77% of Singapore’s resident population live in an HDB flat. This is mainly because HDB flats tend to be the most affordable and convenient way to become a homeowner in Singapore. One of the most common methods to buy our first HDB flat is through a Built-To-Order (BTO) flat.
This means we “order” a flat, and the government proceeds to “build” it over the next four to five years. Typically, HDB announces 4 BTO sales launches each year – in February, May, August and November. However, this year, the sales launches in the second half were pushed back to October and December 2023.
Since BTO flats are regarded as subsidised public housing, and we can even receive housing grants when we apply for one, there are certain and eligibility criteria we may need to meet to be able to apply for one.
Am I Eligible To Buy A BTO Flat?
First up, there are some very straightforward eligibility conditions we have to meet to apply for a BTO flat.
In most cases, at least one person applying for the BTO needs to be a Singapore Citizen AND at least one other person applying (if applicable) needs to be a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident.
To ensure that only those who need subsidised housing the most can get BTO flats, there is typically a household income ceiling of $14,000 for applicants.
This figure may rise up to $21,000 for the extended family/multi-generation family income ceiling, if we’re applying for a 3Gen flat. However, you need to take note of the method of calculations for this $21,000 ceiling.
It can also fall to $7,000 if you’re applying for a 2-room flat under the 2-Room Flexi Scheme.
To assess your income, you will be expected to submit your payslips as well as other relevant documents when you apply for your BTO. Higher income households can still opt to apply for an EC (Executive Condominium), where the income ceiling is $16,000.
This is another quite straightforward eligibility condition. We must be at least 21 years-old at the point of our BTO application.
Specifically under the Fiancé/Fiancée Scheme, applicants below 21 years-old but above 18 years-old can apply for a BTO with written consent from the applicant’s parents or guardians.
If an applicant is under 18 years-old, a Special Marriage Licence from the Ministry of Social and Family Development must be submitted during the flat selection appointment.
Singles have to be at least 35 years old at the point of application.
If we currently own other residential properties, either locally or overseas, or have disposed of them within the past 30 months, we will not be eligible to apply for a new BTO flat.
Applicants must also have only purchased up to one subsidised HDB flat (i.e. BTO or subsidised resale HDB flat), DBSS (Design, Build and Sell Scheme) or EC in the past. This is because Singapore Citizens are only eligible for two subsidised flats from the government.
We also need to pay a resale levy, of up to $55,000, if we sell our subsidised flat and want to apply for a second subsidised flat from HDB or EC from a developer. If we sold our subsidised flat before 2006, this figure may be higher as the resale levy was a percentage of the selling price.
We are also only allowed to apply for new BTO flats if we have passed the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) of our current BTO or EC. This is typically five years from the time we take possession of our flat.
In addition, all applicants can only own up to 1 non-residential property at the HDB Flat Eligibility (HFE) letter application and up to 30 months before HFE letter application.
Which Housing Scheme Do You Qualify Under?
While many people often apply for BTO flats when they decide to get married, there are a few main schemes for our applications:
When we buy a flat with our Fiancé/Fiancée, we are forming a family nucleus with our spouse-to-be. While this means we do not have to be married at the point of our application, we need to submit our Marriage Certificate before taking possession of the BTO flat. In some instances, we may be able to submit it after taking possession of the flat.
We can buy up to a 5-room HDB flat.
Married Couples and/or Parent(s) with Child(ren)
To qualify under this scheme, we need to form 1 of the following household types:
- You, your spouse and child(ren)
- You, your parents and siblings. If you are an unmarried/ widowed/ divorced SC buying a flat with parents, at least one of your parents must be an SC or SPR.
- You and your child(ren) under your legal custody, care and control (for widowed/ divorced persons). If the care and control of your child is shared with your ex-spouse, you must obtain his/ her written agreement before you may list your child in a flat application. If you face difficulties in obtaining the agreement, please share your situation and your finalised divorce documents with HDB via our e-Feedback form.
We can buy up to a 5-room HDB flat.
We can apply for an HDB flat with our Fiancé/Fiancée or spouse to form a family nucleus, and can apply with our parents to buy up to a 3Gen HDB flat.
Orphaned siblings who are singles can form a family nucleus to apply for a BTO flat. To be eligible, all siblings have to be listed in the same application, and are not applying for/ owning/ renting a flat separately. In addition, at least 1 of the deceased parents must have been a Singapore Citizen (SC) or Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR).
We can buy up to a 5-room HDB flat.
Singapore Citizens can apply for a BTO flat with a Non-Citizen Spouse. However, we can still apply for a 2-room BTO flexi flat in a non-mature estate. The non-citizen spouse has to also hold a valid Visit Pass or Work Pass at the point of application.
We can buy up to a 2-room Flexi HDB flat in a non-mature estate.
Single applicants, who are at least 35 years-old, need to be a first-timer and single (unmarried, divorced or widowed) to be eligible for a new 2-room flat in non-mature estates.
We can buy up to a 2-room Flexi HDB flat in a non-mature estate. From 2H2024, new BTO projects will be classified by their locational attributes. At that time, eligible first-timer singles can buy new 2-room Flexi flats in all locations
Two or More Singles
We can buy an HDB BTO flat with up to 3 other singles. All the applicants have to be first-timers and single. All co-applicants must also be Singapore Citizens and at least 35 years-old.
Once we know which scheme we are applying our BTO flat under, we need to take note of some other conditions we have to fulfil to be eligible to purchase our BTO flats.
