Resale flats too expensive and BTO flats not worth the wait? Enter open booking, which may be your saving grace to finding your perfect home — you can even select your flat as early as the next working day after application!
You’ve probably heard of BTO flats — they’re an essential part of the quintessential Singaporean dream. However, not many can afford the long waiting times, especially since COVID-19 threw a spanner in the works by causing significant construction delays for many developments.
There’s also another popular option of purchasing a resale flat. But have you seen the sky-high prices and Cash Over Valuation (COV)? As such, budget-conscious individuals may no longer consider resale flats a viable option.
If you think that purchasing a future home is no longer possible, fret not. There’s still the option of open booking that no one really talks about. If you’ve heard about Sale of Balance Flats (SBF), then open bookings work in a similar way, but not entirely.
Here’s all you need to know about open booking of flats.
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What is open booking of flats?
Similar to SBF, open booking flats are ‘leftover’ units that have not been selected during previous sales launches. They also comprise flats that were given up by homeowners who had selected them previously, as well as flats that were repurchased from the existing owners by HDB.
The good thing about open booking flats is that they are not bound by launches like BTO flats. Instead, they are mostly available almost all year round, subject to availability.
Flat buyers can apply online any time and receive a queue number for flat booking. However, the application process operates on a first-come-first-served basis instead of balloting. When HDB gets back to you, you can head down to book a flat as early as the next working day.
Process of open booking of flats
1. View flat listing
Select the flat that you’re interested in.
2. Check eligibility
Ensure that you’re eligible to buy a flat before submitting your application, and that you are eligible to apply for an HDB loan or bank loan. Then, decide if you prefer having HDB or the bank finance your home.
3. Submit application
After confirming the flat, submit your application. The application process goes by fastest fingers first, so be prepared to click on ‘apply’ ASAP.
4. Booking of flat
Once you receive your selection appointment date, you’re ready to head down to choose your unit. This might be early as the next working day if you’re successful (and lucky). Prepare the relevant documents beforehand and bring them with you to your appointment. The full list of required documents can be found here.
5. Key collection
Congratulations! After the agonising wait, you’re finally ready to collect your keys. Completed flats should be ready within three months, while uncompleted flats will only be ready once construction is complete, depending on the development. You’ll also need to bring the relevant documents with you for the official key collection.
Who is eligible?
The eligibility criteria is the same as that for buying a new HDB flat.
You’ll need to:
- Be at least 21 years old
- Have at least one Singapore citizen applicant
- Qualify for a new flat under one of HDB’s eligibility schemes:
- Public scheme
- Fiance/Fiancee scheme
- Orphans scheme
- Fall well within the income ceiling
- S$7,000 or S$14,000 (depending on project) for three-room flats
- S$14,000 or S$21,000 (if purchasing with extended or multi-gen family) for four-room flats or bigger
- Meet the property ownership guidelines here
What grants are available for use?
Since open booking flats are considered subsidised housing, there are currently only two grants that you can apply for:
- Enhanced Housing Grant (EHG)
- Calculated based on your average income for the last 12 months
- Up to S$80,000 worth of grants with an income ceiling of S$9,000
- Step-up grant
- Available for second-timer applicants applying for a second subsidised HDB flat
- S$15,000 in grant if eligibility conditions are met
Do note that grants for resale flats like the Proximity Housing Grant (PHG) and Family Grant (FG) are not applicable. Priority schemes are also not available for open booking.
Open booking vs BTO vs SBF
Here’s a quick overview of the comparison between open booking of flats, BTO flats and SBF.
|Frequency||Mostly throughout the year||Four times a year||Twice a year|
|Pool of flats||Unselected re-offer of balance flats (ROF)||New flats||Unselected BTO and other flats|
|Priority schemes||Not available||Available||Available|
|Flat selection appointment||As early as the next working day after application||From one and a half months after application||From two months after application|
|Key collection||Completed flats: within three months|
Flats under construction: when flats are completed
|From two and a half to five years||Completed flats: within three months|
Flats under construction: when flats are completed
Pros and cons of open booking of flats
Before you decide on getting an opening booking, here are some pros and cons that you should take note of.
|Shorter waiting time: Most open booking flats are either already completed or halfway through the construction process|
You can also select a flat as early as the next working day
|Limited supply and options: Since they are considered ‘leftover’ flats, there won’t be many options with regards to the size of flat, level and unit’s position|
|Renovation costs: A new flat would mean lower renovation costs since you are working with a blank canvas||Application process: Based on a first-come-first-served basis, which might not be ideal if you need time to think through it|
|Lease: Brand new 99-year lease|
|Price: Cheaper than a resale flat|
|Availability: Available all year round|
Who should opt for it?
Open booking flats are the perfect solution for families or couples who want a subsidised HDB flat because they’re on a tight budget, but are unable to endure the long waiting time for BTO flats because you need a flat urgently. Besides that, you are able to get an open booking any time of the year, since you are not bound to launch dates like with BTO flats.
However, families who value a good unit located at a high floor or near amenities may not be able to find a flat to meet all their needs since these flats are considered ‘leftover’ and might not be the best units within the development.
On the bright side, you’ll be able to enjoy the full 99-year lease of your property, just like BTO flats, which will be perfect if you’re on the hunt for a forever home to start a family in.
Read these next:
HDB Sale Of Balance Flats 2021
HDB BTO Launches In 2021 (February, May and August)
How Much Do You Need To Buy Your First Home In Singapore?
How To Buy A House In Singapore: A Complete Guide (2021)
HDB BTO, SBF Or Resale: Which Should You Pick?
By Deborah Gan
A mahjong addict with an undying love for dogs, Deborah is always on the hunt for cheap deals because she is always broke. That is why she is attempting to be more financially savvy to be.. less broke.