7 Types of Housing in Singapore For First Time Home Buyers Singapore, and Their Pros and Cons
Updated: Apr 29
We have compiled a list of the most common 7 types of housing in Singapore that most first time home buyer can look at when buying your first home or buying your first property in Singapore.
We have also put together the pros and cons of these 7 housing types to help you gain more clarity before deciding which type of property to go for, as buying your first property in Singapore can be a daunting affair be it for any singles or couples.
As a first timer home buyer, chances are you might not even know what are the full range of options you can choose from, as there are so many different housing types available in Singapore.
In general, the types of housing in Singapore range from public to private housing, but did you also know that there are also hybrid housing available in Singapore as well featuring a mix of public and private features?
Cut to the chase, we will not be touching too much on the eligibility of purchasing these properties today as it is another topic altogether. You can search relevant government sites for the eligibility criteria to purchase when it comes to new public, resale public and hybrid housing, but for private housing in Singapore, Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents are qualified for all (foreigners will have more limited choices and require government approval for some private properties in Singapore).
Here are the 7 types of housing in Singapore that most first time home buyer look at:
1. Build to Order (BTO) HDB Flats
What are BTO HDB flats?
BTO Flats are public housing flats offered by Housing and Development Board (HDB), a public housing authority and statutory board under Singapore’s Ministry of National Development (MND). So, if you would like to apply for a BTO HDB flat, you will have to do it directly through the HDB website.
This is the most common option that young couples in Singapore would opt for as they are the lowest priced amongst all the other types of housing in Singapore. It is also a common rite of passage for many young and newly engaged couples in Singapore these days who will ask each other ‘Want BTO together or not’ as an indirect form of a marriage proposal. (haha)
Alternatively, singles above the age of 35 may opt for a BTO as well but will only be eligible for max a 2-room BTO flat in a non-mature estate.
So, how it works for Build to Order (BTO) flats is that HDB will typically announce six months in advance the land sites in Singapore where BTO flats will be built on, and then allow buyers to submit applications to ballot for a unit. But with the recent news and changes, HDB to release site locations of upcoming BTO projects three months before launch, instead of six, has caught many home seekers by surprise.
Thereafter, if you manage to be the lucky one to have balloted for a BTO unit, BTO flats will take about 3 to 4 years typically to finish building, and your monthly loan repayment only starts when you have collected the keys to your new flat. You can always check the HDB website for news of upcoming sales launches.
Pros of BTO HDB flats
BTO flats are the lowest price amongst all options
As BTO flats are highly subsidized, it is the most ideal option for most young couples in Singapore that are just starting up a family together. Particularly for young first timers looking to buy a house together in Singapore, heavily discounted BTO flats are very affordable and therefore, will place less strain on the finances of young couples.
BTO are brand new flats that come with modern layout, amenities and common spaces, minimal renovation is required
The good thing about owning a BTO is also the fact that they are brand new flats with layouts that are more in tune with the current era. Coupled with modern amenities, therefore you require minimal renovations done. This will help property buyers to save on renovation costs as well
BTO have a fresh 99 years lease as compared to resale HDBs
On top of that, you will also get to enjoy a fresh new lease of 99 years as compared to their resale counterparts which are resale HDBs that have already been in the secondary market for a certain number of years.
BTOs have the highest potential for capital appreciation amongst all HDB flats
After 3 to 4 years of building, HDB flats still come with a Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) of 5 years, meaning that you need to stay in the flat for 5 years after receiving your keys before you are allowed to sell. More often than not, BTO flats that have hit their MOP period will always be worth more than what they were first purchased for 8 to 9 years before.
Cons of BTO HDB Flats
BTO have a 3 to 4 years waiting period for it to be built
As mentioned above, you will be purchasing a unit in an estate that has not been built yet. Faced with the COVID pandemic situation, latest news says that home buyers fret as some BTO flats may be delayed by a year or more. Therefore, we might be even looking at 4 to 6 years instead for it to complete building before you can collect your keys to your house.
