First-timers have good chance to book BTO flat as 40% of applicants invited to do so decline: HDB

The flats range from three to five-room units and are located in both mature and non-mature estates. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE – Over the past five years, about 40 per cent of applicants invited to book a Build-To-Order (BTO) flat ended up declining the offer, meaning serious applicants still had a high chance of securing a flat.

The Housing Board, in a statement on Sunday (June 26), said applicants who are invited to book a flat should take up the offer, amid buoyant demand for housing in the last two years. 

For those who turn down a chance to book a flat in the BTO or Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercise, any additional ballot chances accumulated from previous unsuccessful applications will be set to zero.

In some of the more popular BTO projects, up to 16 applicants vie for each of the four-room flats available.

HDB also said four in 10 BTO projects in 2020 and 2021 had first-time application rates of 1.7 or lower for three-room or larger flats.

This means that each unit only has 1.7 applicants or fewer vying for it.

These flats range from three to five-room units and are located in both mature and non-mature estates.

HDB said: “With these application rates, the first-timers who applied for these flats stood a good chance of being invited to book a flat.”

There were about 19 BTO projects that had flats with first-timer application rates of 1.7 or lower, said HDB.

For seven of these 19 projects, the flats came with a shorter waiting time of less than three years.

HDB said: “The waiting times for BTO projects launched in 2021 and 2020 have generally ranged from three to five years.

“In fact, the median waiting time of BTO projects launched in 2021 was 3.8 years, which is lower than the 4.5 years for those launched in 2020.”

The locations for these BTO projects included areas in Bukit Batok, Jurong West and Tengah for non-mature estates, and in Tampines for mature estates.

HDB encouraged flat buyers to consider applying for BTO projects located in non-mature estates or projects with a larger supply, to increase their chances of booking a flat.

It said: “First-timers who have been unsuccessful in two or more attempts for BTO flats in the non-mature estates will be given an additional ballot chance at their subsequent application for a BTO flat in the non-mature estates.

“From our records, virtually all first-timer applicants of BTO flats in non-mature estates had a chance to book a flat within their first three tries.”

HDB also advised applicants to check its website, where since the May 2022 sales exercise, it has published median application rates for BTO projects.

“Applicants are encouraged to refer to the median application rates, and consider flat categories with lower application rates, to improve their chances of securing a flat,” HDB said.

Those with specific location preferences or more pressing housing needs may also consider buying a resale flat on the open market, where they may be eligible for up to $160,000 in housing grants.

Mr Nicholas Mak, ERA Realty’s head of research and consultancy, said that some flat owners may have certain preferences such as wanting a unit on a high floor, or one which faces a certain direction so that it is well-lit and windy.

For those who believe in Chinese superstition, they may want to avoid selecting unit numbers with the number four, Mr Mak added. 

He said: “For these reasons, these applicants may have declined a flat booking appointment. But with a five-year minimum occupation period which extends to 10 years for Prime Location Public Housing flats, applicants may be more selective when choosing their future home.”

A BTO applicant, who wanted to be known only as Ms Sim, 26, told The Straits Times that when she was applying for a four-room BTO in Yishun in February, she had been tempted to decline the appointment as the location was not next to an MRT station.

She was also concerned that it may be difficult to find a wide range of food options due to fewer amenities. 

Ms Sim, who works as a test analyst and had applied for the flat with her boyfriend, said: “I did not reject the unit in the end as I find it is not easy to secure a flat these days.”

She added: “If you are in a rush, you can try for resale if you can afford to pay a higher price.

"But do think carefully before declining a BTO appointment because nowadays, flats have construction delays, and so you may have to wait longer to collect your keys.”

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