Step-By-Step Guide to Buying a HDB in Singapore 2021

Buying an HDB property in Singapore may be a complicated task, especially if it's your first time. BTO? SBF? EHG? OTP? The number of acronyms used would definitely give you an information overload.  No fret, whether its purchasing a second-hand resale flat or a yet-to-exist BTO, we have consolidated the main details below for your easy reference. 

Have a particular stage of the housing process that you want to read up more on? Click on the contents below to jump to the relevant section: 

  1. Buying a Flat

  2. Flat Eligibility Scheme

  3. Types of HDB Flats

  4. Financing Your Flat

  5. Grants Available

  6. Other Costs

  7. Process to Getting a BTO/SBF

  8. Process to Getting a Resale

  9. Considerations for Choosing a Property

  10. Home Insurance

  11. Utilities Account

  12. Renovation

  13. Internet & TV Services

  14. Furniture & Furnishings

  15. Home Appliances

1. Buying a Flat

Before you plan to purchase a HDB, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the modes of HDB sale available: Build to Order (BTO), Sale of Balance (SBF), Open Booking Flats & Resale. For the young couple who can afford waiting several years for their new home, BTO is a popular option. However, if you do not have the luxury of time to wait for a BTO to be built, another common option is resale flats. If you are not keen on a second hand flat and unwilling to wait 4-5 years for a BTO, you may also consider applying for a SBF (Sale of Balance Flat). 

  • BTO: Houses built to demand, where construction will begin only if 65-70% of the apartments in the flat have been booked

  • SBF: Balance flats from earlier BTO sales launches, surplus Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) replacement flats, and repurchased flats

  • OBF: A new sales mode where flat buyers can apply online anytime and receive a queue number for flat booking on a first-come-first-served basis, and book a flat as early as the next working day. This enables more home seekers to move into their homes earlier

  • Resale: Flats that are currently owned by someone and have been lived in for at least the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) which is typically 5 years

2. Flat Eligibility Scheme

If we’ve not lost you there, the next thing to determine is the eligibility scheme you plan to apply under as a couple or family. 

All applicants and essential occupiers need to meet several eligibility conditions listed below. 

General Eligibility Criteria

  • Citizenship: At least one applicant needs to be a Singapore Citizen AND at least one other applicant (if applicable) needs to be a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident.

  • Income Ceiling: The current combined income ceiling for a BTO flat is $14,000. If applying for a 3-Gen flat (multi-generational flat), this figure may rise up to $18,000 for the extended family/multi-generation family income ceiling.

  • Age: Applicants have to be at least 21 years-old at the point of application.

  • Property Ownership: If you are planning to buy a BTO, you have to ensure that all applicants and occupiers listed in the flat application do not own other properties overseas or locally, and have not disposed of any within the last 30 months.

Flat Eligibility Scheme




Public Scheme

  • Singapore Citizen & Singapore Citizen / Singapore Citizen & PR / PR + PR

  • Min 21 years old

Fiance/Fiancee Scheme

  • Singapore Citizen & Singapore Citizen / Singapore Citizen & PR / PR + PR

  • Min 21 years old

Orphans Scheme

  • Single 

  • Min 35 years old

  • Orphans (both parents are deceased) and siblings 

  • At least one parent had to be a Singapore Citizen or Singapore PR

Single Singapore Citizen Scheme

  • Unmarried or divorced, at least 35 years old OR

  • Widowed or orphan, at least 21 years old

Joint Singles Scheme

  • Unmarried or divorced, at least 35 years old OR

  • Widowed or orphan, at least 21 years old

Non-Citizen Spouse Scheme

  • Singapore Citizens can still apply for a 2-room BTO flat in a non-mature estate (residential areas older than 20 years old) if their spouse is not a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident. Spouse has to hold a valid Visit pass or Work Pass at the point of application.


All of the above OR

Non-Citizen Family

  • Singapore Citizen & at least 1 Parent/Child a valid Long Term Visit Pass or Work Pass at the time you submit your application to buy a resale flat. The pass must have a validity period of at least 6 months from the date of issue. 

Other Considerations:

When purchasing a resale, buyers need to ensure they are within the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) proportion for the block/neighbourhood, and if applicable, the Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR) quota as well. Ethnicity of these flat units are determined during the purchase of the HDB flat. 

