How to Ace Your HDB BTO Application And Increase Your Ballot Chances

happy family  in new house with roof

Every year, the Housing & Development Board (HDB) has four Build-To-Order (BTO) sales launches in February, May, August and November. There’s usually one sales launch per quarter - this year is an exception, with May’s being postponed to August because of the circuit breaker measures. 

Check out our review of the August 2020 HDB BTO launch projects

If you didn’t already know, competition for BTO flats is insanely high. Don’t believe us? Just have a look at the application rates:

HDB BTO application rates as of 17 August 2020 

Choa Chu Kang (Keat Hong Verge)

1.7

1.9

-

Tengah (Parc Residences @ Tengah)

2.9

4.4

5.8

Woodlands (UrbanVille / Champions Bliss @ Woodlands) 

5

5

8.2

Ang Mo Kio (Kebun Bahru Edge)

-

8.6

17.3

Bishan (Bishan Towers)

3

5

-

Geylang (Dakota One)  

7

15.7

-

Pasir Ris (Costa Grove) 

2

4

6.1

Tampines (GreenCrest, GreenGlade GreenOpal) 

2.1

1.8

1.6

Note: The application rate is the number of applicants divided by the allocated flat supply. The application rate indicated above is the overall rate for first- and second-timers, but you can find the detailed breakdown on HDB’s website

As you probably already know, BTO flats are usually oversubscribed - and by quite a bit too. For the current August 2020 launch, HDB received a whopping 17,947 applications on the first day.  As expected, Dakota One at Geylang and Kebun Bahru Edge at Ang Mo Kio are the most popular projects. At the time of writing, the latter has an insane application rate of 17.3 for the 5-room flats - that means that for every unit, there are over 17 people competing for it! 

Unsurprisingly, many families do not get a BTO queue number on their first try. It’s not impossible though - this article will run you through the various priority schemes, as well as more tips on how to increase your chances of a successful ballot. 

Related article: Family Finds Dream Home After A Decade Of Trying For BTOs

 

How does the HDB BTO balloting system work?

Before we get into how you can improve your chances, we must first understand how the HDB BTO balloting system works.

It’s quite straightforward: when applications open, home buyers will apply for their desired estate and flat size (e.g. Toa Payoh, 4-room) on the HDB website. Then, after applications close, HDB will use a computerised balloting system to assign queue numbers. The queue number is the order in which applicants will get to pick their flats. 

This means that if your queue number is within the flat supply (e.g. there are 124 units available and your queue number is 124 and below), then you are likely to get a flat. 

If your queue number is higher than the flat supply (e.g. there are 124 units available and your queue number is 125 and up), then you will only get the chance to pick a flat if someone ahead of you in the queue decided to pass up their chance.  

Queue numbers are assigned randomly

HDB has a few priority schemes (which we will talk about in a bit) to help increase your chances of getting a queue number. However, queue numbers are assigned randomly, so there is no way to somehow get a better queue number. 

What this means is that while you can double your chances of getting a queue number, you can’t do anything to get ahead in the queue and pick first.   

First-timers get double the chances

By default, if you’re a first-timer, you get 2X the ballot chances as compared to second-timers. Remember this when you’re making your first application so you don’t waste it. 

What is the racial quota or Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP)?

The ‘racial quota’ that most people are aware of is the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP), which was introduced in 1989 to encourage racial integration. Basically, for every HDB block or neighbourhood, there is a limit on the total percentage of homes that can be occupied by a certain ethnicity. 

Although it’s not something you can do anything about, this affects your BTO chances because the actual number of units you’re eligible for depends on it. 

Say, you got queue number 100, and there is a total flat supply of 124 units. There is a chance that you may not get a unit if the racial quota was already met before your turn. For example, if you’re Chinese and all 90 units allocated for Chinese households were already snapped up, you would not get a chance.

In this case, your application will just be voided, and you will not be penalised for rejecting a BTO flat (because well, you didn’t).  

 

How to improve your HDB BTO ballot chances

Now, onto the main reason you clicked into this article - how to improve your ballot chances, featuring the various HDB priority schemes. 

Married Child Priority Scheme

Stay within 4km of your parents’ home or live together with them 

Up to 30% of BTO units for first-timers (15% for second-timers)  

Multi-Generation Priority Scheme

Apply for the same BTO project as parents 

For parents, up to 15% of the 2-room Flexi or 3-room flats (min. 20 units). For the married child household, the corresponding number of 2-room Flexi or larger flats.  

Parenthood Priority Scheme

For first-timers expecting a child

Up to 30% of BTO units

Third Child Priority Scheme

For families with more than two children 

Up to 5% of BTO units 

Assistance Scheme for Second-Timers

For divorced or widowed persons with children 

Up to 5% (for 2-room Flexi and 3-room flats in non-mature estates only). Quota is shared with the 30% quota for second-timers. 

