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Singapore Residential Property Stamp Duty Made Easy

Simplify & Navigate : Singapore Residential Property Stamp Duty

Whenever there is a change of ownership of residential property in Singapore, the transaction must be taxed. 

The taxes (stamp duty) that must be paid are as follows: 

(1) a Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD); and 

(2) Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty, if applicable (ABSD).

What is BSD & How Much Is It?

BSD must be paid when transferring or buying Singapore real estate. BSD is based on the purchase price or market value (the higher amount).

BSD Rates (for transactions after 20 Feb 2018)

Purchase Price or Market Value of Property

BSD for Residential Property

First $180,000

1%

Next $180,000

2%

Next $640,000

3%

Remaining amount (above S$ 1 million)

4%

 

As you can see, the BSD is taxed at a different rate depending on how much the home cost to buy or how much it is worth on the market. So, people who can afford more expensive homes will pay a higher BSD, while people who buy cheaper houses will pay less.

Illustration

  • If we purchase a home worth $500,000, the BSD payable is $9,600.
  • If we purchase a home worth $2 million, the BSD payable is $64,600.

 

What Is ABSD & How Much Is It?

ABSD was part of a series of cooling measures implemented by the Monetary Authority of Singapore to limit speculative demand for residential properties in Singapore.

Since its introduction, the ABSD has undergone multiple revisions, and the Monetary Authority of Singapore has maintained that there are no intentions to relax property cooling measures.  The latest revisions were announced on 8 May 2022.

The buyer’s profile at the time of the purchase of the residential property will determine whether ABSD is payable, and if so, the amount of ABSD that must be paid.

ABSD must be paid in addition to the existing BSD by applicable buyers.

ABSD Rates (for transactions after 9 May 2022)

Buyer Profile

ABSD Rate 

SC–1st residential property

N.A.

SC–2nd residential property

17%

SC–3rd & subsequent residential property

25%

SPRs–1st residential property

5%

SPRs–2nd residential property

25%

SPRs–3rd & subsequent residential property

30%

Foreigners–any residential property

30%

Entities buying any residential property

35%

While the BSD is based on a percentage of the property’s selling price, the ABSD is fixed. The amount we must pay varies according to our nationality (whether we are Singaporeans, PRs, or foreigners) and the number of properties we own, as shown in the table.

Singaporeans must pay an ABSD of 17% when buying a second residential property.

Illustration

If we want to buy a second home that costs $2 million, we must pay:

BSD + ABSD = $64,600 + $340,000 = $404,600

 

Count of Residential Properties Owned

(A) Count from the Date of the Sale and Purchase Agreement

If the Option to Purchase has been exercised, it should be counted as one of the buyer’s properties as of the day he exercised the Option, even if the property has not yet been legally transferred to him.

This includes purchasing a unit from the developer before its completion if the Sale and Purchase Agreement has been executed.

Similarly, the property should not be regarded as one of the buyer’s properties if the new buyer has exercised his Option to Purchase.

 

(B) Partial / Joint Ownership

Ownership of any interest in a property is counted as part of a buyer’s total property holdings.

Illustration

  • John jointly owns a property with his wife – Count 1.
  • John owns a property with his brother, percentage ownership 30% – 70% – Count 2.
  • The number of properties owned by John is 2.

 

(C) Multiple Properties in a Single Transaction

Many residential properties can be purchased under one contract. However, each residential property will be counted as its own.

 

(D) HDB Shop with Living Quarters 

HDB shops with living quarters or shophouses with residential use will be included as a residential property count.

 

(E) Residential Properties Not in Singapore 

All residential properties not located in Singapore will not be included in the count of residential properties owned.

 

When Must BSD & ABSD Be Paid?

If the BSD applies to you, the ABSD must be paid within 14 days from the exercise of the Option to Purchase or the date the Sale & Purchase Agreement is signed.

 

What About Inherited Properties?

IRAS has clarified that BSD and ABSD are not payable on properties acquired by inheritance. However, such properties are included in the property count if further residential property purchases are made.

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Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) & What They Achieve : The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

MOU : The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

Hey, What Happened? Didn’t We Sign the Memorandum of Understanding?

