For any Singaporean man who’s gone through NS, applying for a BTO or balance flat feels like a hard-earned right.

I mean, where else are you going to find such affordable housing in this tiny red dot of a country?

In this step-by-step guide, we’ll take you through the exact procedure to ballot for an HDB flat – whether you’re doing so as a single citizen, a citizen married to a PR/non-citizen, or perhaps with your siblings.

We’ll also cover an important step missed out by most of the other guides out there, so stay tuned!


Procedure to Apply for HDB BTO or Balance Flat


Step 1: Check Your Eligibility

HDB BTO and balance flats are meant for Singaporean citizens aged 21 or above.

And in general, housing in Singapore is skewed towards families, so you’re more likely to get an HDB flat if you’re 1) married, 2) have kids, or 3) stay near your parents.

This means if you’re a Permanent Resident (PR) or foreigner, you can’t apply for a BTO or balance flat on your own – you have to apply with a citizen. This can be your sibling(s), parent(s), spouse, or adult children.

If you’re a single Singaporean citizen, you can either apply for a 2-room Flexi flat on your own or with other Singaporean citizens. But only after you turn 35 years old.

(Read also: What Kind of Property Can You Buy in Singapore?)

There are a few other eligibility criteria as well:

  • You must not own any other property either locally or overseas within 30 months of your application
  • If applying with your fiancé, you must register your marriage within 3 months of taking possession. If you’re going for the Additional or Special CPF Housing Grants, you must register your marriage before taking possession of the flat
  • You must earn less than the income ceilings for the various flats
    • 2-room Flexi flat: Income ceiling of $7,000, or $14,000 for short-lease flats provided you’re at least 55 years old and the flat can last you until the age of 95
    • 3-room flat: $7,000 or $14,000, depending on the project. The press release for each launch will specify the income ceiling for the new project.
    • 4-room flat or bigger: $14,000, or $21,000 if purchasing with extended family


[Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect the new income ceilings effective 11 September, 2019. There are also changes to the HDB grants available, which can be found in this article.)

Step 2: Calculate Your Finances

Your calculations and timeline here will depend on what you’re buying.

If you’re going for a BTO, you’ll have a longer runway to save up for all the housing expenses.

If you’re going for a Sale of Balance (SBF) or Re-offer of Balance (ROF) flat, there’s more of a time crunch. (In case you’re wondering, you can’t apply for both an SBF and BTO at the same time. It’s one or the other.)

There are other factors at play as well. For instance, SBF and ROF flats tend to be pricier than BTO flats, since you won’t have to wait nearly as long to move in. And if you’re going for an ROF flat, you might also have to spend a fair bit more on renovation.

The price appreciation for SBF and ROF flats also might not be as high, given that they’re typically “leftover BTOs” for some undesirable reason or other (e.g. low floor, West-facing). This is important if you’re planning to sell and upgrade to a bigger place in future.

Here’s a quick table summarizing the differences:

Once you’ve more or less settled on the type of flat you’d like to apply for, here are the numbers you’ll need to figure out:

  1. How much you’ll have in cash/CPF OA when it’s time to sign the lease agreement
  2. How much you’ll have in cash/CPF OA by the time the flat is ready
  3. What your take-home pay is and how much of it you can save per month
  4. How much debt you currently have (credit card bills, car loans, etc.)
  5. How big a home loan you can get based on your household income + existing debt
  6. What the monthly loan repayment amounts are
  7. How much cash you’ll need to pay upfront for the option fee, downpayment, stamp duty, and legal fees
  8. How much you’ll need for the HDB renovations and furniture
  9. How much in HDB grants you can get if you’re planning to apply for subsidies (check out our guide on housing grants for this)

You may also want to read through our guide detailing all the costs of buying property in Singapore. You don’t want to be caught off-guard with a large bill 😉


But wait – what if I’m going for a BTO with my fiancé right after graduation/NS? Can I still apply if I haven’t gotten a job yet?

Yes, you certainly can! Under the Deferred Income Assessment introduced in May 2018, young couples may first apply for a flat, then have their income evaluated for the various grants and HDB loan later on.

Just take note of the estimated vacant possession date. This determines when you’ll have to register for marriage (and when you’ll need to cough up all that cash!)

You can even make use of the Staggered Downpayment Scheme to pay the downpayment in two instalments: the first 5% when you sign the Lease Agreement, and the second 5% when you collect the keys after your BTO flat has been built.


Step 3: Apply for Your Home Loan

Before you start applying for that snazzy new 5-room BTO flat in Tampines, you need to figure out exactly how big of a loan you can get.

It’s best to do some research on whether an HDB or a bank loan would be best for you. HDB loans may have lower upfront fees and more predictable interest rates, but bank loans may give you a better bang for your buck in the long run.

