For most young couples looking to buy their first home, getting a BTO flat is the most common route. However, the average waiting time before you can get the keys to your flat is about 3-4 years. If you don’t want to wait that long and aren’t too keen to get HDB resale flats, the good news is you can apply for the HDB Sale of Balance Flats (HDB SBF).
What is the HDB Sale of Balance Flat (SBF)?
HDB SBF Scheme is essentially a housing sales exercise that pools together unsold flats (or HDB balance flats) from past BTO launches, remaining flats from Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) projects, and any flats repurchased by HDB.
Previously, all unsold flats from HDB SBF exercises will be first offered through the ROF exercises. If these flats remain unselected, they will be made available for open booking.
However, in March 2020, the government announced the Re-Offer of Balance Flats (ROF) scheme would be removed to allow home buyers to obtain their flats more quickly.
With the removal of ROF exercises, all unsold BTO balance flats will be first be offered through the HDB Sale of Balance Flat scheme. If they remain unselected, these HDB Sale of Balance Flats will be then be offered for open booking, instead of going through another round of HDB ROF exercise like in the past.
HDB Sale of Balance Flats vs Build-to-Order (BTO) Flats: What’s the difference?
Under HDB’s Sale of Balance Flats scheme, you get to choose from a wider range of locations compared to the BTO scheme
Here are some of the key differences between HDB’s BTOs and HDB SBFs.
1. HDB Sale of Balance Flats have a shorter waiting period
The main difference between the HDB SBF and HDB BTO is the shorter waiting time.
Since the construction of BTO flats will only begin if at least 70% of flats are booked, this means the process is longer as the waiting time is usually about 3-4 years.
In contrast, HDB SBF launches sell leftover flats from projects that are either under construction or have already been completed (that are ready to be moved into). Therefore, you can get your flat a lot quicker.
This is especially great for young couples who do not want to delay marriage to have a home, or do not want to spend money on rental while waiting for their BTO unit to complete. Single unwed parents and seniors also stand to benefit from the shorter waiting time of HDB SBF exercises.
HDB SBF launches happen twice a year, and coincide with some of the BTO sales launches, typically those in May and November. Even though both sales exercises can occur at the same time, you can only apply for one scheme at any given time.
So, if you’ve already applied for a BTO, you can’t put in an application for a flat for the HDB SBF scheme, and vice versa.
2. HDB’s Sale of Balance Flats scheme offers you more locations to choose from
Conversely, since the HDB SBF scheme pools together unsold flats from many different projects, HDB Sale of Balance Flat launches are located in both mature and non-mature estates across Singapore. While the number of units available for sale is lesser, you have more locations and options to choose from when applying for an HDB balance flat.
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3. You have a slimmer chance of selecting an HDB balance flat that you like
When you apply for a flat under the BTO scheme, you’re basically balloting for a chance to be able to pick the best flat out of the bunch.
On the other hand, things are different when you apply for an HDB balance flat via the HDB SBF scheme.
Since HDB SBF sales are ‘leftover’ flats from previous sales exercises, these flats are considered ‘undesirable’ by previous buyers due to the units’ location. For example, lower floor units that are close to the centralised rubbish chute disposals, west-facing units or units with obstructed views.
Having said that, this isn’t the case for every unit offered through HDB SBF. Some may simply have ended up in the pool because previous buyers were picky, couldn’t afford them, or had to give up the unit due to other reasons. So, depending on your luck, you could actually have a unit that’s perfectly desirable.
4. There’s more information about Sale of Balance Flats compared to BTOs
Another perk of the HDB SBF scheme is that HDB provides information down to the last detail.
In addition to the location, type, flat size and map (things that are provided in BTO sales), you will also know the block and unit numbers of the balance flats, as well as the ethnic quota when you want to apply for HDB SBFs.
5. HDB SBFs are more expensive than BTO flats
Whilst HDB's Sale of Balance Flats are still subsidised by the government, they are still more expensive than BTO flats. However, they still cost much lesser compared to HDB resale flats.
6. Do HDB SBFs come with Ethnic Race Policy (EIP)?
Buying an HDB Sale of Balance Flat also comes with the race quota restriction: it might not be available for certain racial profiles, particularly Chinese.
7. It’s harder to secure an HDB balance flat
Since HDB Sale of Balance Flats have much lesser units available compared to BTO flats, your chances of securing a Sale of Balance Flat is slimmer.
