Step-By-Step Guide To Buying Your Very First HDB BTO In Singapore

Alevin Chan

Alevin Chan

Last updated 12 August, 2020

Here’s everything you need to know for a successful BTO application, in seven easy steps. 

Becoming a proud owner of a HDB flat is the quintessential rite of passage for most Singaporeans. Not only that, it is also a point of national identity and pride; Singapore has one of the highest rates of home ownership in the world.  

The well-oiled system that makes this possible is the HDB Built-to-Order (BTO) scheme, which has done an admirable job in balancing demand and supply for public housing through a system of carefully timed BTO launches. As a result, home-owning has become an attainable dream for the vast majority of Singaporeans. 

If you’re ready to get started on your flat-owning journey, here’s a quick step-by-step overview of the BTO application process. 

Step 1: Check your eligibility

Before you start applying for your BTO flat, the first thing to do is to check your eligibility. Don’t be intimidated by the various schemes available. They are there simply to cater to the different needs of applicants with different backgrounds and circumstances. 

Use the page we’ve hyperlinked above to find out which scheme you qualify for, and study the requirements. 

Here are some notable conditions:

  • At least one applicant must be a Singapore Citizen, and the other must be a Citizen or Singapore PR.
  • Applicants must be aged 21 years and above (35 and above if you’re applying as a Single Citizen or Joint Singles).
  • Must not own any property in Singapore or overseas at least 30 months before application.
  • Average gross monthly household income must be $14,000 or below ($21,000 or below if purchasing with an extended or multi-generation family). For singles above 35 years old, the income ceiling is $7,000. 

As of December 16th 2021, Singapore announced their new property cooling measures: Higher 'Additional Buyers Stamp Duty' (ABSD) rates and tighter loan limits. It's important to note that the highest applicable ABSD will apply such purchases made by two or more parties (jointly) of different profiles. As far as tighter loan limits are concerned, the threshold will be reinforced from 60% to 55%, what this means is that new mortgages cannot cause borrowers total monthly loan repayments to exceed the new 55% of monthly income.

Step 2: Check upcoming BTO launches

Once you have confirmed your eligibility to apply for a BTO flat under one of the various schemes, the next step is to start looking for your BTO flat. 

You’ll want to check for new BTO launches on the HDB website, which are announced every quarter. These launches will contain important information such as the location of the BTO project, what types of flats are available, and how many. 

There may also be artists' impressions of the proposed project as well as location maps that show nearby amenities such as MRT stations, schools, shops, exercise parks and more.

Once you’ve found a BTO project that suits your liking, proceed to the next step. 

Step 3: Ballot for a queue number

Indicate your interest to apply for a BTO flat in the selected project by making an application online. You don’t have to rush to do so, as the application period will be open for one week. 

The online application will cost you $10 and may be submitted via the respective BTO launch minisite. And, no, your $10 is not refundable, in case you were wondering. Your application will then be collated with the rest, and put through a computer ballot to determine your place in the queue. This is where the excitement begins.

In about 3 weeks, you’ll be informed of the outcome of your ballot, and assigned with a queue number. The implication of the queue number you get is enormous.  

As BTO flats are in high demand — especially if they happen to be in popular neighbourhoods, are of a certain flat-type, or near certain famed institutions, such as particularly prestigious schools, for example — the number of applications may exceed the available number of flats.

If your queue number exceeds the number of units available, your chances of getting a unit is slim, and it’s likely you’ll have to wait till the next BTO launch to try again. However, if there are enough applicants before you who drop out, you may still get a flat.

On the other hand, if your queue number is lower than the units available, rejoice! You’re virtually guaranteed to get a BTO flat. But if your queue number is particularly low, you are probably near the head of the queue, and have a wider selection of units to choose from. 

Here are more tips to increase your chances for a successful BTO ballot. 

Step 4: Decide on how to finance your HDB mortgage

Assuming you manage to get a promising queue number, it’s time to decide how you will finance your HDB mortgage, as you’ll need to indicate your financial eligibility during your flat selection appointment. 

