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The Differences Between BTO, SBF, Open-Booking, and Resale HDB

The Differences Between BTO, SBF, Open-Booking, and Resale Flats

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In Singapore’s competitive housing market, many young couples (or eligible singles) eager to get their first home often set their sights on securing a Build-To-Order (BTO) flat or a resale HDB. Little do they know, there’s an alternative path to homeownership: Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) and Open Booking Flats, which are as affordable as BTOs but with a considerably shorter waiting time.

Table of Contents:

Build-To-Order (BTO)

The Differences Between BTO, SBF, Open-Booking, and Resale Flats

BTO flats are launched four times a year. Typically, flat types offered range from 2-room Flexi, 3-, 4-, 5-room flats, to 3Gen flats. After you apply for your preferred flat type in your preferred town, you will have to go through a balloting process to get a queue number. BTO projects are announced three months before launch, so you have ample time to plan and decide.

In each BTO exercise, when the balloting has been concluded, results are announced about 3 weeks later. To speed up the notoriously long waiting process, you could apply for projects that give you an estimation shorter waiting time. However, delays are commonplace, which was further heightened during the pandemic. 

If you have not been invited to book a flat —  not shortlisted for booking or all available flats have been taken up before your queue number is due, your application is considered unsuccessful. 

First-timer families or couples get an additional chance to apply for BTO flats in non-mature estates, should the first two applications for BTOs in non-mature estates be unsuccessful. No additional chances will be given for mature estates as supply is limited.

Sale of Balance (SBF)

Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) comes around only twice a year in May and November. SBF offers a selected range of flat types, locations, and prices. With such a limited pool of units to consider, you may not find the flat you’re looking for, be it in size or location.

Under the SBF, the flats you are applying for are from earlier BTO sales launches, surplus flats in projects built for those affected by the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS), as well as flats repurchased by HDB. As such, there is usually a variety of flat types across different towns. During your application, you can indicate your preferred flat type and town.

As SBF units are usually already under construction, near completion or already completed, it is favourable for buyers who prefer a shorter waiting time. However, SBF flats garner strong interest, so competition will be hot.

Open Booking of Flats

Open Booking of Flats, as its name suggests, allows interested buyers to apply for a flat online throughout the year. You can apply online anytime and receive a queue number to book their preferred flat on a first-come-first-served basis, as early as the next working day!

Twice a year, HDB will release a fresh supply of flats available for open booking. Open booking flats are ‘leftover’ units unselected during previous sales launches. They also consist of flats given up by homeowners who had previously selected them, as well as units repurchased or repossessed from existing owners by HDB. 

For about two weeks, online applications are suspended to allow for the preparation of each injection of new flats. 

To check out the available flats for Open Booking or for upcoming BTO launches, you can head to: https://homes.hdb.gov.sg/home/finding-a-flat to see what is available for selection.

HDB Resale Flats

Resale flats are currently owned by an individual or family. They typically would have lived in it for at least five years, which is the standard Minimum Occupation Period (MOP). By purchasing a resale HDB flat, you are legally taking over the property from the previous owner, which allows you to collect the keys to the unit as soon as the transaction has been completed. 

There are two things to note in choosing a resale flat over all the above options: 

  1. Resale flats do not come with a new lease of 99 years. The older a unit is, the fewer the number of years it has left on its lease. You have to weigh the pros and cons of getting a unit with a decaying lease, and whether it will be difficult to sell it off if you intend to switch homes in time to come. The lease may also not last you into your retirement years, or may hamper your process of getting an adequate loan amount. 
  1. Renovation costs tend to be higher as you are not working with a “blank” canvas unlike the other flats. You will likely have to undo or change existing renovations, fixtures, or decorations made by the previous owner, which will add to your renovation bill.

Comparing BTO vs SBF vs Open Booking vs Resale HDB

Mode of SaleBTOSBFOpen BookingResale
SourceBrand new unitsUnsold BTO and surplus flatsLeftover flats from SBF exercisesOpen market flats
AvailabilityQuarterlyTwice a yearThroughout the year (except for two weeks, twice a year, to “renew” supply)Anytime
Key Collection2.5 to 4 yearsCompleted flats: Within 3 months
Uncompleted flats: Upon completion
Completed flats: Within 3 months
Uncompleted flats: Upon completion
Approx. 8 weeks
CPF grants available for all types of flatsEnhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG)
Amount: Up to $80,000
Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG)
Amount: Up to $80,000
Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG)
Amount: Up to $80,000
Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG)
Amount: Up to $80,000

Family Grant
Amount: Up to $50,000

Proximity Housing Grant (PHG)
Amount: Up to $30,000


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FAQs about BTO, SBF, Open Booking, and Resale HDB flats

How long does it take to get the keys for a BTO flat compared to a resale flat?

BTO flats typically take 2.5 to 4 years to complete, while resale flats can be moved into approximately 8 weeks after the transaction is completed.

Can I use CPF grants for Open Booking flats?

Yes, you can use the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG) for Open Booking flats, which are leftover flats from SBF exercises available throughout the year.

Can I apply for BTO and SBF at the same time?

No, you cannot apply for both BTO and SBF at the same time. You need to choose one option during each sales exercise.

Can I buy a resale flat and apply for BTO at the same time?

No, you cannot buy a resale flat and apply for a BTO flat at the same time. HDB regulations require you to meet the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) for your current flat before applying for another.

Can I get a resale flat while waiting for my BTO?

No, once you have booked a BTO flat, you are not allowed to purchase a resale flat while waiting for the BTO flat to be completed.

Can I apply for a BTO if I own a resale HDB?

Yes, you can apply for a BTO flat if you own a resale HDB, but you must sell your existing flat within six months of collecting the keys to your new BTO flat.

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