Like other emerging megacities, the most precious resource in Singapore is land. As the population rises, so does the need for real estate. Left unattended, this will lead to disaffected citizens forced to live in horribly cramped households and Stalinist apartment blocks. Add in unmanageable pollution levels and you got urban hell for city planners.
Enter Build to Order flats.
Home to most Singaporeans, this housing scheme appears to be the response of the city state to the growing problem of finding adequate housing for all its citizens. However, for the first timer, the process to acquire one is very much tedious, involving all sorts of bureaucratic hurdles.
Fortunately for you, we’ve created a simplified guide for your quest for a HDB BTO. The process is quite simple if you follow every instruction to the letter.
What is a BTO?
Construction of BTO flats will only commence once 65-70% of the apartments in a Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat have been booked. If the requirement is not met, there will be no construction.
To make sure that the HDB has enough applicants, there is generally a waiting time of three to four years before construction begins. If there are not enough applicants, the waiting time might be longer.
BTO flats come in these few types: 2-rooms, 3-rooms, 4-rooms, 5-rooms, and studio apartments. The HBD, in turn, provides the Optional Component Scheme (OCS) and the Universal Design (UD)
- Optional Component Scheme (OCS)
– This includes features that can be installed into the flat. The HDB adds the OCS and the cost of the packages to the overall selling price of a BTO flat. An added convenience to applicants, they can also choose the ff. items for installation:
- Internal doors and sanitary fittings (includes wash basin, water tap, and shower mixer)
- Floor finishes (includes the living/dining room and bedrooms)
– Furthermore, applicants can request for the ff. should they opt for OCS:
- No opt-in for basic flooring, internal doors, and sanitary fittings
- Basic flooring only
- Internal doors and sanitary fittings only
- Both the internal doors, sanitary fittings, and the basic flooring
- Universal Design (UD)
– Created by the HDB to ensure that homes are convenient and safe for a progressively ageing society, the UD has features that are inside the flat as well as within its vicinity.
– An important feature is the seamless linking between blocks and to crucial activity hubs within the area. All nearby amenities such as traffic junctions and bus stops are also included.
Features at the Precinct:
– Handicap lots
– Family playground areas
– Drop-off porch with ramp
– Link bridges that connect car parks to residential blocks
Features at the Block:
– Seats at lift lobbies
– Meeting spaces at the void deck
– Lift Upgrading Programme
– Barrier-free access to every floor
Features within the Flat:
– Water closet
– Low-height windows
– Lever taps and door handles
– Rocker switches
– Safer clothes drying system
– Grabs bars in the bathroom
– Ramps at the main entrance of the flat, bathrooms, and service yard
– Wider internal corridor, bedrooms and bathroom doors for wheelchair access
To keep the aesthetic design of the flat, the HDB ensures that the implementation and the design of the OCS and the UD are subtle enough for them to blend in well with the overall design.
Applicants are welcome to visit the show flats at Habitat Forum, BizFour 3rd Storey, HDB Hub.
Check If You’re Qualified
Before pushing through with your application, be sure to check first if you’re qualified. The high standard of living in Singapore means that most of the applicants would prefer to own quality homes in prime locations.
Fortunately, there are several requirements that the HBD sets to ensure that everyone has a fair chance when it comes to owning an apartment, be it an BTO flat or other types.
The first qualification is, of course, citizenship. To be able to purchase a BTO flat, the applicant must be a Singaporean citizen or a permanent resident. Another is the age requirement; the applicant should at least be 21 years of age or more at the time of applying.
Furthermore, applicants for HBD flats should have a proper family nucleus before applying. It can be classified into three schemes:
Public – The applicant together with his/her spouse, parents, children, and siblings are included
Fiancé/Fiancée – This only covers the applicant and his/her fiancé/fiancée.
Orphan –The applicant and his unmarried siblings are included.
How to Apply?
First things first, applicants need to check the HDB for all upcoming BTO exercises. This can be found on newspapers, on their InfoWeb, and other media sites. They will be provided with the ff. information:
- Indicative prices
- Race quota
- Number of units of flats offered
- Preliminary designs
Again, before applying, check first if you meet the requirements. Once you’re eligible, review first your finances to ensure that you have enough money for all the appropriate fees (option fees, down payments, legal fees, resale levy, renovation costs, home protection insurance, and other related costs).
Once you’ve gone through your finance and find that all is in order, fill out the application form and submit it online at the HDB website (www.hdb.gov.sg) or you can visit any HDB hub or any of their branches to submit your application in person. You will be required to pay a non-refundable fee of $10.
At the end of the application period, the HDB will release the queue position to applicants. Once there is sufficient demand, there will be a computer ballot conducted by the HDB to determine the queue position of each applicant. The applicants not shortlisted will be notified.
Once shortlisted, you’ll be required to pay the Option Fee which includes the ff.:
- 4//5-room and executive flats: $2000
- 3-room: $1000
- 2-room: $500
- Studio apartment: $250
The ff. documents are required so remember to bring them with you during the payment of the Option Fee:
- Identity Cards
- Birth Certificate of the children as proof of relationship
- Passport for non-citizens to confirm their residential status
- Income documents for assessment of income ceiling to but a flat
- Income documents for assessment of income ceiling if Additional CDF Housing Grand (AHG) or Special Housing Grant (SHG) are taken.