After many months of due diligence and engaging in rigorous negotiation, you finally “ink” a contract with your business partner.

You are sitting in your favourite coffee shop enjoying a cup of latte while daydreaming about the brand-new Ferrari that you are going to be able to buy now that your company is thriving. Then suddenly, you get an email that says the deal is off.

So, your fantasy of a lovely Ferrari dissipates as quickly as the coffee in your cup.

Your first thought is, “How can they do that? We have signed the MOU!”

You have obeyed the cardinal “Getting It In Writing” rule and assumed the deal is sealed.

Can you still be left high and dry by the dishonourable reneging party with no legal recourse?

Very often in the business world, legalistic sounding papers like “Memorandum of Understanding” and “Letter of Intent”  are bandied about. But are these documents worth the paper they are printed on? What are the consequences if one party breaches the “Memorandum of Understanding” and “Letter of Intent”?

In many cases, the answer is not much. While a breach of a contract typically results in a lawsuit and the awarding of damages to the innocent party, a breach of a MOU or LOI usually does not. This is because the documents are not legally binding. They are like letters of intent, non-binding agreements to negotiate in good faith.

What Exactly Is A “Memorandum of Understanding”?

  • An MOU is typically used early in negotiations for an intended business transaction between parties. At this point, parties usually have yet to agree on all the essential terms of their transaction but still wish to set out its broad framework.
  • An MOU is a document that outlines the understanding between two or more parties.
  • MOUs are often non-binding because they are preliminary agreements subject to a written contract. This incompleteness usually indicates the parties’ intention  to create legally binding relations only once a formal contract or agreement is enforced.

The common uses of MOUs are:

  • to set out the general intent of the parties to prevent any misunderstandings;
  • to set out the critical points of a complex transaction to help to ensure that all parties are on the same page concerning what is expected of them;
  • to provide safeguards in case the business deal collapses during negotiations;
  • to provide tangible proof of the business deal to potential investors.

What Must A “MOU” contain?

There is no hard and fast rule regarding what should be addressed in an MOU.

As a general rule of thumb, an MOU should include the following information:

  • the general intention of the parties;
  • an overview of the business transaction;
  • the critical points of a complex transaction (e.g. price, quality and deadlines);
  • safeguards in case negotiations fail (e.g. confidentiality, non-disclosure and good faith).

Even though a MOU is not legally binding, it is still an essential document since the MOU records the understanding between the parties of the transaction and their intention.

The purpose of a MOU is to foster collaboration, respect, and understanding among all parties involved in a transaction so that all parties can derive mutual benefit from the transaction.

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Tips For Business Owners : How To Avoid Minefields

Navigate Your Business Smoothly: 10 Tips to Avoid Minefields

Running a business is often exciting.  But without the right advice, it can also be a minefield, especially concerning legal matters.  Prevention is always better than cure. 

The following top 10 tips aim to guide you through the minefield:

1. Don’t Put Your Assets At Risk

Are you running your business with your partners?  

If so, are you aware that under Singapore law, all partners are jointly liable for the debts and obligations of the business?  

If your business encounters any problem, not only will your investment in the company be at risk, but all but your assets will also be at risk.  Depending on your business structure, it can help avoid liability – private limited company, limited partnerships, etc.

 

2. Put It In Writing

All your business agreements must be in writing.  

It is often difficult, if not impossible, to enforce an oral agreement.  You may have no recourse for compensation or legal action if problems arise.  So make sure all your contracts are written to give you flexibility and protection.

3. Get Proper Legal Advice Early

Different lawyers specialise in different areas of the law. 

You must find the correct lawyer to help you. Every growing business needs a business lawyer since they are experienced in representing start-ups and emerging companies. The amount you pay for an early advice is usually substantially lower in the long run since it saves you time, aggravation and money.

 

4. Spell Out Your Terms and Conditions

Cash flow is the lifeblood of any business.  

Make sure to spell out your terms and conditions (e.g. terms of trading) to all your customers. This way, you will not be at risk of being paid as and when the customers feel like it.

