All Topics / Overseas Deals / Investing in Singapore (HDB Flats)

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  • Profile photo of oneiriceroneiricer
    Join Date: 2007
    Post Count: 56

    Anyone has any experience investing in singapore?

    I have an opportunity to buy a HDB flat as my partner is singaporian – is this a wise move?

    All the facts and figures look good (initial calculations) and will generate a cash flow positive property. However I am limited to 1 property and am not entirely sure whether I will be able to successfuly rent it out.

    Any ideas?



    Profile photo of HasinaHasina
    Join Date: 2007
    Post Count: 4

    Hi Ken,
    I am a Singaporean, who has experience in investing in Singapore. I just came back from Singapore two weeks ago and was looking at buying my second property while i was in Singapore. In my opinion, currently it is very easy to rent out a house in Singapore in most of the area especially in the East area because of growing of businesses and expats moving to Singapore.
    At the current rate, you can fetch a very good rent.
    But the problem currently is, even the HDB (the resale) is over priced. There is two ways you can buy a HDB. One is directly through the HDB and the other is resale. If you buy through HDB, it is always alot cheaper but with loads of restrictions about renting out and the waiting period is longer to buy one. However, with the resale, it is easier to buy one in the market, but the problem is, in the past one year, due to the demand, the owners are asking a minimum of $25k above valuation.

    Hope this helps. If you need more info, you can e-mail me at [email protected]


    Profile photo of oneiriceroneiricer
    Join Date: 2007
    Post Count: 56

    Hi Hasina,

    Thanks for replying my message. Would you mind if i ask you a couple more questions regarding investing Singapore? I am not from Singapore and a lot of what I know is second-hand information which can potentially be incorrect.

    I have looked quite throughly at the stats provided by the HDB board website ( and have found quite interesting stats – e.g. Median House Prices by Area and Median Rental Price by area. They also have a calculator that shows monthly repayments.

    if you subtract median rent by monthly repayment, my initial calculations show that you would be CF+ in the region of  SG$200.00 – $400.00

    In your experience, is this what you have found? Are the stats representative of what you have?

    The first thing you mentioned on is that it is fairly easy to rent out your place. I am finding it quite difficult to find stats on rental vacancy – do you have any?

    Secondly, you mentioned long waiting lists for HDB flats. How long is long? 1 year? 2 years? Also, since me and my partner do not own any HDB flat at all, are you allowed to buy a HDB resell flat outright?

    Finally, you mention you're looking for a second property in singapore. From what i know of HDBs, you are only allowed to buy one? does this mean you have decided to buy 'freehold' or private property? Arnt these properties rediculously expensive?

    Thanks in advance, and best of luck to you on your second property :)

    Kind Regards,


    Profile photo of dosqdosq
    Join Date: 2007
    Post Count: 12

    Hi Ken. I am not too sure about your situation. Are you working in Singapore or you just want to buy HDB for investment? If you are working in Singapore or your partner is also working, I believe you have CPF account. You can make use of this account to pay for the HDB (monthly instalment, like morgage).

    Yes, you are right. You can only purchase ONE HDB Flat unit. If you wish to invest more, the only route is private apartment or landed property, which is currently too high!!

    The potential of getting positive cash flow is high! If the location is right, just like Hasina has mentioned, you have no problem getting tenants at all! East area, like Marine Parade, or you can go to central, north or south, like Holland Village, Tiong Bah Rhu, Tanjong Pagar. The rental for these areas are great!

    Profile photo of bardonbardon
    Join Date: 2004
    Post Count: 557
    by Chris Mayer

    “The city of Singapore was not built up gradually, the way most cities are, by a natural deposit of commerce on the banks of some river or at a traditional confluence of trade routes. It was simply invented one morning early in the nineteenth century by a man looking at a map. ‘Here,’ he said to himself, ‘is where we must have a city.’”

    – J.G. Farrell, The Singapore Grip.

    Farrell’s tale is about Singapore in 1939. It takes place in the last days before Japanese occupation. The novel captures the early hustle and bustle of Singapore, its sights and smells. He writes, “of incense, of warm skin, of meat cooking in coconut oil, of honey and frangipani, and hair-oil and lust and sandalwood and heaven knows what, a perfume like the breath of life itself.”

    The man who looked at a map, as Farrell says in his passage, was Sir Thomas Raffles, the founder of the city of Singapore. Raffles’ vision was to add another trading post in the growing British Empire. It became much more than that. I think it’s safe to say it’s become more than Raffles could have ever imagined.

    Today, it’s becoming another Switzerland. As the Western governments look to crack down on tax havens, the money moves elsewhere. In the early days of the 21st century, the preferred haven is Singapore.

