Note: The details of flats offered for the latest Open Booking of Flats exercise are now available. Online application will open on 28 March 2023, 8.00pm, and close on 29 March 2023, 7.59pm. Find out more on the HDB website.
Most of us probably associate an HDB sales launch with HDB BTO flats, but did you know that HDB also has sales launches for the Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) and HDB Open Booking of Flats (OBF) units, and for Executive Condominiums (ECs) too?
In this introductory guide, we will walk you through these different types of public housing offered as part of HDB’s sales launches in 2023.
Types of HDB Sales Launches
|Types of HDB flats
|HDB BTO flats
|Built by the government and launched four times a year, the waiting time is between 3.5 to five years
|HDB Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) units
|Built by the government and launched twice a year, shorter waiting time than BTO flats, with ballot results available 1.5 months after applications close
|HDB Open Booking of Flats (OBF) units
|Built by the government and are available immediately, on a first-come-first-served basis, the waiting time is as early as three months
|Executive Condominiums (ECs)
|Built by private developers and the launch frequency is variable, owned by HDB until its 10th year
|Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) units
|Built by private developers but the DBSS launches were suspended indefinitely as of 2012, still available on the resale market for a premium
Upcoming BTO, SBF, and OBF Launches
|Upcoming BTO launch
|Upcoming May 2023 BTO launch in Bedok, Kallang/Whampoa, Serangoon, and Tengah
|Upcoming HDB OBF exercise
|A fresh supply of flats available in March 2023
|Upcoming SBF exercise
|Upcoming May 2023 SBF launch
HDB BTO Flats: Available Four Times a Year
First introduced by the government in 2001, HDB BTO flats are what most of us are familiar with when it comes to HDB sales launches.
As the name suggests, HDB BTO flats only begin construction if demand exceeds 70%. HDB BTO launches take place once every three months (in February, May, August, and November) in which a range of flats will be launched across a few estates. These flats vary in size, from 2-room Flexi to 3Gen flats.
One major benefit of getting an HDB BTO flat is that they’re one of the most affordable public housing options in Singapore. For instance, during the recently launched February 2023 HDB BTO sales launch, the selling price of a 2-room Flexi flat in Kallang/Whampoa starts from just $185,000. What’s more, this excludes CPF Housing Grants.
The waiting time for an upcoming BTO flat is about 3.5 to five years. The proportion of delayed BTO projects brought on by the manpower crunch due to the COVID-19 pandemic has decreased and HDB expects to clear the backlog in the next two years. So, if you’re intending to apply for one of the upcoming May 2023 BTO launches, take note!
HDB Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) Units: Available Twice a Year
If waiting 3.5 years for an HDB BTO flat is too long of a wait, perhaps you might want to consider getting a flat through the HDB Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercise.
Essentially, the flats that are sold in the HDB SBF sales launches are:
- Unsold flats from previous HDB BTO sales launches
- Surplus Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) replacement flats
- Flats that were given up (e.g. applicants decided to break up)
- Flats repurchased by HDB
The good thing about HDB SBF sale launches is that there are more estates that you can choose from, compared to HDB BTO launches where flats are launched in around up to three or four estates. In addition, HDB provides more information about these HDB SBF flats, including the block number and unit number, allowing you to know the exact location of a unit.
By buying an HDB SBF flat, you also may get to enjoy a shorter waiting time. These flats are mostly already under construction, so you can expect to move in less than three years. There might also be flats that are ready for you to move into immediately.
HDB SBF sale launches are usually offered twice a year. However, do take note that you can only apply for either an HDB BTO or an SBF unit, and not both.
HDB Open Booking of Flats (OBF) Units: Available Twice a Year
In the past, all unsold flats were pooled together in another exercise known as Re-Offer of Balance Flats (ROF). If these flats remain unselected, they will be made available for open booking.
However, in March 2020, the government announced the Re-Offer of Balance Flats (ROF) scheme would be removed to allow home buyers to obtain their flats more quickly.
With the removal of ROF exercises, all unsold HDB BTO balance flats will first be offered through the HDB Sale of Balance Flat (SBF) scheme. The remaining unselected flats from the SBF exercise will be offered through the HDB Open Booking of Flats (OBF) scheme.
The Open Booking of Flats 2023 exercise for March will commence on 28 March 2023, 8.00pm, and close on 29 March 2023, 7.59pm. Details of the available flats for booking can be found on the HDB website.
Executive Condominiums (ECs): Available a Few Times a Year
ECs are also part of HDB sales launches. A hybrid of private and public housing, ECs were first built in 1999. Note that the launch frequency for ECs every year isn’t fixed and may vary every year.
Enclosed in a gated compound with security, ECs typically feature amenities like swimming pools, clubhouses, gyms, and playgrounds – facilities you would also find in a private condo.
ECs are targeted at the ‘sandwich class’ – families whose household incomes exceed the income ceiling for an HDB flat but are not high enough to comfortably afford private housing.
Although private developers build ECs, they are much lower in price than private condos. This is because the land they are built on is subsidised by the government. If you’re eligible, you can even use CPF housing grants when buying an EC.
As ECs are first sold by the HDB, they are subject to specific regulations that mirror those of HDB flats, including a lease of 99 years.
If you’re thinking of applying for an EC, take note that your monthly household income cannot exceed $16,000. And like buyers of new HDB flats, you’ll need to fulfil the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) of five years. During this time, you cannot sell or rent out your EC entirely.
Similar to HDB flats, ECs can be sold in the resale market to Singapore Citizens or Singapore Permanent Residents (SPRs) after five years.
Another thing that sets ECs apart from HDB flats is that ECs are considered private property from the 11th year onwards. This means that selling an EC will be easier, since you can sell it to foreigners and companies, on top of Singaporeans and SPRs.
Design, Build, and Sell Scheme (DBSS): Discontinued in 2012, But Available on the Resale Market
Design, Build, and Sell Scheme (DBSS) units were first introduced by HDB in 2005.
In many ways, these are similar to ECs – public housing built by private developers aimed at the ‘sandwich class’. The private developer is in charge of the project, including the purchase of the land, design, and actual construction.
But what makes DBSS flats different from ECs is that DBSS flats are essentially public housing, while ECs become private condos from the 11th year onwards.
In general, DBSS flats appeal to a group of buyers who want something more upscale than the usual BTO flat, but would not be able to comfortably afford private housing or an EC.
In 2012, the DBSS scheme was suspended indefinitely with a total of 8,649 units built in 13 projects. Reasons included complaints about extremely high prices, poorly designed buildings, and defective workmanship in the flats.
Perhaps due to the suspension of the scheme, DBSS flats are experiencing high demand. In fact, DBSS flats made headlines for fetching what some would say are exorbitant prices on the resale market: a 5-room DBSS unit from SkyTerrace @ Dawson sold for $1.418 million in July 2022, claiming the title of "the most expensive HDB flat" sold to date!
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