Note: The upcoming May 2023 BTO and May 2023 Sale of Balance Flats exercise will be launched soon. Do keep a close eye on this page or the HDB website for more information on when you can submit your SBF or BTO application.
For young couples just starting out their career and looking to purchase their first home, buying an HDB BTO flat or applying for a unit via the Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) or Open Booking of Flats exercises may be the best, most affordable option. Those successful in balloting for a BTO flat or securing a unit will then get the chance to head down for an HDB appointment booking and select the unit.
But if it’s your first time applying for such a unit, you must have plenty of questions about making that HDB appointment booking.
In this article, we clarify how to go about an HDB appointment booking. We’ve broken down the timeline and costs required in the Open Booking of Flats, SBF, and BTO application processes. For good measure, we’ll also cover the types of HDB flats you can apply for and how to check your HDB application and the new HDB Flat Eligibility (HFE) letter.
Watch Our Video on Applying for BTO Flats
Difference Between BTO, HDB SBF, and Open Booking of Flats Units
Before you apply for and make that HDB appointment booking, it is important you know the difference between the different government-subsidised HDB flats.
If you don’t know already, BTO flats are housing you buy directly from HDB. Generally, BTO sale launches happen quarterly, in February, May, August and November. You can either stalk the HDB website or view recent and upcoming HDB BTO launches on the PropertyGuru website.
1. HDB BTO Flats
BTO flats come with basic home design features and are an affordable and popular option for young married couples who are first-time homeowners.
2. Sale of Balance Flats Units
SBF flats are the units that remain unsold from past BTO launches and are put up for sale by HDB. In addition, they also include leftover units from Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) projects or repossessed flats repurchased by HDB.
SBF flats are released twice a year, in May and November. They are usually new from HDB (fresh 99-year lease) but already completed or are undergoing construction so you can expect a shorter waiting time. Like BTO flats, you will have to ballot for it and follow a similar HDB application procedure.
If you’re thinking of applying for an SBF unit in the upcoming May 2023 Sale of Balance Flats exercise, do keep an eye out for when it is launched.
3. Open Booking of Flats Units
Leftover flats from the SBF exercise are then made available under the Open Booking of Flats exercise. The open booking system allows flats to be purchased immediately on a first-come-first-serve basis.
However, the unit choices are limited. Currently, all available flats have been booked. A fresh supply of flats will be announced at a later date, so you will have to wait if you intend to buy a flat through the Open Booking of Flats exercise.
SBF vs BTO vs OBF: Which Is Better?
BTO, SBF and Open Booking of Flats units are considered to be more affordable than resale flats as they are sold directly from the government to buyers at a subsidised rate.
The few main advantages of SBF and Open Booking of Flats units over BTO units are:
- More neighbourhood options for SBF and Open Booking of Flats units than BTO launches
- Shorted waiting times for SBF and Open Booking of Flats units as these BTO projects have already started construction
In the last Nov 2022 HDB SBF exercise, there were flats available for booking in 21 neighbourhoods with 1,071 total units. Some SBF and Open Booking of Flats units are even ready for homeowners to move in! That’s in comparison to BTO launches which usually only see three to four neighbourhoods for each launch.
But of course, BTO launches allow you to have ‘first pick’ and favours first-timer, unmarried couples best. Plus, the chances of securing a unit from the BTO exercise are now better than if you tried for an SBF or Open Booking of Flats unit.
What Are the Various HDB Flat Types Available?
Next, let’s look at what are the available HDB flat types that could be available at each launch. But before we dive deep into the details, it’s important to clarify each flat category typically comes with one less room than indicated in its title. For instance, a 4-room flat has only three bedrooms as HDB counts the living room as a ‘room’. 5-room flats are an exception to this rule, with only three bedrooms.
2-Room HDB Flat
- Layout: 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom
- Area: 36 or 45 sqm
3-Room HDB Flat
- Layout: 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
- Area: 60 or 65 sqm
4-Room HDB Flat
- Layout: 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
- Area: 90 sqm
5-Room HDB Flat
- Layout: 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
- Area: 110 sqm
3Gen HDB Flat
- Layout: 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms
- Area: 115 sqm
All new BTO flats come with a storeroom/bomb shelter, living/dining area and kitchen. 2-room flats do not usually come with a service yard. 5-room flats may or may not come with a balcony area.
