The short answer is yes, foreigners CAN buy property in Singapore, albeit with restrictions.
What or who is considered a foreigner in the first place?
First of all, let us discuss when you or an entity is considered a foreigner. Basically, anybody who is not a Singaporean citizen, not a Singapore permanent resident or a corporate entity not incorporated within the Republic of Singapore is considered a foreigner when it comes to buying property in Singapore.
As you can possibly already tell, one of the legal loopholes to classify yourself as a local can be as simple as incorporating a private fund or company in Singapore, or just becoming a permanent resident in Singapore. Due to the legal complexities of this matter, you are advised to seek a local lawyer or consultant if you wish to make use of such legal loopholes to make big property investments in Singapore or getting a Singapore PR application approved.
Residential versus commercial property in Singapore
In general, commercial properties have far fewer to no restrictions when it comes to purchases in Singapore. Additionally, the Additional Buyers Stamp Duty (ABSD) is not applicable on foreigners or foreign entities who purchase an office building for instance.
On the other hand, residential property in Singapore can have far more restrictions relatively if you are a foreigner looking to purchase property in Singapore, and may sometimes also face more taxes.
Since most people asking this question are actually considering buying residential properties in Singapore, we will only talk about that here.
Restrictions on residential property purchases by foreigners in Singapore
Let us first start from the type of housing that has the greatest amount of restrictions and regulations for foreign purchasers. The following is in descending order of difficulty for foreign buyers to purchase when it comes to property in Singapore.
Housing and Development Board public flats (Fully restricted)
These are public flats in Singapore, and only Singaporeans and Singapore PR are able to purchase these flats, and even so, there is a maximum of one purchase per married couple. Therefore, as a foreigner, you are unlikely to be even looking at this option.
Landed residential properties
Good class bungalows (Fully restricted)
These are plots of residential properties of at least 15,070 sq ft in land size and in designated areas. These are only available for purchase by locals.
Most other landed housing in SG (Need manual approval through Singapore Land Authority)
When it comes to landed properties such as terrace houses, cluster landed houses, semi-detached houses and bungalows, approvals will be required. If you are intending to get and buy such a property in Singapore as a foreigner, you will need to get manual approval via the Singapore Land Authority.
There are namely two ways you can get approval in this situation.
First method would be you going through a Singapore PR application process and become a permanent resident.
The second method will be proving your economic contribution to the Republic of Singapore. This is largely based on your taxes, which is based on your applicable assessed income in Singapore.
In Singapore, there are two types of condos – one is known as an executive condominium, while the other is simply known as a private condo.
Executive condos (Only those 10 years and older can be purchased)
An executive condo in Singapore is a subsidized, half public condo. As a result of this, only Singaporeans can buy them first hand. Even permanent residents can only buy it 5 years after the condo has finished its development. Foreign buyers are only able to get those which at at least 10 full years old. Even then, there is only a maximum of one per married couple that is allowed to be owned by all.
If one already has a HDB flat, he or she needs to sell it to get an executive condo, and vice versa.
All government related and subsidized properties are heavy regulated and the maximum that each person can get is one of them.
Private condos (Zero restrictions)
These are truly private properties and any foreigner can buy them. Additionally, you can buy as many as you want regardless whether you are a local or a foreigner.
This is the easiest type of property that foreigners can buy in Singapore. It is also why most foreigners in SG actually live in private condominiums around the country too.