SOHO: Home & Office or Home Office?


SOHO is a marketing term

SOHO or “Small Office Home Office”  is a marketing term used by developers and estate agents. It does not refer to any specific use or type of development that is allowable or approved by the Competent Authority under the Planning Act.  The planning permission for a unit marketed as a SOHO unit is for either residential or office use but not for both uses.

Residential properties and the Home-Office Scheme

Residential units are intended for long-term residential stay, and cannot be converted to other uses, like commercial uses, that could cause disturbances and inconveniences to residents. However, under the Home-Office Scheme, owners of residential units can use their homes to conduct small-scale businesses, provided they do not cause disamenity to other residents. To do so, the owner must register for the home-office use under the Home Office Scheme (see for details). Only small-scale businesses that comply with the planning guidelines applicable to home-offices (e.g. not hiring more than two non-resident employees) are permitted within residential units. Other commercial businesses or uses that do not meet the guidelines are not allowed.

To provide more clarity for purchasers of residential properties, we strongly urge developers who use the term “SOHO” in any of their advertisements to highlight the approved use of the unit to prospective purchasers. Developers should let prospective purchasers know the restrictions on its use by inserting the following pre-approved clause in the Sale and Purchase Agreement and disclosing the contents of this clause to intending purchasers before the acceptance of the booking fee:

“Approved Use of the Unit”

The Unit is approved for use for residential purpose under the Planning Act.  The purchaser may not use the Unit for any other purpose unless permitted by the Competent Authority or authorised under the Planning Act.  The Purchaser is authorised to use the Unit as a home-office for a small scale business only if the conditions for the change to home-office use as set out in the Planning (Development of Land Authorisation) Notification e.g. lodging the required registration form for the change in use with the Competent Authority, are complied with.

Office properties are not allowed for residential use

Office properties are to be used according to their approved use (i.e. as offices), and are not meant for residential use. Hence, developers should refrain from using the term “SOHO” for office developments in any of their advertisements and should not make any representations to intending purchasers that the office units may be used for residential uses.

Marketing collaterals

Developers are required to ensure that representations made to prospective purchasers, including but not limited to those in advertisements (e.g. in newspapers or websites) and sales brochures for their projects, are accurate.  The Controller will not hesitate to take action if developers are found to have contravened any rule.

If developers engage estate agents to assist them in marketing their properties, they should provide estate agents with accurate information about the allowable use of the development so that estate agents would not misrepresent any information to the prospective purchasers.

URA’s The Home Office (HO) scheme

Home owners, tenants or occupiers of private residential properties or HDB flat can conduct small–scale businesses in their homes, as long as they satisfy the prevailing HO guidelines and performance criteria and ensure that the use does not cause amenity problems to the neighbours.

Businesses that are not permitted under the Home Office Scheme are

  • Maid Agency/Employment Agency 
  • Contractors Business 
  • Car Trading Business 
  • Commercial School e.g. music, dance, language school or tuition centre 
  • Sales/Marketing that involve conducting seminars/talks for large number of customers 
  • Courier Business 
  • Manufacture/Preparation/Processing of products and goods. Examples are food products, beverages, textiles, apparel, handbags, footwear, wood and paper products, pharmaceutical products, soap, food chemicals, additives, joss sticks, camphor products, glass, plastic, rubber products, domestic appliances, watches and clocks and other related products
  • Ophthalmic Dispensing/Pharmacy/Medical or Dental Clinics/Veterinary Medicine 
  • Card Reading/Palm Reading or fortune telling in any form 
  • Funeral chapels or homes 
  • Mausoleums 
  • Shops and any form of retail activity, including pet shops. 
  • Food Catering/Restaurants 
  • Conducting of dress making/embroidery lessons 
  • Repair of household appliances, electrical products, footwear, etc. 
  • Beauty /Hair-Dressing/Massage therapy services

Application for Home Office Scheme:

Summaries: URA does not recognize “SOHO” as a planning term and does not specifically approve a development for “SOHO” use. Rather, developments being marketed as SOHO today are approved either as Office or Residential but not for both uses.

Home owners, tenants or occupiers of private residential properties can apply for permission to use as Home Office, terms & conditions applied as explained.


Q: Can I change SOHO office to residential
A: No, unlikely. URA had rejected many applications for change of use as the properties are approved for commercial and office uses. So far, URA only allowed to apply approval for using residential premises to use as home office for a period of time under Home Office Scheme. Subject to renewal, and revision of regulation.

Disclaimers: This article is combined version of SOHO clerification that made up from a couple of old articles by URA, as per requedted. We are not legal advisor or lawyer. Rules and regulations are subject to Authorities revisions.

Source: URA, Singapore

  • DC Connect: Jan 2011
  • Clarifying Soho limitations: Apr 2013
  • Usage Of The Term “Small Office Home Office” Nov 2013

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