Buying your first home can lead to a happily-ever-after or develop into an absolute nightmare if you’re not adequately prepared.
For young couples in Singapore, two popular housing options are on the table – you could either apply for a BTO (Build-To-Order) flat from HDB or purchase a resale flat on the open market. Deciding between the two, however, requires some deliberation, and it is crucial to understand the nitty-gritty details before you buy your first home.
Young couples making family planning decisions should factor in the waiting time required to collect the keys to a BTO flat, which can take about 2.5 years to 4 years from the date of application. If you’re a couple with more urgent housing needs, you may apply for a flat under the Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercise. Alternatively, apply for a flat under the open booking of flat online anytime, receive a queue number for flat booking on a first-come-first-served basis, and book a flat as early as the next working day.
Otherwise, resale flats could be ideal since they are found anywhere in Singapore, and you will be able to consider a variety of flats that are near childcare amenities, your work locations – and most importantly, your parents’ home. After HDB has accepted your resale application, you will be able to complete the transaction in about 8 weeks. Depending on the condition of the resale flat, renovations can also be kept to a minimum.
If you are a first-timer flat buyer and need interim housing while waiting for your BTO flat to be completed, you can consider renting a flat under the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme (PPHS) – which provides rental flats at a below-market rate.
When you apply for a BTO flat, HDB will conduct a computer ballot to determine whether your application is successful. Applicants who are successfully balloted will be given a queue position to book a flat. So, if you’re eyeing a specific BTO unit, the chances of obtaining the particular unit would depend on the availability of the flat and when your turn is due.
Starting in August 2023, a new priority category will be created for first-time couples with children and young married couples under 40. This is to help them secure their flats more quickly. Applicants in this category will receive an additional ballot chance and higher priority in the BTO and Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercises. More details can be found here.
On the other hand, buying a resale flat gives you a wide range of choices in terms of location, flat type, and design, and they are ready for immediate occupation. Whether direct from HDB or on the open market, there’s something for every budget and need.
When buying a BTO flat from HDB, you will not only pay a subsidised price, but you can also apply for a housing grant if you are eligible.
The Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG) of up to $80,000 is applicable for first-timer families buying a BTO with an average monthly household income of $9,000 or less. To qualify, at least one applicant must be a Singapore citizen, and have been working continuously for 12 months prior to the flat application, and still working at the point of flat application.
If you are buying a resale flat, you can apply for the Family Grant of up to $80,000 if your average monthly household income is not more than $14,000. To qualify for the grant, you must meet eligibility conditions which include being a Singapore citizen, and a first-time buyer of a HDB flat. Eligible buyers may also apply for the EHG of up to $80,000.
Couples who are buying a resale flat to live with or near their parents can also apply for the Proximity Housing Grant (PHG). If eligible, they can receive a PHG of up to $30,000 if they are buying a resale flat to live with their parents, or $20,000 if they buy a resale flat within 4km of their parents’ home.
Bundled with the PHG, EHG and the Family Grant, first-time resale flat buyers can enjoy up to $190,000 in grants*.
From 9 May 2023 onwards, you can find out how much grant you’re eligible for by applying for the HDB Flat Eligibility (HFE) letter.
From deciding on home décor ideas to picking out furniture with your spouse, it is important to keep within your budget. This is where financial planning becomes more important than ever.
A useful rule of thumb is to select a flat that is within your means.
Many couples make the mistake of applying for a BTO flat without first calculating their financial resources. This can lead to them having to cancel their application if they do not have enough CPF funds or cash to pay for the downpayment. From August 2023, first-time applicants who do not select a BTO flat when invited to do so will be considered second-timers in subsequent flat applications for a year. Therefore, it is important to plan early and make sure that you have the financial resources in place before applying for a BTO flat.
After booking a flat, applicants will be invited to sign the Agreement for Lease and collect the keys to the flat within 9 months and pay a 10% downpayment (if taking a loan from HDB or not taking a loan) or 20% downpayment (if taking a loan from the banks or financial institutions) using their cash and/or CPF savings, along with the stamp fees and legal fees. The balance of the purchase price will have to be paid when applicants are invited to collect the keys to the new flat.
To put this into perspective, 10% of a $500,000 BTO flat is $50,000. You may also be eligible for the Staggered Downpayment Scheme if one applicant is below 30 years old at the time of flat application - pay your downpayment in 2 instalments: the first-half when you sign the Agreement for Lease, and the second-half when you collect your keys. After paying the downpayment, you can pay the remaining portion of the purchase price by CPF funds, housing loan and/or cash.
With both the Staggered Downpayment Scheme and the flexibility of paying the remaining balance using CPF funds or a housing loan, your dream home can soon become a reality!
So, which housing option is the best for you? It is important to discuss your future plans of starting a family with your spouse, and decide on a housing option that suits you best.
*For more information, visit https://www.hdb.gov.sg/contact-us for enquiries on new or resale flats respectively.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is accurate as of July 2023.