Seniors: Short-Lease 2-Room Flexi Flat and Community Care Apartment
Seniors may also be eligible for buy a short-lease 2-room Flexi flat or Community Care Apartment from HDB on your own or with 1 of the following groups as a family nucleus:
- fiancé/ fiancée or spouse
- parent(s) or child(ren)
- siblings who are orphans and single, i.e. unmarried/ widowed/ divorced persons@
- non-resident spouse
- other unrelated single citizens
You May Be Eligible For a Priority Scheme
There are several priority schemes we can consider applying under for first-timer applicants with urgent housing needs. Here are the Priority Schemes that you may be eligible for:
Priority for First Timers
A higher proportion of flat supply will be set aside for first-timer families. In addition, such families will get 2 ballot chances – compared to second-timer applicants who will get 1 ballot chance.
All first-timers will get 1 additional chance for every subsequent unsuccessful BTO application in the non-mature estates, after they have been unsuccessful for 2 or more BTO applications (as a first-timer family) in the non-mature estates.
First Timer (Parents & Married Couples) (FT(PMC))
To help young families settle down more quickly, they will receive one additional ballot chance when applying for the BTO/SBF exercises, on top of the two ballot chances that you will receive as a First-Timer family. This means that you will receive a total of 3 ballot chances when you apply for any flat type in any estate.
First-timer families who meet all the following eligibility criteria may qualify for the FT(PMC) category:
- Families with at least 1 Singapore Citizen child aged 18 and below, or married couples aged 40 and below. This includes married couples who are expecting and have a doctor’s certification of the pregnancy
- Never owned or sold a residential property before, including an HDB flat
- Did not have a chance to book a BTO/ SBF flat in the past 5 years prior to their flat application
Family & Parenthood Priority Scheme (FPPS)
The Family & Parenthood Priority Scheme helps first-timer married couples with children get homes more easily. As one of the most common priority schemes, up to 40% of BTO flats and 60% of Sales of Balance Flats (SBF) are allotted under the FPPS.
In addition, applicants under the FPPS can also apply for other priority schemes such as the Third Child Priority Scheme (TCPS) or the Multi-Generation Priority Scheme (MGPS) listed below.
Applicants under this scheme must be first-timers applying as a married couple. They must also be either expecting their first Singapore Citizen child or have at least one Singapore Citizen child below 18 years-old at the time of the application.
Multi-Generation Priority Scheme (MGPS)
The Multi-Generation Priority Scheme helps parents and their married children get new BTO flats in the same estate.
Under the MGPS, parents and their married children must submit a joint application. In this case, parents can only apply for a 2-room Flexi or 3-room flat, while married children can apply for a 2-room Flexi or larger flat. Up to 15% of the 2-room Flexi or 3-room flats (minimum of 20 units) will be set aside for such parents.
Selected applicants will be given three queue numbers – one for the MGPS and two for the Public Scheme. This means that applicants can either apply together (with their MGPS queue number) or separately (with their respective Public Scheme queue numbers). The Public Scheme is for applications by couples and families who are not under any priority scheme.
Married Child Priority Scheme (MCPS)
The Married Children Priority Scheme helps married children live closer to their parents, either in the same flat or estate, or in a neighbouring estate. This makes it easier for married children to care for their ageing parents.
Up to 30% of BTO and SBF flats are allotted to first-timer applicants, and up to 15% of BTO flats and 3% of SBF flats are allotted to second-timer applicants.
Under the MCPS, at least one of the parents or the married child/child’s spouse has to be a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident. Applicants’ parents or married children must be either living with them or staying in the same town or within 4 km of the flat they are applying for.
You need to note that your parents must continue living in the same estate or within 4 km of your BTO flat for the MOP (of five years) as well.
For flats offered under the Prime Location Public Housing (PLH) model, the proportion of flats set aside for households applying for flats near their parents/ married children under the MCPS will be reviewed and adjusted depending on the location of the project. The MCPS allocation quota for the specific projects will be available when the projects are launched for sale.
Third Child Priority Scheme (TCPS)
The Third Child Priority Scheme helps families with more than two children get a flat more easily. Up to 5% of BTO and SBF flats are allotted to eligible applicants.
Under the TCPS, either you or your spouse must be a Singapore Citizen, and your family must consist of at least three children (with the 3rd child born after 1 January 1987). Your other children must also be Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents. In addition, you must not have bought a flat under the TCPS before.
Assistance Scheme for Second-Timers (Divorced/Widowed Parents) (ASSIST)
The Assistance Scheme for Second Timers, or ASSIST, provides assistance to divorced or widowed parents with children under 18 years-old. Up to 5% of 2-room Flexi and 3-room BTO flats in the non-mature estates are set aside for such applicants. This quota is shared with the 15% quota set aside for second-timers.
Tenants’ Priority Scheme (TPS)
Up to 10% of 2-room Flexi and 3-room BTO and SBF flats are allotted to applicants under the Tenants’ Priority Scheme. This is to help tenants of HDB rental flats purchase their own home or those applying under the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) get a flat more easily.
To qualify for this scheme, you and your family must be living in an HDB rental for at least 2 years.
Senior Priority Scheme (SPS)
The Senior Priority Scheme helps elderly residents live in a familiar environment or near their married children, in a 2-room flat. Up to 40% of 2-room Flexi flats on offer during sales launches are set aside for seniors. Within this, half will be set aside for eligible seniors under the SPS.
Applicants need to apply for a 2-room Flexi flat in the same town or estate, or within 4 km of their current flat. At least one of the parents must also be a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident.
Balloting and Selection Queue Numbers
Regardless of whether you apply via an eligible scheme or under a priority scheme, your queue number will not be affected as HDB states that they are randomly generated for all balloted applicants.
Applying For Your HDB BTO Flat
You need to ask yourself many tough financial questions as well as understand the many eligibility criteria you need to meet to be eligible to buy a BTO flat from the HDB. You should also be well-versed with the various priority schemes available to ensure you get your home as easily and early as possible.
This article was originally written on 26 February 2018 and has been updated to provide the latest information.
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