Buying an HDB BTO flat from the HDB is probably the most affordable option for buying a house in Singapore. At the same time, it’s increasingly harder to secure one. Some might say it’s even harder than to strike Toto or secure a seat for your child at a popular school! Don’t worry though, because there are still ways to maximise your BTO ballot chances.
How does the HDB BTO application balloting work?
Just like primary school application, your BTO application will go through a ballot. The smaller your queue number is, the better as you’ll get called earlier to choose your flat. If your number is within the flat supply, you’ll have a higher chance of securing a flat (we’ll get to that part in just a bit).
Otherwise, you’ll have a chance only if people ahead of you decide not to proceed with the flat selection.
But whether or not your queue number is within the flat supply is also dependent on the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) limit, aka the racial quota. This quota determines the number of units allocated for each race in each block or neighbourhood, based on the racial composition in Singapore.
So if the quota has been met, you won’t be able to get a flat. If you’re Chinese and the Chinese quota has reached its limit, you won’t be invited for a flat selection.
How many BTO ballot chances can you get?
Here’s the good thing if you’re buying a flat from HDB for the first time — you’ll get two BTO ballot chances instead of one, unlike second-timers.
(Plus, as announced during Budget and COS 2023, the new priority category called First-Timers (Parents and Married Couples) will get an additional ballot chance (so total will be three ballot chances) from the August 2023 BTO onwards. Those who fall under the new FT (PMC) category are
- families with children aged 18 and below, or
- married couples aged 40 and below
who have never owned or sold a residential property before, and did not have a chance to book a BTO or SBF flat in the last five years before their flat application.)
And if you’ve been trying to get a flat in a non-mature estate, you’ll get one additional ballot chance for every two failed applications.
Starting with the August 2022 BTO exercise, HDB will allocate more units in non-mature estates for first-timers.
|Flat allocation for first-timer families||New allocation||Previous allocation|
|3-room flats||At least 85%||At least 70%|
|4-room flats and larger flats||At least 95%||At least 85%|
For first-timer singles, up to 65% of the non-senior 2-room Flexi flats in non-mature estates will be allocated to them. This is an increase from up to 50%.
On the other hand, regardless of how many ballot chances you have, the queue number is generated randomly. So there are no hacks to increase your chances of getting a smaller queue number.
In spite of that, there are still ways to maximise your BTO ballot chances to get a queue number
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1. Apply via HDB’s priority schemes
One of the most common ways to increase your chances is applying through at least one of HDB’s priority schemes.
Parenthood Priority Scheme (PPS)
For instance, the Parenthood Priority Scheme (PPS) is one of the schemes that can give you a higher chance of securing a flat. It’s for first-time applicants who are married and expecting their first child during the application or have at least a child aged 18 and below.
(Not that we’re encouraging you to have children for the sole purpose of increasing your BTO chances, but having a child helps with the application.)
But why do we say PPS can give you a higher chance? For BTO applications, up to 30% of the units will be allocated for those who apply under this scheme. The unit allocation is even higher at up to 50% if you’re applying for SBF.
(The PPS will be expanded and renamed Family and Parenthood Priority Scheme (FPPS) from the August 2023 BTO exercise onwards. Under this scheme, up to 40% of the BTO flats will be set aside for those under the FT (PMC) category. The unit allocation will be even higher at 60% for those applying for SBF. On top of that, they will get first priority if they’re applying for a 4-room or smaller flat in a non-mature estate.)
Married Child Priority Scheme (MCPS)
Another scheme that can give you a higher chance is the Married Child Priority Scheme (MCPS). This is for those applying for a flat to live with your parents or married child, or near your parents or married child (within 4km).
While it’s open for both first-timers and second-timers, you’ll have a higher chance as a first-timer. Up to 30% BTO or SBF units will be allocated for first-timers, while only 3% of units will be set aside for second-timers.
This table summarises the quota.
|Mature estates||Non-mature estates|
|Flat type||2-room Flexi and larger flats||2-room Flexi||3-room||4-/5-room|
But the downside is that if you’re applying under the MCPS to live near your parents or married child, they cannot move house during the five-year MOP. So they’ll have to delay any moving plans until your MOP is finished.
2. Ballot for a less popular project
These are usually in the newer, non-mature estates and located further from the city centre, like Woodlands or Tengah. Applying at one of these estates can increase your BTO ballot chances because they’re generally less popular than those more centrally located, like Bukit Merah.
For instance, during the last BTO launch in May 2021, the application rate for 4-room flats in Tengah and Woodlands were at 3.9 and 4.4 respectively.
On the other hand, it’s a little higher for the same flat type at Geylang at 5.5. Even higher was the application rate for Bukit Merah where 49.6 applicants were competing for one unit (which was probably one of the highest application rates ever).
HDB flats for sale
3. Go for the less popular flat type
We notice that during the recent launches, 4-room and 5-room flats have been the most popular flat types. For the February 2021 and May 2021 BTO launch, the application rates for these flats were generally higher than those for 3-room flats.
So if you don’t need as much space, you can consider balloting for 3-room flats first.
HDB flats for sale
4. Don’t apply straight after the announcement
The application period for each BTO launch will last for one week. And it’s not on a first-come, first-served basis. Afterwards, all the applications will go through computerised balloting, that may or may not give you a queue number. So there’s no rush in submitting your application.
In the meantime, it’s best to check the application rate first. During the application period, HDB will update the application rate four times every day (at 8am, 11am, 2pm and 5pm). So you can see which projects are more oversubscribed, and by how much. Doing so can help gauge your chances.
For instance, during the May 2021 BTO exercise, we noticed that 4-room flats in the Bukit Merah project were already oversubscribed by 30.3 times within three days of launch! At the end of the application, we saw the application rate reach nearly 50 per unit.
Of course, this is only useful if you’re not fixated on a project and flat type. This wait-and-see approach helps if you’re open to balloting for other projects and flat types to increase your BTO ballot chances.
Have any other tips we missed out on? Let us know in the comments section below.
If you found this article helpful, 99.co recommends 5 scenarios that can disqualify you from getting HDB BTO first-timer applicant benefits and 4 ways an essential occupier can help with your HDB BTO or resale flat purchase, grants, etc.
Looking to sell your property?
Whether your HDB apartment is reaching the end of its Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) or your condo has crossed its Seller Stamp Duty (SSD) window, it is always good to know how much you can potentially gain if you were to list and sell your property. Not only that, you’ll also need to know whether your gains would allow you to right-size to the dream home in the neighbourhood you and your family have been eyeing.
One easy way is to send us a request for a credible and trusted property consultant to reach out to you.
Alternatively, you can jump onto 99.co’s Property Value Tool to get an estimate for free.
If you’re looking for your dream home, be it as a first-time or seasoned homebuyer or seller – say, to upgrade or right-size – you will find it on Singapore’s fastest-growing property portal 99.co.
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Any priority scheme for
Parents to apply bto one unit
Son & daughter in law another bto unit
Yes, that’s the Multi-Generation Priority Scheme (MGPS). You can find out more about it in our guide: https://www.99.co/singapore/insider/in-depth-guide-hdb-priority-schemes/