Decoupling Landed Property Singapore – Why is it challenging ?

Decoupling landed property

Table of Contents

But first what is decoupling property ?

Decoupling property is a commonly used method that property owners utilised to purchase their second property without ABSD. 

It entails the internal sale of shares between joint owners, with one owner buying over the share of the other. This frees up the name of one owner from the existing property ownership, to purchase the second property without ABSD. 

The common motivation that trigger a landed property owner to consider decoupling

Aside from the motivation to purchase a second property for investment without ABSD. Landed property seeks to decouple for the following reasons as well. 

Succession planning

Instead of buying a property under trust, which will require the property to be paid in cash with a 65% refundable ABSD payable upfront. 

Locking in the purchase of a private condo using a spouse name via decoupling would be a much more capital efficient option. There will be no need to fork out 65% ABSD upfront and the option of financing the property via a loan, based on your spouse income will be available. 

Retirement

Some landed property owners would be planning ahead for their future retirement. Given that the current landed property is still being occupied by their children, they would want to lock in the purchase of a 2nd private property that they will eventually retire into. 

Quick intro – Decoupling Expertise

Quick introduction, before you decide to commit the next 5mins reading this article.

We are decoupling expertise, a team of specialist realtor that specialise in helping Singapore property owners derive the best strategy to purchase their second investment property without ABSD.

While decoupling property is often the go-to strategy that property owners adopt. We pride ourselves for helping our client explore and evaluate other alternatives that best suit individual circumstances and objectives. 

Drop us a text to explore the best strategy to minimise ABSD on your next property purchase.

The unique challenges associated with decoupling landed property

The general process of decoupling a landed property is similar to the process of decoupling a private property. 

But having consulted several clients and readers who are landed property owners, we realise that they are unique challenges encountered when decoupling a landed property. 

Challenges includes

  • High buyer stamp duty to be incurred 
  • High loan quantum to be shouldered solely by spouse taking over share 
  • Issue of trust over ownership is heightened

High Buyer Stamp Duties

Buyer stamp duty is a cost to be incurred as part of the decoupling process. It will be levied on the valuation of the share to be transferred from one joint owner to the other. 

Rates of buyer stamp duty as follow

Property price or market value, whichever is higherBSD rate
First S$180,0001%
Next S$180,0002%
Next S$640,0003%
Next S$500,0004%
Next S$1.5 million5%
Remaining amount6%

A private property is typically valued between $1.5 mil to $2.5 mil, while a landed property is valued anywhere between $3.0 mil to $7.0 mil. 

Assuming a 50-50 share ownership, the internal sale and purchase of 50% share ($3.0 mil) in a $6.0 mil property would result in higher buyer stamp duty, amounting to $119,600.

As compared to decoupling a $2.0 mil private condo, the internal sale and purchase of 50% share, valued at $1.0mil will only amount to $24,600.

High loan quantum to be shouldered solely by spouse taking over share 

As part of the decoupling process, the party buying over share from the other joint owner would need to take up an enlarged loan quantum solely under his or her name. 

The enlarged loan will encompass the owner’s share of the current outstanding loan and the new loan taken to finance the internal share transfer. 

Referencing the same example of decoupling a $6.0 mil landed property, assuming there is an outstanding loan of $1.0 mil. 

The party buying over share from the other party will be looking at the following new loan quantum

  • 50% of existing loan – $500,000
  • 75% of spouse share ($3.0 mil) – $2,250,000
  • New loan – $2,750,000 

The party taking over share must have the financial eligibility to support a $2.75 mil loan. 

Issue of trust over ownership is heightened

Assuming a couple decouple a $6.0 mil landed property to purchase another $2.0 mil 3 bedroom private condo as second property. 

And given both parties contributed equally to both properties, the party holding on to the lower value property will be concern over his or her ownership in the higher valued landed property in the unfortunate case of a divorce. 

Addressing this topic we have written a separate article on “What happen if divorce after decoupling property

The cost of decoupling landed property

Putting the parts together, let’s account for the total cost involved in decoupling a landed property. 

Rehashing the context

  • $6.0 mil landed property
  • 50 – 50 ownership
  • Outstanding loan – $1.0 mil

Cost of decoupling

  • Buyer stamp duty – $119,600
  • Decoupling lawyer fee – $6,500
  • Valuation fee – $600

Decoupling Legal fee tends to be slightly higher for landed property, due to its higher valuation, which in turn requires a higher cost for professional indemnity insurance to be incurred by lawyer.

For full calculation and to work out funds required to decouple a landed property refer to our decoupling calculator.

When you should not decouple a landed property ?

When you are decoupling to purchase a second property of a much lower valuation.

So there is a high chance that the cost savings from purchasing a lower value property I.e a one bedroom apartment priced at $800k may not be significantly more than the cost of decoupling a $6 mil landed.

When you plan to sell your landed property within the next 3 years.

One aspect that is often neglected is that after the decoupling process the seller stamp duty cooling period for your landed property is renewed.

You will have to wait for another 3 years to be free from any seller stamp duty when you sell your property.

When your landed property has a short remaining lease.

Assuming you do not own a freehold landed property, you may not want to decouple and retain the current landed property, given concern over lease decay.

Alternative to consider for landed property owner beside decoupling 

Aside from decoupling landed property owner could also consider the following alternatives to avoid the cost of decoupling 

Preparation you can make for decoupling if you have yet to purchase your landed property.

Structuring ownership under a 99-1 tenancy in common structure 

Assuming you have not purchase your landed property and is planning to purchase one.

One advance preparation your can take to lay the ground work on future decoupling is to structure share ownership with one party holding 99% share and the other holding 1% share.

This provide opportunity for future decoupling 99-1, which will help greatly reduce buyer stamp duty incurred as stamp duty is only levied on 1% share to be transferred.

Consider decoupling before making any asset enhancement 

If possible avoid major reconstruction that can significantly increase the valuation of the property before decoupling.

Especially for property owners purchasing a landed property for its land and looking to reconstruct it for a higher value sale.

It could be worth exploring if you can decouple first before increasing the valuation of the property. This should help reduced the cost of buyer stamp duty to be incurred.

More relevant reads relevant to decoupling landed property 

Related to decoupling cost and processes

Related to decoupling lawyers and legal concerns

Decoupling FAQ

Alternative to Decoupling 

Author

  • Jue Wen

    Jue Wen is the content marketing lead. This means he spend his waking hours researching and writing all things real estate. He believes life is a hustle and there is no joy in grinding away daily in our little rat races. He believes making wise moves in real estate investment can be a game changer. Aside from writing all things real estate, you can find him in your nearest bouldering gym.

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Jue Wen

Author

Jue Wen is the property analyst and content marketing lead at decoupling expertise.
He specialises in helping clients overcome the complexities involved in owning their second private property in Singapore.
He had over 10 years of experience in real estate investing and have written over 40 detail guides on decoupling and minimising ABSD. He is a licensed real estate consultant and holds a Bachelor degree in Business Management from the Nanyang Technological University.

Kenji

Co-Author

Kenji is the Group Division Director of ERA Realty Network.
He have got over 20 years of experience in real estate and have successfully helped over 50 couples purchased their second property. He specialises in helping client achieve the best approach towards acquiring their ideal investment properties while minimising ABSD.