HDB BTO, SBF Or Resale: Which Should You Pick?

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From Build-To-Order (BTO) to Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) and resale, here’s everything you need to know about the different HDB flat sales modes and factors to consider before making your decision.

It is almost a rite of passage for most Singaporeans: we study hard, find a good job and then work towards saving enough money to afford a space of our own—by that we mean a HDB flat. But here’s where it starts to get tricky as there’s a tonne of HDB flat options available and they differ greatly from each other.

So, if you are intending to purchase your nest egg soon (read: there’s a massive HDB launch in August 2020) and want to avoid making a costly mistake, here’s everything you need to know about HDB flat types, their pros and cons, and considerations you should take before making your decision. 

Types of sales modes for HDB flats

There are 3 types of sales modes for HDB flats, namely BTO, SBF and resale flats. Here’s how they differ from each other and their individual pros and cons.

HDB BTO flats

First introduced in 2001, Build-To-Order (BTO) flats have a 99-year lease and are sold by the HDB directly to Singaporeans. Their sizes vary from 2-room Flexi flats for singles or couples that measure 36 or 45 square meters, to Executive flats for bigger families that measure 130 square meters. 

There are 4 sales launches in a year conducted in February, May, August and November, with their exact dates kept secret until closer to launch. However, due to COVID-19, there will only be three sale launches this year. May’s sales launch has been combined with August’s, and together it will offer an estimated 7,820 new units, spread over 11 locations across Singapore.

ProsCons
Price: Cheapest option amongst the 3 HDB flat types.Long wait time: Be ready to wait 3 to 4 years before getting the keys to your new home.
Staggered Downpayment Scheme: If you are eligible for this scheme, your upfront downpayment can be split into two installments: 5% to be paid during signing of agreement and another 5% when collecting your keys. 
This is really helpful for younger couples who have just joined the workforce and do not have that much in their CPF Ordinary Account. 
Size: Newer flats are smaller in size as compared to older ones.
Lease: All new BTO flats come with a 99-year lease.Amenities and transport options: Unless you purchase a SBF in a good location, amenities and transport options will be minimal.
Renovation: A new flat means you are working with a blank canvas. Cost of renovations should be relatively lower as there is less to tear down and electrical wirings are new. HDB BTO application (also known as balloting): Before you can purchase a BTO flat, you first have to ballot for a chance to do so. 
As BTOs are highly contested for, be mentally (and also emotionally) prepared that your first application may not be successful. 

HDB SBF

Like its name suggests, these are balance flats from previous sales launches, surplus Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) replacement flats and repurchased flats. Since it is a collective of balance flats from around the island, you are not limited to two or three locations like how it is during BTO sale launches. 

Similar to BTOs, they are brand new and are sold by the HDB directly to Singaporeans. Their sizes vary from 2-room Flexi flats for singles or couples that measure 36 or 45 square meters, to Executive flats for bigger families that measure 130 square meters. 

The HDB conducts SBF sales launches twice a year, usually in May and November with approximately 3,000 on offer each time. 

ProsCons
Price: Slightly more expensive than a BTO, but definitely cheaper than a resale unit on the open market in the same area.Price: SBFs are generally more expensive than a BTO because their prices have been adjusted to reflect market rates.
Staggered Downpayment Scheme: If you are eligible for this scheme, your upfront downpayment can be split into two installments: 5% to be paid during signing of agreement and another 5% when collecting your keys. 
This is really helpful for younger couples who have just joined the workforce and do not have that much in their CPF Ordinary Account. 
Limited supply and options: There isn’t going to be a huge supply of them, and options with regards to size of flat, level and unit’s position are limited. 
Lease: Similar to a BTO flat, you will get a 99-year lease if the SBF is still under  construction, and a little less if it is fully built. Amenities and transport options: Unless you purchase a SBF in a good location, amenities and transport options will be minimal.
Shorter wait time as compared to a HDB BTO: As they are likely under construction or already built, wait time will definitely be less than 4 years.   HDB SBF application (also known as balloting): Before you can purchase a SBF, you first have to ballot for a chance to do so. Like BTOs, SBFs are highly contested for, so be prepared that your first application may not be successful. 
Renovation: A new flat means you are working with a blank canvas. Cost of renovations should be relatively lower as there is less to teardown and electrical wirings are new. 

Resale flats

Resale flats are pre-loved homes that have met the minimum occupancy requirements of five years and are now for sale on the open market. Not to mention, they are also larger in size—a five-room built in the 1990s measures 120 square meters, while one that’s sold in 2018/2019 measures just 110 square meters.

Unlike BTOs and SBFs that have an income ceiling of $14,000 for couples and $7,000 for singles, resale flats do not. This makes them a good option for those who earn above those ceilings and do not want to purchase a private property. 

ProsCons
Larger space: Older flats are bigger even if they are classified as the same type.Price: Most expensive option amongst the 3 sales modes of HDB flats, usually because of its location, surrounding amenities and transport options.
More amenities and transport options: As resale flats are usually 5 years old and above, chances are that during this time amenities and transport options would’ve been built. Lease: As a resale flat, its lease will be shorter. Depending on the unit you’ve chosen, you can expect its lease to be 94-years and below.
More flat options: You will have more options with regards to location, flat type (especially if you are purchasing as a single applicant) and floor.Renovation: Depending on how well maintained the resale flat is, you may need to teardown built-in furniture, rewire the flat, hack tiles and more. These can add up to a substantial amount. 
Short wait time: Not only can you skip the entire HDB BTO application process, you can get the keys to your home in as quick as 4 months
No income ceiling: All Singaporeans couples or singles are eligible to purchase a resale flat regardless of their pay cheque. 
Proximity grant: If you purchase a resale flat within 4km of your parents or child, you are eligible for a proximity grant of $10,000 for singles and $20,000 for couples.