 

5. Keep Up to Date With The Law

The scope of business law is extensive; as such, no business owner can be expected to be well versed in every aspect of business law.  However, it would be best if you had an essential awareness to help keep yourself out of trouble.  A basic understanding of the following topics is vital:

  • basic contract rules
  • major employer-employee laws (e.g. CPF contributions)
  • regulations of your industry

 

6. Keep Employment Contracts Clear And Simple

It is essential to set out your expectations and rules for your employees.  

No employer/employee is expected to be an expert in employment law.  

Ensuring your employment contract is easy to understand would be helpful.

7. Protect Your Intellectual Property

Do you have a secret formula for your product?  

Do you think your competitors would love to get their hands on your secret formulae?  

If so, you must take steps to ensure that your “secrets” are protected.  Such protection includes trademark registration, confidentiality agreement and non-competition agreements.

 

8. Keeping Proper Corporate Records

Small businesses are notorious for failing to keep records.  Failing to maintain proper or improper records can create ACRA and IRAS problems.  This may also result in personal liability or even hinder your ability to raise funds.

 

9. List Down Your Rights & Responsibilities

If you run your business with your partners, have you consider what would happen if any partners left the company by choice or otherwise?  

Partners or shareholders often fail to sit down and list their rights and responsibilities. 

When a problem arises, this often results in costly litigation fees, which drain parties financially and mentally. 

Such problems can be avoided by having an agreement which deals with the following issues:

  • how much capital must each person contribute?
  • what happens if the business needs more money?
  • what happens if one person leaves the business?
  • what happens if one person dies?

10. Getting Involved In Litigation

Litigation fees can be astronomical.  You should always seek your lawyer’s advice for options such as mediation or arbitration to resolve the matter.  

If, on the other hand, a suit is brought against you, call your lawyer immediately.  Do not attempt to respond without your lawyer’s advice, especially since the first response usually sets the tone of the proceedings.

Having difficulties putting these tips into action? Skip the hassle of waiting to make an appointment with a lawyer.  We offer video consultations via Lawyer Anywhere so that you can get the help you need. Contact us today to get started.

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Do I Need A Will Or A Trust? Or Both?

A Will, A Trust, or Both? Find Your Answer Here

People use two primary estate planning documents to plan for the distribution of their assets after death: a Will or a Trust. Both have advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to understand their differences before deciding.

Most people are familiar with the concept of a Will – a legal document outlining how you want your assets to be distributed after you die. If you don’t have a Will, your assets will be distributed according to prevailing law.

Trust, on the other hand, is more complex. A trust is a legal arrangement in which you (the trustor) transfer ownership of your assets to a trustee, who then manages and distributes those assets according to the terms of the trust. Different types of trust can be used for a variety of purposes. For example, a revocable trust can be amended during the grantor’s lifetime, while an irrevocable trust cannot be amended. In addition, trusts can be used for estate planning, asset protection, and charitable giving.

Key Differences Between Wills And Trusts

When it comes to estate planning, many people are unsure whether a Will or a Trust is the best option.

While both options can effectively handle your affairs, there are some key differences to understand before deciding.

1. Effective Date

  • A Will goes into effect after you die, whereas a Trust is active once created and funded.
  • This means that a Trust can be used to manage assets during your lifetime, which can be helpful if you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to manage your affairs, something a Will cannot do.

2. Probate And Privacy

  • When a person dies, their estate must go through probate to confirm the Will and allow the distribution of assets. Probate is a process that a probate court oversees, and it can be lengthy and expensive. If a person dies without a Will, the process is often even more complicated and can take longer and cost more.
  • The key feature of a Trust is that it is not subject to probate because they are not considered part of a person’s estate. This means that Trusts avoid the time-consuming court proceedings and costs associated with probate.
  • While a Will is typically considered a private document, the reality is that anything that happens in court is available to the public through public records. In addition, as Trusts are not subject to probate, matters can be kept private. This can benefit individuals who want to keep their affairs confidential and out of the public eye.

3. Complexity And Cost

  • The cost of preparing a Will is relatively cheap and straightforward.
  • Trusts can be complex and require more paperwork to establish, so they are generally more costly to organise upfront than Wills.
  • However, avoiding probate can offset the cost of setting up a Trust.

