Bumper profits for early BTO flats

Some in Sengkang, Punggol have tripled in value on resale market

Mr Brian Chee, 41, his wife Catherine Low, 38, their daughter Heidi, five, and son Reygan, eight, live in a top-floor four-room flat in Punggol East. They are happy there and have no intention to sell despite attractive resale prices. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Build-To-Order (BTO) flats in Sengkang and Punggol may have been unpopular when they were first launched, with complaints over the location and the lack of amenities.

But home buyers who signed up for the flats some 10 years ago are now having the last laugh, with the value of their homes nearly tripling.

The Straits Times looked at data provided by SRX Property of flats launched in and after 2002 when the BTO system began.

Of these, the highest number of transactions were of Sengkang four-roomers with the leases starting in 2009. They cost up to $205,000 when they were first launched around 2005.

Their average resale price over the past three years was $566,880 - about 2.8 times the highest price home owners paid to HDB.

Over the past year, even though the market has cooled, such Sengkang four-roomers still regularly fetch above $500,000 on the resale market. Even the lowest recorded sale was $410,000, twice the highest original launch price.

The second-most-common transactions were of Punggol four-roomers with leases beginning in 2007.

Their average resale price was $484,577 overall, though this dipped to $449,208 since last year.

But this is still more than 21/2 times the highest launch price in 2003, when HDB offered these for $138,000 to $178,000.

It typically takes up to four years for a flat to be built and its lease to begin. Owners have to occupy the flats for five years after receiving their keys, before they can put them on the resale market.

Analysts noted that the overall market over the past 10 years has improved, with the resale price index rising by about 90 per cent.

But BTO units have rightly beat the market, said R'ST Research director Mr Ong Kah Seng: "These are subsidised flats so it is a given that the prices will appreciate significantly between occupation and when they can be resold."

Another factor is that those once under-developed towns have blossomed, he added. "Accessibility has been widely improved... and there are more amenities, so the owners who resold them really reap very major profits."

Even less popular flats did well. Only 17 Sengkang three-roomers with leases beginning in 2007 have been resold. These fetched $388,224 on average, with the cheapest going for $315,000.

When launched in 2004, they cost just $89,000 to $110,000.

The BTO flats also did better than resale flats in mature estates. From 2003 till last year, average resale prices rose 93 per cent for four-roomers in Toa Payoh and 76 per cent for those in Tampines.

Marketing manager Frieda Chan and her husband sold their four-room Sengkang flat, which they bought for $193,000, for more than $500,000 last month.

"We didn't expect to sell it so quickly," said Ms Chan, 34, who found a buyer within a week.

The couple, who have two daughters, bought a jumbo resale flat in Ang Mo Kio.

They paid about $800,000 for it, and Ms Chan's in-laws will be moving in with them.

"I think it's worth it," said Ms Chan. "We wanted a bigger space and it will be closer to my older daughter's primary school and our work places."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2015, with the headline Bumper profits for early BTO flats. Subscribe