Limited supply in certain areas, therefore depends on luck to be able to ballot for a BTO unit
Particularly for popular BTO launch sites, one will be faced with intense competition to be able to successfully ballot for a unit. Back in 2020, HDB flats in latest BTO exercise oversubscribed one day after their launch. Demand was high in both mature and non-mature estates in Geylang and Woodlands being heavily oversubscribed. Other oversubscribed areas also included Ang Mo Kio and Bishan previously.
BTO 5 year Minimum Occupation Period (MOP)
There is a Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) of 5 years. This means that you are not allowed to sell the flat until you have stayed in it for at least 5 years. Coupled with the 3-5 years waiting period for BTOs to be built, it will take you close to 10 years before you can sell and upgrade to any other properties in Singapore. For example, if you and your fiancé are 30 years old now, you will be approximately 35 when the BTO has completed building and 40 before you are allowed to sell.
Timing and location availability of BTO flats
BTO flat launches might not be available at your timing as and when you require, and it might also not be the desired location that you wish to purchase at. It depends on the sites that HDB plans to release at and at the end of the day, it still boils down to luck as well to be able to successfully ballot for a unit, particularly in attractive or mature locations in Singapore.
2. Sale of Balance (SBF) HDB Flats
What are Sale of Balance (SBF) HDB flats?
The words Sale of Balance simply translates to Selling of the Balance units. So where are these balance units coming from? SBF HDB flats are simply balance units from earlier BTO launches that are still not sold out.
HDB SBF launches typically happen twice a year, during May and November of the year and you can apply directly from HDB for SBF flats. Any remaining units after SBF will then be allowed for purchase via Open Booking of Flats.
Pros of Sale of Balance (SBF) HDB flats
SBF are usually ready to move in brand new flats
As compared to BTOs, SBFs are usually either in the midst of construction already or are ready for home buyers to move in in 3 to 4 months’ time. This will save on the waiting time as compared to BTOs that require 4 to 5 years to be built.
SBF allows you more locations to choose from
As compared to BTOs, SBFs are unsold BTO units pooled together from many different previous BTO projects from all locations in Singapore. Therefore, you will have a wider variety of locations to choose from.
Cons of Sale of Balance (SBF) HDB Flats
SBF are sold at higher prices than BTO
As these are units that are ready to move in, naturally their prices will not be as low as those who managed to ballot for a BTO unit when it has not completed building yet at the initial phase. With this being said, you will therefore have lesser proceeds after selling in comparison to a BTO.
SBF are usually not at a highly sought-after location
Popular BTO launches are usually oversubscribed due to their location. Therefore, there might be a chance that the reason for these remaining unsold units could be due to the area being a non-mature estate or are less accessible/ convenient as compared to those in mature and highly popular estates.
SBF have lesser choices remaining
Chances are, the most desirable units would have been snapped up by the BTO buyers first before SBF units were left over. Therefore, you might be left with lesser choices to select from.
3. Resale HDB Flats
What are Resale HDB flats?
Resale HDB flats are flats that are currently owned and occupied by someone already. They are flats that are available for sale in the open market. This means that you will no longer be buying from HDB directly, but rather off the market from an individual seller or sellers.
As mentioned previously, you can only sell a HDB after the Minimum Occupation Period of 5 years. Therefore, resale HDBs that have been put up for sale would mean that the owners have met their MOP period already.
Unlike brand new BTO flats, resale flats do not come with a fresh 99 years lease. Older resale flats will face some issues when applying for a bank loan due to the remaining lease left and also might be subjected to limited CPF usage, so please do check with your property agent or banker first before placing a deposit on any unit rashly.
Pros of Resale HDB flats
Resale HDB flats are ready for you to move in within 3 to 4 months’ time and no need to be balloted for
As mentioned, resale HDBs are completed properties resold in the open market, therefore you do not need to leave it to a stroke of luck like balloting for a BTO. The typical completion period for a resale HDB is about 3 to 4 months after you have exercised your Option to Purchase, before you can collect your keys to the unit.
