Once thought of as rare unicorns, million-dollar HDB flats are a common sight these days.
As of 1 July 2022, 163 million-dollar HDB flats have been transacted this year. In fact, just recently in July 2022, a five-room HDB flat at SkyTerrace @ Dawson sold for a record-breaking $1.418 million. If this momentum continues, it is likely that 2022 will record another all-time high in terms of the number of million-dollar HDB flats sold.
Even affordable, far-flung neighbourhoods can now boast of their own million-dollar resale flats. In May 2022, two jumbo flats in Woodlands and one maisonette in Pasir Ris sold for over a million dollars, indicating that even inaccessible neighbourhoods might no longer be as cheap as before. And it’s not just the five-room and bigger flats that are hitting seven figures – in June 2022, a four-room flat at Boon Tiong Road changed hands for $1.158 million too.
So, what can a million dollars buy you in 2022? Run a quick search on PropertyGuru and you will find mostly smaller condo units in the Rest of Central Region (RCR) and Core Central Region (CCR). For instance, you can get a small unit in new launch condos such as Leedon Green, One Pearl Bank and Riverfront Residences for a million bucks.
So, if you had a million dollars and were looking to buy property, would it be worth it to get an HDB flat or a condo?
Overview: Buying a Condo vs Million-Dollar HDB Flat
For a million dollars, you will generally only be able to afford a small unit like a studio or one-bedroom unit if you purchase a condo on the private property market – especially if you’re looking for a home in the city (CCR) or city fringe (RCR). If you’re willing to live a little farther out in a less central area, you may be able to find a two-bedder in the Outside Central Region (OCR).
Million-dollar HDB flats, on the other end, tend to be larger-sized flats, such as 5-room flats, maisonettes or jumbo flats. While million-dollar flats used to be located primarily in central and city fringe mature estates such as Tanjong Pagar and Queenstown, there are now more reports of resale flats in farther-flung neighbourhoods or non-mature estates being sold for over a million dollars.
While million-dollar condos tend to be much smaller than HDB flats of the same price, condos have the advantage of amenities like swimming pools and tennis courts. There’s also the experience of living in a private property, since condos are something of a status symbol in Singapore.
The two differ in terms of financing too. HDB flat buyers have the option of taking out an HDB loan, which requires a lower downpayment (min. 15%) and is seen as less risky in terms of interest rate fluctuations. Condo buyers can only take out a bank loan, which demands a higher downpayment (min. 25%) and has interest rates typically pegged to the market.
Size of a Condo vs Million-Dollar HDB Flat
With a million dollars, you can expect to buy a condo of about 450 to 770 sq ft in the CCR or RCR, while million-dollar condos in the Outside Central Area (OCR) can be as big as 1,300 to 1,900 sq ft.
By contrast, million-dollar HDB flats tend to be 5-room flats and larger, although even 4-room flats can be sold for over a million if their location is attractive enough. New HDB 4-room flats measure 968.8 sq ft and 5-room flats 1,184 sq ft. Maisonettes can measure more than 1,500 or 1,600 sq ft, while some jumbo flats exceed 1,800 or 1,900 sq ft.
Next, what is the difference in the size of condos and HDB flats you can buy in the same district for a million dollars? We ran a search through PropertyGuru’s database to find out.
In a CCR neighbourhood like Tanjong Pagar, for a million dollars you can find studios and one-bedroom condos measuring about 387 to 678 sq ft. By contrast, in the same area, there is currently an HDB flat measuring 892 sq ft going for a million dollars.
In an RCR neighbourhood like Toa Payoh, you would be able to get a condo measuring about 570 sq ft or an HDB flat measuring 990 to 1,313 sq ft.
In an OCR neighbourhood like Woodlands, you would be able to buy a condo measuring 1,130 to 1,291 sq ft or an HDB flat measuring 1,829 to 1,927 sq ft.
As you can see, a million dollars will buy you much more space in an HDB flat than in a condo, especially in prime locations. For many buyers, the prospect of maximising space is an attractive proposition, and most of the million-dollar HDB transactions involve large flats on the city fringe.
Buying a Condo vs Million-Dollar HDB Flat in the Same District: Which Is More Worth It?
How big of an HDB flat or condo would you be able to buy in a particular district for a million dollars?
Based on the figures in the previous section, in the CCR or RCR you would probably be limited to a studio or one-bedroom unit while going for an HDB resale flat would enable you to live in a 4-room flat at the very least, and usually in a 5-room or bigger flat.
In the OCR, prices are significantly lower, and you might be able to afford a 3-bedroom condo for a million dollars. By contrast, for the same price, you would have a good chance of getting a maisonette or jumbo unit in some suburban neighbourhoods like Jurong West and Woodlands.
Here’s some information on flats and condos currently available to give you an idea of the sizes of million-dollar HDB flats and condos on offer:
Size of million-dollar HDB flats (sq ft)
Size of million-dollar condos (sq ft)
1,829 to 1,927
1,528 to 1,841
1,000 to 1,001
431 to 495
1,141 to 1,603
As you can see, in general, a million dollars will get you a bigger HDB flat than a condo in the same area, but the size differential seems to be greatest in the more central areas.
The farther out into the suburbs you go, the size difference narrows as the size of HDB flats is capped at the largest units available in the area (typically maisonettes or jumbo units), but is still significant.
Financing Your Home: Bank Loan vs HDB Loan
HDB resale flat buyers have a choice between taking out an HDB loan or a bank loan. As interest rates are currently on the rise, HDB loans are likely to be a popular choice as HDB interest rates are very stable, and in fact, have remained at 2.6% since July 1999. HDB flat buyers can also pay a lower downpayment and are eligible for subsidies such as CPF housing grants.
Private property buyers, on the other hand, are not eligible for any subsidies and cannot take out an HDB loan, which means a higher downpayment and the risk of interest rate fluctuations.
That said, buyers of in-demand million-dollar HDB flats might have to pay Cash Over Valuation (COV), so ensuring the availability of good cash flow is still essential.
Access to Public Transport and Amenities
Million-dollar HDB flats tend to enjoy good connectivity via public transport and are often located near MRT stations. They also tend to be close to amenities like shopping malls.
For condos, connectivity can be hit-and-miss, with some projects being located far from MRT stations or nestled in residential areas without many amenities.
How much this matters will depend on your lifestyle and preferred mode of transport, in particular, whether you are a car owner or rely on public transport. In addition, if you are a retiree and do not need to commute to work, you might have less of a need for connectivity than someone who has to commute to the CBD for work via public transport every day.
When Should You Consider a Private Condo Over an HDB Flat?
Condos are suitable for those who want privacy, like having 24/7 security and enjoy using facilities such as swimming pools, gyms, tennis courts and barbecue pits.
Condo residents are also less restricted by rules – for instance, they do not have to worry about fulfilling a Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) before selling or renting out the unit.
HDB owners, on the other hand, enjoy the advantage of having more space and being close to amenities like malls and MRT stations. However, due to the possibility of having to pay a COV and restrictions imposed by the MOP, they must ensure they have good cash flow before committing to a purchase.
If you have a million dollars to spend, an Executive Condo (EC) is another option. These enable buyers to enjoy condo amenities while receiving HDB subsidies. On the downside, they usually do not enjoy great connectivity – at least not for a few years.
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This article was written by Joanne Poh. A former real estate lawyer, she writes about property and personal finance and spends her free time compulsively learning languages and roller skating in carparks.