Tenants’ Priority Scheme 

For those who were previously renting an HDB rental flat 

Up to 10% of 2-room Flexi and 3-room BTO units 

Senior Priority Scheme 

For elderly residents who want a familiar environment or to live near their family 

40% of 2-room Flexi units are allocated for elderly. Of this, half is set aside for this scheme 

1. Stay within 4km of your parents - Married Child Priority Scheme (MCPS) 

HDB reserves up to 30% of BTO units for those who apply under the Married Child Priority Scheme (MCPS), which is when you apply for a BTO project within 4km of your parents’ home (HDB or private). 

One key thing to note is that if you apply through the MCPS, the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) will apply to your folks too. They must continue to live within the same radius of your home until the five years is up. 

 

2. Or better yet, live with them - Married Child Priority Scheme (MCPS) 

Under the same scheme, you can also apply to live together with your parents (i.e. you apply for the BTO with them). This will give you first priority within the MCPS quota. 

 

3. Apply for the same BTO project as your parents - Multi-Generation Priority Scheme (MGPS)

If your parents are also looking for a home, you can both apply to the same BTO project to increase your chances. This is for those who want all three generations of the family to live close by.

Under the Multi-Generation Priority Scheme, you can make a joint application for the two separate flats. Your parents can only apply for 2-room Flexi and 3-room flats, so the BTO project you pick must have this unit mix.

 

4. Have a child, or more children - Parenthood Priority Scheme (PPS) & Third Child Priority Scheme  (TCPS)

For obvious reasons, if you are expecting a child, your application is prioritised because you probably need the home more urgently. If you’re an expecting married couple BTO-ing for the first time, you’ll be glad to know that up to 30% of the units are set aside for the Parent Priority Scheme.

If you have three children, you may also qualify under the Third Child Priority Scheme. The flat allocation for this one is lower at up to 5% of the BTO units. 

If you qualify for both, your application will first be balloted under the TCPS. If unsuccessful, it will be balloted again under the PPS. 

 

Other HDB priority schemes

There are other HDB priority schemes listed above that will increase your chances for the BTO ballot, but these are for niche groups of applicants like divorced/widowed parents, rental flat tenants and elderly applicants. 

Read our comprehensive guide on all the HDB priority schemes for first-timers here. 

 

Bonus: Don’t give up, you get additional chances after multiple unsuccessful attempts! 

To help those who have had many failed attempts, don’t lose hope! If you were unsuccessful for two or more tries (in a non-mature estate), you will get one additional chance per subsequent application. 

No. of unsuccessful applications in non-mature estates 

Total ballot chances (including first-timer bonus) 

0 to 1

2

2

3

3

4

4

5

 

What happens if you give up your HDB BTO queue number?

In some cases, applicants get a queue number or ballot number, but end up passing up the opportunity. There are several (completely understandable) reasons why: 

  1. If your queue number is far behind, the units left for selection may not be suitable. 
  2. Couples may have broken up and chosen not to BTO. 
  3. Some applicants also drop out due to unexpected financial difficulties like job loss, etc. 

As you would’ve noticed, first-timers already get improved ballot chances. So what happens if you apply, receive a queue number, but then decide to give it up? 

You get one ‘free’ pass. However, if you forfeit your flat selection opportunity twice…

For First-timer Households:

  • Any additional chances accumulated from your past unsuccessful BTO attempts will be considered used up 
  • You will be placed in the second-timer category for one year 
  • During this year, if you turn down another two chances, the one-year period will be extended 

For Second-timer Households:

  • You will have to wait one year before you apply again 

For Applicants under the Singles Scheme: 

  • You cannot apply under the Singles Singapore Citizen Scheme, Joint Singles Scheme or Non-Citizen Spouse Scheme for one year 

 

There you have it - everything you need to know to maximise your HDB BTO ballot chances. Generally, if you want a new HDB flat, we would encourage you to continue trying until you are successful. As mentioned earlier, your chances actually improve from your third try onwards. 

However, if you do not have the luxury of time - especially since the timeline for BTO flats is in years - then you may want to consider a HDB resale flat. With CPF housing grants, the gap between BTO and resale flat prices have narrowed, and it’s very possible to find an affordable resale flat. 

Read more about whether Resale Units Are Really More Expensive Than BTOs, or browse for HDB resale flat properties for sale on PropertyGuru

 

For more property news, content and resources, check out PropertyGuru’s guides section

Looking for a new home? Head to PropertyGuru to browse the top properties for sale in Singapore

Need help financing your latest property purchase? Let the Home Finance Advisors at PropertyGuru Finance help you find the best deals.  

 

Read Next