PRs can buy Resale HDBs
Joint PRs buying a resale HDB flat will need to have had their PR status for more than 3 years individually, not combined together and they will be able to qualify for a resale HDB purchase. Unlike for BTO, where there has to strictly be a Singapore Citizen.
Usually available in the location you prefer
Resale HDB flats are available in almost every part of Singapore except you would find fewer of them in town area. But there is definitely a wide variety of location choices to choose from.
Unit sizes for Resale HDBs may be much bigger
Older resale HDB would usually be slightly bigger in size as compared to its BTO and SBF counterparts. There are also jumbo HDB flats and mansionette in selected areas of Singapore that boast larger spaces and are two storey HDB flats, but these properties typically are older and therefore, have a shorter runway left in terms of their leasehold.
Cons of Resale HDB flats
Resale HDB flats have shorter lease left
Naturally given that resale HDB flats have been previously owned by another owner, the lease would be shorter by the time you take over the unit.
Might be subjected to CPF usage and home loan restrictions if resale HDB lease is very old
Banks have restrictions particularly for properties with very little years left on their lease. So please do check with your property agent or banker as to how that will affect your loan tenure and loan amount that you will be eligible for.
For CPF usage restrictions, you can head over to this link to calculate the maximum amount of CPF you can use to buy a shorter than 60 years lease property.
Resale HDB flats usually have outdated design, amenities and common area
This is very common given that designs in the past will no longer be trending now. Therefore, it’s either you like the idea of vintage or you will have to spend a lot more to renovate the entire resale HDB flat.
Resale HDB flats will less likely have as much proceeds
Due to the fact that it has a shorter lease left and they are older, resale HDB flats will not be as profitable as their BTO counterparts as resale HDB flats would have changed hands a couple of times already.
But of course, it also depends on the location of the resale HDB flat, the exact number of years of lease left, the scarcity of selected resale HDB types and the demand for such flats.
Up until this COVID pandemic period where HDB resale prices continue rising for ten straight months in April 2021, it is no wonder that many HDB owners are looking to sell their HDB now and upgrade to a private property or condo.
4. New Launch Executive Condominiums (EC)
What is a New Launch EC?
Executive condominiums are sold via HDB as well, but are built by private developers. ECs are mainly for the sandwiched middle-income earners that do not qualify for a HDB flat due to the income ceiling, but nonetheless, still find private condo too expensive to afford.
EC provides buyers with condominium lifestyle and facilities but at a cheaper cost than a private condominium as they are subsidized. It is considered a hybrid property in Singapore mixed with public and private elements.
Even though they are a scheme under HDB, you do not buy them directly from HDB. Instead, you will purchase them from the property developers. A new launch EC is an EC that has not completed building yet, akin to a BTO and will take 3 to 5 years to do so before you can obtain the keys to your unit.
Therefore, you will only be able to see a mock up of how the EC will look like at an EC showflat where they showcase how the whole EC development will look like eventually and the room configurations so that you will have a clearer picture on which are the room types to purchase.
One thing to note about ECs is that they also come with a 5-year Minimum Occupation Period, similar to HDBs. So, for new launch ECs, you will have to wait for it to be built in 4 to 5 years, stay there for 5 years before you can sell it to other Singaporeans or Singapore Permanent Residents (PR). At this point in time, it would be considered a resale EC already.
And the best part for ECs is, add another 5 more years on top of the 5-year Minimum Occupation period, and your EC becomes fully privatized like a condominium, allowing you to sell to foreigners or any other persons as well.
Last but not least, do take note that you can only take a bank loan for ECs instead of a HDB loan.
Pros of New Launch EC
New launch ECs will allow you to buy at first hand lowest price
Similarly to a BTO, being the first batch to purchase a new launch EC that has not been built yet would mean that the initial prices are the lowest as compared to buying a resale EC that is currently in the secondary market.
New launch ECs have high potential capital appreciation
Given the fact that they will be fully privatised and turned into a condominium status after 10 years from completing building, it is no wonder that they have the potential for appreciation.