4. Protection From Creditors

  • A Will is a legal document that dictates how a person’s assets will be distributed after death. However, if that person has creditors, those creditors may be able to claim against the Will.
  • Trusts offer asset protection from creditors. In addition, the trust creator can condition asset allocation to family members during certain events or restrict beneficiaries’ receipt of assets. This means you can control how your assets are used even after you’re gone.

A Will or A Trust or Both?

When it comes to estate planning, a Will may be all you need – but if you have more complex financial affairs or want to take extra measures to protect your assets, a Trust could be the best solution.

Be sure to consult an experienced lawyer to discuss your best options and devise a plan that will work best for you and your family.

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Lawyers & Deal Breakers

Uncover the Untold Stories - Legal Secrets

Lawyers have often been branded as “deal breakers“; they cause business deals to be aborted by letting legal issues cloud business goals and commercial imperatives.

Legal expertise plays a crucial role in business transactions. Their involvement can differentiate between a successful business deal and a potential disaster.

Lawyers have specialized knowledge in drafting and reviewing contracts, which are the foundation of any business transaction. They can carefully analyze terms and conditions, identify potential loopholes or unfavourable clauses, and negotiate on behalf of their clients to protect their interests. This level of legal expertise helps to enforce fair and equitable agreements that safeguard the rights of all parties involved.

By uncovering hidden risks and potential areas of concern, lawyers can provide the necessary guidance to make informed decisions and mitigate potential negative consequences.

Being your lawyer, our responsibility is to protect your legal position.

When business imperatives prevent us from fully protecting your interests, we bring awareness of the risks to the forefront so that your business decisions are always INFORMED decisions; made with full knowledge of the risks involved.

Our approach: Going in with your eyes wide open is better than plunge in blindly, hoping for the best.

While we cannot insure you against business risks, we always have your best interest at heart.

Here is a cautionary tale – believe us when we tell you that it happens more often than we like, to the best and worst of our clients.

Our client was very excited about the prospect of new business through a joint venture with another company. The joint venture company was owned and operated by friends they knew well. Negotiations were conducted cordially over lunch and dinner.

Being lawyers (as always) looking out for our client, we proposed to draw up a simple “joint venture contract”, setting out the agreement reached by our client and his friends on the scope of each party’s contributions, responsibilities and share of profits.

When presented with the contract, his friends were livid; they called our client to say that the contract was inaccurate and that the “deal breaker” lawyer was misinformed, misleading and missing the point.

Further, they claimed to have been insulted that our client even consulted a lawyer for what was, essentially, a venture between good friends based on mutual trust and friendship. They were, in short, not prepared to sign any contract.

Our client wanted the new business enough to forgo “the legalities,” – which was how his new joint venture partners had belittled our efforts.

The client was back in our office about six months into the new business. Not because he wanted to sue his joint venture partners for not making good on their verbal promises (this came later), but because he was now facing court action by third parties seeking compensation for failure to deliver on services that were the responsibility of his joint venture partners.

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When Partnerships Go Wrong

Navigating the Partnership Maze : Learn from Mistakes, Build Success

Partnerships are often seen as the backbone of business success, offering a platform for collaboration, shared resources, and collective expertise. Partners often succeed and thrive, leading to remarkable growth and success stories.

However, there are instances where partnerships go wrong, leading to disappointment, frustration, and even failure. These troubled waters can arise for various reasons, including misaligned goals, incompatible cultures, poor communication, or a lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that the promise and potential of partnerships are not lost in these challenging situations.

While setbacks may occur, they allow reflection, learning, and course correction.

Through a thorough understanding of the factors that contributed to the partnership’s failure, businesses can identify areas for improvement and develop strategies to navigate troubled waters more effectively.

We will dive into a real-life case where a promising partnership took a wrong turn, uncovering the reasons behind its downfall and the lessons learned.

John and Peter were 2 entrepreneurs with complementary skills and a shared vision who came together to create a startup.

At first, everything seemed perfect. They had a solid business plan, a promising product, and a strong network of contacts. The business flourished, and started gaining traction in the market.

However, as time passed, cracks began appearing in their once-harmonious relationship.

Disagreements over strategic decisions, differing work ethics, and communication breakdowns started to plague the partnership.

They began to see things from different perspectives and found it challenging to find common ground. These issues eventually led to a breakdown in trust and collaboration.

