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  • Writer's pictureTimothy Tjendra

Buying and Rebuilding or A&A a Landed House in Singapore - All You Need to Know Guide!

Updated: Apr 8

Purchasing and rebuilding/A&A an old landed house can be a daunting task, but it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. I know this from personal experience as I recently embarked on a journey to find and rebuild my own house utilizing all the fengshui knowledge I learnt from Master Andrew Tan of the School of Chinese Metaphysic. The process was filled with challenges and obstacles, but it was also incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. I found that the process of buying and rebuilding/A&A a house is not as easy as it may seem, and resources that were truly helpful were hard to come by. This led me to join the real estate industry and create this platform, with the goal of helping others who may find themselves in similar situations.


In this guide, I will share some of my personal experience and the things you need to find out before buying and rebuilding or A&A a house. After reading through this guide, you'll have the knowledge and resources necessary to embark on a rebuilding or A&A project with confidence. I hope you'll learn valuable lessons and gain valuable tips that will help you navigate the entire process and ensure that your finished house is exactly what you envisioned. I'm always here to help if you need any advise!


Planning and Preparation


In Singapore, thorough planning and research before buying a landed property and starting a rebuilding or A&A project is even more crucial due to the high cost of land and construction. It is important to have a clear understanding of the regulations and guidelines set by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to ensure that the property you are going to buy does not come with any hidden problems.


Eligibility


The first step in this process is to determine your eligibility to purchase a property in Singapore. If you are a Singapore citizen, you are eligible to buy a landed property in Singapore.


If you are a foreigner, you need to make a relevant application to the Land Dealings Approval Unit (LDAU) from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) for approval before you are allowed to buy a landed property in Singapore. It is best to secure approval from LDAU before paying any option fee on the landed property. The general processing time for applications is one (1) month from the date all the relevant information required to process the application are received. Applications are to be submitted early as some applications may take longer to process. If no specific property has been identified yet, you should submit an application for in-principle approval at https://www.sla.gov.sg/ldau first.


The criteria for LDAU approval is assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration, including but not limited to, the following factors:

  • You should be a permanent resident of Singapore for at least five years; and

  • You must make exceptional economic contribution to Singapore. This is assessed taking into consideration factors such as your employment income assessable for tax in Singapore.

Foreigners are only allowed to buy landed property without LDAU approval if it is a strata landed house within an approved condominium.



Create a Budget and Timeline


Setting a realistic budget and timeline is essential for you to plan your finances and where to stay before the property is completed. Below I set out a list of items to budget for when buying and rebuilding or A&A a landed property:

  1. Price of Property

  2. Buyers Stamp Duty

  3. Additional Buyers Stamp Duty (ABSD) (If Applicable)

  4. Conveyance/Legal fees

  5. Agent fees

  6. Property tax

  7. Land surveyor fees (Topographical Survey, soil test, etc)

  8. Architect & Professional Engineer Fees

  9. Submission to Authorities Fees

  10. Rebuilding, Reconstruction, Addition and Alteration Cost

  11. Interior Design Cost

  12. Furniture and Electrical Appliances

  13. Miscellaneous Items and Buffer


The first item to budget for when purchasing property in Singapore is the price of the property itself. There are various types of landed property in Singapore with different size as shown below. Each have different requirements which will influence your final build up size. That being said, there are also the restrictions on how many levels you can build, despite knowing the built-up area of your property. The easiest way would be to go to URA Space website and enter in the particular postal code of the property you are looking at.



Your finances has a significant impact on the type of landed property you can purchase due to government regulations such as TDSR (Total Debt Servicing Ratio). Landed properties, such as terrace, semi-detached, and bungalow also come with varying price tags depending on factors such as location, size, and amenities. If your budget is limited, you may have to consider smaller or less luxurious properties in areas that are less expensive. On the other hand, if you have a larger budget, you may be able to afford a larger property with more features in a prime location. It is important to establish your finances before embarking on a property search to avoid wasting time looking at properties that are outside of your price range. Check out my article: "How Much You Need to Earn to Afford a Landed Property in Singapore?" for a more in-depth analysis on this topic.


