Not married, but thinking of buying a house in Singapore together? There are actually plenty of couples just like you.
But there’s a tricky part. Plenty of laws protect couples when they split up and divide their property, regardless of whether it’s a HDB flat or a condo – only if they’re legally married.
Because of this, buying a house before marriage might seem like you’re acting rashly. Kind of like tattooing each other’s names on yourselves on the third date.
Here’s our guide to working out a sensible game plan, so it can still end in a happily ever after:
Condo, HDB flat or EC?
Buy a condo/ private property
There are no restrictions placed on the marriage status of a condo or private property buyer, meaning you’re free to purchase a condo or private property with your partner even if you’re not married.
The biggest concern is, of course, the cost. Condos in Singapore are more expensive as compared to HDB flats as a whole, but you can always map out a home loan plan that works for you once you’re financially stable enough. (Also, another tip: use the price filters when house-hunting on Carousell to narrow down your options to fit your budget – don’t say never share, we spotted some condos at HDB prices.)
Actually, when we’re talking about cost, the largest hurdle for condo-buyers is not just the fact that condos are more expensive than HDB flats, but the percentage to be paid as the initial downpayment is also higher.
With a HDB flat, you can get a maximum HDB loan of up to 90% of the cost of the HDB flat, which leaves only 10% to pay upfront as downpayment. If you’re buying a condo, though, you can only get a bank loan of up to 75% of the property, meaning the remaining 25% has to be paid upfront as downpayment.
Let’s say all other things being equal, a HDB flat costs $450,000 while a condo costs $1,000,000.
The downpayment for your HDB flat will only be $450,000 x 10% = $45,000, whereas a condo will set you back at least $1,000,000 x 25% = $250,000. Huuuuge difference.
But if it’s not too much of a financial stretch, this is a popular option among non-married joint homeowners.
If you’re thinking of going for a condo, check out our buying guides:
- Resale Condo: How to Buy a Condo in Singapore on Your Own
- New Condo Projects: How to Buy a New Launch Condo in Singapore
Buy a resale HDB flat under the Joint Singles Scheme if you’re over 35
Under the Joint Singles Scheme, you and your partner can do exactly that – jointly buy an HDB flat as singles. As long as you meet the eligibility requirements:
- You’re both Singaporean Citizens
- You’re both over 35 years of age
- You’re both unmarried or divorced (Why would you be applying for a flat with a married person anyway?!)
- You’re both first-time applicants, don’t already own a home, and haven’t disposed of one in the past 30 months
If your combined average gross monthly household income adds up to no more than $14,000, you also qualify for a HDB housing grant, which gives you $50,000 if you’re buying a 2- to 4-room flat, or $40,000 for buying a 5-room or bigger flat. (P.S. Read our complete guide to HDB resale flat grants!)
Apply for a BTO HDB flat
Planning to BTO? Unmarried Singaporean couples can only apply for 2-room Flexi flats under the Joint Singles Scheme (and no bigger).
So make sure your partner’s truly The One before you commit to this, because there’s no spare bedroom for you to sleep in if war breaks out. It’s either in your bedroom or on the living room sofa.
Check your eligibility on the HDB website.
Apply for an Executive Condo (EC)
ECs are more affordable “condos” launched by HDB. Unlike HDB flats, though, you’re not eligible to apply for an EC by yourself (like, solo), even after you reach the age of 35. (Or 53, or any age. Sorry, singles.)
Only two or more singles aged 35 or above can buy an EC jointly under the Joint Singles Scheme.
Check your eligibility using this HDB e-service.
Or, consider renting
We’re not trying to be wet blankets here, but an alternative to buying a home can be… well, not buying a home. Renting can also be a wise option for cohabitation, especially with more and more compact studio apartments and 1-bedroom units these days. Nice and cosy, and easy to keep within budget.
Buying a property together is a huge commitment for you and your partner – and it’s an equally huge pain to get out of if your relationship goes south.
Renting a home (We’ve got tips here!), on the other hand, vanquishes these potential issues.
But before you seal the deal…
Discuss how to finance your new home
When buying and owning a home, coming up with the initial downpayment is but the first step of many.
Chances are, you won’t be paying for the entire property upfront, which means you’ve got monthly instalments to take care of, in addition to renovation and furnishing expenses, property taxes, utility bills, repair and maintenance costs, and so on.
Rarely are these financial responsibilities split right down the middle. For instance, one person may have more savings to contribute for the deposit, but the other may earn a higher regular salary to tackle the recurring expenses thereafter.
Even before deciding on buying any property, make sure both you and your partner talk through how much each person will contribute, and how this affects (or shouldn’t affect) your respective ownership of the property.
In-kind (non-financial) contributions
Remember that some costs aren’t necessarily monetary.
Decide how to split legal ownership of your home
There are several ways to buy a property in Singapore, whether it’s an HDB flat or condo/ private property:
Under a Joint Tenancy, both you and your partner have the rights of a single owner, and hold an equal interest in the whole property.
In don’t-go-all-lawyery-on-me terms, this means any legal decision regarding the property (e.g. to sell the property) must be made jointly.
The implication is that it’s next to impossible to kick your partner out against their will – this makes it much harder to split up if one party wants out but the other doesn’t, because you’ll both be tied to the huge asset that is your property.
Joint Tenancy also means that if (touch wood!) one party passes away, the right of survivorship applies – their ownership of the property is automatically transferred to the surviving co-owner, regardless of whether they have left a will.
A Tenancy-In-Common means both you and your partner have a distinct, separate share in the property.
This share could be equal or unequal. It doesn’t really matter when you’re living in the property – both you and your partner have the right to live there regardless of the size of your share.
But when you want to dispose of the property, that’s where Tenancy-In-Common differs from Joint Tenancy. Each party is entitled to confer their share of the property to someone else or leave their share to someone other than the co-owner in a will.
If you’re buying the property under only one person’s name, the owner of the property will have sole rights to the property.
Which means to say, their partner has no legal say in anything to do with the home; nor do they have legal rights to stay in the home. If, for any reason, you and your partner decide to go with this option, it’s a real test of #trust.
That said, the owner will also be responsible for the entirety of the financial burden. For instance, if your partner is the sole owner and they’re missing mortgage repayments or not paying their bills, the bank won’t come after you.
What else you should know
Note that however much money you and your partner each contribute is a private agreement between yourselves, and is entirely separate from how you legally own the home.
For instance, you could have shouldered 100% of the cost of your home but still have a Joint Tenancy with your partner, meaning your partner still has ownership rights to the property.
Equally, both parties could have contributed to paying for the property but if you decide to buy the property under only your name, you can kick them out of the picture anytime (but please don’t be a horrible human being).
Buying a House With Your Partner
Living together in a house that you own is definitely possible in Singapore. Not only possible, but also very achievable as long as you’ve done your research and weighed your options. Opt for a condo anytime as long as your finances allow; HDB flats, although cheaper, require you to be at least 35 years old to be eligible for the relevant schemes.
If you and your partner are sure about what house to buy and how to buy it (and about your relationship, duh), you’re all ready to begin your property-seeking journey.
Time to start shopping for your new home!