When it comes to the HDB BTO application, being a first-timer applicant gives you a lot of benefits. Not only can you qualify for a higher grant amount, but you get more priority too (read: better chance of securing a queue number).
First-timer applicant benefits for HDB BTO
Enhanced CPF Housing Grant of up to S$80k
As a first-timer, you can qualify for the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG) of up to S$80,000. How much you can get depends on your income.
To qualify, your average gross monthly household income for 12 months must not exceed the income ceiling of S$9,000.
First-timer applicant priority
As a first-timer, you also get more priority compared to second-timers and singles, which means you have a better chance of securing a queue number. These include:
- Higher flat allocation
- Two ballot chances (compared to one for second-timers and singles)
- Additional ballot chances if you were unsuccessful in previous attempts to ballot in non-mature estates
(Plus, from the August 2023 BTO exercise onwards, there will be a new priority category called FIrst-Timers (Parents and Married Couples) or FT (PMC). They 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.
These applications will get three ballot chances.)
Here’s the BTO flat distribution if you’re applying for a flat in a non-mature estate:
|Families (PPS)||Families (MCPS)||Other families||Singles||Families (ASSIST)||Families (MCPS)||Other families|
|4- and 5-room||30%||30%||35%||–||–||3%||2%|
PPS = Parenthood Priority Scheme, MCPS = Married Child Priority Scheme, ASSIST = Assistance Scheme for Second-Timers. For more info, check out our article on HDB’s different schemes.
And here’s the BTO flat distribution if you’re applying for a flat in a mature estate:
|2-room Flexi to 5-room||Families (PPS)||Families (MCPS)||Other families||Families (MCPS)||Other families|
There are also more flats set aside for first-timers applying for flats with a shorter waiting time:
|Families (PPS)||Families (MCPS)||Other families||Families (MCPS)||Other families|
|4-room and bigger flats||30%||30%||35%||3%||2%|
(Starting from the August 2023 BTO exercise, the PPS will be expanded and renamed Family and Parenthood Priority Scheme (FPPS). Under this scheme, up to 40% of the BTO flats and 60% of the SBF flats will be set aside for FT (PMC). They’ll also get first priority when they apply for a 4-room or smaller flat in a non-mature estate.)
You can also get additional ballot chances when applying in a non-mature estate, after two failed applications in non-mature estates.
|No. of previous failed applications||Additional chances (+1 per application after 2 failed applications)||Total (additional chance + 2 first-timer chances)|
|0 to 1||0||2|
Deferred Income Assessment
As a young couple (with at least one of you a first-timer), you can apply first and defer the income assessment for the grant and HDB housing loan. Your income will only be assessed around three months before the flat completion.
The eligibility criteria is that both of you must also be full-time students or NSF, and/or have completed studies or NS within 12 months before applying for a flat.
Staggered Downpayment Scheme
First-timers are also eligible for the Staggered Downpayment Scheme if you’re applying as a married couple or applying under the Fiance/Fiancee Scheme. Through the scheme, instead of paying the downpayment during the signing of the Agreement for Lease, you can pay it in two instalments: during the agreement signing and key collection.
So if you’re taking an HDB loan, 5% is to be paid during the lease signing, while the other 10% is to be paid during the key collection for applications received between 16 December 2021 and 29 September 2022.
For BTO applications from 30 September 2022 onwards, the remaining downpayment to be paid during key collection will be 15%. This is because of the change in loan-to-value (LTV) ratio limit for HDB loans, which has since decreased from 85% to 80%.
So who’s considered a first-timer HDB BTO applicant?
You’re considered a first-timer applicant if you have never received any housing subsidies before. This means you’ve never bought:
- A flat directly from the HDB
- A resale flat with CPF housing grant
- A DBSS flat from a developer
- An EC from a developer
- Or enjoyed other forms of housing subsidy eg. Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS), privatisation of HUDC estate, etc.
So you’re considered a second-timer if you have bought any of these. From 9 May 2023 onwards, if you’re listed as an essential occupier and received the housing grant, you’ll also be considered a second-timer for your next HDB flat purchase. As a second-timer, you have to pay the resale levy when you buy a flat from HDB.
(While HDB regards couples comprising a first-timer and a second-timer as a first-timer family, take note that there are schemes, such as the Parenthood Priority Scheme that require both applicants to be first-timers.)
With that, we break down a few situations that disqualify you from enjoying first-timer applicant benefits.