Rebuild


Rebuilding is an option for those who are looking for a completely new and custom-built home. This option allows you to design and build your dream home from the ground up, giving you complete control over the layout, size, and features of your property. However, rebuilding can be a time-consuming and costly process, and it may not be the best option for those who are looking for a more affordable or quicker solution. Typically you would want to plan for around 1.5 to 2 years for the building to be completed.


If you want to consider this option, you should be looking for a single storey or double

storey landed home with the age of roughly about 25 years and older. They require immediate and extensive renovation including full teardowns and rebuilds the moment they are purchased. These properties are more suited for buyers who are particular about interior design, and want to design the architecture of the home according to their own preferences.


You would also need to budget for around $400 to $600 per square feet multiply by the buildup area for the construction cost of rebuilding a landed property depending on the quality of the material finishes you want in your house and the difficulty of the construction project.


A&A


A&A, or additions and alterations, is another option for those who are looking to make changes to an existing property. This option allows you to make changes to the existing structure of a property, such as adding rooms, renovating the kitchen or bathrooms, or making other changes to the layout. This can be a more affordable and quicker solution than rebuilding, but it may not be as flexible, and you will be limited by the existing structure of the property. Typically you would want to plan for around 6 to 12 months for the building to be completed depending on the amount of work to be done.


Please note your building proposals need to meet the following criteria to qualify as an Additions & Alterations (A&A) proposal:

  • Proposed additional gross floor area shall not exceed 50% of the approved gross floor area;

  • External walls that are to be removed and replaced with new walls shall not exceed 50% of the approved external walls;

  • Structural changes to the existing landed dwelling house (eg replacing or constructing new columns/beams and reconstructing existing floor slabs) shall not exceed 50% of existing building;

  • Changes/replacement of entire roof (with/without resultant increase in height) shall not involve an additional storey;

  • Where an attic is added, the increase in GFA shall be less than 50%.

Proposals that do not comply with the above criteria for Additions & Alterations shall be considered as Reconstruction (Rebuild) proposals. Works resulting in the following outcomes shall also be deemed as reconstruction, regardless of whether the works exceed 50% of the existing building GFA:

  • Increase in storey height (including changes/replacement of any part of the roof involving an additional storey)

  • Change in landed dwelling housing form (for example, from semi-detached house to detached house).

If you want to consider this option, you should be looking for a 2 to 3 storey landed home with the age of roughly 15 years to 25 years since anything older might have structural integrity issues. They likely require major renovation in the form of Addition and Alteration (A&A). These properties are more suited for buyers who are more budget conscious and would like to move into the property earlier than compared to a Rebuild project.


You would also need to budget for around $200 to $300 per square feet multiply by the buildup area for the A&A cost for a landed property.


Depending on what option you choose, the cost can be significantly different. If you want to compare among the different landed property options you can consider, check out my article: "How To Choose Between Landed Property Rebuild, A&A, Renovation or New Developer Sale?"


Title Searches Are Important Before Buying Landed Property


Unlike buying HDB flats and condominiums, landed property comes with land and this adds another factor to consider when buying landed property.


Land can come with easements and covenants that may restrict the use of the land. An example of an easement is giving of right of way. For example, if your property is the only route of access to another property, most likely the land title will have an easement that allows access to the second property. This would mean that there may be sections of your land that you may not build without consideration to the easement.


Understanding the limits of your land title is also crucial to avoid trespassing into other properties or state land. One example is the case of a couple who trespassed on state land for nearly 15 years.


While most landed properties come without land easements or covenants, your appointed lawyer should conduct due diligence on your behalf and highlight any issues.


