7 “Uniquely Singapore” Acronyms Every Property Investor Should Know

Singapore has been called the “Land of Acronyms”, and with good reason – abbreviations are used widely by locals to refer to highways and buildings, government agencies, financial institutions, political parties … and more.  It should come as no surprise that the local property industry also has its fair share. Here are some of the most commonly used real estate acronyms and abbreviations in Singapore:

1) HDB (Housing Development Board)

While many countries in the world have some form of public housing, Singapore is unique in that about 80% of Singaporeans stay in an HDB flat, giving it the distinction of having one of the highest percentages (if not the highest) of residents in public housing in the world. With the rapidly rising population and land scarcity, the time when an HDB flat hits the S$1 million mark may not be very far away.

2) TOP (Temporary Occupation Permit)

In layman terms, TOP refers to the time when construction is completed and a property is ready to be occupied. The Building Authority would also have issued a Certificate of Statutory Completion (CSC) at this time.

3) COV (Cash Over Valuation)

Most commonly used since the rapid increase of HDB prices since 2007, COV refers to the sum above and beyond what the flat is valued at. COVs have been known to reach highs of more than S$50,000 in recent years. Read the amount in COV that most Singaporeans are willing to pay up to here.

4) LTV (Loan to Value)

LTV refers to the maximum amount a bank will lend for the financing of a property purchase. Hence, for a S$1 million property, a LTV of 80% means that the bank will lend a maximum of S$800,000. More recently, a series of cooling measures introduced by the local authorities to discourage speculation have included the lowering of LTV for second mortgages to 60% from 70% previously.

5) SSD (Standard Stamp Duty)

SSD is imposed by IRAS (Internal Revenue Authority Singapore) on both buyers and sellers of property, and is calculated according to the amount of the property purchase value. For buyers, SSD is calculated according to a “tier” system, with 1% imposed on the first S$180,000, 2% on the next S$180,000, and 3% thereafter. The recent cooling measures have also included new SSD rates ranging from 4% to 6% for residential properties disposed of within 4 years of acquisition.

6) VTO (View To Offer)

VTO is commonly used in open listings, and can sometimes mean that the owner is “testing the waters” by not indicating an asking price in order to see what offers his property can attract. In some instances, a VTO listing may mean that the flat may not have had its valuation exercise completed.

7) Co-Broke

As both the buyer and seller may have agents on each end, a co-broke refers to the agreement where agents on both side agree to share exclusive listings with one another, with a 50-50 split of commission. However, the co-broke system is sometimes abused, in cases where agents may not reveal higher offers or encourage a client to buy a more expensive flat in order to maximize his commission.