A Foreigner’s Guide to Buying Commercial Property in Singapore

Residential properties are often more preferable from an investment point of you.  Commercial properties in Singapore are just as good a choice, but many foreign buyers like yourself, hesitate stepping into this sector. However, adding Singapore commercial properties to your portfolio has a positive impact on your returns.

Partner up with an experienced commercial real estate agent, and they’ll make the process really easy for you. But choose someone who has experience in assisting foreigners in buying commercial properties in Singapore, because of different regulations. If you are interested in commercial property investment in Singapore, here is what you should know.

Why should you think about commercial properties?

Simply because the yields are higher as compared to residential properties. And you also don’t have to pay any Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duly or ABSD like you do when buying residential properties in Singapore as a foreigner.

Commercial Property Types

Determine which kind of commercial property would be the best for future returns and budget. Options include office space, retail shop and shophouse. Whichever of these you choose, the property should be in a healthy condition, meaning that it can be rented out and sold easily.

Office space

Ever thought about buying an office space and then renting it out? Since 2013, office prices seem to have risen according to the URA Property Price Index. The government has plans to decentralize commercial activities, which means office jobs will spread out from the central areas.  New commercial property developments are emerging in areas like Paya Lebar, Woodlands and Jurong East.

Although there is no official statistic on the number of strata office space in Singapore, an estimation of 14% of office supplies are strata titles: the term refers to individual titles for office units in a high-rise building that shares common facilities. What does this mean for you as a foreign investor? It simply means you can invest in single office unit easily now.

As a foreign investor, you should know that office space falls into three categories Grade A, B and C, with Grade A office space being the most premium and highly sought after by businesses. Talk to a commercial real estate agent and they may be able to give you accurate estimates of your income a year or several years from now.

Retail Spaces

If you are considering retail spaces, there are only around 60 strata titled shopping malls in Singapore, will be strata titled. Generally, they are not such a great choice for investment purposes, especially since the ecommerce industry has bloomed. The only retail spaces you should considered are those which are suitable for the food and beverage industry.

Conservation Shophouses

Conservation shophouses are kind of rare in Singapore. They were constructed between the years 1820s and the 1960s, and generally feature two or three storeys. Shophouses are often sought for their historical architecture, rustic charm and rich heritage value.

Conservation shophouses in Singapore can be classified into two types: one of these has a shop on the ground floor, whereas the upper floors are all for residential purposes, the second type also has a shop on the ground floor, but the upper floors are for commercial use. As a foreigner, you can only purchase the second type of shophouse if it is privately owned.  Most of these are usually available at a premium price. In the recent years, we are seeing funds and international high-net-worth picking up conservation shophouses in the prime areas such as Boat Quay, Amoy Street, Telok Ayer and Chinatown.

Prices

Commercial property prices weren’t really affected by the cooling measures of 2013 like residential property prices. However, this segment does get affected by economic conditions.  When considering a potential investment, consider future development plans because they can significantly affect the value.

Rents

This is the main reason you invest in the first place, so the rents should be impressive enough. But you wouldn’t know this until you do some research. Find out the average monthly rents of all areas that you are interested in. Consider the property type, the amenities available and transport connectivity as well because all these factors affect value. If you are investing in a retail space, you should evaluate walk-in traffic, and if it’s an office space, then figure out the impact of building décor and maintenance, which increase rents.

A commercial real estate agent can provide you with estimates of your rental income based on all consideration factors.

Taxes

Most commercial properties are subject to Goods & Services Tax (GST). However, there are ways to get around this. Talk to your commercial property agent in Singapore and he should be able to advice you.

Other considerations

If you are the first buyer of a commercial property, you do have an advantage in terms of greater capital appreciation during the early years. This is when you enjoy the maximum gains.  But there are of course, some trade –offs as well. Some projects may be new and not tested, so you will have to face a few risks. Also it may be sometime before you truly get the rewards of your commercial investment in Singapore, so ensure that you are able to bear losses when there is no rental income for months or even years.

So do you want to invest in commercial real estate in Singapore?

Talk to a qualified and experienced commercial real estate agent in Singapore if you are interested. At Century 21, we have been helping out foreign buyers with purchasing and selling any kind of property. Our services expand a wide range including deal sourcing, advisory and rental property management. Browse our website for more information.

A Foreigner’s Guide to Buying Commercial Property in Singapore 1x1

Author: Nic Ee

Nic is the Executive Director and Key Executive Officer (KEO) of CENTURY 21 Property Agent Singapore Pte Ltd. Nic starts his real estate career in 1995. He focuses in providing real estate services specifically to international high net-worth individuals and corporate clients. His expertise includes luxury home finding, property investment planning & acquisition, managing buy to let property, expat home finding and tenant representation for office space.

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