Check Road Line Plan


Future road reserve alignments and widths are systematically safeguarded based on various land use and transport studies. The road safeguarding information is made available to the public through Road Line Plans, which show this information graphically using cadastral data from the Land Survey Division of the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).


Road Line Plans can be obtained for current valid cadastral lots in either PDF or CAD format at SLA’s Integrated Land Information Service (INLIS) portal: https://app.sla.gov.sg/inlis/#/LTA/RLP/Search



The main information shown on the Road Line Plan is:


  • Lines of Road Reserve (the continuous red lines)

  • Land Required as Road Reserve (the area coloured pink)

  • Road Names and Road Category


In the above sample, the Lines of Road Reserve cut the land lot MK72-03379K represented by the rectangular box in green border (P.S: the green border is for illustration only, on the actual RLP, there is no green border, just a black box with lot number). The Land Required for Road Reserve is shown by the pink-shaded portion between the red line and the plot boundary.


The portions of land which are required as Road Reserve are colored pink on the Road Line Plan. These portions of land are to be set aside when development/redevelopment takes place on the subject lots or when road construction/improvement is carried out by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), whichever is earlier.


You may engage a Registered Surveyor or a Qualified Person (an Architect/Professional Engineer) to advise you on the following:

  • Dimensions of the land required for Road Reserve

  • Areas of the land required for Road Reserve

  • On whether existing buildings are affected by the land required for Road Reserve

  • On whether the land required for Road Reserve has been taken into account during the development works


Note: Dimensions/areas are subject to final survey and acceptance by the Chief Surveyor.


Road Safeguarding Lines


Road Safeguarding Lines namely; Line of Road Reserve and Line of Tunnel Reserve have been prepared by the Land Transport Authority for practically all existing and future roads in Singapore.

  • Line of Road Reserve Continuous Red Lines on the Road Line Plan indicate safeguarded roads.

  • Line of Tunnel Reserve Broken Red Lines on the Road Line Plan for safeguard road tunnels such as Singapore Underground Road System (SURS), Central Expressway Road Tunnels, Fort Canning Road Tunnel and the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway Road Tunnels.

  • "There are no road safeguarding lines on the selected lot(s)" The above statement will be displayed on the Road Line Plan, if Road Safeguarding Lines do not cut the lots selected for by the applicant.


Land Required for Road Reserve


  • The portions of land which are required as Road Reserve are coloured pink on the Road Line plan. These portions of land are to be set aside when development/redevelopment* takes place on the subject lots or when road construction/improvement is carried out by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), whichever is earlier.

  • If the lots are to be developed/redeveloped*, the land required as Road Reserve shall be surrendered free of encumbrances to the State. They however, can be used for density/plot ratio calculations purposes.

  • Protrusions of existing buildings or structures into the land required as Road Reserve can be retained until they are required to be set aside when the development/redevelopment* of the subject lot takes place or until road construction/improvement is carried out by the LTA.


*Development/Redevelopment includes reconstruction, new erection proposals and major Additions & Alterations to existing buildings.


Road Categories


Roads in Singapore are classified into 5 categories as '1' to '5' or un-categorised roads (NCAT-non category). The purpose of the road categories is for the developer to establish the buffer requirements of proposed buildings from the road.


  • Category 1: Expressway forms the primary network where all long distance traffic movements should be directed. It is planned to optimise long distance mobility from one part of the island to another.

  • Category 2: Major Arterial predominantly carries through traffic from one region to another, forming principle avenues of communication for urban traffic movements. It interconnects expressways and minor arterial as well as with other major arterial roads.

  • Category 3: Minor Arterial distributes traffic within the major residential and industrial areas. It is planned to optimise circulation within the area and facilitate through traffic between adjacent towns.

  • Category 4: Primary Access forms the link between local accesses and arterial roads. It provides access to developments and through traffic is discouraged. However, where a development is also accessible by a local access road, the access shall be located at the local access road.

