This Calculator assumed the owernship of a common property by a couple or 2 co-owners by tenancy in common. The aim is to work out the best scenario for the purchase of next property with minimum overall stamp duties payable. Decoupling may not be the best solution for mutiple assets owner.
Items you will need before you start:
- Valuation of your property
- Age and Monthly income (From Notice of Assessment) – to calculate loan
- CPF OA Balance and CPF Used (From CPF Website)
- Age of property since purchase date
1) Citizens of the USA, Citizens & Permanent Residents of Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland shall be treated the same as Singapore Citizens due to FTA agreement.2) The comparisons are based purely on the total stamp duties payable for each scenario. There may be other factors constitute to the best option. For more detailed discussion, please contact us at +65 91385008
While all reasonable care was undertaken to ensure accuracy of the information and calculation, the agent and his agency will not be held responsible for any discrepancy. For feedback, please contact James Lim at (+65)9138 5008 or via email [email protected]
The Article to Read Before You Decide to Decouple
Let’s be honest: you are here because you and your partner are looking to buy another property but you are trying as hard as you can to avoid having to fork out a sum of money for the dreaded Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty—a tax that s levied on property buyers.
Judging by how “How can I avoid paying ABSD” is a commonly searched up question on Google, it is no wonder “decoupling” has been (and continues to be) a buzzword in the property world. While the term is often thrown around when it comes to property ownership, not many have a clear idea about what it is exactly, and what it entails.
This article covers everything you need to know about decoupling. You will learn about the who, what, where, when, and how of this buzzword. At the end of it, you can make a more informed decision on whether or not you should decouple!
What is decoupling?
To fully understand what decoupling means, let’s go back to the basics to look at the dictionary definition of the word. According to the dictionary, to decouple is to separate, disengage, or dissociate (something) from something else.
At its core, that is exactly what decoupling in the property market means—it is to divide the shared ownership of a property between a couple. Decoupling property is a legal exercise whereby you sell your share in the private property to your spouse.
Ownership of the title is then legally transferred and the property becomes solely owned. This also means that mortgage payments would become solely taken up by one instead of split between two. To accomplish this, couples have to sign and submit an instrument in the requisite forms prepared by lawyers to the Singapore Land Authority.
Here, it is important to note that there is a distinction to be made between decoupling for HDB flats and decoupling for private properties—for married couples, only private properties can be jointly owned and subsequently decoupled. Married couples are not allowed to decouple their HDB flat. Decoupling for a HDB flat is only allowed for buy over from an ex-spouse or for the transfer of the flat between family members.
Why, the double standard, you ask? Because the HDB ownership transfer rule was tightened in 2016 after it was found that many HDB homeowners were abusing it. Subsequently, only transfers under six special cases: marriage, divorce, death of an owner, financial complications, renunciation of citizenship and medical reasons were allowed.
Why do people want to decouple?
As mentioned earlier, the main motivation for people looking to decouple is to avoid having to pay fees like the ABSD.
For the uninitiated, ABSD is a tax that’s levied on top of Buyer’s Stamp Duty (a tax that property buyers have to pay when they buy a property), and it’s computed based on the valuation or the selling price of the property, whichever is higher. ABSD was first introduced in 2011 to manage the surge in demand for property and to keep housing prices affordable for Singaporeans.
ABSD applies differently to different groups of people according to nationality and residency status. Here is a brief breakdown:
- Singapore Citizens: ABSD will be levied on the second (12%) and subsequent property purchases
- Singapore Permanent Residents (PRs): ABSD will be levied on all purchases. The first purchase will be 5% while second and subsequent purchases will be 15%
- Foreigners: 20% ABSD for any property purchase
- Entities (companies or associations): 25% for each property
To demonstrate, let’s say you’re a Singaporean citizen who is buying a $1 million property. You will be subjected to 12% ABSD.
The ABSD amount that you’ll need to pay is $1 million x 12% = $120,000.
With that said, decoupling is then a strategy that people use to avoid having to pay ABSD. In other words, the rule is to decouple, and purchase a property as your ‘first’ property again.
How much does it cost to decouple?
If decoupling will most definitely help a couple to save money, there would be no need to discuss this, and no need for the tons of articles debating on whether or not to decouple. The truth is, the process of decoupling incurs multiple costs.
Legal documents need to be prepared to handle the purchase of property and transfer of ownership. The buyer will have to pay for the conveyancing fees. On the other hand, the seller needs to engage a lawyer to handle the transfer and sale of their share of the property. Typically, the two sets of lawyers would set you back $6,000 to $7,000.
Buyer Stamp Duty
Buyer’s Stamp Duty is tax paid on the acceptance of Option to Purchase (OTP) / Sale & Purchase Agreements (S&P). These are documents (i.e. OTP or S&P) that are prepared and signed when you buy or sell your property. Despite having part of the ownership of a property, the buyer would still have to buy for Buyer Stamp Duty during the decoupling process.
Seller Stamp Duty
If decoupling is done within the first three years of the property purchase, you’ll need to consider Seller Stamp Duty—12% of the price on the first year, 8% on the second year, and 4% on the third year. To avoid this, couples would wait for at least three full years before decoupling.
Penalties for Pre-payment
As strange as it sounds, this is a penalty for trying to pay off your home loan early. In the first three years, many home loans impose prepayment or early redemption penalties for homebuyers. This usually works out to 1.5% of the amount being prepaid. Be sure to check the terms and conditions of your home loan to avoid this additional fee.
When you sell a property, you must return the amount you used from CPF with accrued interest when you sell the property. What this means is that you could end up with zero cash on hand. Worst still, your cash might end up being locked up in CPF and you will not have enough cash on hand to finance for your next property.
Two tips people wish they knew before decoupling
If you’ve been zoning out, here’s where you need to start paying attention. There have been many real estate regrets that people have. Many times, couples regret decoupling. Here are some things people wish they knew before they jumped straight into the decoupling process.
1. The cost of decoupling may add up to cost more than ABSD
When the costs of decoupling outweigh the ABSD cost, decoupling is not an economically viable option. This is especially so if the second property that you are buying is cheaper than the first. For a $1 million property, decoupling expenses can easily go up to $150,000 or more. In such cases, the 12% ABSD may be the better option. Furthermore, decoupling may not be the best solution for owners with multiple assets.
2. Calculation mistakes are common and very, very painful
Calculating the different amounts of ABSD based on your specific residential status and nationality can be a very stressful and confusing process. Mistakes are common! So, it is advised to engage a professional to handle the numbers for you.
Before you decide to decouple, consult a real estate agent or qualified financial advisor to work out your finances and options. Not only will they be able to decouple your properties to get the best returns, they will advise you on the best course of action for your specific situation.
If you’d like a simple yet comprehensive tool to work out the best scenario for the purchase of your next property with minimum overall stamp duties payable, download your free Decoupling Calculator and follow the steps.
When in doubt, always consult an expert!
Purchasing a property is a big decision and a milestone in one’s life. It is completely normal that you are looking for ways and strategies to cut costs as much as possible. While decoupling is a strategy that many people employ to reduce the cost of their investment, many others find that decoupling may instead incur more costs than just paying ABSD.
To avoid having to pay more or to go through the processes and paperwork associated with decoupling for nothing, make sure you consult a professional and do your calculations before deciding on decoupling.