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Prime HDB Flat or “Ulu” Condominium? Which to Buy with 800k

Eugenia Liew
Prime HDB Flat or “Ulu” Condominium? Which to Buy with 800k
For many Singaporeans, owning private property is a dream or perhaps even a life goal. But once the possibility of buying a condominium comes within reach, doubt might creep in: Is a condominium really worth it?
Indeed, even the cheapest condo units cost at least $600,000 to $800,000. With that kind of money, you can easily afford a very spacious HDB flat in a prime location, such as in Queenstown or even the CBD (ahem, Pinnacle @ Duxton).
So which is the better choice? This depends largely on your personal priorities and preferences, but to help you decide, we’ve done a comparison of the available choices if you have a new home budget of about $800,000 to $1 million.

Prime HDB Flats

Unlike condos, which are usually priced based on how far they are from the city, HDB locations are categorised based on how mature the estate is. Mature-estate HDB flats are those with very accessible locations, typically within a stone’s throw from an MRT station and/or major shopping mall.
For this article, we are defining prime HDB flats that check all the above boxes, and are also reasonably near the central area. Think high-profile HDB projects like Pinnacle@Duxton and Skyville@Dawson which are known to have million-dollar transactions.
These are the most sought-after HDB flats that fetch the highest prices because of how convenient they are.
With a budget of up to $1 million, you should be able to get a flat in quite a good location. Here’s a quick look at the recent prices for prime HDB flats sold:
Boon Keng Road
105sqm
$695,000
75 years
Cantonment Rd
95sqm
$958,000
89 years
Dawson Road
83sqm
$800,000
94 years
Farrer Park Road
90sqm
$675,000
83 years
Strathmore Ave
96sqm
$700,000
78 years
Telok Blangah Dr
92sqm
$468,000
56 years
Source: HDB

Entry-Level Condominiums

With $800,000 to $1 million, you could also afford to buy a private condo. The only thing is that it won’t be as spacious as a 4-room flat and won’t be as conveniently located (seen above). Here are some examples of 2-bedroom condominium units in the Outside Central Region (OCR) costing $1 million or less:
Maysprings (Bt. Panjang)
915sqft (85sqm)
$860,000
77 years
1001sqft (93sqm)
$920,000
93 years
Riversails (Buangkok)
850sqft (79sqm)
$930,000
94 years
Southaven I

(Upper Bt. Timah)
926sqft (86sqm)
$990,000
77 years
679sqft (63sqm)
$885,000
(TOP 2023)
Waterwoods (Punggol)
807sqft (75sqm)
$820,000
93 years

Prime HDB vs. ‘Ulu’ Condo: What to Consider When Choosing Between the Two

At the end of the day, it all boils down to your lifestyle and what you value more.
Pros
Central location
Larger size for the price
Low S&CC fees
Private facilities
Connectivity will improve over time
Cons
Resale value uncertain
High maintenance fees
Smaller size for the price

1. What is your ‘ulu’ tolerance?

Easy access to the central region sure has its perks. Some of these prime HDB estates are a short bus ride away from the downtown core, have multiple supermarkets and shops in the neighbourhood, and enjoy a range of dining options from hawker centres to upscale restaurants.
Yet, for all our gripes about location, the reality is that Singapore is a tiny island with world-class infrastructure. Even the most “ulu” regions like Woodlands, Yishun, and Punggol are less than an hour’s MRT ride away from the downtown core — and with more MRT lines being built, connectivity will only improve.
For instance, Maysprings condominium was located opposite Bukit Panjang LRT station when it was built in 1998. Today, with the Downtown Line, residents enjoy an easy 4-minute stroll to Bukit Panjang MRT station and can reach Bugis in 35 minutes. The area also boasts two malls and a park.
Similarly, while Tampines is well outside the central region, it’s a large and well-developed estate where you can even find a good dose of amenities and even nature. Over the course of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to work from home has also helped highlight the benefits of decentralisation.

2. How much space do you need?

The thing about city fringe and central-area properties is that the closer you get to the city core, the more expensive and smaller the units get. This means that if you want to stay in a prime location, you can bet that the size of your home will be smaller than elsewhere.
If you’re living alone or with just one other partner, then a 2-bedroom condo may well be more than enough space. However, if you’re a couple with kids or planning for a family, then it may be too much of a squeeze and a roomier HDB flat may be more comfortable.

3. Other financial considerations

The biggest selling point condominiums make is their exclusivity and private facilities: Barbeque pits by swimming pools, gyms, tennis courts, manicured gardens, or even cafés accessible only to residents. But these frills don’t come free – you actually need to pay monthly conservancy fees for them ($200 to $400+ per month).
HDB flats also have service and conservancy fees, but they’re much cheaper and typically under $100 monthly.
Of course, there are other financial considerations like investment potential, etc, but for that’s a can of worms for another day. We’re assuming you’re shopping for a home, not an investment property.
That said, it’s worthy to note that prime HDB flats were once known for their ‘lottery effect’ because if you manage to secure one through a BTO launch, you’re likely to earn a big profit should you decide to sell it a few years later.
However, National Development Minister Desmond Lee recently commented that prime HDB flats may face resale restrictions in the future, which means a likely end to the trend.
For more property news, content and resources, check out PropertyGuru’s guides section.
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This article was written by Audrey A.. She can’t wait to move into her own place so she can finally get a cat (or two) and an espresso machine to fuel her love for flat whites. For now, she’s saving up and dreaming of her next trip.