Friday, 2 December 2011

Backlog of first-time BTO applicants mostly cleared

Odds are good for HDB first-timers
1.4 applications for each unit in latest BTO batch; tougher for second-timers
By Shuli Sudderuddin & Daryl Chin, The Straits Times, 1 Dec 2011

FIRST-TIME buyers stand a good chance of getting a unit in the Housing Board's latest batch of 4,200 build-to-order (BTO) flats on offer.

As of 5pm yesterday, the day applications closed for the units in Bedok, Bukit Panjang, Hougang, Punggol and Yishun, the overall first-timer rate - revealed by the HDB for the first time - was 1.4.

This means 1.4 applications came in for every first-timer unit on offer.

Currently, 95 per cent of flats in a project are reserved for first-timers and the rest for second-timers.

Overall, three-room units in Bukit Panjang and five-room types in Punggol and Hougang were the most sought-after, being oversubscribed four or more times.

The 1.4 figure will be happy news for National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who said on his blog yesterday it was his wish the first-timers' application rate would come in below two.

'If it does, it would mean that almost all first-timers will get a chance to select a new flat. It would also mean that our ramped-up BTO programme in recent months would have largely cleared the backlog of first-timer applicants.'

The total number of BTO flats offered this year is 25,200 - a record number of such units launched in a year.

He added that once the first-timer queue has been cleared, he can help the second-timers more, starting next year.

The overall second-timer application rate for the latest BTO exercise is much higher at 23.8.

For example, as of 5pm yesterday, five-room units in Punggol Waterway Ridges had an overall application rate of 5.1. However, the rate was only 2.9 among first-time applicants and a whopping 48 among second-timers.

Of the 1,257 applications for 246 units, about 680 were from first-timers and the rest, second-timers.

The information - on HDB's website at www.hdb.gov.sg and updated four times a day - shows the subscription rates of both first- and second-time applicants for each flat type in each project.

Prospective buyers found the figures useful. Said Mr Kenny Cheng, 26, a bank officer: 'I'd wanted to go for the bigger units, but seeing how they have attracted quite a lot of bids, I decided to go for a three-room unit. At least there's a higher chance and it allows me to ballot smart.'

However, some second-timers were discouraged by the high oversubscription rates for flats they were eligible for. Said retail assistant Mohammad Firdaus, 33: 'The information is good to have, but quite depressing. Subscription rates for second-timers are all sky-high. The best I can do is aim for the less attractive ones; even then, there's no guarantee.'

Dennis Wee Group director Chris Koh said the figures showed it could be time to tweak the percentage for second-timers: 'The number of first-timers is below three and this is a healthy number as, given dropout rates, first-timers now have a very good chance. So it may be time to open more units to second-timers.'

He added that the high number of second- timers may also be a sign that resale prices are too high, as second-timers do not usually turn to BTO flats because of the resale levy on the sale of their first subsidised flat from the HDB.

He said: 'Now they are opting for BTOs, it may be a sign they would rather pay the resale levy for a brand-new flat than high premiums for a resale unit. It may be a signal to resale sellers to price their flats more attractively.'

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