If you’re going with an HDB Concessionary Loan, apply for your HDB Loan Eligibility (HLE) letter. This is free and valid for 6 months, which should give you more than enough time to apply for that BTO or balance flat.

If you’re going with a bank loan, get your approval in principle (AIP) from your chosen bank. But don’t just pick the first bank you see; shop around for the best rates and loan features!


Step 4: Apply / Ballot for Your BTO, SBF, or ROF Flat

Competition for BTO or balance flats is fierce, particularly if you’re going for a mature estate. We’ve all heard the horror stories of people balloting (unsuccessfully) for flats even after several tries.

That said, if you’re trying for a non-mature estate, you’re far more likely to get it. According to the Ministry of National Development, most first-timer families can book their flats on the first or second tries, “and definitely on their third try.”

For 3-room or larger BTO launches in these non-mature estates, the ratio of applicants to available flats is usually two to one.

But is there a way to skip the queue at all? Sure, if you fall in one of the following categories:

  • First-timer married couples with young children (Parenthood Priority Scheme)
  • Parents and married children who want to live in the same estate (Multi-Generation Priority Scheme)
  • Married children who want to live near their aging parents to better care for them (Married Child Priority Scheme)
  • Families with more than two children (Third Child Priority Scheme)
  • Divorced or widowed parents with children under 16 years old (Assistance Scheme for Second-Timers, Divorced/Widowed Parents)

And in case you’re wondering if you can cover your bases by applying for both a BTO and SBF flat at the same time – nope! You’ve got to pick one or the other.

New BTO launches are announced 6 months in advance, so look out for those via the HDB website or news channels.

You’ll have to pay $10 for each ballot, and then wait 3 weeks to find out if you got it.


Step 5: If Successful, Select Your Flat

If your application got through – congrats! You’ve just crossed a major hurdle.

Head over to the HDB Hub to book your flat. You’ll have to pay an Option Fee at this point:

  • 4 or 5-room Executive Flat: $2,000 Option Fee
  • 3-room Flat: $1,000 Option Fee
  • 2-room Flexi Flat: $500 Option Fee

This is also when you’ll apply for your CPF housing grants, so be sure to download the relevant application forms and bring them along for the booking appointment. (Read also: The 2019 Guide to Housing Grants)

Documents to bring to the appointment:

  • NRIC (or passport if not a citizen)
  • Income documents
  • Completed grant application forms
  • HLE (if getting HDB Concessionary Loan)
  • Birth certificates of the children you applied with (if any)
  • Your birth cert and parents’ marriage cert (if applying under the Multi-Generation Priority Scheme or Married Child Priority Scheme)
  • Your marriage certificate (if applicable)
  • Your divorce certificate (if applicable)
  • Your spouse’s death certificate (if applicable)


Step 6: Sign the Lease Agreement

Within the next four months, you’ll have to secure your home loan and sign the lease agreement.

If you went with an HDB loan, the HLE you already showed them will suffice. But if you went with a bank loan, be sure to get your Letter of Offer from the bank – the previous AIP you got doesn’t count.

When you sign the lease agreement, be prepared to fork out the following sums:

1. Down Payment

If you’re getting an HDB loan: 10% of purchase price with cash/CPF

If you’re getting a bank loan: 20% of the purchase price; 5% must be in cash

You might also be able to pay your downpayment in two instalments if you meet the requirements for the Staggered Downpayment Scheme.

2. Buyer Stamp Duty

3. Legal Fees

The payable legal fees comprise the conveyancing fee and the caveat registration fee. More information is available on HDB’s website, but these fees generally shouldn’t be more than a few hundred dollars.


Step 7: Collect Your Keys

Whenever your flat is complete, HDB will send you a notification to pick up your keys.

But wait: You’re not done yet! After getting your keys, you’ll have to go through one last (and very important) step –


Step 8: Check for Defects

It may take a while to get to this stage, depending on whether you opted for a BTO, SBF, or ROF flat.

But after the official handover, make sure to do a complete inspection before you bring in your contractor to do all your renovation works.

Once you’ve done any sort of renovation, you can’t bring up the defects anymore. It’s not like buying a gadget and then exchanging it at the store if there’s something wrong with it.

The defects check also applies to Sale of Balance or Re-offer of Balance Flats. The inspection might even be more important if you’re going for SBF or ROF flats, since you may not be getting a brand-new place.

However, the amount of effort HDB takes with the rectification seems to depend on the HDB supervisor you get.

According to anecdotal accounts, some supervisors will do their best to help, while others will firmly state that you purchased the flat as-is and you’ll have to bear the cost of the fixes.

Hopefully, you get a good HDB supervisor who’ll do his best to arrange the fixes. If you do happen to run into the latter type though, don’t settle – write in to your MP or attend a Meet the People session and bring up your concerns. This method has worked for quite a few people.

Good luck – and enjoy your new place!


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