New launch ECs require minimal renovation with latest designs and facilities
As mentioned that EC are developed by private developers, you can most certainly expect that their finishings are much better as compared to resale HDBs and therefore, you can spend less on your renovation costs as everything is new.
Cons of New Launch EC
New launch ECs will take 3 to 5 years to build
As mentioned, new launch ECs are not built yet, therefore you are only able to look at the mock up of how the development will look in future at a showflat. This will have to be taken into account for your family planning timeline as well.
New launch ECs have a 5-year MOP period before you can sell
Even though ECs are developed by private developers, the reason why they are much affordable than condo is because they are highly subsidized by the government. Therefore, similarly to HDBs that have a 5 year Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) where you are required to stay for at least 5 years before you are allowed, ECs come with this requirement too.
New launch ECs are subjected to Mortgage Servicing Ratio
You can only go for a bank loan when you purchase a EC, and banks will look at your Mortgage Servicing Ratio (MSR) first to see how much loan you can qualify for. MSR means that your future bank loan installment cannot exceed 30% of your monthly income.
Therefore, this might cap the amount of loan that you can be eligible for, and therefore you might not be able to afford that big a unit for an EC.
It is always advisable to do an In-Principle Approval (IPA) with your property agent first to check how much loan you can qualify for, before looking at the purchase price.
Lesser new launch ECs and mostly located in further areas of Singapore
New launch ECs are not launched as frequently as compared to new launch condos, which we will touch on more later on. And typically you can find them in areas such as Yishun, Sengkang and Punggol which are the further areas of Singapore in the Outside Central Region (OCR).
5. Resale Executive Condominiums (EC)
What is a Resale EC?
Resale ECs are new launch ECs that have completed building and owners have stayed in the EC for 5 years already before selling them in the open market to secondary sellers. They are considerably still in decent living condition. However, as they are still not fully privatised yet, only Singapore Citizens or PRs can purchase resale ECs. Foreigners can only purchase resale ECs when it hits the 10 year mark.
Pros of Resale EC
Good Choice of Units to Choose From
Many first hand owners of new launch ECs are likely to sell their EC when it hits the 5 year
Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) mark, and upgrade to a condo as they would already be familiar with how living in a private compound feels like after upgrading from a HDB. Therefore, for resale EC buyers, you will be able to expect a good number of options available to choose from.
Resale ECs are Ready For You to Move in
As resale ECs have already completed building, you will be able to move in in 3 to 4 months’ time. Ready to move in conditions also allow you to spend less waiting time for the development to be built. The previous owner may also have had the place slightly renovated, so that would allow you to save on renovation costs.
Resale ECs may have upside potential when fully privatised
A resale EC has a shorter runway to reaching full privatisation, just another 5 years more to go, and you will be able to sell to a larger pool of buyers including foreigners. In comparison to a new launch EC, the time to reach privatisation is definitely much shorter.
Subjected to Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR)
Bank loan wise, TDSR means that your future monthly installment plus your car loan or personal loan installments cannot exceed 60% of your monthly income. Therefore, as compared to the MSR calculation, you will be able to qualify for a larger loan amount and therefore, require lesser cash or CPF upfront as compared to those who can only qualify for a lesser loan amount with the MSR calculations.
Cons of Resale EC
Lesser tenure left as compared to new launch ECs
Buying over a resale EC means that you are now a secondary owner, therefore naturally that would mean that there is a lesser number of years left on the property leasehold.
Higher initial downpayment as compared to resale HDBs
Resale ECs have condo facilities and amenities and therefore are usually more expensive than most resale HDBs in the market. Therefore, if we are looking at a $1.1 million purchase price EC, a 5% cash downpayment will already be $55,000 and 20% cash/CPF downpayment of $220,000.
High monthly loan repayment as compared to resale HDBs
With the higher purchase price, a 75% loan on a $1.1 million property will be $825,000; which is typically a higher loan amount that you will have to take up as compared to a resale HDB loan amount. Your monthly installments will definitely be higher as well.
6. New Launch Condo
What is a New Launch Condo?
