Looking to buy a home? Choosing between a Housing Development Board (HDB) flat and a condominium unit can be a real dilemma, especially when everyone seems to have a different opinion about which housing type offers the better deal.
But with extensive development plans in the works for housing in Singapore, are the commonly held beliefs about HDBs and condos still relevant today? Let’s explore.
First, the basics of HDB flats
HDB flats are meant to provide a form of affordable housing to Singapore Citizens (SCs) and Permanent Residents (PRs). The types of HDB flats range from two-room flexi flats to five-room apartments. Maisonettes, which are flats consisting of two stories, are no longer being built as of 2012, but can still be found on the resale market.
No matter which type of home you’re buying, the government offers a range of subsidies for individuals and households who are purchasing a home. The amount of subsidies that you qualify for varies depending on factors such as:
- Marriage status
- Household income level
- The number of times you have purchased property
- How far away your new home is from your parents’ home
While resale HDB flats are still more affordable than private properties, owning one may still set you back by several hundred thousand dollars. For a few years now, several HDB flat transactions have been breaking the $1 million mark, a sign of how price hikes have crept up on the public housing market.
If home ownership is still something that is out of reach for you, there’s nothing wrong with renting an HDB or condo unit in the interim. However, do note that non-Singapore Citizens and non-Private Residents can only rent units in HDB flats, if they hold one of the following permits:
- Student Pass
- Dependant Pass
- Employment Pass
- S Pass
- Work Permits (limited to Malaysian citizens in construction, marine, and process sectors only)
- Long-Term Social Visit Pass
Also, when you do sign a lease for an HDB flat, note that you are legally required to sign a minimum rental lease of six months. Read more about why short-term rentals are illegal in Singapore, and other regulations, in this article.
The basics of condos
Condos are private residential apartments that come with several additional facilities within its gates, as opposed to HDB flats with public facilities. The standard facilities include swimming pools, gyms, BBQ pits, and playgrounds.
Depending on the concept that your developer had in mind, you may also get niche facilities that are not easily found in other developments. For example, The Reef at King’s Dock has a 180m floating deck that’s seamlessly integrated with King’s Dock, as well as a marine viewing hammock where you can spot some fishes. These two features are unique to The Reef’s location and adds on the appeal of the project.
Check out other new launch developments on Ohmyhome!
But take note: with additional frills comes additional costs, on top of the higher price point for condos. And according to the Business Times, a unit at The Nassim was sold at $20 million, the highest transacted price in the Core Central Region. The highest transacted price for the Rest of Central Region was $48.5 million, for a unit at Silversea. In the Outside Central Region, a unit at Clementi Park was sold for $6.5 million.
On top of the monthly mortgage, condo owners also have to pay between $250 and $1,000 in maintenance fees every month.
Despite that, owning a condo remains to be regarded as a status symbol — and a better investment — for most property buyers. It’s not uncommon to see Singaporean households buying a condo after selling their first home, which is usually an HDB flat.
A condo’s minimum rental period of three months also makes them a better option for expats and foreigners looking to rent short-term.
What about Executive Condominiums?
Executive condominiums, or ECs, are a hybrid of public and private housing. They are classified as an HDB flat for the first 10 years and become privatised on the 11th year. This means, until then, the 5-year MOP rule, eligibility schemes, and resale levies apply to ECs as well.
ECs specifically cater to singles and households with incomes that exceed HDB’s eligibility ceiling ($7,000 and $14,000 respectively), but still wish to purchase an affordable home.
Now that you know the basics about HDB flats and condos, it’s time to challenge some common misconceptions about them.
Myth or fact? Debunking 5 common beliefs about HDBs and condos
#1: “HDB provides more connectivity”
Some condos tend to be more ulu (inaccessible) compared to most resale HDB flats, which are generally located in mature estates and enjoy easy access to public transport. This is because some developers develop projects in areas away from the hustle and bustle of the city to offer future residents enhanced peace and quiet. Besides, with a higher entry price point, condo buyers are likely able to afford their own form of transportation.
But… While that may be true, things are changing at a steady pace. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has announced is 50-year plan for redevelopment, including new MRT lines that’s expected to boost connectivity all over the city-state. So an even greater percentage of condos will have access to public transport in the future.
On the other hand, there are also developers who strategically select land parcels that align with the Land Transport Authority (LTA)’s development blueprint, leveraging its growth potential for residents to enjoy capital gain when they decide to sell their property in the future.
#2: “Condos are safer and offer more privacy”
By definition, privacy is “a state in which one is not observed or disturbed by other people”. This is not exactly achievable in today’s world where we live side by side each other, be it in a high-rise condo or HDB.
