Many homebuyers in Singapore are, by now, no strangers to the option of securing a home without a property agent. The circuit breaker period last year only warmed even more people to the idea, continuing today amid the recent surge in COVID-19 community cases.
With heightened alert measures in place, perhaps it really is time to consider buying a home via this route. It is much easier now too, thanks to technology.
With focus on buying a resale HDB flat from the open market, here is our step-by-step guide in buying your home on your own.
7 steps to buying a resale HDB flat without a property agent
Step 1: Register Intent to Buy
To check your eligibility to buy a resale flat, register your Intent to Buy through the HDB Resale Portal, accessible using your SingPass account.
There is no fee for registering and buyers will receive an instant assessment on not only their eligibility to buy, but also CPF housing grants and an HDB housing loan.
The eligibility criteria for each HDB scheme varies except for the following:
Eligibility conditions that apply to all schemes
|Income ceiling||There is no income ceiling for buying an HDB resale flat. However, there are income ceilings for CPF housing grants and HDB housing loans.|
|Ownership/Interest in HDB flats||If you or any person listed in the application owns an HDB flat, you must dispose of the HDB flat within six months of the resale flat purchase.|
|Ownership/Interest in property in Singapore or overseas other than HDB flats||If you or any person listed in your resale flat application owns a private property either locally or overseas, you must dispose of the property before or within six months of the resale flat purchase.|
Note: If you own a private property in Singapore or overseas, you are not eligible for a CPF Housing Grant or an HDB housing loan.
The following criteria are also available for individual schemes:
- Family nucleus
- Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) and SPR quota
- Special conditions
Step 2: Determine your budget
Before committing to a home purchase, it’s crucial to assess how much you can realistically afford. To ensure you have sufficient funds, work out a comprehensive financial plan by considering the following:
- Cash outlay and use of CPF ordinary account (OA) savings
- Applying for a housing loan
- CPF housing grants
- Payment for other costs, fees
You must use cash for the following payments:
- Deposit to the seller, which is a maximum of $5,000, paid in 2 stages. (1) You will first have to pay up to $1,000 for the option fee and (2) the other $4,000 as a deposit when exercising the Option to Purchase (OTP).
- A portion of the initial payment, but only if you take a bank loan and/or have insufficient CPF savings.
- Any amount not covered by CPF savings and eligible housing loan amount
Do note that if you are taking a second HDB loan to buy a resale flat, you will need to set aside part of the cash proceeds from the disposal of the existing or previous flat. That amount will be used to right-size the loan amount for your second HDB loan.
You will also need to set aside cash for other expenses, such as furnishings, renovation and the other costs and fees payable, which are:
- Resale application administrative fee
- Processing fee for Request for Value
- Fire Insurance
- Administrative Fee for Temporary Extension of Stay by flat sellers
- Legal fees
The savings in your CPF OA can be used for:
- Initial payment in whole or in part (depending on whether you are taking an HDB housing loan or a bank loan)
- Partial or full payment for the flat purchase at key collection
- Monthly payments of mortgage instalments
However, there is a limit on the total amount of CPF savings you can use for your flat purchase. Once reached, you will be unable to withdraw more and then have to pay the balance amount in cash.
If you are taking an HDB loan, you will have the option of retaining up to $20,000 of the available CPF savings in your OA. The rest of the available CPF OA balance must be used to pay for the flat purchase before taking up an HDB housing loan.
From 10 May 2019, the total amount of CPF savings that can be used for your flat purchase and/or monthly mortgage instalments will depend on the extent the remaining lease of the flat can cover the youngest buyer up to the age of 95.
For flat applications received on or after 10 May 2019:
|Remaining lease of the flat is at least 20 years and can cover the youngest buyer up to the age of 95||Applicable limits for CPF usage|
|Yes||The amount of CPF savings that the buyers can use is capped at the lower of the valuation or the price of the flat at the time of purchase.|
|No||Use of CPF savings will be prorated based on the extent the remaining lease of the flat can cover the youngest buyer up to the age of 95. |
When the allowed CPF amount is used up, buyers will have to pay the balance purchase price and/or monthly mortgage instalments in cash. This will help the buyers to set aside CPF savings for their housing needs during retirement (e.g. buying a replacement property).
For information on the use of CPF savings, you may use the CPF Board’s online calculator.
You can also choose to finance your flat purchase by getting a housing loan from HDB or a bank.
You may approach a bank directly to check on your eligibility.
Housing loan from HDB
You will have to apply for an HDB loan eligibility letter (HLE), which indicates the loan amount you are eligible for. This is important as you will need to produce a valid HLE when obtaining the OTP from the seller.
Here’s what you have to pay when taking an HDB loan
|Initial payment||Mode of payment||When to pay|
|10% of purchase price||CPF||Online withdrawal of your CPF monies after you confirm your financial plan through the HDB Resale Portal|
|Cash (Only when the resale price is higher than the market valuation)||At the resale completion appointment|
If you take a housing loan from a bank
Remember: Before exercising the OTP, you must have a valid Letter of Offer, a contract that states the terms of the loan package offered by the bank after they have approved your loan application.
