Most of us probably associate a HDB sales launch with HDB BTO flats, but did you know that HDB also has sales launches for Sale of Balance Flats (SBF), Open Booking of Flats, as well as Executive Condominiums (ECs) too? In this introductory guide, we walk you through these different types of public housing offered as part of HDB’s sales launches.
Recent and upcoming HDB sales launches
Already know it all? Then dive straight into shopping for your new home! Here are the latest HDB BTO, balance flats (SBF and open booking) and EC sales launches.
HDB sales launches
Estate / project
Upcoming BTO launch
Most recent BTO launch
November 2020 (closed for applications)
Upcoming EC launches
First quarter of 2021
Tampines Ave 10 and Canberra Link
Available EC projects
Launched in 2020
OLA (Anchorvale Cres), Rivercove Residences (Anchorvale Lane), Piermont Grand (Sumang Walk) and Parc Canberra (Canberra Walk)
Unsure about the various types of HDB sales launches? We can help. Let’s begin with HDB BTO flats.
HDB Build-To-Order (BTO) flats - available four times a year
First introduced by the government in 2001, BTO flats are what most of us are familiar with when it comes to HDB sales launches.
As the name suggests, BTO flats only begin construction if demand exceeds 70%. BTO sale launches from HDB takes place once every three months, in which a range of flats will be launched across a few estates. These flats vary in size, from 2-room Flexi to 3Gen flats.
One major benefit of getting a BTO flat is that they’re one of the most affordable public housing options in Singapore. For instance, during the recent August 2020 HDB sales launch, the selling price of a 2-room Flexi flat in Choa Chu Kang started from just $99,000. What’s more, this excludes CPF Housing Grants.
The waiting time for a BTO flat is about three to four years. However, in 2018, HDB started launching certain projects with a shorter waiting time of about 2.5 years.
In early 2019, it was announced that HDB would announce new projects six months in advance, instead of the usual three months. This means home buyers would have more time to plan their BTO flat purchase. The waiting time for BTO flat applicants has also been halved, from 6 weeks to 3 weeks.
Because of COVID-19, the recent HDB BTO launch in August 2020 will combined May's and August's launch together, offering 7,820 HDB BTO flats, making it HDB's biggest launch to date.
The next HDB BTO launch will be in November 2020, featuring new flats in Bishan, Toa Payoh, Sembawang, Tengah and Tampines.
HDB Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) - available twice a year
If waiting for three years for an HDB BTO flat is too long of a wait, perhaps you might want to consider getting a flat through the HDB Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) scheme.
Essentially, the flats that are sold in the HDB SBF sales launches are:
Unsold flats from previous HDB BTO sales launches
Surplus SERS replacement flats
Flats that were given up (eg. applicants decided to break up)
Flats repurchased by HDB
The good thing about HDB SBF sale launches is that there are more estates that you can choose from, compared to HDB BTO launches where flats are launched in around up to three to four estates. In addition, HDB provides more information about these HDB SBF flats, including the block number and unit number, allowing you to know the exact location of a unit.
By buying an HDB SBF flat, you also get to enjoy a shorter waiting time. These flats are mostly already under construction, so you can expect to move in less than three years. There might also be flats that are ready for you to move into.
HDB SBF sale launches are usually offered twice a year in conjunction with the May and November HDB BTO sales launches. Do take note that you can only apply for either a BTO or an HDB SBF unit, and not both.
Re-Offer of Balance Flats (ROF) Open Booking of Flats You can also consider getting a flat through HDB’s ROF scheme. Introduced in 2017, the ROF exercise pools together all flats that remain unsold from previous SBF exercises. Like SBF sales launches, flats under the ROF scheme are released twice a year in February and August, in conjunction with BTO launches. Similar to the SBF sales launch, you can only apply for either a BTO flat or the ROF. The unique thing about the flats under the ROF sales launches is that they are available for the public to apply throughout the year. This open booking system was started by HDB in June 2019. This means that you can view the listing of available flats and apply at any time of the year online. Once you’ve applied for the flat, you’ll be shortlisted by a computerised ballot. Depending on your queue number and flat availability, you might be able to book for your flat as early as the next working day of the application submission. ROFs they might either be in the midst of construction or even be completed. So if you’re urgently looking to move into a new house, you can consider buying a flat through the ROF sales launch.
In the past, all unsold flats were pooled together in another exercise known as Re-Offer of Balance Flats (ROF). 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.
Now, all unselected flats from SBF exercises will be open for direct offers.