You have two options here — HDB loan or bank loan, which we’ve summarised for you in the table below:

ConsiderationsHDB loanBank loan
Interest rate2.6% per annum

(0.1% above prevailing CPF Ordinary Account interest rate, currency 2.5%)
1.2% to 3% per annum

(depends on bank rates, fluctuates over time)
Maximum loan amount85% of purchase price75% of purchase price
Down payment15% of purchase price, payable using CPF OA
20% of purchase price
RemarksOffers stable interest rates, no need for cash down paymentCurrently cheaper option, but rates may rise beyond 2.6%. Also requires cash down payment

Basically, there are two main considerations when deciding whether to use a HDB loan or bank loan. 

The immediate or short-term consideration is whether you have enough cash to pay at least 5% of your flat’s purchase price as down payment. If you do, taking up a bank loan will allow you to enjoy lower mortgage payments in the near term. However, even though interest rates are currently lower, market conditions could lead to a spike in future, beyond 3% or more.

If you don’t wish to pay any cash down payment, then taking a HDB loan is your only option. Since HDB loan interest rates have historically stayed the same at 2.6%, you won’t have to worry about volatility in your mortgage payments. 

It’s good to know the difference between HDB and bank mortgage loans

Once you’ve decided on your mode of finance, you should go ahead and get the necessary documents, which you’ll need for the next step. 

For HDB loans, you’ll need to apply for a HDB Loan Eligibility Letter (HLE), to be produced during the first appointment (Step 5). If you decide to use a bank loan, you’ll need to get a Letter of Offer, although you may produce this only at the second appointment (Step 6). 

Step 5: Attend your first HDB appointment (unit selection)

Now that your ballot is successful, HDB will invite you to select your BTO unit. You will be given an appointment, where you can exercise your preferences such as high floor or low floor, whether you take a corner unit etc. You may want to shortlist several options prior to your appointment, just in case your dream unit had already been snapped up. 

During this appointment, you can also choose whether you will opt in for the Optional Components Scheme (OCS), which supplies your now BTO with extra fittings and fixtures or upgrade some components, such as doors, floor tiles, wash basin or shower fixtures. This can be useful if you intend to move in as quickly as possible with minimal renovation required. 

Note that you will have to pay the option fee once you have selected your flat, as follows: 

Type of HDB flatOption fee
2-room Flexi flat$500
3-room flat$1,000
4/5-room and Executive flat$2,000

If you’re taking a HDB loan, the option fee will be reimbursed in cash if you have enough CPF savings to completely cover the down payment. If you’re taking a bank loan, the option fee will count towards your down payment. 

As noted above, you’ll also need to produce a HDB Loan Eligibility Letter during this stage of the process. 

Step 6: Attend your second HDB appointment (down payment)

Your second HDB appointment will be an emotional one. It’s when you’ll finally sign the Lease of Agreement, solidifying your status as a productive member of Singaporean society. Congratulations! Take it in.

It’s also the final official step you’ll take before getting your very own BTO flat. During this stage, you’ll need to produce your HLE (once more) if you’re taking a HDB loan, or a Letter of Offer if you are taking up a bank mortgage loan instead. 

You’ll be required to make these payments during this appointment — stamp duty, legal fees and down payment for your flat.  

Step 7: Collect your keys and move in!

Finally, you’re at the finishing line. When your flat is ready (which can take a couple of years, owing to construction time), you’ll be notified to collect your keys at HDB. 

During this third appointment, you’ll need to pay another round of stamp duty and legal fees, as well as sign up for mandatory fire insurance and a utilities account. 

Once that’s over and done with, you can make your way to your new home, your very own BTO flat. 

Read these next:
HDB BTO Launches In 2020 (Choa Chu Kang, Tengah, Woodlands, Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Geylang, Pasir Ris, Tampines)
What Type Of HDB Flats Can Single Singaporeans Buy?
How Much Do You Need To Buy Your First Home In Singapore?
HDB Loan Vs Bank Loan: Which One Should You go For?
Upcoming EC, Condo Launches In 2020 To Consider If You Are Planning For A New Home

An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.


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