Getting an Overseas Property Loan in Singapore: A Complete Guide

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I get increasingly more questions from foreigners who look for financing overseas, might it be for purchases in the country where the loan is obtained, or elsewhere. Often, the buyers have sufficient with cash, but don’t want to put a big chunk of money in one investment.

There are countries in Asia that offer overseas property loans, one of the most popular ones is Singapore. I will continue writing about how you can get overseas property loans in Asian countries, but let’s start and have a look how it works when obtaining one in Singapore.

What is an overseas property loan?

If you’re a Singapore citizen or a permanent resident foreigner in Singapore, you can apply for a so called overseas property loan. Not all banks offer the loans, but you’ll find a handful of banks who do.

Simply put, overseas property loans are designed for investors who wish to buy property in another country, the banks normally offer the loans for purchases in a limited amount of developed countries, or sometimes even cities.

As a start, you can apply for the loan in your country of residence, but your main contact will be with a local branch in the country where you plan to buy.

Which banks offer overseas property loans in Singapore?

As mentioned above, not all banks in Singapore offer overseas property loans, a reason why I’ve written this guide. I’ve personally been in contact with some of the banks below, to understand what regulations and conditions that apply when applying for a loan.

Let’s have a look what the big banks in Singapore have to offer.

1. Citibank

Citibank is one of the biggest banks in the world, it was founded in New York in 1812 and has almost 2700 branches in 19 countries, including Singapore. So does Citibank offer overseas property loans in Singapore?

According to Citibank’s website, they currently don’t offer the loans to either Singaporeans or foreigners. I decided to contact them personally to find out if this is true.

Citibank confirmed by phone that they don’t offer overseas property loans at the moment.

2. UOB (United Overseas Bank)

UOB was founded in 1935 in Singapore and is one of the biggest banks in Asia, where it serves most of its clients. Still, the bank has offices in more than 19 locations and a preferred choice for many investors who look for overseas property loans.

Countries and cities served

-Australia: Sydney, Melbourne, Perth

-Japan: Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka

-Thailand: Bangkok & selected upcountry locations

-Malaysia: Klang Valley, Penang, Johor Bahru

Notice that different conditions apply, depending on where you buy. For example, in London your sole purpose should be an investment, while in Thailand, you can also use the property as owner occupied. Your choice of exchange rates also differs depending on where you buy.

To read about the conditions in detail, I recommend you to visit UOB’s website.

Property types

-London: Residential

-Malaysia: Residential and commercial properties

-Australia: Residential

-Japan: Residential

-Thailand: Residential freehold condos

-Singapore: Residential and commercial properties

Financing

-London: Up to 70% in SGD or GBP

-Australia: Up to 70% in SGD or AUD

-Japan: Up to 70% in SGD or JPY

-Thailand: Up to 70% in SGD or USD

-Malaysia: Up to 80% in SGD

-Singapore: Up to 80% in SGD

3. Maybank

Maybank is the biggest bank in Malaysia and one of the biggest in Southeast Asia. The bank was founded in 1960 and has offices in the US, the UK, Bahrain and Pakistan.

According to Maybank’s website, they offer overseas property loans to Singaporeans and foreign permanent residents who wish to buy property in a handful of countries.

You can read about the general requirements on Maybank’s website, but I decided to contact them personally to confirm whether the information is up to date and to see if I can find more valuable information. Below I’ve included some key info.

Countries and cities served

-The UK: London.

-Australia: Sydney, Melbourne, Perth

-Malaysia: Johor Bahru, Penang, Melaka, Kuala Lumpur

Property types

Residential properties for individuals, the condition applies for both the UK, Australia and Malaysia

Financing

-London: Up to 80%, currency in SGD or GBP

-Malaysia: Up to 70%, currency in SGD

-Australia: Up to 70%, currency in AUD or SGD

4. OCBC (Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation)

OCBC was established in Singapore in 1932 and is one of the biggest banks in Asia. It mainly serves countries in Southeast Asia and East Asia, but also has branches in Australia, the UK and United States.

The company offers overseas property loans to both Singaporean citizens and foreigners who are permanent residents in Singapore.

Countries and cities served

-UK: London

-Australia: Melbourne, Perth, Sydney

-Japan: Tokyo

-United States: New York

-Malaysia: Not stated, but based on other research, the cities served are normally Johor Bahru, Penang, Melaka, Kuala Lumpur.

Property types

-Tokyo: Selected projects under construction

-Australia: Completed and projects under construction

-New York: Completed and projects under construction

-London: Completed and projects under construction

-Malaysia: Completed and projects under construction

Financing

-Tokyo: Min. SGD 200,000 / JPY 25,000,000, Max. 60% (SGD) / 70% (JPY)

-London: Min. SGD 300,000 / GBP 200,000, Max. 50% (SGD) / 65% (GBP)

-Australia: Min. SGD 300,000 / AUD 200,000, Max. 60% (SGD) / 70% (AUD)

-New York: Min. SGD 300,000 / USD 200,000, Max. 70% (SGD) / 70% (USD)

-Malaysia: Min. SGD 200,000 / AUD 200,000, Max. 60%

5. DBS (The Development Bank of Singapore)

DBS is one of the biggest banks in Asia and mainly operates in Singapore and Hong Kong. They also have offices in China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the UK, US, Vietnam and Thailand for example.

I’ve been in contact with DBS, trying to get more information (than what’s stated on their website) about the overseas property loans offered. Unfortunately, the information I got was limited as they can only provide information to DBS clients.