Condos belong to the private property market, and a new launch condo works the same way as a new launch EC. A new launch condo will not be built until 3 to 4 years later, but you will be able to purchase a unit at the new launch condo showflat which shows how the condo development will look like in future.
As they are private properties, therefore there is no Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) of 5 years like HDBs but do take note of the Seller Stamp Duty (SSD), whereby you will have to pay taxes of a % of the selling price if you sell the property within the next 3 years from buying. SSD can come up to a hefty sum, therefore it is not advisable to sell within 3 years from buying.
There are a wide range of new launch condos to choose from where there are both Freehold and 99 years lease options, except that 99 years lease are more common these days.
Here is the list of all new launch condos in 2020 and 2021 that have been launched. You can also learn more about the developers who are the ones orchestrating the development of the entire project.
It is important to know who the developers are as new launch condos are not built up yet. Therefore if you cannot feel and see the unit physically, one of the references you can base it on are the past track records of condo developments that these developers have built and created previously. From there, you can be more assured of the level of quality of the previous furnishings and fittings that they provide to homeowners.
Pros of New Launch Condo
Early bird new launch discounts
Typically before a new launch condo showflat is open to the public, the developer will allow a select group of people that are really interested to sign up for a VVIP preview to have a sneak peek of the new launch condo project.
Many new launch condo developers will offer early bird discounts to this first wave of customers to create hype, and good media publicity so much so that when there is a good take up rate on the first day, then more property investors and buyers will be attracted to that new launch condo development amidst so many others. How you can apply for the VVIP preview is to ask any property agents and chances are they will be able to slot you in. Bulk purchase discounts are also available.
But do take note that this does not necessarily apply to all new launch condo developments. It depends on the size of the development, the total number of residential units, the developer’s pricing strategy as well as their profit margin and stakeholder interests. So, do ask your agent to do a comprehensive research and analysis for you prior to purchasing any.
New launch condo provide wide choice of locations especially in town CCR
You will be able to find that new launch condo developments are available in all 3 regions of Singapore - Outside Central Region (OCR), Rest of Central Region (RCR) and also in the Core Central Region (CCR).
New launch condo have higher quality finishings and facilities
Interior furnishings provided by developers can range from mid-tier brands to high-tier brands depending on which new launch condo development it is. Some condo developments even boast marble floorings instead of porcelain tiles or Swarovski cladded water taps for luxury developments.
Higher loan amount as using Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR)
Bank loans for pte properties are subjected to TDSR checks meaning to say that your future bank loan monthly installments plus your car loan or personal loan installments cannot exceed 60% of your monthly income. But you will be able to qualify for a higher loan amount as compared to the Mortgage Servicing Ratio (MSR) where it is only 30% of your monthly income.
New launch condo have potential for capital appreciation
New launch condo developments with a reasonable entry price (depends on the leasehold, location, development type and many other factors to determine whether is it reasonable or not), coupled with early bird discounts typically would have capital appreciation when a property owners sells upon building completion at Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP) stage.
Cons of New Launch Condo
Smaller sizes as compared to resale condo
Given that Singapore is a small country with limited land resources and lesser land parcels left in comparison to many years ago, land is one of our most precious and expensive assets. Therefore, with the increasing land bidding prices by developers for government land, naturally sizes become smaller as well in order to at least profit from the project as developers invest millions to buy land, build properties and market.
Higher PSF than resale condo
Given the smaller sizes, Per Square Foot (PSF) will therefore be higher as well and this can only get higher over time. But developers have been keeping the price quantum reasonable and within reach for consumers and property buyers nonetheless because ultimately, banks grant buyers bank mortgage loans based on the overall price quantum, not the PSF calculations.
For existing new launch condo units, floor plans and prices in the OCR region, you may click on this link to get the latest updates or to schedule a viewing through our team: OCR new launch condo
For existing new launch condo units, floor plans and prices in the RCR region, you may click on this link to get the latest updates or to schedule a viewing through our team: RCR new launch condo
For existing new launch condo units, floor plans and prices in the CCR region, you may click on this link to get the latest updates or to schedule a viewing through our team: CCR new launch condo
7. Resale Condo
What is Resale Condo?