Do take note that you will not be allowed to refinance the loan with a housing loan from HDB.
|Initial payment||Mode of payment||When to pay|
|25% of purchase price for a loan ceiling of 75%||CPF (20%)Cash (5% minimum)||Dependent on bank’s payment schedule|
|45% of purchase price for loan ceiling of 55%||CPF (35%)Cash (10% minimum)|
If your CPF savings is insufficient, the balance must be paid in cash.
Step 3: Look for a suitable flat
The rise of property technology and other digital solutions have made buying a home independently not just easier and faster – it is more cost-effective too as it saves one from paying an agent’s commission fee, which is usually 1-2% of the purchase price.
A few of these digital solutions are:
- Property portals and mobile apps, which allow buyers to find listings and chat directly with the sellers;
- 3D video home tours, which give an immersive walkthrough experience of the space; and
- Online house viewings and open houses, which buyers can watch on video conferencing platforms such as Zoom.
As technology continues to evolve and improve, the journey of a DIY homebuyer may be even simpler in the future.
You will also want to check the resale flat prices in your preferred area by using the HDB centralised map services. You can search the following there:
- Resale transacted prices within 500 metres of any HDB block or DBSS site/project
- Resale transacted prices for all flat types in each block
- Other information related to the block (quotas, upgrading programmes, distance enquiries)
Step 4: Receive OTP from seller
So you’ve found a seller. After agreeing on the resale price and payment of the option fee, the seller will grant you the rights to buy the property within the period specified with a signed OTP. This means he or she cannot sell the property to another buyer during this time, giving you exclusive rights to purchase it until the OTP has expired.
The option fee may cost up to $1,000 and can be negotiated between the seller and buyer. At this stage, you are not yet required to sign the OTP.
The option period — which usually lasts 21 calendar days (including the weekend and public holidays) from the date the seller granted the OTP to you — is the period to decide if you really want to buy the flat, confirm your mode of financing and apply for a valuation of the flat.
You can get a valuation report by submitting a Request for Value to HDB. You will need a valuation report if you are:
- Taking an HDB loan;
- Taking a housing loan from a bank;
- Using CPF funds to buy the flat or service monthly loan instalments.
The valuation report will be used by the HDB, the CPF Board or your bank to calculate:
- How much you can withdraw from your CPF savings;
- How much housing loan can be granted to you; and
- The minimum cash payment you must make.
Step 5: Exercise OTP
If you proceed with the flat purchase, you must exercise the OTP within the option period and pay a deposit of up to $5,000 to the seller.
If you are using a bank loan to finance your home purchase, you must have on hand a valid Letter of Offer from the bank before you exercise the OTP. This is to successfully close the transaction.
If you do not proceed with the purchase, the seller has the right to forfeit your option fee.
Step 6: Submit resale application
Both the buyer and seller will have to use HDB’s e-Resale page to submit the resale application and supporting documents within seven days of each other.
Pro Tip: You need not use the same system as the seller, who may be represented by a property agent and would have submitted the application on HDB’s Estate Agent Toolkit on his/her behalf.
The relevant documents are as follows:
- A valid HDB HLE (if you are taking a housing loan from the Board)
- A valid letter of offer and acceptance from the bank (if you are taking a bank loan)
- Legal representative letter (if you are not using HDB’s conveyancing services)
- Documentation required for grants
After you have submitted your resale application, HDB will compute your estimated sale proceeds and provide a financial plan and some relevant forms and documentation for you to endorse.
Once the documents are ready and posted on the HDB Resale Portal, you will be notified via SMS to endorse these within six days. If these are not endorsed by then, a reminder SMS will be sent and the deadline for the endorsement will be extended by two days. However, if the documents are still not endorsed by the extended deadline by either parties, HDB may cancel the resale flat application.
Do note that if you are using the Proximity Grant, the parents or children (married or single) of the buyer must also endorse the documents within the same period.
Step 7: Attend the completion appointment
Once the endorsement is done and your resale flat application is approved, HDB will arrange an appointment for both parties to complete the resale transaction and to sign the necessary documents that require wet-ink signatures. The completion letters will be posted on the HDB Resale Portal.
Flat buyers and sellers will need to attend only one appointment with HDB, instead of two previously. The first appointment will no longer be needed as all forms and checks will be completed on the resale portal. They will only need to attend the resale completion appointment, either at HDB Hub or at their solicitors’ office.
By submitting the necessary documents promptly, the entire transaction time – from submission to completion of the resale application – may take up to eight weeks from 16 weeks previously.
Happy house hunting!
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Frequently asked questions about buying a resale HDB flat without a property agent
What is a resale HDB flat?
A resale HDB flat is a property currently owned by someone else that is put on sale in the open market. This means the flat has reached its five-year Minimum Occupation Period.
Can I buy a resale HDB without an agent?
Yes, you can. Before doing so, you will need to visit the HDB Resale Portal for an instant assessment of your eligibility to do so, as well as information on CPF housing grants and the HDB housing loan.
Can I buy a resale flat from HDB?
No, because a resale flat is not sold directly by HDB.
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