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Readers who subscribe to my mailing list would have known that my parents finally received their Singapore Citizenship (‘SC’) status this year. Having lived in our tiny island for over 40 years, they are already Singaporeans at heart a long time ago. However, I can assure you that getting SC is not simply a label tag because it comes with a host of benefits that we might have taken for granted. One of the benefits of a SC is the eligibility to apply and purchase a flat directly from the Housing & Development Board (‘HDB’). As the children have already fled the coop and with the lease of their current HDB running low, I thought that it was worthwhile for them to try to ballot for a new flat. As such, I helped my parents to apply for a HDB flat at the recently concluded Sale of Balance Flats (‘SBF’) Exercise in May 2022. I have detailed my experience in this blog article and included a couple of useful tips as well.
What is the Sale of Balance Flats Exercise?
The SBF exercise is usually conducted twice a year in May and November and held in conjunction with any ongoing BTO sales launch. This meant that BTO during these 2 windows usually experience slightly lower demand as some aspiring home-owners would have plonked for a SBF instead.
Sale of balance flats consist of leftover flats or flats returned to HDB for a variety of reasons:
- New and under construction flats that were not picked during the BTO flat selection stage
- Flats purchased by previous home owners but were returned to HDB owning to personal circumstances (relationship break-up, deaths) or financial circumstances.
Since SBF could be under development or already completed, the time to move in is definitely shorter compared to the average wait time of 4 to 5 years for BTO apartments. I convinced my parents to go for SBF as they are getting on with their age and should try to enjoy a new flat as soon as possible. If they are lucky, the wait time to collect keys from HDB could be as short as between 3 to 6 months.
What To Look Out For In A Sale Of Balance Flat Exercise
It is not possible to do any homework beforehand as information about the SBF is only released on the day of launch. Therefore, you will appreciate that you can get a quick summary of all the available SBF from Annex D of the HDB press release. They are grouped by Town such as Bukit Batok, Queenstown, Bukit Merah etc and they all fall into either Mature or Non-mature estates. Room sizes, price range as well as the ethnic quota are all presented neatly in tables.
To search for available SBF supply within the town, you would need to go to the HDB portal. As shown in Diagram 1, there are filters such as location and flat type to narrow down your search results.
For example, there are 15 listings found under the town of Kallang/Whampoa at the recently concluded May 2022 SBF exercise. These 15 different projects are all lumped under the same precinct. Click on each listing to find out the flat types and the units available for selection. As shown in Diagram 2, other essential information such as town map, project completion date as well as remaining lease will all be made available.
Since the supply consists of returned HDB flats, not all SBF start with a fresh 99-year lease. In addition, if there is only a limited number of units available in a particular town, certain priority schemes such as Third Child Priority Scheme, Married Child Priority Scheme may not be applicable.
SBF Considerations For My Parents
- They want to downgrade from a 4BR to a 3BR HDB as there is no need for so many bedrooms.
- They would like to live in the same town as they have gotten used to the neighbourhood. This level of familiarity should not be underestimated as they are less adaptable at this age compared to a young couple for example.
- They want to live nearer to the MRT so that there is no need to take feeder buses which increases the travelling distance.
With these factors, I have narrowed down to a choice project for them. However, chances are slim so getting it would really be equivalent to striking the lottery. If this comes true, their retirement will have a better foundation as government housing grants would also help to reduce the purchase price.
How to Apply for Sale Of Balance Flat Online
Before applying for a SBF, make sure that you meet the eligibility to buy a new HDB flat. Once you are sure that you meet the criteria, go to the HDB Sales Launch website. Even though you might have identified your choice unit, take note that you only need to indicate your choice of town and flat type during your SBF application as shown in Diagram 3. In other words, your choice is town specific and not listing/project specific as typical of a BTO application.
For both BTO and SBF exercises, allocation is never based on a first-come first-served basis. Therefore, it pays to wait closer to the end of the application deadline to garner greater information on the probability of your chances. This strategy is even more applicable if you are a second-timer applicant balloting for a SBF. As shown in Diagram 4, it states that this town will only consider first-timer applicants as the number of first-timer applications received had already exceeded 3 times the flat supply.
This means that second-timer applicants should not even proceed with their application and waste the $10 application fee. Such information may not be made known to second-timer applicants if they had rushed to apply on the SBF launch. Thankfully, my parents are not faced with this conundrum as they are considered first-timers despite being in their mid-sixties.
Budget Your Finances Carefully
Finally, it is always important to plan your finances in advance especially if you are intending to purchase a big-ticket item such as a HDB flat. If you are intending to finance your property purchase with a loan, do get familiarized with the conditions of HDB Loan Eligibility Letter. Another free tool would be the free PropertyGuru financing guide/calculator that can help you understand what is an affordable price range for your next dream property!