With the removal of ROF exercises, all unsold HDB BTO balance flats will be first be offered through the HDB Sale of Balance Flat scheme. If they remain unselected, these HDB SBFs will be then be offered for open booking, instead of going through another round of HDB ROF exercise like in the past.
Executive Condominiums (EC) - four available projects in 2020
Executive condominiums (ECs) are also part of HDB sales launches. A hybrid of private and public housing, ECs were first built in 1999. Note that the launch frequency for ECs every year aren’t fixed. For example, there was only one EC launched in 2019. For 2020, there are currently four EC projects available: OLA, Rivercove Residences, Piermont Grand and Parc Canberra.
Enclosed in a gated compound with security, ECs typically feature amenities like swimming pools, clubhouses, gyms, and playgrounds - facilities you would also find in a private condo.
ECs are targeted at the “sandwich class” - families whose household incomes exceed the income ceiling for an HDB flat, but are not high enough to comfortably afford private housing.
Although ECs are built by private developers, they are much lower in price than a private condo. This is because the land they are built on are subsidised by the government. If you’re eligible, you can even use CPF housing grants when buying an EC.
As ECs are first sold by the HDB, they are subject to specific regulations that mirror those of HDB flats - including a lease of 99 years.
If you’re thinking of applying for an EC, take note that your monthly household income cannot exceed $16,000. And like buyers of new HDB flats, you’ll need to fulfil the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) of 5 years. During this time, you cannot sell or rent out your EC entirely.
Similar to HDB flats, ECs can be sold in the resale market to Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents after 5 years.
Another thing that sets ECs apart from HDB flats is that ECs are considered private property from the 11th year onwards. This means that selling an EC will be easier, since you can sell it to foreigners and companies, on top of Singaporeans and Permanent Residents.
The DBSS scheme was suspended indefinitely in 2012 (Source: JGP Architecture)
Design, Build, and Sell Scheme (DBSS) - discontinued in 2012, but still available on the resale market
Design, Build, and Sell Scheme (DBSS) units were first introduced by HDB in 2005.
In many ways, these are similar to ECs - public housing built by private developers aimed at the “sandwich class”. The private developer is in charge of the project, including the purchase of the land, design, and actual construction.
But what makes DBSS flats different from ECs is that DBSS flats are essentially public housing, while ECs become private condos from the 11th year onwards.
In general, DBSS flats appeal to a group of buyers who want something more upscale than the usual BTO flat, but would not be able to comfortably afford private housing or an EC.
In 2012, the DBSS scheme was suspended indefinitely with a total of 8,649 units built in 13 projects. Reasons included complaints over extremely high prices, poorly designed buildings, and defective workmanship in the flats.
Perhaps due to the suspension of the scheme, DBSS flats are experiencing high demand. In fact, DBSS flats have been making headlines for fetching what some would say are exorbitant prices on the resale market: Earlier this year, 5-room DBSS units from Natura Loft @ Bishan, SkyTerrace @ Dawson, The Peak @ Toa Payoh and City View @ Boon Keng changed hands for over $1 million!
Summary of the Types of HDB Sales Launches
Here’s a table to summarise the key difference between the different HDB sales launch property types that we’ve looked at:
Launched four times a year, 2.5 to 4 years waiting time
Launched twice a year, shorter waiting time than BTO flats
Flats are available for application throughout the year, shorter waiting time than BTO flats
Launch frequency is variable, built like a condo but first sold by HDB
Scheme suspended indefinitely as of 2012, still available on resale market for a premium
Frequently Asked Questions
Can foreigners buy HDB flats?
No, foreigners are not eligible to buy HDB flats, whether directly from HDB or on the resale market. Foreigners can, however, rent an HDB unit for residence.
Can Singapore Permanent Residents (PRs) buy HDB flats?
Singapore PRs cannot buy new, subsidised HDB flats directly from HDB sales launches unless they are applying with another Singapore Citizen. However, on their own, PRs can buy resale HDB flats on the open market.
How do you check your HDB conservancy charges?
HDB conservancy charges vary depending on your Town Council. Depending on your flat type, the service and conservancy charges of HDB flats typically range from $20 to $90 per month for Singapore citizens, factoring in the reduced rates for Singapore citizens.
Are cats allowed in HDB flats?
Strictly speaking, HDB does not allow the keeping of cats within their flats. However, many homeowners still go ahead with this. You can read more about the types of pets allowed in public housing here.
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