Resale condos are condos that are currently owned by a primary owner already. Therefore, if you are buying a resale condo, chances are you are looking at Property Guru to search for available options.
Buying a resale condo does not mean that you are naturally the second owner. You could also be the third, fourth, fifth or even sixth owner depending on how many times the property has changed hands or how old the condo development is. And this also means that there is a high chance that previous owners would have profited from it already, particularly the first owner that bought it as a new launch condo (unless they bought it at a particularly over-priced entry price).
Pros of Resale Condo
Greater choice of locations as compared to new launch condos
Location wise, there are an even wider availability of options as compared to new launch condos as resale condos are all over Singapore.
More Freehold/999 years lease options
Given that more new launch condos these days are steering towards 99 years leasehold, you will find a wider variety out there in the secondary market for freehold or 999 years lease properties.
Larger size units
Older resale condo developments also had bigger size units in comparison to new launch condos these days where land was not so sparse and expensive back in the days.
Some with enbloc potential
Some older condo developments might have enbloc potential where you can check the % statistics of en bloc potential using this calculator from Edgeprop. But to achieve a successful en bloc comes with its own difficulty and it is not always guaranteed. Therefore, buying a property with only en-bloc potential in mind might not be the best idea especially if you end up being disappointed with expectations.
Cons of Resale Condo
The issue of lease decay for 99 years lease
Generally, 99 years leasehold resale condos face a lease decay issue after their 20th year of establishment. An aging lease coupled with wear-and-tear and older amenity conditions might see prices either stagnanting or depreciating.
But that is not to say that it applies to all 99 years leasehold resale condos, it just takes a bit of detective work and data analytics to really find those gems. But of course, they come rare.
So, then you might wonder if freehold is better and performs better in terms of capital appreciation then. It is actually also untrue that all freehold condos see a constant upside in price appreciation. But we will leave this freehold vs leasehold comparison topic for another day altogether.
There are no developer new launch discounts for resale condos. Therefore, you will basically be just dealing with the seller on an arm's length transaction. What this means is that the price is negotiated between the buyer and the seller.
The agreement on the price is on a willing buyer, willing seller basis transaction. So, you can either find the resale condo unit and negotiate yourself, or you can engage a buyer agent to represent you to source for resale condo developments for you, and negotiate prices for you.
Less choice of units
Even if you have shortlisted a resale condo development that you like, chances are there might not be a lot of units available for sale.
Require substantial renovation
Particularly for older resale condo developments, the unit will require substantial renovation which could see renovation costs as much as $100k to $200k, depending on the size of the unit and its condition. Older resale condo developments would usually also have outdated designs, amenities and common areas. Some have odd shaped layouts as well.
To sum up this blog post on the 7 types of housing in Singapore for first time home buyer, we feel that there is no right or wrong when choosing which type of property to go for as it all still boils down to what you and your partner wants to achieve.
You also have to consider the issue of affordability and ensure that you have sufficient finances for the property downpayment and its other related costs. There is no perfect property, all of them have their pros and cons.
But do consider all highs and lows before making such a huge and important decision. For first time home buyers, your first home is usually the determinant to when or what your next property is going to be.
We feel that properties can potentially also be assets, on top of them being a home; it all just depends on how you look at it or what type of property you are buying. It can also be a part of your retirement planning. Think it's too early to start planning for retirement? Think again.
More About Us: Here at The Open House SG, we aim to take the stress away from you and support you through the entire journey of buying or selling a property in SG. We believe in active listening to your needs and wants first before recommending properties that are suited to your requirements.
We also help property investors make better-informed decisions through real estate knowledge sharing & property analysis, combined with wealth planning strategies such as decoupling or sell 1 buy 2, or buying under trust.
We also assist sellers in marketing and selling their property in the shortest time possible & at the highest price through home styling, makeovers, effective digital marketing strategies & enhanced buyer viewing experiences.
Contact us here if you need any assistance.
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