More couples apply for flats before marriage

Nearly 10,000 couples have applied to buy a home in this year's four sales launches to date, according to new HDB figures.
Nearly 10,000 couples have applied to buy a home in this year's four sales launches to date, according to new HDB figures.ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

Supply is up and waiting time down but prices are a concern

More couples are walking into the Housing Board's headquarters to apply for a flat together before walking down the aisle.

There were 19,600 applications for new flats last year, a big rise from the 13,640 in 2011 and 12,202 in 2010.

Close to 10,000 couples have already applied to buy a home in this year's four sales launches to date, new HDB figures show.

Under its Fiance-Fiancee Scheme, young couples "who are ready to commit to marriage" can apply for a new flat before they do so. The median age of these applicants has been 27 since 2010.

The supply of new flats launched each year has also shot up from 16,000 in 2010 to 27,000 last year, as part of efforts to ease the housing shortage.

Concurrently, the number of marriages rose from 24,363 in 2010 to 27,936 last year.

Industry experts say that in view of the housing crunch and rising prices over the last few years, young people who are sure of their relationships are planning far into their future.

Waiting times, while still about three years on average, have also decreased from the 1995 high of up to five years, said Mr Chris Koh, director of property firm Chris International.

"Grants for first-timers have been very attractive and you'll never find housing prices as low as back in 2008 because of inflation and higher cost of materials and labour," he added.

Driver Ken Chong, 30, said: "My friends all say don't care, just go apply, because the price keeps going up. If you wait... (it gets) more and more expensive, later cannot buy."

He has applied twice with his girlfriend - both times unsuccessfully.

Similarly, Mr Yong Yong Kang, 25, applied for a flat in 2011 because he was "worried about not being able to secure one as the demand for Build-To-Order flats is usually higher than the supply".

"I always have the mindset that properties in Singapore will continue to get more expensive," said the assistant marketing manager. He and his fiancee have been allotted a flat and it is nearly ready.

Touch Community Services general manager Edmund Wong, who conducts marriage preparation classes, said: "We encourage couples to plan early as housing issues have financial and relationship implications, and may affect the couple's ability to settle down in their marriage."

But it is not a happy ending for every couple. A small number of those who book a flat - about 1per cent - eventually cancel their bookings.

Reasons include "relationship breakdown, a change in housing plans, or the intention to buy another flat", said the HDB spokesman.

Cancellations are not cheap. Couples forfeit 5 per cent of the flat's purchase price - $15,000 for a typical Sengkang four-room flat, for example.

Sociologist Paulin Straughan cautioned couples not to jump the gun in the zest to get into line for a flat: "It worries me when they place pragmatic gains ahead of assessing suitability for lifelong partnership."

Still, Mr Chong feels that getting a flat first makes the most sense. "(If couples) want to start a family, (they) must have a house first. When we get the house, then we can really plan for the wedding."