Decision-making became contentious, and conflicts escalated.

The once-promising partnership now stood on shaky ground, jeopardizing the future of the business they had worked so hard to build.

We will take a closer look at the challenges and reasons behind the downfall of the partnership between John and Peter.

  • One key challenge in this partnership was a lack of clear communication and shared vision.
    • The partners had different ideas and goals for the business, which resulted in frequent misunderstandings and conflicting decisions.
    • This lack of alignment created tension and hindered progress, ultimately leading to a breakdown in trust and collaboration.
  • Another significant challenge was the unequal contribution of resources and efforts.
    • One partner felt they were shouldering a disproportionate amount of the workload and financial burden, creating resentment and a sense of unfairness.
    • This imbalance not only strained the relationship between the partners but also affected the business’s overall success.
  • Additionally, the partners failed to establish a solid foundation of trust and transparency.
    • There were instances of hidden agendas, undisclosed information, and broken promises.
    • These actions eroded trust and made it difficult for the partners to work together effectively, ultimately leading to a breakdown in the partnership.
  • Furthermore, a lack of conflict resolution skills played a significant role in the downfall of this partnership.
    • Instead of addressing conflicts head-on and finding mutually beneficial solutions, the partners avoided or mishandled disagreements.
    • This resulted in unresolved issues that continued to fester and negatively impacted the partnership.

Overall, the challenges and reasons behind the downfall of this partnership can be attributed to a lack of clear communication, shared vision, unequal contribution, trust issues, and a failure to resolve conflicts effectively.

By identifying and understanding these factors, we can learn valuable lessons about the importance of open and honest communication, aligned goals, equitable participation, trust-building, and effective conflict resolution in maintaining successful partnerships.

Contrary to popular perception, a lawyer is more valuable to you BEFORE a lawsuit arises. Speak to us over video consultation via Lawyer Anywhere.

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Myth Of The Perfect 2-Page Agreement

Unveiling the Truth about 2-Page Agreements

Many believe shorter is always better for contracts and that a 2-page agreement exemplifies simplicity and effectiveness.

The length of an agreement should not be the sole measure of its quality.

It is easy to see why a 2-page agreement would be appealing.

But the truth is, not all agreements can be effectively covered in just 2-page. While brevity may be seen as a virtue in some cases, it should not come at the expense of clarity and comprehensiveness.

Some agreements, such as those involving complex business transactions or legal matters, require a more detailed and comprehensive approach. Attempting to condense all the necessary information into a 2-page document can lead to ambiguity, loopholes, and potential disputes further down the road.

It’s important to remember that the length of an agreement should be determined by its content and complexity rather than arbitrary page limits.

In some cases, a longer agreement may be necessary to cover all the necessary terms and protect the interests of all parties involved. Instead of fixating on a 2-page agreement, it is more important to focus on crafting a well-written, clear, and comprehensive document that accurately reflects the intentions and expectations of all parties. This requires careful consideration, collaboration, and sometimes the expertise of legal professionals.

Having been in the corporate practice for more than 20 years and having drafted and reviewed countless contracts, we know that many of Singapore’s Small and medium Enterprises have turned to the internet for self-help measures to deal with the nitty-gritty day-to-day aspects of starting, running, and protecting their business as a cost-saving measure.

Like many business owners, you have probably used or are using an agreement downloaded from the internet.

Or you were a little more diligent and had searched for a few similar legal agreements and combined them into one agreement.

Many business owners come to us, flaunting their “simple 2-page but near-perfect” agreements and requesting minor “touch-ups”. We often had to tell these clients that their agreements required a significant overhaul as they did not provide for many common situations.

To truly understand the importance of a properly drafted agreement, it is essential to explore real-life case studies and their valuable lessons.

One of our clients, a training consultant, recently came to us with his “perfect” 2-page agreement. He said he had been using his consultant agreement for the last 6 years without problems.

He recently learned that the company he had worked with made copies of his work and circulated them to all its staff members. A quick review of his consultant agreement showed that it lacked terms relating to using his materials, particularly the right to compensation for the unlawful use of his materials.

Our client told us that, being a “one-man show,” he didn’t want to “scare off” his clients with a 20-page legal agreement.

