Guide to Rebuilding Landed Properties for Private Home Owners
Updated: Aug 10
Buying land to rebuild a home is a tricky scenario as it involves a lot of prior planning. This might result in the case where you have bought land where the result is a less than available area for rebuilding. As a private owner, it is very challenging in sourcing the right landed property contractor in Singapore.
Fret not! This guide will help you to plan your steps moving forward! As always, consult a qualified land surveyor/builder before finalizing any paperwork.
The entire guide will be broken down in various steps, which I believe makes the most sense sequentially.
It starts with planning out your budget financially for the purchase of the land, followed by choosing the right land based on your criteria for rebuilding (i.e. legal requisitions, building setbacks, etc), and ending with the estimated cost for your rebuilding project.
At the end of every step will be an important pointer that is often overlooked by both buyers and agents.
If you have not yet purchased your future home, click here to see how I can assist you.
If you are looking to sell your landed property, click here to see what are the common challenges and what I can do to help you.
If you require a qualified builder for your redevelopment, reconstruction, A&A works or landed renovation, do contact me for a referral to partners that I have worked with previously. These partners are experts in their craft and have their works featured on CNA and Singapore Tatler!
Step 1: Work out what you can/cannot buy
I’m not referring to your budget here, but it is more in regards to your purchasing capacity for restricted properties. If you are a local Singaporean, most of this will be a non-issue. As there are no restrictions in the kind of landed property that you can buy.
Under the Residential Property Act, there are restrictions set in place for a foreign person.
A foreign person means any person who is not any of the following:
Singapore limited liability partnership; or
If you are a foreign person, you will not be able to purchase the following properties:
Vacant residential land;
Terrace house; Semi-detached house;
Strata landed house which is not within an approved condominium development under the planning act
Place of worship; and
Worker’s dormitory/service apartments/boarding house (not registered under the provisions of the hotels act)
To further clarify, being a Singapore PR still means that you are not able to purchase a restricted property.
However, you are still able to purchase a restricted property with the relevant application to the Land Dealings Approval Unit (LDAU) from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).
A single application (e.g. Husband and wife applying jointly is still considered a sole applicant) will cost you around 1220 SGD per property.
Before applying, you should fulfil these criteria, up to the LDAU’s discretion:
You should be a permanent resident of Singapore for at least five years; and;
You must make an exceptional economic contribution to Singapore. This is assessed taking into consideration factors such as your employment income assessable for tax in Singapore.
Point to note:
It is best to secure approval to purchase of restricted property early, before paying option fees. to prevent any unnecessary delays.
If you are planning to proceed without an application, never under any circumstances, exclude the following clause.
“The sale and purchase herein is subject to the Purchaser obtaining the Land Dealings (Approval) Unit’s approval for the purchase of the said property. PROVIDED always that the Purchaser shall make the necessary application for the approval within fourteen (14) days from the Date of Acceptance of this Option; otherwise, the entire deposit shall be forfeited to the Vendor arising from the refusal. (Applicable only to “foreign person” purchasing restricted property as defined in the Residential Property Act (Cap. 274) and/or the Companies Act (Cap 50).”
This allows you an escape in the case where approval is rejected so that the Sale & Purchase document is made null and void and all monies paid (incl. interest) will be refunded to you. However, you are still required to submit the application within fourteen working days of option acceptance.
Send all enquiries to:
Land Dealings Approval Unit
Singapore Land Authority
55 Newton Road
#12-01 Revenue House
Step 2: Total Budget
You will want to avoid embarrassing moments in regard to the amount of monies to be spent. If you are paying cash, take note of the following payments for real estate:
Price of property
Cash or CPF monies usage?
1st Property loan or 2nd Property loan?
Buyers Stamp Duty/Additional Buyers Stamp Duty (ABSD) (If Applicable)
Sellers Stamp Duty (If Applicable)
The above mentioned is involving solely just real estate matters, since you are interested in looking at rebuilding, it is wise to factor in these costs too. Your construction project varies and it is wise to source for a reliable landed property contractor in Singapore.
I have encountered numerous occasions where clients were not properly advised on the total construction costs involved, and had to be heavily financed.
This is an overview of construction costs includes, but not limited to:
Rebuilding, Reconstruction, Addition, and Alteration works
Land surveyor fees (Topographical Survey, soil test, etc)
Lease extension to SLA (If Applicable)
Submission of planning permission to authorities (i.e. URA)
My previous articles on landed properties describe in great detail on the financial requirement of living in landed property, it should be useful in aiding you in planning out your next step.
Step 3: Rebuilt size
Having a budget in mind helps to narrow down the search. Are you thinking about rebuilding a bungalow on where previously a bungalow was once on? Or are you thinking about rebuilding an apartment stack where a semi-detached home was once on? Having a rough idea on the rebuilt size now will save you the agony of locating a suitable land size to rebuilt landed properties on, but later dismayed by restrictions on legal restrictions (more on this point later).
Point to note:
You might be familiar with the terms “Built-in” and “Built-up”. This are usually marketing terms used by real estate developers or real estate agents in selling the properties.
It generally refers to the same idea, which is the saleable area of a property, which includes voids, balconies, car porches, patio, and swimming pools. The only difference is in regards to its state of completion, completed or not, respectively.
However, the term Gross Floor Area (GFA) should be used instead in terms of rebuilding. This is the only official term recognized by Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) & Building & Construction (BCA).