  • EIP limits the total proportion within a block/neighbourhood that may be occupied by a certain ethnicity. This applies for both new and resale flats and is implemented for all ethnic groups. As a general guideline, for resale flats, a Chinese buyer can only buy from a Chinese seller, but Malay and Indian/Other ethnic group buyers can buy from all sellers. Buyers and sellers have to use the ethnic quota service on HDB’s website to check if they are eligible under the EIP. 

  • SPR quota restricts the total proportion of non-Malaysian SPR households within a block or neighborhood. 

The current SPR Quota for Non-Malaysian SPR Households is as follows





3. Types of HDB Flats

Did you know that both 4-room and 5-room flats have the same number of bedrooms & bathrooms? If you are not familiar with HDB’s uniquely Singaporean naming convention, this table summarizes the main differences between each flat type for your ease of choice.

Type of Flat

Size & Features


  • 60 - 65 sqm

  • 2 bedroom & 2 bathroom


  • 90 sqm

  • 3 bedroom & 2 bathroom


  • 110 sqm

  • 3 bedroom & 2 bathroom


  • 115 sqm

  • 4 bedroom & 3 bathroom

  • Designed for multi-generational families with one couple and at least 1 parent

Executive Flat

  • 130 sqm

  • 3 bedroom & 2 bathroom

  • Features additional space for a study room


  • 140 - 150 sqm

  • 2-3 bedroom & 3 bathroom

  • 2-floor space

  • No longer in production as they have been replaced by the Executive Condominium (EC) Scheme

Terrace House

  • 120 - 240 sqm

4. Financing Your Flat

Unless you are intending to finance your flat completely with cash (in which case you may skip this section and the next), you will need to familiarise yourself with the types of loans available for your flat. 

In short, you may consider a loan which has a higher interest rate and higher loan cap or a bank loan which has a lower interest rate and lower loan cap. Here are the main differences: 



Interest Rate


1.3% - 2.4% (Dependent on banks and benchmark rates)

Loan Cap

Max 90% for new and resale flat

75% of purchase price

Down Payment

CPF or Cash

Cash (at least 5%)

Late Payment Penalty

7.5% per annum


Keen to find out more on which loan you should choose? Read more here.

5. Grants Available

Make sure to educate yourself on the types of grants available for BTO and Resale flats. You can find a short summary below but we recommend you to read up more on the various types of grants available and their eligibility.

Type of Grant

Income Ceiling

Grant Amount

Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG)


$5,000 - $80,000

Family Grant

Couples - $14,000

Couples & Parents - $21,000

2/3/4 room - $50,000

5 room and up - $40,000

Half-Housing Grant

Couples - $14,000

Couples & Parents - $21,000

2/3/4 room - $50,000

5 room and up - $40,000

Singles Grant


2/3/4 room - $25,000

5 room and up - $20,000

EHG (Singles)


$2,500 - $40,000

Proximity Housing Grant


$20,000 - $30,000

6. Other Costs

Now that you’ve gotten the mortgage loans and grants under your belt, there are several other upfront costs which you would need to prepare for. 

The payments you need to make to purchase your home include:

  • Option fee: You may pay an option fee to reserve the property of your choice. For HDBs, this amount ranges from $500 for a 2-room BTO to $2,000 for a 4-room or 5-room BTO. For Resale, the option fee can be up to $5,000 in total, comprising up to $1,000 before signing the Option to Purchase (OTP) and $4,000 on exercising the OTP.

  • Down payment: For a HDB, the down payment depends on the type of loan. For a HDB loan, the down payment is 10% while for a Bank loan, the down payment is at least 5%. 

  • Buyer's stamp duty: A tax payable for the registration of the mortgage

  • Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty (for a second and subsequent property if you're a Singapore Citizen)

  • Legal costs, including stamp fees

  • Agent's commission and fees

  • Other miscellaneous costs

Read more here.

Singapore furniture group buy

7. Process to Getting a BTO/SBF

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the types of HDB flat options available, eligibility & home financing options, “BTO, Ai Mai?”

As the process of BTO-ing is similar to getting a SBF, the stages below are applicable for both:

  1. Check your eligibility

  2. Browse upcoming launches and shortlist your BTO flat (6 months beforehand)

  3. Apply for your BTO/SBF (1 week)

  4. Check outcome of ballot and get queue number (3 weeks for BTO, 6 weeks for SBF) 

  5. Get your HDB Home Loan Eligibility (HLE) letter 

  6. Select your flat at HDB (several months) 

  7. Sign your lease agreement

  8. Collect your keys!

Est time: 4 - 5 years

You may also refer to this helpful infographic on the BTO process and ballot process

Learn more about the differences between SBF and BTO here.

