non landed transactions every quarter. This was just before 60 percent ABSD was implemented.

In the Core Central Region(CCR), which is where the luxury class non-landed homes of the prime are located, foreign buyers represent a higher proportion of the total sales volume. They averaged 11.7 percent quarterly from Q4 2018 to Q1 2020, or, ranges between 7.8 and 17.7 percent.

The CCR’s higher percentage of foreigners is due to high-net-worth families and individuals from all over the region, who view Singapore as the ideal place for investment and capital preservation.

Singapore is an attractive hub for foreigners who want to secure their wealth by investing in residential properties. This is due to the proactive policies of the Singapore government that promote foreign investment, create infrastructure and regulate both business and society.

Even with the context of this, the number for foreign buyers within the CCR was below 200 units per quarter (the maximum being 162 units Q1 2023), starting in the pre-pandemic year of 2018.

In any demographic, the ultra rich will always be in the minority. And the fact that there were only 200 foreign buyers every quarter before and during the epidemic did not seem to pose a problem. Post-pandemic alarms rang, but there was no evidence of any change in trends.

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