Are you applying for a BTO in 2021 for the first time?

As we usher in the year of the Ox in 2021, you may be heavily contemplating if applying for a Built-to-Order (BTO) flat would be a wise choice. Indeed, purchasing a home is a big-ticket item and for many Singaporeans, one of their largest investment.

During 2020, the pandemic disrupted the sales exercise for Built-to-Order (BTO) flats islandwide. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the sales launch slated for May was combined with August and November BTO exercises. Housing and Development Board (HDB) conducted a historic Mega sales launch in August with 7,800 flats offered across 8 towns.

We would like to shed light on the application process for a BTO flat for first-timers, and some of the do’s and don’ts for securing your desired flat.

DISCLAIMER: Are you ready?

The decision to purchase a BTO should not be taken lightly. As likened to any form of investment, buying a house can turn into a financial disaster when certain preparations are overlooked. For instance, there is an implication of marital commitment to your partner, non-refundable Option to Purchase (OTP) and down payment, and even your ability to service your housing loan in the future.


The above chart offers an overarching pathway that you, as a prospective buyer would undertake to secure your first BTO unit.

Are you eligible?

For eligibility, the main qualifying criteria are:

  1. At least 21 years old
  2. At least one Singapore Citizen applicant and at least one other Singapore Citizen/Singapore Permanent Resident
  3. Applying within your respective income ceiling for your intended flat
  4. Not possessing any other property locally/overseas
  5. Public scheme, Fiancé/Fiancée Scheme or Orphans Scheme

When to apply for Loan?

Before your first appointment to pay the fee for OTP, it is of utmost importance to ensure you are able to secure the loan amount required. In the event that HDB or the bank is not willing to loan the amount you need, the option fee you had paid would be forfeited and non-refundable.

For HDB Loan:

  • Apply for an HDB Loan Eligibility (HLE) letter and upload your documents at
  • Application will be processed within 14 days upon receiving the full set of documents
  • You may log in to My HDBPage to view the application status under My Flat > Application Status > HLE
  • No penalty for early repayment
  • Couples’ combined income cannot exceed $14,000

For Bank Loan:

  • Apply for a Bank Loan directly with any of the approved financial institutions regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore or through an established Mortgage Broker
  • Secure an Approval in Principle (AIP) from a bank for HDB purchases. Although an AIP does not immediately process the loan, it is a pre-approval agreement providing assurance that the bank would approve the loan amount should you decide to purchase the property.

Deferred Income Scheme (DIS)

Many young couples may experience difficulty in financing the initial 10% down payment of the HDB Loan or lack the required working experience to obtain a loan at an early stage of their life. This is especially so if you and your partner are currently full-time students or National Servicemen (NSF), or recently completed your studies or national service within 12 months prior to flat application. If this applies to you, you meet the criteria for the Deferred Income Scheme (DIS).

Since the May 2018 Sales exercise, HDB offers flexibility to eligible young couples to proceed with their flat application. With DIS, young couples can enjoy the Staggered Downpayment Scheme (SDS) to apply for their flats early, by splitting the 10% HDB downpayment into two parts. The first is paid upon signing the lease agreement while the second is paid during key collection.

In order to enjoy this benefit, applicants must be at least 21 years old and at least one applicant to be 30 years old or below. Contrary to common belief, couples do not need to be married yet. You can apply for a flat under the Fiancé/fiancée Scheme first. For an uncompleted BTO, the income assessment is deferred to approximately 3 months before flat completion. This implies that the Enhanced Housing Grant (EHG) and Loan will only be conducted at a later stage. Do note that the Proximity Housing Grant (PHG) is only offered for HDB Resale Flats and not for BTO flats.

How much money would you need to apply for a BTO?

Good question! The total amount would vary depending on each applicant. Firstly, a $10 fee would be incurred for balloting a launch in the area that catches your attention. For example, a 5-room flat at Urbanville @ Woodlands, located close to Woodlands MRT Station will cost around $458,800.

Although there are other 5-room flats of the same size, the purchase price would differ due to its floor level or whether it is located in a mature/non-mature estate. It may be wise to select a lower unit in order to afford a downpayment within your means. Instead of opting for the highest floor, you can consider a variety of factors:

  • Sun: If the unit face the sunrise or sunset
  • Noise: Proximity to main roads, multi-storey car parks, Multi-purpose halls
  • Amenities: Access to communal rubbish chutes
  • Privacy: Units along common corridor or at corner

Nonetheless, your choice is dependent on your personal preference. From a Feng Shui perspective, the screeching sounds from MRT trains produce negative energies. However, a unit with close proximity to an MRT Station fetches a higher demand and value.

During the first appointment, you will only be required to pay an option fee of $2000 by NETS to “book” your chosen unit. The option to purchase is a contractual agreement whereby the seller grants the buyer an option to purchase the property subject to terms and conditions, in return for the option fee. 

Apart from this fee, you will be notified by the HDB Officer that HDB would invite you to exercise this option during the second appointment in approximately 4 months after the option fee was paid. This period is known as the Signing Agreement for Lease. You will be notified to prepare a 5% down-payment ($22, 940) together with an estimated stamp and conveyancing fees quoted at $8,673. This sums up to be $31, 613.

The $2000 option fee and the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Ordinary Account (OA) of both applicants can be used to offset the amount of $31,613. The remaining 5% down payment is payable during key collection a few years later.

This financial overview will provide you a clearer image of the expected cost during the initial BTO application stage. The ability to plan accurately and finance this amount is quintessential to owning your first BTO!

Upcoming 2021 BTO sales launch: MAY and AUG 2021 HDB BTO Launch

For prospective buyers, there are many enticing upcoming BTO sales launches to select from. The upcoming May 2021 BTO Launch offers 4 distinct projects in Bukit Merah, Geylang, Tengah and Woodlands.

The following August 2021 Launch aims to provide more options with a whopping 7 projects: Queenstown, Kallang/Whampoa, Jurong East, and 2 projects in Hougang and Tampines respectively. Across these two BTO launches, it boasts a total of 8,800 units of 2-room flexi, 3-room, 4-room and 5-room HDB flats. These figures are preliminarily provided by HDB and may be revised closer to the launch date. In order to be notified of these launches, you are advised to sign up for HDB’s eAlert. You will be truly spoilt for choice!

Wren Lim
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