February BTO launch has lowest number of first-timer applicants since 2020; application rates stabilising: HDB

The number of first-timer applicants in the latest exercise is around half of that in some of the past 11 BTO launches, said HDB. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - Fewer first-timer home seekers applied for the February Build-To-Order (BTO) sales exercise compared with launches in the last three years – an early indication that application rates have reduced and are stabilising, said the Housing Board.

The number of such applicants was the lowest since the February 2020 launch, at around half of that in some of the past 11 BTO launches, HDB added in a statement on Monday.

As at 11am on Monday, 12,493 applicants had applied for three-room and bigger flats, of whom 7,513 were first-timers. This is compared with 20,252 applicants in February 2020, of whom 14,145 were first-timers.

A total of 4,428 flats across five BTO projects in Queenstown, Kallang/Whampoa, Jurong West and Tengah are up for sale in the current exercise.

First-timer applicants who applied for BTO flats in the Ulu Pandan Glades project in the mature estate of Queenstown, the Jurong West Crystal project, and the Brickland Weave project in Tengah will have a good chance of securing a flat, said HDB.

This is because the first-timer application rates for the three projects across all flat types sit between 0.2 and 1.8, meaning fewer than two applicants are vying for each flat.

Considering the average rejection rate of 40 per cent seen in previous BTO launches, most applicants will be able to select a flat if the application rate of a project is below 1.7.

In this launch, the median application rate for first-timers for three-room and bigger flats stands at 1.8, which means almost all will be likely to book a flat.

First-timers gunning for a three-room flat in Ulu Pandan Glades are all but guaranteed a unit, as it was the only flat type in the project that was undersubscribed.

But those going for four-room flats in the two Kallang/Whampoa BTO projects face tougher competition, with around three applicants for each available flat.

The Farrer Park Fields project in the mature estate falls under the prime location public housing model, which comes with stricter buying and selling conditions, while the Rajah Summit project does not.

At this stage, applicants can apply for only one flat type in one town. They will be able to select whether they want a flat in either Farrer Park Fields or Rajah Summit only at a later stage.

Applications close at 11.59pm on Monday on the HDB flat portal.

Those who apply in the current launch will be considered second-timers if they do not book a flat when invited to do so twice.

This will change from the August BTO launch, as rules will be tightened to move first-timers to the second-timer category once they decline to book a flat.

Measures to give more priority to families with children and younger married couples will also take effect from August. These home seekers will get an additional BTO ballot chance and have more flats set aside for them, to improve their chances of securing a unit.

In May, about 5,400 BTO flats in towns such as Tengah, Bedok, Kallang/Whampoa and Serangoon will be launched.

Between 5,200 and 6,200 flats in Choa Chu Kang, Tengah, Bukit Merah, Kallang/Whampoa and Queenstown will be offered in August.

HDB urged buyers to consider applying for BTO flats in non-mature estates with low application rates to increase their chances of booking a flat.

Property analysts said the drop in the number of applicants could be due to some potential buyers turning to the resale market, after the Government announced an increase in the CPF Housing Grant.

One Global Group’s senior analyst Mohan Sandrasegeran said the first launch of the year typically has the fewest number of BTO flats on offer, and “may not meet the needs of all applicants”.

For instance, the May launch will offer more units, along with those under the Sale of Balance Flats scheme where the waiting time for flats is shorter and therefore more attractive to some home seekers, he said.

PropNex Realty chief executive Ismail Gafoor said some buyers may be waiting for upcoming projects in Bedok and Serangoon in May – two mature estates that have not seen new flats launched in a number of years.

At least two property analysts said the non-mature estate offerings in the February launch are “not as attractive” as those in previous launches, resulting in fewer applicants.

ERA Realty head of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak said the current Jurong West BTO project is not as conveniently located as the Lakeside BTO project launched in May 2022, which saw more than nine first-timer applicants vying for each of the available five-room flats.

Huttons Asia’s senior director of research Lee Sze Teck said the current Tengah BTO project is not within comfortable walking distance of an MRT station, nor does it fall clearly within 1km of the new Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) Primary, which could have made it less attractive to potential buyers.

Some buyers could also be waiting for the Tengah BTO project that will be launched in May, as it is right next to the future ACS Primary, said Mr Lee.

ERA’s Mr Mak noted that the three mature-estate projects drew an application rate of around 3.8, higher than the overall 3.2 application rate for previous comparable projects in the same towns.

“The numbers indicate there is still strong demand for BTO flats in mature estates,” he said.

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