8.Process to Getting a Resale

Can’t afford to wait 4 years for your BTO? Don’t mind staying in a flat with a shorter lease period? Then the HDB resale option is for you. When you purchase a resale flat, you may receive your keys within a short period of time depending on how fast the transaction occurs. You also get the option to choose from any ideal location in Singapore and there is no need to ballot for the flats. 

  1. Login to the HDB Resale Portal and register your Intent to Buy

  2. Plan your finances (Secure Option To Purchase (OTP), Initial payment, Cash payment for balance purchase price, Additional miscellaneous costs, Resale application administrative fee, Processing fee for, Request for Value, Fire Insurance… etc)

  3. Shortlist your flat

  4. Get HDB Option To Purchase (OTP) from seller and exercise it

  5. Submit resale application via the HDB Resale Portal

  6. Attend Resale Completion Appointment

Est time: 2 months

You can consider buying a resale flat without a property agent, or engage a property agent. The estimated commission rates are around two per cent for a seller and one per cent for a buyer. Intending to engage a property agent? Here are five things to consider

9. Considerations for Choosing a Property

If you have sorted your eligibility and finances and are actively searching for your new abode, we’ve also consolidated some key considerations and things to note:

  1. Walk around the neighbourhood

  2. Take note of the flat’s orientation to the sun

  3. Identify the right floor

  4. Observe the flat surrounds for noise levels and privacy 

  5. If you do not own a car, make sure to check on the accessibility options in the area

  6. Look up future developments in the neighbourhood

As a big-ticket purchase, make sure to do all your due diligence so that you find the right home for you and your family in the next couple of years. 

10. Home Insurance

If you are at this stage of the new home journey, congrats! You can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. Do note that there are still several essential items to sort out before you can have peace of mind in your new home. Sections 10 to 15 will bring you through these essentials. 

When it comes to your home and family, don’t leave anything up to chance. It is always safer to protect yourself and your loved ones with home insurance, especially when it comes to the roof you live under. Thankfully, under the mandatory HDB Fire Insurance Scheme, HDB has already covered the costs of repair work in the unfortunate event there is a fire. However, take note that other possessions such as your furniture, personal belongings and renovations are NOT covered under this scheme. 

Therefore, you will need to find the right home insurance plan that covers your furniture, personal belongings, alternative accommodation and more, and is also within the coverage and premium value that you have in mind.

11. Utilities Account

The next essential item would be your electricity plan. That’s unless you are living in the dark ages and able to survive with matches and candles. You may Set Up Your SP Service Utilities Account here

If you would like to change to another electricity provider after setting up your utilities account, you may choose from the 12 Electricity Retailers on the Open Electricity Market in Singapore. Remember to compare the different rates available before making your decision.

12. Renovation

Whilst planning to renovate your home, there are several considerations. For example, identify if you would like to engage an interior designer or a contractor, depending on your renovation objectives. If you have an aesthetic design in mind, an ID would meet that objective better. For carpentry works, it may be more efficient to hire a contractor directly.

Once you’ve settled on the budget and ideal style, you may look up IDs and contractors that you find suitable. It is recommended to get several ID quotes, so that you are able to compare between different options. You may also consider taking renovation loans as a financing option.

At the same time, do not forget to account for your other home fittings, such as your flooring, paint, bathroom and kitchen fittings, electrical works, lighting, curtain etc. 

13. Internet & TV Services

With the Internet becoming a necessity in this day and age, check out the best broadband options in Singapore available. 

14. Furniture & Furnishings

If you are at the stage of furnishing your home, the boring stuff is mostly over! It’s finally your chance to set the mood and personality for your home. HipVan offers stylish designs and quality furniture and homeware products to help you create your dream home. If you already have a style in mind, you can check out our carefully curated collections below.

15. Home Appliances

Lastly, with your utilities and home fittings in-place, it’s time to shop appliances to add convenience to your life. Here are some appliances that you would probably need!

Living Room/Entertainment







Gas/Induction Stove 









Water Dispenser

Food Processor




Ironing Board

Drying Rack


Vacuum Cleaner

If you have made it here, thanks for sticking with us. We hope this helps you in your journey to buying an HDB flat! The journey ahead may be hectic and stressful but be assured that your cozy and calming abode awaits you at the end of it all.


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