Different flat types also have different income ceilings and various eligibility criteria. Generally, the income ceiling is $7,000 or $14,000 (depending on the project) for 3-room flats and $14,000 for 4-room and up. If you’re purchasing a flat with your extended or multigenerational families (like for 3Gen flats), the income ceiling is $21,000.
BTO, OBF, and SBF Timeline for Payment
To help you better plan for your HDB purchase, here is a checklist of what you need to check and prepare. We’ve also included the estimated periods between each step.
Do note that if you are intending to apply for the May 2023 BTO launch or SBF exercise, you will need to complete the preliminary HDB Flat Eligibility (HFE) check. For those applying for the August 2023 BTO launch and any upcoming Open Booking of Flats exercises will need a valid HFE letter.
According to HDB, it takes 21 days for you to receive the outcome of your HFE letter and the processing times may be longer in the month of or the time leading up to sales launches. So prepare for and submit your HFE application early!
1. Announcement of the HDB Flat Sales Launch
What to do
- Look out for BTO/SBF/OBF launch announcement
- Find out when is the application period
- Log into the HDB Flat Portal and get your preliminary HFE outcome; you will receive a quick overview of your eligibility to buy a flat, receive CPF housing grants (and grant amount), and take up an HDB loan (and loan amount)
- Proceed to apply for an HFE letter
- If you are intending to finance your HDB flat with a bank loan, you can request for an In-Principle Approval (IPA) concurrently
- Make sure your finances are secure
When it happens
- BTO launches every quarter (February, May, August & November)
- SBF launches twice a year
- OBF can happen year-round, look out for when a fresh supply of flats are made available on the HDB website
2. Submit Your HDB Application
What to do
- For BTO and SBF flats, learn how to improve your HDB ballot chances
- For Open Booking of Flats, the process is first come first serve
- Submit an application during the application window period; for SBF and BTO application, the application period is one-week; for OBF application, the exercise will close once all the flats have been booked
- Pay the non-refundable $10 application fee
- Wait for the outcome of the ballot; you can check the outcome of your ballot via the HDB website
When are the results announced
- BTO ballot results are released about three weeks after the application period closes
- SBF ballot results are released about 1.5 months (six weeks) after the application period closes
- The results for the Open Booking of Flats exercise are immediate; those who manage to secure a queue number can select a unit as early as the next working day
3. Secure an HDB Appointment and Book Your HDB Flat
What to do
- Successful ballot applicants will be invited to make an HDB appointment booking to choose a flat
- Bring your IC and other necessary documents to the appointment
- Pay the Option-to-Purchase (OTP) fee ($500 for 2-Room Flexi flats; $1,000 for 3-room flats and $2,000 for 4-room or larger flats)
When can you book a flat
- One to two weeks from the release of the BTO results
- HDB appointments are scheduled by queue number
4. Sign the Agreement for Lease
What to do
- For those who are intending to finance their HDB flat with a bank loan or one from a Financial Institution, request a Letter of Offer to confirm the housing loan. You will need this before signing the Agreement for Lease
- When you sign the Agreement for Lease, pay your downpayment, stamp duties and legal fees
When can you sign your agreement for the lease
- Six months from booking your new flat
- For those who have booked a completed flat, signing the Agreement for Lease and key collection will occur at the same time, six months after you have booked the flat
5. Key Collection
What to do
- Wait for your house to be built
- Collect your keys
When can you collect your keys
- The average waiting time for BTO flats is about four to five years
- For completed SBF and Open Booking of Flats units, you can collect your keys within three months
- For SBF and Open Booking of Flats units still under construction, you can only collect your keys when the flat is completed
HDB Application Procedure for OBF or BTO or SBF Flat
If you’re a Singapore Permanent Resident who wants to buy an HDB flat, you’re only allowed to buy a resale HDB flat if you apply with another Singapore Citizen. Additionally, you’ll have to meet all the eligibility conditions. Find out more about what schemes and grants you qualify for here.
Hopefully, this article has made it easier for you to understand the HDB flat application and the HDB appointment booking process!
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