Factors to consider before buying a HDB flat

But how does one choose from a BTO, SBF or resale flat and perhaps make the most important purchase in their lives? Here are some factors that we think would help you narrow down your decision and in the process, help create your ‘home sweet home’! 

Cost: Do you know what your housing budget is? 

Purchasing a flat is expensive and you don’t want it to become a financial burden where you have to cut back on daily expenses just to afford the monthly installments. So before looking at locations or deciding on the type of flat, you should first get your financial ducks in order. 

By this, we mean finding out exactly how much you have in your CPF ordinary account, what CPF Housing Grants you are eligible for, the monthly installment amount you are comfortable with (inclusive of your home loan interest), and cash savings available. By doing so, you will then know exactly how much your housing budget is and not overspend on a home.

Location: How important is being nearer to Orchard to you?

Location directly affects the price of a flat. The closer it is to amenities and transport options, the more expensive they are—regardless of the flat’s size or age. Based on the last BTO sales launch, a 3-bedroom flat without grants in a non-mature estate starts from $177,000 and one in a mature estate starts from $351,000. In comparison, a three-bedroom resale flat costs an average of $299,000, and prices can go up to $434,000 if it is located within the downtown core. 

This means, sacrificing an additional 20-minute commute to work a day could save you $80,000 or more, which is a huge sum if you are planning to start a family or have eyes set on a new car. 

Cash needed: Do you have enough cash saved up?

Yes, your CPF funds can definitely be used to purchase a HDB flat, but there are some charges that may require cash. Here’s approximately how much cash you would need to purchase a BTO, SBF or resale flat. 

For easier calculation, the numbers below are based on a young Singaporean couple who are purchasing a 3-room HDB flat without grants, taking a 90% HDB loan and HDB’s solicitor is acting on their behalf. 

Payment forCash needed for BTO flatCash needed for SBF flat
Price of 3-room flat$220,000$240,000
HDB Application (Ballot)$10 per ballot$10 per ballot
Option/booking fee$1,000$1,000
Stamp duty on flat$2,600$3,000
Stamp duty on mortgage$500$500
Legal fee$155.15$167.99
Registration and microfilming for transfer of ownership$38.30$38.30
Registration and microfilming for mortgage $38.30$38.30
Caveat registration fee$64.45
$64.45
Down payment$22,000, but since this amount can be taken from their CPF Ordinary Account, they will $0 in cash$24,000, but since this amount can be taken from their CPF Ordinary Account, they will $0 in cash
Survey fee$227.38$227.38
Miscellaneous fees (Fire insurance, additional ballots, etc.)$200$200
Approximate amount of cash needed$4,834$5,246
Payment forCash needed for resale flat
Price of 3-room resale flat$300,000
Option fee$1,000
Any amount between $1 to $1,000
Deposit to seller$4,000
Including the option fee, this should not total more than $5,000
Valuation report$200
Resale application administrative fee$80
Stamp duty on option to purchase$4,200
Stamp duty on mortgage $500
Legal fees for option to purchase (based on $300,000)$309.23 
Legal fees for mortgage (based on $270,000 loan)$420.51
Registration and microfilming for transfer of ownership$38.30
Registration and microfilming for mortgage $38.30
Buyer’s caveat, mortgagee’s caveat and title search fee$160.90
Initial amount$30,000, but since this amount can be taken from their CPF Ordinary Account, they will pay $0 in cash
Miscellaneous fees (Fire insurance, temporary extension of stay, etc.)$200
Real estate agent’s commission$3,000
Usually 1% to 2% of the transacted price
Approximate amount of cash needed$14,147

Wait time: How long are you willing to wait? 

BTO flats require at least three years to construct, SBFs take a little less, but resale flats are readily available and if done right, you can get the keys to your new home within four months. So, if you’re looking to start a family soon or need your own sanctuary pronto, resale flats are the way to go. 

Renovation: Minimalist, industrial or beach themed?

Depending on how much renovation you have planned for your nest egg, know that the type of flat you purchase will also affect its cost. Renovating a new BTO flat will most likely cost less since it doesn’t require serious demolition or electrical works. A quick search on interior design packages will show that a standard renovation for a brand new 3-room BTO flat costs $32,000, while a three-room resale flat will set you back a cool $42,600. 


Made your decision on which flat to get? Then the next step is to find a good home loan that keeps your cash flow under control, while your dreams of home ownership are kept in motion. Apply for a home loan using our simple comparison tool below and you could get rewarded with exclusive prizes!

*Rewards may change at any time. Terms and conditions apply. 

Read these next:
HDB BTO Launches In 2020 (Choa Chu Kang, Tengah, Woodlands, Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Geylang, Pasir Ris, Tampines)
8 Hacks To Improve Your HDB BTO Ballot Chances
What Type Of HDB Flats Can Single Singaporeans Buy?
How Much Do You Need To Buy Your First Home In Singapore?
Home Insurance Promotions And Discounts To Protect Your Home


By Geralyne Ong
A lover of gin and all things Nigella Lawson, Geralyne’s a big believer of #Adulting. She spends her leisure time serving fur-babies and doing as many mountain climbers and kettlebell swings as she possibly can.