Why you may not be able to enjoy first-timer applicant benefits for HDB BTO
1. You have bought a subsidised flat with a family member before
For instance, you have bought a flat directly from HDB or a resale flat using CPF grant with your parents under the Public Scheme or with your siblings under the Orphans Scheme. You may have bought it with a family member to pay the mortgage.
On the other hand, doing so also means you’ll lose your first-timer applicant status when you buy a flat later on with your spouse (or on your own as a single when you turn 35). So you’ll be considered a second-timer when you buy a BTO flat.
What’s more, you’ll have to deal with the admin issue of removing your name from the flat and having the other family member buy your share. This is because you cannot own more than one HDB flat at any one time.
And that’s why we don’t recommend people to buy a flat together with a family member.
(This is different from being listed as an essential occupier, whereby you don’t have any interest in the flat. However, from 9 May 2023 onwards, essential occupiers will now be considered second-timers the next time they buy an HDB flat. The only exception to this rule is parent-child households, whereby the child is listed as an essential occupier.)
2. Your parents have transferred the ownership of a subsidised flat to you
This includes inheriting the flat.
We’re not saying this is a bad thing, since it means you already have a home to your name. And if it’s fully paid up already, you’ll probably just need to pay the legal fees and other costs like property tax and conservancy fees.
But if you’re planning to get a BTO flat, owning a subsidised flat can disrupt your plans. Firstly, there’s the five-year MOP that you have to fulfill after taking over the flat. This should also satisfy the five-year time bar before you can apply to buy another subsidised flat.
On top of that, since you’re planning to buy another subsidised flat, you’ll have to pay the resale levy and be considered a second-timer.
And since you can only own one HDB flat at any one time, you’ll also have to dispose of this inherited flat within six months of completing the flat purchase.
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3. You have rejected a chance to select a flat twice
There are various reasons why you may have chosen to reject an invitation to book a flat. This can be because the flats left for selection are not desirable, or you may have financial difficulties.
But if you have been invited to book a flat twice and rejected both chances, you’ll have your first-timer priority suspended for a year. So during this one-year period, you can still apply for a BTO flat, but you’ll be balloted together with the second-timers. Which also means having a lower chance of securing a queue number due to the lower flat allocation for second-timers.
And if you still decide not to book a flat when invited twice, you’ll have the first-timer priority suspended for another year. So you’ll have to wait one more year before you’ll be considered as a first-timer and enjoy the first-timer priority again.
(The penalty is even worse starting from the August 2023 BTO exercise onwards. If you reject your chance to book a flat once, you’ll be considered a second-timer for a year. This is because over the past few years, around 40% of the flat applicants decided to reject their chance of booking a flat.
If you look at the flat allocation and application rates for second-timers, you’ll know how hard it is to get a queue number as a second-timer.
But if there are at most 10 BTO flats or 5 SBF flats to choose from, HDB will waive this rule.)
4. You have cancelled your BTO application after booking a flat
The penalty is more severe than cancelling your application before the flat booking.
Suppose you cancel your BTO application before the key collection. In that case, the next time you apply for a BTO flat, you won’t get any additional ballot chances that would have been accumulated from the previous unsuccessful applications in the non-mature estates.
Besides this first-timer benefit, you’ll also have to wait for one year before you can apply or be an essential occupier for the following:
- A new flat
- A resale flat bought with CPF housing grant
- A DBSS flat from a developer
- An EC bought from a developer
- A resale flat that’s been chosen for SERS
Plus, you have to forfeit the option fee if you have paid for it (before signing the lease) and 5% of the purchase price (after signing the lease).
5. You broke up after the key collection
Unfortunately, sometimes things happen. One of the most common cases we hear is couples breaking up after the BTO key collection.
In such a case, since you’ve applied as a couple, should you break up later after getting your flat, you’ll have to give the flat back to HDB. HDB will then compensate you at the prevailing compensation price.
(If you have listed either of your parents in the application instead, HDB will allow you to retain the flat.)
On top of that, there’s a penalty. In some cases we’ve heard about, you’ll be barred from applying for a new flat for a number of years.
Do you know any other reasons that can disqualify you from enjoying first-timer HDB BTO applicant benefits? Let us know in the comments section below.
If you found this article helpful, 99.co recommends HFE (HDB Flat Eligibility) letter: What is it and how to apply and Sale of Balance Flats 2023, What you need to know about HDB’s Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) in 2023.
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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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