UPDATE: A new batch of more than 800 flats will be available for balloting from 25 March 2020. Visit the HDB website for more details and apply.
When we think of buying a brand new HDB flat, the quarterly HDB Build-To-Order (BTO) sales launches naturally come to mind.
There are also Sales of Balance Flats (SBF) and Re-Offer of Balance Flats (ROF) exercises, which are held semi-annually in conjunction with the BTO launches. SBF launches take place during the May and November BTO sales launches, while ROF launches happen with the February and August BTO sales launches.
During each sales launch period, you can apply for either a BTO flat or SBF/ROF flat (whichever applicable), but not both. You can read more about how SBF and ROF works and the differences between them.
Starting from June 2019, a new option has been introduced by HDB – the Open Booking of Flats. Here’s what this option is and how this can potentially allow aspiring homeowners to book a flat as early as the next working day after making an application, almost all year round.
What Is The HDB Open Booking Of Flats Option?
A quick recap, SBF and ROF both make available flats that 1) were not selected during previous sales launches, or 2) whose homeowners who selected the flats have given their flats up, or 3) are flats that were repurchased from the existing owners by HDB.
Under ROF, aspiring homeowners have a window of 7 days during the sales launch exercise to apply for a queue number, without specifying their preferred flat type and town/estate. Instead, their queue number would allow them to select from the entire pool of flats available during that particular ROF sales exercise.
The Open Booking of Flats works exactly the same way as Re-Offer of Balance Flats (ROF), just that it is available (almost) all year round.
Instead of only being allowed to apply for a queue number during a ROF sales exercise, flat buyers can apply online any time and receive a queue number for flat booking on a first-come-first-served basis, and theoretically book a flat as early as the next working day.
Here is a summary of how the Open Booking of Flats is similar (and different) from buying a flat under BTO, SBF or ROF:
Can You Really Book A Flat Within The Next Day?
Here are the waiting times for receiving a queue number and invitation to book a flat, depending on when you submit your application:
Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said that with the new Open Booking of Flats, homeowners who book a completed flat can collect their keys and move in as quickly as 3 months from the date of application.
This is theoretically possible if you have all the necessary documents to support your application, including securing financing for your home – CPF, cash, a valid HDB Loan Eligibility Letter, or a bank loan.
What Happens To The Existing SBF And ROF Sales Exercises?
The introduction of Open Booking of Flats does not mean the SBF and ROF exercises are going anywhere.
The Ministry of National Development has said that these launches will continue to take place in conjunction with BTO launches, since they have a unique role of allowing ballot queue numbers to be prioritised for applicants who qualify under one of the priority schemes.
Right before each ROF sales launch (in February and August), the Open Booking of Flats will be suspended. ROF applicants will get first dibs on choosing their desired flat, before the balance unselected flats are injected into the system for Open Booking of Flats.
For reference, Open Booking of Flats was suspended on 7 August 2019 and resumed on 25 September 2019. The next time online applications will be suspended will be from 2 March 2020 at 12 noon.
Applying For Available Units Under Open Booking Of Flats
According to the Ministry of National Development, the response to the Open Booking of Flats has been quite good so far. Prior to the last suspension, 50% of available flats were taken up. Having additional options for Singaporeans to purchase a new HDB flat all year-round is definitely a welcome development.
This infographic from HDB outlines the steps involved in applying for a flat under the Open Booking of Flats option:
Choose wisely and all the best!
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