Like most Singaporean couples, I BTO-ed my first home under the Fiance-Fiancee scheme in 2012. We had an early queue number due to an increased number of ballots for staying near parents. On top of that, we almost obtained the maximum grant from HDB (based on proximity and joint income levels). By 2017, we collected keys to our new home.
Quite honestly, most new flats look like condominiums nowadays. They also provide ample amenities such as supermarkets, convenience stores, childcare services etc… It was the perfect Singaporean dream.
But then, I got divorced
Unfortunately, life doesn’t always go the way you want.
After two and a half years, I found myself finalising my divorce papers – indeed, we had not fulfilled the five year Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP) yet. Looking back, I guess you could say that we were victims of the very Singaporean “kanchiong” and “kiasu” mentality that led us to book a flat when we were way, way, way, too young,
In a nutshell, our property now belongs to my ex-spouse. Though we were given joint custody of our child, my ex-spouse, through Care and Control, formed a family nucleus with our child and was then able to take over the ownership of our BTO flat.
We worked out a financially-fair outcome for this transfer as well – a price that I probably was not able to afford if the tables were turned. Whilst my ex-spouse and I had our differences, we are both in a good place now and I definitely am happier that we did not have to return the flat to HDB at a (most-likely) lower price.
After all, it is quite likely that ultimately our child will benefit from this.
And so, I embarked on my “solo” search for new accommodation
The only options presented to me were:
Rent – In Singapore, it really doesn’t make sense to rent long term if you are eligible for a flat. Since I am able to form a family nucleus, I’d rather service a loan than pay rent. At least I can use my CPF and not feel entirely cash strapped every month. Plus, I have a kid, so just renting a room and having other strangers in the house.
Buy a new flat as a second timer – With a young child, I couldn’t wait for flats to be built. Balloting and queuing is quite a long and arduous process. Most new, Built to Order (BTO) flats take two to three years to complete.
Buy a resale HDB – By way of elimination, I arrived at buying a HDB resale flat, albeit with my parent’s names as essential occupiers to form a family nucleus (since HDB recognises me as a single under 35). My parents had to sell their existing property, so as not to attract the Additional Buyers Stamp Duty (ABSD) when doing this.
My main considerations getting a HDB flat
The main barriers to getting a place as a divorcee
* The Valuation Limit (VL) is the property valuation or price, whichever is lower.
An FYI to anyone who will be using the HDB resale portal for sales/purchase of their homes.
Since everyone makes a big deal out of renovations…
Being divorced is a setback, but doesn’t mean your life needs to take a bad turn
I think in Singapore, it is true that many divorcees find searching for a home challenging. To anyone in a similar situation as me reading this, here’s what I’d advise:
- Ask yourself what your needs vs what your wants are. Make sure you’re aware of your primary and secondary objectives. Do your homework on what the limited options you have.
- I was not eligible for any grants because of my history with the BTO flat. It was thus important to calculate my budget for my new home in more exacting detail.
- As a working parent, I did not always have the luxury of taking time to view the properties. That’s why it’s really important to make the most of the time spent on these visits.
The key is to stay practical, and remember you can change your housing situation later
Your immediate housing needs, right after your divorce, may not be to your exact preferences. They may also involve some uncomfortable situations, such as having to rent out a room to supplement the loan repayments (if you’ve just taken over the whole unit), moving in with parents, or moving to a much smaller home than you’re used to.
But stay practical and focus on covering your needs, without overstretching your finances. The faster you stabilise your financial issues and living needs, the quicker you can start saving and investing again; and there will be time further down the road to change your housing situation.
Are you a divorcee looking for a home? Voice your thoughts in our comments section or on our Facebook community page.
Looking for a property? Find the home of your dreams today on Singapore’s largest property portal 99.co! You can also access a wide range of tools to calculate your down payments and loan repayments, to make an informed purchase.