Countries and cities served

-The UK: London, zone 1

-Australia: Sydney, Melbourne, Perth

Property types

-Australia: Completed and projects under construction

-London: Completed and projects under construction

Financing

-Australia: Minimum SGD 300,000 or its equivalent in AUD, Maximum 75%

-London: Minimum SGD 300,000 or its equivalent in AUD, Maximum 75%

6. CIMB (Commerce International Merchant Bankers)

CIMB was established in 2006 in Malaysia, it was previously called Bumiputra-Commerce Holdings Berhad). The bank is one of the biggest in the region, you’ll be able to find overseas property loans at CIMB Singapore.

Countries and cities served

-The UK: London

-Australia: Perth, Sydney, Melbourne

Property types

Residential properties in the above mentioned countries.

Financing

-London: Minimum SGD 300,000 / GBP 200,000, Maximum 70% (SGD or GBP)

-Australia: Minimum SGD 300,000 / AUD 250,000, Maximum 70% (SGD or AUD)

Additional requirements

In addition to the above mentioned requirements, you also need to earn more than SGD 120,000/year if you buy in the UK and SGD 60,000/year if you buy in Australia.

Loan tenures

Loan tenures vary and are generally stricter compared to regular house loans for domestic buyers, where the terms can reach up to 35 years. The tenures for overseas property loans are usually between 5 – 25 years, but can be up to 35 years in some cases.

Age of applicant

The following requirements nromally apply to property buyers:

a. You need to be at least 21 years old to apply for an overseas property loan

b. You can be maximum 60-70 years old when the loan tenure expires

In the case of Malaysia for example, you can be maximum 60 years old when the loan tenure expires, if the property is under construction. Keep in mind that non-resident foreigners can generally only buy off-plan properties in Australia.

What documents do I need when applying?

Different requirements might apply depending on which banks you choose, below I’ve listed some standard documents you need to bring:

a. Loan application form

b. Copy of your passport

c. Pay slips (the last 3-6 months) or employment letter and bank statement (latest 3 months). If you’re self-employed, other conditions apply

d. Copy of Property Purchase Agreement (for new purchase)

e. Loan Statement from Existing Bank/Financial Institution – Latest 12 months (for refinancing)

f. 2 years income tax statement if you’re self-employed

g. Reservation form / Contract for sale

Be sure to contact each bank individually to confirm what they require for you to apply for a loan.

What is LTV (Loan To Value) ratio?

Loan To Value (referred to as LTV) is one of the most important and common terms when discussing property financing and mortgages. So what is LTV?

LTV compares the appraised value (or just the property value) to the value of the mortgage. Simply put, it’s the value that a bank can grant you in loans.

Let me give you an example:

Let’s say that Joanna wants to buy an apartment that has appreciated SGD 100,000 in total. She wishes to obtain a loan with a value of SGD 80,000 to buy the apartment. The LTV can be calculated as follows:

Mortgage / Appraised value = 80,000 / 100,000 = 0,8 (80%)

Hence, a low LTV ratio tells the bank that the equity built up in the property is high and that your debt obligation is low, and you’re a less risky customer to take on. The LTV value is crucial when determining how much a buyer needs to pay in interest rates (for more information about interest rates, refer to a later section in this article).

There are a number of other factors that will determine the LTV ratio, for example, the age of the borrower, the loan tenure, if the applicant has other outstanding loan, his or her income and more.

When it comes to Australia, some people prefer to take on a local mortgage due to the higher LTV accepted. Even if the interest rates are higher, many people prefer to pay higher rates on a monthly basis and reduce the down payment.

What LTV ratios are generally accepted by Singaporean banks?

Singaporean banks generally accept an LTV ratio of 60-80% for domestic buyers, while the rates usually go down to 50-70% for overseas property purchases. Hence, banks will provide less money if you buy property overseas compared to buying property in Singapore.

What is TDSR (Total Debt Servicing Ratio)?

TDSR is also referred to as Financial commitment to income ratio, it’s used to determine your capabilities to repay a loan on a monthly basis.

When calculating the TDSR, you simply divide your monthly debt obligation with your monthly gross income, the rate should generally not exceed 60% if you’re an employee and 70% if you have your own business.

What loan currency should I choose?

If you buy property in Australia and the UK, you often have the option to choose to pay in SGD or in a local currency (AUD or GBP). Generally, it’s appreciated to choose the local currency, there’s one major reason for this: If the local currency depreciates to the SGD, the value of your house will go down.

In that scenario, some banks might even require that you pay for the difference in cash.

Interest rates for overseas property loans

Interest rates differ due to a number of factors, for example, the currency of the loan and the value of it.

Rates usually stretch between 3-4%, which is significantly higher compared to domestic purchases. The rates can be even higher depending on the buyer and where the procurement takes place.

For precise information, I recommend you to contact the banks directly, as interest rates change on a continuous basis.

How is the process when applying for an overseas property loan in Singapore?

It’s important that you understand the complete process when applying for a loan, to avoid unforeseen pitfalls. Below I’ve explained the process, step by step.

Get an In-Principal-Approval (IPA)

First of all, you need to secure your finances and don’t commit to a purchase you won’t be able to afford. Paying an initial deposit and later find out that you won’t be able to finish the deal is a waste of both time and money.

Hence, you should first contact a handful of banks and get an In-Principal-Approval, to assure that you’re backed financially. The IPA will be shown as a minimum amount you’re able to borrow.

Sign the Sales & Purchase Agreement (SPA)

When you’ve secured your finances and found a property, it’s time to come up with an initial deposit. The rates differ but usually set to 10%. By paying the initial deposit, you’ve officially booked the property and can proceed to signing the SPA. Be sure to work with a reputable Solicitor who can review the terms and conditions included.

Banks can often introduce you to solicitors, sometimes, they even have in-house solicitors. But working with an individual solicitor can also be beneficial, to avoid any bias and to assure that he or she serves you in the best way.

The Solicitor should also help you with communication with the seller’s side and the bank.

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