  • Category 5: Local Access gives direct access to buildings and other developments and should connect only with primary access.


Road Buffer & Building Setback


To understand the importance of Road Category, you need to know what is Road Buffer and Building Setback. Some people misunderstand road buffer to be same meaning as the Land Required for Road Reserve explained above. In fact, the two are very different. In Singapore, all developments are required to provide a buffer between the road reserve line and the building.


Setback controls of buildings from public roads are determined by the road buffer only. The minimum buffer width or setback of building depends on the hierarchy of the category of the road the site fronts. For roads that are not categorised, the minimum road buffer (i.e. 7.5m for residential developments) applies.


Building Setback for Terrace House

The building setback requirements for terrace house developments are as follows:





Building Setback for Semi-Detached

The building setback requirements for semi-detached developments are as follows:




Building Setback for Bungalow (or Detached)

The building setback requirements for bungalow developments are as follows:


Building Setback for bungalows within GCBA


Building Setback for bungalows outside GCBA




Envelope Control Guidelines



From 11 May 2015, landed housing shall follow the envelope control guidelines. The guidelines define an allowable building envelope based on storey height and building setbacks. The development shall not exceed the permissible building envelope as illustrated in figure above.


The new envelope control guidelines will simplify the existing guidelines and provide developers and homeowners more flexibility in the design of landed housing while safeguarding the low-rise character of landed housing estates.


The new guidelines adopt a volumetric approach, where the allowable building massing of landed houses is guided by the permissible building envelope. The latter serves as a three-dimensional limit within which a landed house can be designed. It is determined by a combination of setbacks from the road and common plot boundaries, as well as the allowable height for the house.


Building Height


Under the envelope control guidelines, the overall building height is based on the allowable number of storeys and the floor-to-floor height in metres. The figures below shows the envelope control for two and three-storey landed houses. They have an overall height of 12.0 m and 15.5 m for two and three-storey landed houses respectively, with the topmost floor being 3.5 m high and set back from the front and rear building facade as defined by the 45 degree line.


The figures below show the building envelope and the relationship between storey height and allowable building height in metres.

  • Landed housing shall not exceed the 2-storey or 3-storey height control, or the prescribed storey height as shown in the designated landed housing plan in the Master Plan, whichever is lower. This is to ensure that the height of the development is sympathetic to the existing character of landed housing in the neighbourhood.

  • The allowable building height is measured from the external platform level. If there is an existing level difference within the site, the allowable building envelope height may be taken separately from the two distinct platform levels.

  • Lift overrun and safety barriers at RC flat roofs may be considered up to 1m beyond the allowable building height.


2-storey Envelope Control landed housing

3-storey Envelope Control landed housing


Mezzanine floors


Mezzanine floors are no longer required to be kept to below 50% of a typical floor plate, and there are no restrictions on window openings on the front façade of the mezzanine floors.


Landed houses with mezzanine floors shall be designed within the permissible building envelope stipulated for the landed housing estate it is located in (ie maximum 12 m overall height for a designated two-storey landed housing estate and 15.5 m for a designated three-storey landed housing estate). The headroom proposed for each floor shall promote good internal spatial quality for residential living.


Attics


An attic is an incidental space that may be allowed within the permissible two-storey and three-storey envelopes respectively. Where roof terraces are proposed on attic roofs, they shall be located at least 3m below the top extent of the permissible building envelope to ensure future coverings by homeowners remain within the overall building envelope. Roofs with less than 3m below the top extent of the permissible building envelope shall be proposed as RC flat roofs that are non-accessible except for maintenance purposes.



Basement


Basements may be built up to the limits shown in the table below.


Basements in Low-lying Areas


For sites in low lying landed housing areas, internal areas below the minimum platform level (MPL)3 shall be treated as a basement storey and shall not count as an additional storey, subject to:

  • Any building structures or internal living areas proposed below the MPL shall be fully sealed with no external openings4.