Make sure that all the persons listed in the application can present their documents. Once the documents are in order, the HDB will call you to sign the lease. The waiting time can range from three to six months.
Upon signing the lease, the applicant will then be required to present loan documents. If you’re applying with banks, this is the Letter of Offer. If, on the other hand, you’re applying for a housing loan with the HDB, this will be the HDB Loan Eligibility (HLE).
A down payment of 1-3% of legal and stamp fees is required either by cash or CPF money. After submitting all the documents and completing all the processes, the application is now finalized. You can finally live in your BTO flat in about 3 years.
The Payment Guide
Now, here comes the daunting part. Buying something as monumental as your own home can be a daunting task at first. With so many steps to accomplish and documents to procure, no wonder some people get discouraged easily when it comes to this step. Don’t worry, we got you. Here’s a simplified version of the things you need to know.
Again, the first thing to do is determine your eligibility. Check your income first to see if you meet the requirements and that you have enough money for the preliminary deposits.
Next is preparing the documents that you need. The most crucial ones appear to be the ff.:
– A copy of your identity card/passport
– A copy of pay slips (latest six months as proof of your income)
– A copy of your CPF (minimum six months, include the latest)
Those three are usually the requested documents. If you want to utilize the Family Grant of Additional CPF Housing Grant, then you must also prepare the parents’ marriage certificates and/or birth certificates. The parents must also be present during the first appointment to sign documents.
If you don’t have millions of dollars just sitting idle in your bank account, then the most prudent way to purchase a BTO flat is through loans. You can either get a Housing Loan from the HDB or from other banks.
For an HDB Housing Loan, you need to meet the ff. eligibility criteria:
- You have not taken two or more concessionary interest rate loans.
- You have availed one HDB interest rate loan and one housing subsidy.
- You have taken one housing subsidy, one HDB concessionary interest rate loan, and a residential property which was disposed of last is not a private property.
- You must not own any private residential property in Singapore or overseas.
- You should have disposed any private property within 30 months before the date which you have applied for the loan.
- You should own an industrial/commercial property or a hawker/market stall, and operating a business yourself.
On the other hand, if you’re not eligible for the HDB loan, you can approach the banks for the necessary funding. Generally, banks loan as much as 90% of the purchase price or the market valuation of the proposed flat. You can opt for a bank loan if:
- You own two or more owner operated market/hawker stalls inside or outside Singapore.
- You own one market/hawker stall or any other industrial/commercial property but not operating a business yourself.
- You have already enjoyed one interest mortgage loan and a housing subsidy and the property last disposed of is a private residential property.
- You have already enjoyed one interest rate mortgage loan and a housing subsidy and are not planning to buy a flat nigger than your current one.
- You have already enjoyed two interest rate mortgage loans either for buying flats directly from the HDB or from the open market.
Other Things to Remember
A common practice among first time home buyers is upgrading from their current BTO flat to a condominium. The pricier condominiums are often seen as a status symbol. If you’re looking to sell your BTO flat after some time and then upgrade to a private property, there are a couple of things that you should be aware of:
– If the flat that you intend to buy is new (directly from the HDB), then you need to wait 30 months before you can apply for it.
– If your intent is to purchase resale property, then the above rule doesn’t apply.
– You need to sell your private property within six months of getting your new HDB flat.
Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that the ethnic quota can affect your selling/buying ability.
An HDB mainstay since March 1989, the ethnic quota appeared to be a novel idea when it was first incepted since it was introduced to keep the peace among the different races of Singapore. It basically allocates a percentage distribution of the races within the blocks of flats to foster racial tolerance.
If you’re Chinese, this is largely a non-issue since the racial allocation is as follows: 84% for Chinese, 22% for Malays, and 10% for Indians and other minorities. For the minorities, it is likely that due to the racial quota, they can only sell their property to buyers classified as a minority in Singapore.
This can also be problematic for the Chinese if they are looking to sell and the ethnic quota in that place is already maximized. Also, non-Chinese buyers can score a unit at a significantly reduced price from another minority because of the smaller pool.
Lastly, prospective applicants can opt for the Joint Singles Scheme.
To avail of this, all co-applicants must be Singapore citizens and at least 35 years old if they are unmarried/divorced or 21 years old if widowed/orphaned. Two to four co-applicants can apply jointly.
If orphans are applying, they must meet the ff. criteria:
– One of the deceased parents must be a Singapore citizen or a permanent resident
– If the orphan applying is below 35 years old, he/she must not have a sibling under 35 years who is already attempting to buy or already own a flat under the Orphans Scheme, Single Singapore Citizen Scheme, or Joint Singles Scheme
Also, the applicants need to check the Ethnic Integration Policy and Singapore Permanent Resident quota within the neighborhood.
Two types of grants are available for Singapore citizens that are 35 years old and above: The Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG) (Singles) and the Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG) (Singles).
The grants can offer up to SGD 40,000 depending on the household income. However, as a requirement, at least one applicant of the scheme must be employed at the time of the submission of the flat application. Furthermore, he/she should have been continuously employed for a duration of 12 months leading to the application.