    The story of Singapore is a story of how a place grows rich in the 21st century. One way, Singapore’s way, is to master the arts of international trade. Be friendly to wealth and it will beat a path to your door. For investors, too, there is a surprising opportunity in the Straits of Malacca…

    As with most places, Singapore owes its success, at least partially, to accidents of history. Singapore has a natural deep port, which always helps. But prosperity usually needs a little extra nudging to get out of bed in the morning.

    The discovery of tin in nearby Malaya in 1848 was one such nudge. It helped make Singapore an important port for the tin trade. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 was another. It cut traveling time between Asia and Europe dramatically. As steamships replaced clipper ships, so the world shrank a little further. Singapore also became one of the world’s largest coaling stations.

    As a cog in the British Empire, Singapore was indispensable. As Gretchen Liu writes in her history of the city, Singapore was, “an important link in a chain that stretched from Gibraltar, through Malta, Suez, Aden, India and Ceylon, and to Hong Kong and Australia.”

    Singapore soon became the world’s largest supplier of rubber, helped by Ford’s assembly line in 1913, which kicked off a boom in rubber. By 1919, half of the world’s rubber went through its ports. (An interesting aside… You live by the sword; you die by the sword, as the saying goes. During the Great Depression, rubber prices fell from 34 cents in 1929 to a low of about 5 cents by 1932. A lot of rubber producers met a bitter end.) Even in the 1950s, rubber and tin were still important exports, along with coconut oil, palm oil, tinned pineapple, sago flour, rattan and spices.

    So you see, the main business of Singapore has always been trade. It’s also always been a place made up of a variety of peoples from a variety of cultures. Chinese, Indians, Malays and Europeans all flocked to Singapore. Immigrant labor laid down the electric cables, tapped the rubber trees and built the roads, among other things. In the process, Singapore became a unique mix of East and West. Singapore became a hinge upon which the two worlds turn.

    Trade and Invest… No Questions Asked

    Joe Studwell’s new book Asian Godfathers looks at the successes of various entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia. Singapore figures in the larger story. Studwell’s comments shed light on the causes of Singapore’s successes. Many of those causes still serve it well today.

    Singapore’s success is due in part to, as Studwell says: “tariff-free trade (with few or no questions asked about what is being traded) and…places to park money (with few or no questions asked about where the money came from).”

    In this, Singapore performs a “simple economic trick.” Be a little kinder to money than your neighbors and you will attract the money flow. Though Singapore has a long history of trading and smuggling, its reputation as an Asian Switzerland – as a place to store capital and a financial services hub – is a more recent development.

    As the European Union brings pressure on Switzerland to block tax evasion, Singapore has taken up that slack. The number of foreign private banks in Singapore has more than doubled, from 20 in 2000, to 42 currently.

    Barron’s reports that Singapore is the world’s second largest banking center, behind Switzerland. Singapore’s worldwide share of the private banking business is around 6%, compared with Switzerland’s 18%. But Singapore is growing 30% per year. Private banking assets are up sixfold from 1998. Today, Singapore is home to about $300 billion, according to Citigroup (which gets one-third of its private banking business from Asia. The folks at Citigroup should know.)

    All that money needs “handlers” – accountants, investment advisers and other specialists. It’s why the private banking business is so excited about being in Singapore. As an investor, it’s a little harder to invest in this theme specifically. I’m not particularly keen on owning a large financial conglomerate because I like its Singapore exposure. Nonetheless, it’s something to watch.

    Beyond that, though, there is another layer to Singapore’s 21st century prosperity that I find fascinating. Singapore is also a hub for water companies, a sort of Silicon Valley of water. Tom Rooney, whom I interviewed for last month’s letter, called it “the most enlightened place in the world on water.” There are over 100 water treatment stocks there, with a total market cap in excess of $50 billion, according to Jim Rogers, author of A Bull in China.

    China represents nearly 80% of sales. The rest comes mainly from Singapore. The CEO, Olivia Lum, owns about 30% of the stock. She founded the company back in 1989, when it was just a little trading company selling water treatment systems throughout Asia. It’s now a company worth over $1 billion. Someday it could be worth many times that. I’m not recommending Hyflux in C&C ’s portfolio, but I point it out as another opportunity in Singapore.

    The old trading post dreamed up by Raffles continues to be a hotbed of international trade. The Port of Singapore, after all, is the world’s largest. But it’s also become a private banking boomtown and a hub of the growing water sector. Western countries could learn a thing or two about how to get rich by studying Singapore’s playbook. And investors ought to take a look at putting money to work in Singapore.

    Raffles, I think, would be pleased.

    Chris Mayer
    for The Daily Reckoning Australia

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