But condos do offer an extra layer of privacy that HDBs are not able to. Here’s how:
All condos are guarded by security guards round the clock. Walls and fences also line the residential area to prevent non-residents from intruding, and premises are monitored by surveillance cameras.
Additionally, newer condo lifts can only be activated by access cards, keeping tailgating trespassers far away from your private doorstep. The same access cards are also required to enter facilities such as gyms and function rooms, which prevents overcrowding of non-residents, too.
Because condos are gated and guarded by round-the-clock security, it is much harder for those with ill intent to enter the premises and cause a disturbance. So it is true to say that condos are much safer in this regard, compared to HDBs.
Recently, there has been a spike of 24% in local crime rates, with a third of knife-related incidents occuring in public residential areas. There was also a case last year when a resident Braddell Hill trespassed into two HUDC apartments in Braddell Hill, leaving them in disarray and their owners in distress.
HDB neighbourhoods have some level of security, too, though not as much as private developments. There are CCTV cameras at HDB lift lobbies and staircases, and police officers may, at times, patrol shared public spaces such as playgrounds and void decks, especially at night when unlawful behaviour tend to occur.
On privacy: HDB vs condo
As for privacy, property units — be it condo or HDB — may be exposed to starkly different levels of noise and exposure to neighbours. It really depends on whether your unit faces a main road or your neighbour’s window.
Therefore, it is advisable for buyers and tenants to look out for details such as whether their windows are directly opposite that of their neighbours when they go for home viewings.
#3: “Condos are closer to more amenities than HDBs”
That may have been true before, but HDB neighbourhoods are now equipped with all the facilities that condos offer within the development. Also: proximity to amenities has more to do with location than the type of property you own. Alas, let’s unpack this statement.
Sports facilities such as basketball courts, badminton courts, soccer fields, exercise corners, and playgrounds are much closer to the heartlands than they’ve ever been. (Though the constant construction in HDB neighbourhoods to build these amenities may be an issue for some HDB residents, but that’s beside the point.)
What’s not always as close, though, are the swimming complexes. While condo residents can just take a lift down to their condo’s 50-metre lap pool, HDB residents do have to travel a bit for it. Whether it takes a street crossing, a 20-minute bus ride, or a 15-minute walk, it does take more time to reach it.
As for other amenities, it is common knowledge that each MRT station comes with a mall that typically comprises a supermarket or grocery store, retail shops, entertainment hubs, food and beverage stores, and various dining options. These amenities, including schools, are typically equidistant from both HDBs and condos. The only exception would have to be mixed-use developments, with their very own commercial podium below a residential development.
However, HDBs are known for mama shops that are scattered across neighbourhoods and even HDB blocks. These shops usually offer a wide range of products, from snacks and drinks, to home cleaning items and even fresh produce.
#4: “Condos are more pet friendly than HDBs”
Believe it or not, there are rules and restrictions when it comes to the kind of pets you can keep in HDB flats. The allowed pets are dogs, rabbits, hamsters, tortoises, fish, and even some bird species are allowed to be kept in HDB flats.
That said, only up to 62 dog breeds are allowed to be kept in HDBs. Dog owners do not need to seek permission before adopting approved breeds either, as long as they ensure that their pets are licensed by the NParks ANimal & Veterinary Service.
Unfortunately, cats still do not make the approved list of pets to this day. HDB residents have contested this restriction for a long time, and HDB even started a pilot programme in Chong Pang that allowed cat lovers to keep their feline friends at home for two years in 2012. That said, owning cats in HDB flats continues to be illegal today.
This is where the private status of condos becomes advantageous. HDB’s restrictions do not apply on condo premises, meaning condo residents can own cats and other breeds of dogs without applying for licences.
Again, the question of which property type is better boils down to a matter of personal preference. If you’re okay with interacting with animals from a distance without having to deal with the responsibility of owning one, then an HDB flat may be more suitable for you. You may even have the opportunity to mingle with other animal-lovers through cat-feeding groups in the various neighbourhoods. The stray cats will definitely appreciate being free to roam the void decks as they please rather than being cooped up in a small apartment, too.
But if you must own a pet that is not allowed in an HDB, then you may want to consider buying a condo instead of an HDB to avoid trouble with the authorities.
And it gets even harder if you’re a tenant. Finding a landlord who does not mind pets can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Landlords in Singapore typically think of pets as a liability that can get their property and furniture damaged. So unless you’re lucky enough to personally know an animal loving landlord, don’t hold your breath.
For a full breakdown of what you can expect from our agents, you can read these two guides:
- Here’s what you can expect when you engage Ohmyhome agents
- What condo buyers can expect from Ohmyhome agents
And for the step-by-step process and timeline of buying an HDB flat and condo, you can check these out:
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