Also, there might be real estate agents in the market that will promote the calculating of the gross floor area by multiplying the plot ratio with the land area. This is incorrect and will most likely give a very vague number in regards to the total GFA. It should not be used in a landed housing area.
I'll provide more details on how to accurately calculate the potential GFA in the steps below.
Step 4: Master the Master Plan
The Master Plan helps to constantly rejuvenate Singapore as a small city-state, and it strongly relates back to managing land space in the present, to provide a promising future for Singaporeans. A holistic pillars, Sustainability social and environment guides our urban development.
In my opinion, landed residential properties do not contribute much in regards to economic drive, as rarely they are the 1st wave driving Singapore’s economy. Businesses are usually the key drivers of the economy. However, they contribute strongly to the social and environmental pillars.
The social aspects are that it provides Singaporeans a key drive and motivation towards a better standard of living, as private housing is generally perceived to be the new gold standard of affluent living.
The environmental aspects protect the landscape of Singapore, as a city in a garden, this provides a calmer as compared with other megacities that are devoid of greenery.
A combination of these 3 pillars provides long term sustainability in making Singapore a great place to live work and play in, which is URA’s tagline!
You might be wondering; how will this affect you? Take a look at the following image.
The control plan shows areas that are clearly demarcated into landed zones (red areas), this means that even with rebuilding, it means that the land area can only be redeveloped into the same type of housing.
On the left side of the control plan, however, are landed properties that are not protected from the redevelopment. Some plots are significantly larger than their residing ones, which will most likely mean that apartment blocks or condos were redeveloped there.
There are no clearly defining rules on which is a better area to purchase in, as non-protected areas can usually lead to a collective sale. Just do exercise caution and not buy into any property!
A protected area over time, however, rewards diminishing supply of landed homes and scarcity with great capital appreciation.
Step 5: Legal Restrictions
The Singapore government understands that having the title of owning a landed property carries a lot of weight, and it is meaningless if these properties fall into haphazard standards, which can potentially lead to price stagnation or devaluation. This results in strict control measures, which is to your long-term benefit.
This is the meat of the article, and will require plenty of concentration! However, I’ll attempt to make it as simple to understand as possible. I’ll first address the parameters for the different housing forms (Development Control Parameters), followed by how much land area you can occupy (landed residential property setbacks), and ending by how high you can build upwards (envelope control guidelines).
Development Control Parameters
Every housing type has its own restrictions, ignore the setback controls for now. This will be explained in the following points.
Minimum Plot Size (M2): The minimal size of the land to classify as that housing type.
Minimum Width (M): How wide the plot of land must be to classify as that housing type. Plot width is considered along the main road which the plot is facing.
Minimum Depth (M): How deep the plot of land must be to classify as that housing type. Plot depth is considered against the main road which the plot is facing.
Point to note:
Be careful when looking for a GCB plot of land as many real estate agents will market big plots of land that are close to 15,000 sqft as one. It is best to get your own surveyor to account for the actual size of the land before having a signed contract.
In addition to fulfilling the land area requirement, GCB land will need to be located within a GCB Housing area, and meet all the requirements as mentioned above.
Landed Residential Property Setbacks
Landed residential property setbacks refer to the metric distance between the end of your purchased land area, to the point where you are able to start building works.
These setbacks have three tiers, Tier 1 which has the highest authority which overrides the following tiers. The following infographic summarises neatly on this.
Tier 3: Typical Setbacks
Typical setbacks are general guidelines in which landed properties in Singapore should follow. Ignore the descriptions of road categories for now. It will be elaborated in detail later.
At a glance, you will have noticed that most of the housing types rely on standard setbacks of 7.4m (Front) and 2.2m (Side and back). The main difference will be for the GCB housing types, where the setbacks from side and back are 3m. Take note of the green buffer, which is a requirement to protect the natural landscape of the landed housing area. This will be counted into the overall road buffer.
Tier 2: Road Categories
Road categories are above in importance to the typical setbacks. Most land will be residing to at most, a minor arterial road. This fits most typical setbacks of 7.5 meters.
Point to note:
Note that this road buffer usually is in relation to the front setback. However, it also applies to the side and back setbacks, which might be less common. Take this into consideration before purchasing a plot of land.
The road categories can be seen from Road Line Plans, and these can be obtained for current valid cadastral lots in either PDF or CAD format at SLA’s Integrated Land Information Service (INLIS) portal.
Tier 1: Street Block Plan
This ranks as the most important tier and overrides tier 2 and 3. Before purchasing any land, have a look at URA Street Block Plans for any updates on road reserves. A good example is shown here with updated lines of road reserves, which might not necessarily be reflected on the ground when surveying.
Point to note:
There are times when the street block plan might have not been enforced on the neighboring properties as these have already been constructed, and some leeway was given. However, for every new rebuilding project these will have to follow the street block plans line of road reserve and rarely will there be a successful appeal.
The potential build-up of your new landed property will be affected due to the location and alignment of the public sewers. To ensure that you will not overlook this matter, you can purchase the Sewerage Information Plan (SIP) here. Should there indeed be a sewer line running below your property, you will need to construct protection of the Public Sewerage system, called an RC trench. This trench construction will be around $20k.
Envelope Control Guidelines
Although houses are allowed to be built higher in the past, this does not mean present-day guidelines are more restrictive. There is a greater degree of flexibility to which houses can be built.
Here are the following changes as of 11 May 2015;
Roofs no longer need to be pitched
Mezzanine floors allowed, no floor-height restrictions but houses must fit envelope (overall) height
12m for two-story houses