Is it getting harder to get a BTO as a second-timer?

7 min read

Last month, HDB announced it’s increasing the quota for first-timer families and singles applying for a BTO flat in non-mature estates. The increase is due to the strong demand for housing among first-timers.

The change took effect from the August 2022 BTO exercise onwards.

Flat allocation for first-timer families New allocation Previous allocation
3-room flats At least 85%  At least 70% 
4-room and larger flats  At least 95%  At least 85% 

For first-timer singles, up to 65% of the non-senior 2-room Flexi flats will be set aside for them. This is an increase from up to 50%.

BTO flat allocation breakdown

Here’s the revised breakdown of the BTO flat distribution for applicants applying in the non-mature estates.

Flat type First-timer Second-timer
Families (PPS) Families (MCPS) Other families Singles Families (ASSIST) Families (MCPS) Other families
2-room Flexi 5% 5% 10% 65% 5% 5%  5%
3-room 30% 30% 25% NA 5% 5% 5%
4- and 5-room 30%  30% 35% NA NA 3% 2%

PPS: Parenthood Priority Scheme
MCPS: Married Child Priority Scheme
ASSIST: Assistance Scheme for Second-Timers

There’s no change in the flat allocation for those applying in mature estates. At least 95% of the BTO flat supply is set aside for first-timer families.

Flat type First-timer Second-timer
Families (PPS) Families (MCPS) Other families Families (MCPS) Other families
2-room Flexi to 5-room 30% 30% 35% 3% 2%

But who are considered second-timers?

You’re considered a second-timer if you have received a housing subsidy before. This means either of the following:

  • You’ve bought a flat directly from HDB
  • You’ve bought a resale flat with CPF housing grant
  • You’ve bought a DBSS flat from a property developer
  • You’ve bought an EC from a property developer
  • You’ve received other forms of housing subsidy (eg. from SERS, the privatisation of HUDC estate, etc.)

So if your first home is a resale flat, and you bought it with resale grants, you’ll be considered a second-timer when you apply for a BTO flat.

What does the increased BTO allocation for first-timers mean for second-timers then?

To begin with, the BTO flat supply is already way lower for second-timers, whether they’re applying in a non-mature or mature estate.

Chinese family of 3

The recent increase in allocation for first-timers applying for a flat in a non-mature estate means that a lower quota is set aside for second-timers. For those applying for 3-room flats, the flat supply has been decreased from 30% to 15%.

The flat supply is even lower for those applying for 4-room and larger flats. It’s reduced from 15% to 5%.

It’s also why we’ve seen that the application rates for second-timers for the various BTO projects are always way higher than those for first-timers.

For instance, in the recent August 2022 BTO exercise, the application rate for first-timers applying for 4-room flats at Woodlands South Plains stood at 9.3. This means that 9.3 families are competing for each available flat.

August 2022 BTO final application rate
Source: HDB

There are 268 4-room flats available at the Woodlands BTO. With 95% of the flat supply for first timers, this means that 9.3 households are competing for each of the 255 flats available.

The competition is even tougher for second-timers, as the application rate among them was 58.8. This is because the flat supply for second-timers is lower at 5% or 13 flats.

The odds are even lower for second-timers applying for a project in a mature estate.

For instance, only around 7 four-room flats have been set aside for second-timers applying at Sun Plaza Spring BTO. Because of the high number of second-timers applying, this led to an application rate of 127.4.

To put it simply, as a second-timer, you need to be really, really lucky to get a BTO queue number.

Nevertheless, HDB sets aside part of the supply for second-timers that need subsidised housing the most.

For instance, under the Assistance Scheme for Second-Timers (Assist), HDB has set aside 5% of 2-room Flexi and 3-room BTO flats in non-mature estates for divorced and widowed parents with children.

This quota is shared with the 15% quota for second-timers.

Tenants of HDB rental flats (of at least two years) also get priority when they apply for a flat. Up to 10% of 2-room Flexi and 3-room BTO / SBF flats are set aside for them.

Read more about the priority schemes and their eligibility criteria.

What options do second-timers have then?

Apply for a BTO in a non-mature estate

If you die die want to get a BTO flat, you can try your luck by balloting for a flat in a non-mature estate. The odds are still higher compared to balloting for a flat at a mature estate.

If we look closely at the application rates of the respective projects in the recent August 2022 BTO launch for second-timers, the application rate is generally lower for non-mature estate projects.

In fact, apart from the Bukit Merah BTO projects, the second-timer application rate for 4-room flats for Woodlands (58.5) – the most popular non-mature estate project in this launch – is still lower than the application rate for similar flat types at the Ang Mo Kio BTO (90.8) and Tampines BTO (127.4).

Apply under MCPS to live with your parents

Besides applying in a non-mature estate, consider applying under the Married Child Priority Scheme (MCPS).

This entails

  • Applying for a flat with your parents, in which your parents have to live together with you, or
  • Applying for a flat in a project that’s within 4km of your parents’ house

Three-generation family having meal at home

Among those applying under this scheme, the first priority goes to those applying together with parents.

Submit your application after 5pm on the last day of the BTO exercise

The BTO exercise is not on a first-come, first basis. It’s a balloting process. Submitting your application earlier won’t increase your chances of getting a BTO queue number.

Plus, HDB updates the application rates a few times daily throughout the one-week application period. So take advantage of this information and monitor it throughout the application period. See which project has the highest and lowest application rates for second-timers to know which project you’ll get a higher chance of getting a queue number.

The last update before the application closes is usually 5pm on the last day. So you might want to apply after 5pm. Take note that it closes at 11.59pm.

Otherwise, if luck hasn’t been on your side, maybe it’s time to consider going for a resale flat or an EC instead.


Have you applied for a BTO flat as a second-timer? Let us know in the comments section below.

If you found this article helpful, recommends Singapore Consumer Sentiments Study Q2 2022 and November 2022 HDB BTO overview: Bukit Batok, Kallang/ Whampoa, Queenstown, Tengah, Yishun.

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About Virginia Tanggono

Virginia covers the property news in Singapore, from record sales to profile stories on home ownership. In her free time, she occasionally searches for spoilers of movies and TV shows.

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    • Fauzi

      How about second timer applying for a SBF? Is it a possible option?

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