Our client has now learned that he omitted important details and clauses by condensing his agreement into just 2-pages.

Having learnt a valuable lesson, our client’s standard agreement is now 8 pages long.

Companies in different industries have different specific needs. Very often, the various issues faced by businesses require a variety of specific legal wordings. If you feel that these issues are important to you, make sure your agreements are reviewed by a lawyer. Speak to us over video consultation via Lawyer Anywhere.

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Too Good To Be True

Exposing the Truth Behind "Too Good to Be True"

Over an informal lunch, a client informed us that he had been granted an exciting, not-to-be-missed, one-time-only opportunity to buy over a rival company. Our client considered this an excellent offer as it would enable him to acquire the rival’s clientele and expand his business. He had already negotiated the price and was on the verge of inking the deal.

Being lawyers, we offered to “check out” the target company; and advised that a routine risk management measure would entail conducting a due diligence checks on the company’s liabilities and contracts.

Our client assured us that there was absolutely no need to waste money on due diligence checks as the target company had already made frank disclosure of debts amounting to $800k, which both parties had mutually agreed to take into account in the purchase price. In divulging such information, he felt that the owner had proven himself a man of integrity – or else why disclose the enormity of its liabilities?

We suggested to my client that the due diligence exercise would be part of our services when representing him in the purchase; in any case, it would not delay the sale or cost much money. The client reluctantly agreed (and only because he wanted to prove that I was being paranoid!)

Our due diligence showed that the target company owed creditors total debts of over $2.3 million! Additionally, foreign workers employed by a “sister” company were being deployed in their workshops and being paid an hourly wage, putting the company in breach of strict MOM regulations concerning the employment of foreign workers. So our “man of integrity” turned out to be a “man of straw” after all.

Our client was very grateful (and humbled) that we had saved him from a “rotten” deal.

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Near Bankruptcy To Financial Freedom – A Success Story

From Crisis to Triumph: How We Rescued Our Client From Bankruptcy

THE BACKGROUND

The client runs a small family business importing and exporting goods from the neighbouring ASEAN countries and has been doing it for 35 years. Being old school, he runs his business based on relationships and personal ties. He has used the same bank for all his financial needs over the last 45 years. Conservative in his borrowing, he has one commercial loan secured by a mortgage over his shop house; and a renovation loan (surprisingly, this was in the form of an overdraft facility) secured by his home.

THE PROBLEM

During the economic slowdown, his business took a hit, and cash flow became a problem. The client started to miss loan repayment instalments which amounted to $15,000 per month, paying them intermittently whenever he could. Each month he struggled to raise the funds required to pay the loan instalments which were overdue. Snowballing default interest became an insurmountable burden, overshadowing even his anxiety over his failing business.

WHY HE CAME TO SEE US

By the time he came to see us, he had received a letter of demand from his bank. They had threatened to foreclose on both loans. In addition, the bank’s employee who had served as his relationship manager over the last twenty years had recently left the bank. The new relationship manager taking over his account was not sympathetic – “new brooms sweeps client,” as the saying goes – the new manager’s prevailing concern was to reduce the bank’s exposure in a recession.

Having been backed into a corner and feeling overwhelmed, the client came to see us, not expecting any more in terms of legal services than to help him “buy” some time with the bank. Yet, at the same time, he was desperately looking for ways to raise the funds to stave off the repossession of his family home.

WHAT WE ACHIEVED

A quick investigation of our client’s borrowing history and current property valuations showed that –

  1. his residential property is valued at $2.3 million, and his shop house at $1.1 million (current valuations).
  2. that the client’s total debt to the bank is $900k, a mere fraction of the total worth of the mortgaged properties – our client was over-securitized!

We called our bankers, and within a few days, they offered to refinance his loan by giving him a NEW term loan secured by his residential property only.

As residential term loans bear much lower interest rates than an overdraft loan, the client’s liability to his new bankers was now reduced to a manageable $2,500 per month.

Our client was so relieved and heartened by his change of status that he could now focus his attention on his business. To help him ride out the recession, he was able to sub-let his shophouse for $7,000 per month.

As a result, from the brink of a bankruptcy action, our client now enjoys a fixed monthly income of $4,500!