HDB Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) vs Re-offer of Balance Flats (ROF) vs Open of Booking Flats
In the past, any HDB Sale of Balance Flats that were not selected, were pooled together in another exercise known as the Re-offer of Balance flats (ROF). Just like how HDB Sale of Balance Flats are the 'balance flats' from BTO exercises, HDB ROFs are the remaining flats that were not selected from previous HDB SBFs.
However, as mentioned above, the HDB ROF exercise has been scrapped. Any balance flats from HDB SBF will be made through an open booking system on HDB's portal.
Here’s a comparison table highlighting the key differences between HDB SBFs and Open of Booking Flats.
Open of Booking Flats
When they are made available
Twice a year
Balance flats from previous BTO launch
Balance flats from past HDB SBF launches
Number of flats offered
Less than 100
Open throughout the year
Most unit types are available
Limited choices for unit size
Relatively spread out among different races
Few units for Chinese buyers
Eligibility for HDB Sale of Balance Flats scheme
Want to get an HDB SBF flat? Here’s an overview of the eligibility criteria:
Eligible Applicant/ Family Nucleus
You’ll need to qualify for a new flat under one of HDB’s existing eligibility schemes:
1. Public Scheme.
2. Fiancé/Fiancée Scheme.
3. Orphans Scheme.
At least 1 of the applicants must be a Singapore Citizen.
At least 1 other applicant must be a Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident.
You must be at least 21 years old.
You are within the set income ceiling for the flat that you want to apply for:
$14,000 for families.
$21,000 for extended families.
1. You and all other applicants/occupiers listed in the flat application don’t own other property, whether overseas or locally.
2. You have not disposed of any property within the last 30 months.
3. You and all other applicants/occupiers listed in the flat application cannot invest in private residential property from the date of flat application till after the 5-year Minimum Occupation Period (MOP).
4. You haven’t bought a new HDB/DBSS flat or EC or received a CPF Housing Grant before
5. Or, you have only bought one of those properties prior and only received 1 CPF Housing Grant thus far.
Note that the above criteria are only if you’re applying as a family nucleus, or with your fiancé/fiancée/spouse.
As of 2020, unwed parents are now able to buy two-room or three-room flats in non-mature estates if they have stable employment / adequate funds, and will also be considered for public rental flats should they have insufficient finances.
If you are a first-timer single applicant buying an HDB SBF flat, you’ll need to fulfill the following criteria:
You must be a Singapore citizen
You must be at least 35 years of age if you are unmarried or divorced, or 21 and above if you are widowed or an orphan
You must meet the EIP and SPR quota for the area your flat is in (this is more likely to impact the location of your flat)
Your monthly household income doesn’t exceed $7,000
How do I buy an HDB Sale of Balance Flat?
Thinking of applying for an HDB SBF flat in 2020? Unfortunately, there's no HDB Sale of Balance Flat exercise in 2020, but here’s a rundown of how to apply for the 2020 Sales of Balance Flats:
1) Apply for your flat online
Once HDB announces the sale of unsold flats, you can proceed to submit an online application within the application period, provided you meet all the eligibility criteria. Each launch is about a week-long, so you do have some time to make a decision among the flats.
2) Await results and get your finances in order
Following this, if your application is successful, you will be shortlisted via a computer ballot. The results are usually announced in about three weeks.
If luck is on your side and you have a short queue number, then your chances of getting the flat you really want are much higher. First-time applicants and couples have higher chances of securing an HDB Sale of Balance Flat.
While waiting for the results, you’ll want to get your finances in order to prepare for the flat purchase. If you’re getting an HDB loan, you’ll need to apply for your HDB Loan Eligibility (HLE) letter. If you’re taking out a bank loan, you’ll need to request for an Approval-in-Principle (AIP) letter from your bank.
3) Book your flat with HDB
You will then be invited to book your flat according to your allocated queue number and unit availability. You’ll be shown what’s available to you when you go to the HDB Hub for your appointment, and if you like what’s available, you can make the booking on the spot. There’s an option fee payable, which is $500, $1,000 or $2,000 depending on the size of your chosen flat.
4) Collect keys
For flats that are already completed, you can collect the keys and move in within 3 months! For flats approaching completion, you will be able to collect the keys once the flats are ready.
Think You'll BTO Instead?
If you are still leaning towards purchasing a BTO, check out our take on the projects in the upcoming BTO launches:
February 2021 BTO Launch
May 2021 BTO Launch