Singapore: Breaking all records

Although Singapore will not be competing in this years World Cup after its defeat in the qualifying rounds, the South-East Asian country was home to the FIFA World Cup trophy when it toured 32 cities in 30 countries. The trophys two-day visit caused a stir and provided motivation for the defeated players.

Also causing a huge stir are the excellent economic opportunities coupled with reformed laws that will attract investors, and not just the trophy, to the sunny island. Boasting low tax rates, first class healthcare and a flourishing economy, the property market in Singapore is performing well, undaunted by the economic crisis in 1997.

Following a change in the law this year, foreigners now have the right to acquire property in Singapore without having to apply for approval from the authorities. Some of these properties include flats, units in approved condominium developments and lease- hold estates, including bungalows, semi-detached and terrace houses.

There was a slight slowdown in the property market after the 1996 peak, but it has stabilised in the past 10 years, producing healthy sustainable growth rates. Total investment sales for the first quarter of 2006 reached a S$5.7bn high. Experts are also expecting the eventual investment sales volume for 2006 to surpass, if not, match, the record set in 2005.

Developers in Singapore are out in full force, marketing every type of property, from designer apartments to condominiums. Compared to neighbouring Malaysia and Hong Kong, Singapore properties offer great value for money.

Investors looking to purchase property are drawn to Singapore because of its political stability and balance between city living and greenery. Many incentives have also been put in place to attract investors. These include reduced Stamp Duty, property purchases that include legal fees, and low cash down payments of 5%, reduced from the usual 10%.

Purchasers have also started looking to older properties where the savings on price can be spent on renovations. Older properties also have the benefit of being in greener areas. The future looks positive for the property market in Singapore and property laws that previously posed a problem for foreign investors without residency are now relaxed.

Michael Puhaindran is senior vice-president of legal and communications at GE Money (Singapore)