Jumbo flats are the mythical beasts of the HDB world: you hear rumours of their existence, but you may not have seen one before nor know of anyone that lives in them. However, unlike mythical creatures, they do exist.
According to a Straits Times article in 2017, there are only about 2,900 jumbo flats in Singapore. Due to the rarity of such flats, it comes as no surprise that they are highly sought after, especially in good areas, and are more expensive compared to regular HDB flats. It helps also that they are much bigger in size. Prior to becoming the President, President Halimah Yacob also lived in a jumbo flat.
Jumbo flats were first introduced by HDB in 1989 due to an oversupply of unsold flats (this was before the BTO system was introduced). These flats, which were mainly 3-room and 4-room, were combined to create one much bigger flat. This gives HDB buyers with bigger families an additional option to buy a bigger flat. Thus, the jumbo flat was born.
The first such HDB jumbo flats were introduced in Yishun. Subsequently, more flats were introduced in other housing estates. 80% of jumbo flats can be found in Woodlands today. Below is an example of the floor plan of how a jumbo flat looks like in 1989.
How Big Are Jumbo Flats & Where Can You Find Them?
Jumbo flats are typically between 150 sqm to 168 sqm or 1615 sqft to 1800 sqft. As they are created by merging two HDB units, they tend to have bigger common living and dining areas, and also larger kitchens and more bathroom units compared to regular HDB flats.
For size comparison, the new BTO 3Gen flats are about 115 sqm or 1238 sqft and Executive flats are 130 sqm or 1400 sqft. This makes jumbo flats possibly one of the largest HDB flat types available on the market today.
Today, HDB no longer build jumbo flats. If you are planning to buy a jumbo flat, you would have to buy one from the resale market. Jumbo flats can typically be found in Woodlands and Yishun. Jurong East, Bedok and Tampines are also estates where you may find prebuilt jumbo flats.
Occasionally though, you may also find a rare jumbo flat outside of these estates and these are likely the result of previous flat owners who have utilised the HDB conversion scheme.
What is The HDB Conversion Scheme?
A rarely-utilised scheme, the HDB Conversion Scheme allows you to join two adjoining HDB units into one single unit, effectively creating a jumbo flat. Only 3-room or smaller flats are eligible for this scheme.
To be eligible to do so, you need to either buy two flats that are next to each other or buy the adjoining flat next to your existing flat. Before proceeding to buy the flat(s), you will need to seek HDB’s confirmation that the flats you are intending to convert are suitable for conversion.
If you are buying 2 adjoining flats, you can apply for a single housing loan to cover both flats. However, if you are buying the adjoining flat, you need to discharge your existing home loan (if any) and take a new loan for the purchase.
To convert the two flats into a single unit, you need to construct at least 1 opening of at least 1 metre by 2 metres between the 2 units and remove the PUB meters from one of the flat.
Are Jumbo Flat Worth Buying Or Converting?
Before you covet your neighbour’s flat, you should be aware that there are some limitations to converted flats. Once converted, the flat is considered a single unit and cannot be subdivided in the future. Additionally, if you have purchased the adjoining unit, you are subject to a Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP) of 5 years and the resale levy when you sell the converted flat.
While jumbo flats have made the headlines for their luxurious renovations as well as their million-dollar price tag, it’s worth noting that they are also more expensive because they are bigger. If you consider the cost that you are paying on a per sqft basis, jumbo flats may not actually be more expensive than regular HDB flats. Thus, depending on your existing unit and your original cost paid, it may not always make financial sense for you to buy over your neighouring unit and convert into a jumbo flat.
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