Soho is a description that is appearing more and more in the sales blurb of property developers and agents in Singapore. Despite that, or more than likely precisely because of that, there is a lot of confusion as to what the term actually means, what type of properties it is describing, and how much legitimacy the term has.
And there is a very good reason for that. In a highly regulated industry where almost all definitions, descriptions and nuances are dictated and/or recognised by the ruling bodies and government legislation, soho is not, and the URA are going to great pains to let everyone know that that is the case.
Soho is an acronym for small office home office, and is purely a marketing term used by the aforementioned agents and developers. It more often than not refers to small offices or residential homes that have specific design elements built into them making them ideal for people to use as a home office. Such features commonly include high ceilings and a mezzanine floor. The confusion lies in the fact that though it is within the law for people to work from home, and have a room in the house dedicated to that, you cannot run a business out of a home unless you register for the home-office scheme. This then means they have to meet certain criteria, such as restrictions on the number of foreign workers they employ and that they will cause no distress or disturbance to their neighbours.
It is less of a grey area when office properties are labelled as soho – these should not in any way shape or form be used as residential units, according to the URA.
The URA have stated explicitly that the term does not refer to any specific type – new or old – of property or development recognised or indeed approved by themselves. Going further Han Yong Hoe, the URA’s Group Director of Urban Control said that without planning permission from the URA, “any development that has been approved for office use cannot be converted to residential use and vice versa, “ and that, “developments that have been marketed as soho are approved as either office or residential developments [only, not both]”.
It is really down to those marketing the properties to state exactly what the premises can legally be used for, and the URA are keen for developers to insert a clause in the Sale and Purchase Agreement to that effect. Others in the industry have called for the term to be banned, as all it does it create unnecessary confusion amongst potential buyers without giving anything in return.
It is unlikely that anything will happen one way or another unless some form of legislative action is taken, so in the meantime it is always advisable to ask the exact legal use of any Singapore property before making a purchase.
Instead of investing in a SOHO unit, why not consider a Dual Key Unit? A Dual Key unit separates a single unit into 2 small apartments, and you can rent it to 2 group of tenants and yet pay the the stamp duty for only 1 unit. Below are some new launch condo that comprise of Dual Key apartments,