  • Overall allowable height (based on the envelope control guidelines for landed houses) shall be measured from the MPL applicable for the site. The car porch roof shall be kept to maximum of 4.5m above the external ground level.

Where the MPL requirement is significantly higher than the existing levels of adjacent sites or roads, and the existing ground levels shall be retained, any building structures/internal spaces that are below the MPL but above the existing ground levels shall comply fully with the main building road buffer and setback requirements. They shall not be built up to the site lot boundary.


Basements on Sloping Sites


For plots with sloping ground, exposed basement protrusion above existing ground level may be considered as shown in the figure below as long as the basement protrusion is kept within the permissible Envelope Control building height.  


Check URA Control Plans


List of Street Block and Envelope Control Plans


Street block and envelope plans are the highest tier plans that overrides both road categories and setback from the boundary. Every new rebuilding projects will have to follow the street block plans and rarely will there be any successful appeal. So it is important to note of the latest updates and whether there are any plans for the property you are buying.




Safeguarded Landed Housing Estate


Next, let’s introduce what is a safeguarded landed housing estate. There are well-established existing landed housing estates in Singapore which are gazetted to protect the style of these private housing estates. They include good class bungalow areas, bungalows areas, semi detached housing areas and also mixed landed housing areas.


The red highlighted areas under Special and Detailed Control Plans, landed housing areas denote the specific landed housing estate a property is in. It also denotes the maximum number of floors the house can have, and also the type of landed house able to be build in those area.


For Good Class Bungalow areas, only 2 storeys bungalows or strata bungalow can be built. For bungalow areas, only bungalows or strata bungalows can be built. For a semi-detached housing area, only semi detached and bungalow or the strata equivalent can be built. Lastly, for mixed landed housing areas, all landed and strata landed housing types can be built.


What this means is that you will not find a terrace house in a semi-detached housing area, nor would you find a semi-detached house in a bungalow area. This helps keep the density and also the type of landed houses consistent through the years. Even when developers start to tear down older houses and divide big landed houses into smaller landed houses, they have to abide by the restrictions of the landed housing area.


Landed property in the designated landed housing areas are subject to height restrictions should they be rebuild. In general, the limit is two to three storeys. An island-wide map layer showing the Designated Landed Housing Area Plan is available on URA SPACE.



Landed Houses Outside of the Safeguarded Landed Housing Area


There are also landed property outside of the safeguarded landed housing area. Developers are able to build mixed housing like flats, condominiums and any form of landed properties, subjected to local authority’s approval.


If you are staying in one such unit, it is possible that your neighboring landed property be demolished, with a small low rise apartment replacing it. Or, it might be combined to become part of the land of a high rise condominium project.


As it is not safeguarded, there is more flexibility for developers to build housing types based on the market demand at the time of development. So will you be more keen to live in a landed house inside of a safeguarded landed housing area or outside? Are the landed houses less valuable because they are located outside of the designated safeguarded landed housing area?


Landed houses outside Designated Landed Housing Areas and not guided by the street block plans are subject to a 3-storey height control. The prevailing landed housing planning guidelines and requirements shall also apply.


Conclusion


Rebuilding a house can be a challenging and rewarding experience. It's important to have a solid plan in place and to surround yourself with the right professionals and contractors. It's also important to have an open line of communication and to keep track of timelines and budgets. The key to a successful rebuilding process is to stay organized and stay on top of things. If you keep these things in mind, you will be able to turn your dream house into a reality.


Remember that the process takes time and effort, but the end result is worth it. I hope the information that I have shared will help make your rebuilding process as smooth and stress-free as possible. If you need any assistance, don't hesitate to contact me. I have the knowledge and experience to help guide you through the rebuilding process and ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible. Whether you are looking to buy a property to rebuild or to A&A it, I am here to help. I am committed to providing my clients with the highest level of service and expertise. Together, we can turn your dream home into a reality.


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