Friday, 21 July 2017

HDB helping young couples get their flats sooner with two new options; BTO projects with shorter waiting time & additional sales mode, Re-Offer of Balance Flats

Get flat faster under two new schemes
By Ng Jun Sen, The Straits Times, 20 Jul 2017

A total of 1,000 Build-To-Order flats in Sembawang, Sengkang and Yishun will be made available to home buyers quicker, with a wait time of 2½ years compared with the typical three to four years.

They will be put up for sale in the second half of next year, and buyers can begin collecting their keys between the fourth quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021.

In a statement yesterday, the Housing Board said this is aimed at helping young couples get their flats faster.

This is achieved not by speeding up the construction. Instead, HDB will begin building the selected projects before the flats are sold. This is unlike the usual process where they are built to order, that is, after they have been bought.

A tender for this batch of 1,000 flats will be called this month. Construction is expected to start at the end of the year.

Another measure to reduce the wait for home buyers is the doubling of the number of times a year when they get a shot at buying unsold units from previous sales launches.

A new sales mode, known as the Re-Offer of Balance Flats (ROF), will pool unsold units from past Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercises. ROFs will take place every February and August. This is on top of SBFs, which are alongside BTO exercises in May and November.

The first ROF will take place next month, with 1,394 units. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to select and book a flat if there are available units. At least 95 per cent of the units will be set aside for first- timer families.

"This will help those with more urgent housing needs and/or are less particular about location and attributes to have quicker access to a flat," said HDB.

The two measures were first announced during the debate over the Ministry of National Development's annual budget in March.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said in a blog post yesterday: "I hope the wider range of options and more regular offer of flats will help home buyers find a home that best suits their needs."

Shorter waiting time: New class of flats likely to be popular, say analysts
By Ng Jun Sen, The Straits Times, 20 Jul 2017

One Build-To-Order (BTO) site is in the far eastern side of Yishun, while the other two in Sengkang and Sembawang are several kilometres away from the nearest MRT stations and town centres.

But with a wait time of 2 1/2 years, compared with the current three- to four-year period, these Housing Board flats will likely be popular despite their relatively far-flung locations when they are offered for sale next year, property analysts told The Straits Times.

Chief executive officer of PropNex Realty Ismail Gafoor said: "We can expect 50 per cent more subscription for flats in these three sites (than in typical BTO flats in the same locations)."

He was reacting to HDB's announcement yesterday about the pioneer batch of BTO flats that home buyers can expect to get sooner.

A total of 1,000 units in the three sites will be launched next year, and be ready as soon as 2020.

ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim explained that the unique attributes for this new class of BTO flats - shorter waits and higher priority for first-timer applicants - make them ideal for home buyers who need a flat quickly to start their families and are less picky about locations.

At least 95 per cent of the four-room or bigger flats will be set aside for first-timer applicants, up from the current quota of 85 per cent in non-mature estates.

"(The shorter wait times) would make them more attractive to prospective home owners who are not so particular and have more urgent housing needs," said Mr Lim. "Given their combination of affordability, shorter waiting time and higher probability of success, they are expected to be popular."

They will also come with floor finishes, internal doors and sanitary fittings, similar to those of current BTO buyers who pick these furnishings as an option under the Optional Component Scheme (OCS).

This will reduce the renovation works required and enable home buyers to move into their new flats sooner, HDB added.

Two-room Flexi flats, meant for elderly buyers, will continue to come with elderly fittings and furnishings.

The HDB statement said: "Home seekers who prefer the flexibility of choosing their desired finishes and fittings under the OCS can apply for other BTO projects with the typical waiting time."

But a shorter wait time could mean a possible premium in cost over typical BTO projects, though a HDB spokesman said the difference "is not likely to be significant".

International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong said these subsidised BTO flats should be priced far lower than resale HDB flats, which is what most home buyers with an urgent need for flats would go for.

Mr Ku said: "You now have a new category of BTO flats that are not only faster to complete, but come with HDB-contracted finishes that can put some private developers to shame. It is a big deal."

Prospective BTO home buyers such as Mr Pooi Ching Kwek, 29, said they will be casting an eager eye over these units when they are offered for sale in the later half of next year.

The National University of Singapore researcher said: "I am willing to pay extra to move in faster, so long as there is no compromise to the infrastructure such as the recent lift and rubbish chute issues."

But he added that the shorter wait time might not be suitable for every young couple as it means less time saving up for marriage or renovation costs.

Tax auditor Cherish Goh, 26, said: "Personally, I think the current waiting time of four years is okay as it gives me more time to work and save up first before moving into the new flat."

* 93% take-up for 1st batch of Re-offer of Balance Flats
The Sunday Times, 25 Feb 2018

Come April, barista Adrian Tay and his wife Joan Tan will no longer have to change their year-old daughter's nappy in the living room due to a lack of space.

Nor will the family have to continue squeezing into a room at his mother's two-room flat in Sengkang where they have been living for the past two years.

The Tays will be moving into a new three-room flat in Woodlands which they bought in last August's inaugural Re-offer of Balance Flats (ROF) exercise.

Ninety-three per cent, or 1,300, of a total of 1,394 flats were booked in the exercise, the Housing Board revealed yesterday. There were a total of 6,102 applicants last August - more than four applicants for each flat. The HDB added that the take-up rate was good across the unit types offered, from two-room Flexi flats and four-room flats to executive flats.

The ROF exercise, held twice yearly, pools together unsold balance flats from previous sales exercises and re-offers them in a common pool. The August ROF launch featured unsold flats from the November 2016 Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercise. First-timers booked about 70 per cent of the 1,300 flats.

Mr Chong Jun Yi, 27, who is currently unemployed, and his fiancee Song Xuezhen, 30, a research engineer in the biomedical sector, are one such couple. They collected the keys to their four-room flat in Jurong on Wednesday, and are looking forward to completing renovations in time for their June wedding.

About one in five buyers has collected the keys to their new homes.

Mr Chong said: "The whole process of applying and receiving the keys was pretty fast. We were quite surprised it took only three months, which was great news to us because the flat can be ready before our wedding."

The ROF exercise is meant for people with urgent housing needs who are less particular about location.

About 71 per cent of the flats in the August exercise were completed at the time of the launch, enabling a quicker move-in period.

Mr Ku Swee Yong, chief executive officer of International Property Advisor real estate agency, was not surprised by the 93 per cent take-up rate. He said: "It is within expectations, as the ROF has a good mix of flats that are already completed, and many are in good locations and mature estates."

Flats under the scheme continue to be in high demand. The second ROF exercise, held this month, saw 4,707 applicants vying for 717 units.

Mr Tay, 35, and Ms Tan, 31, said it feels good to finally have a space to call their own after being married for close to two years, especially as they have another child on the way.

They bought their flat in Admiralty Grove for about $100,000, after receiving $75,000 in grants.

They cancelled their application in the May 2017 launch for a unit under an SBF exercise, also in Woodlands, after getting a queue number that was twice as high as the supply of units. Mr Tay said: "I feel very blessed to have a home where I can raise my kids in. It has always been my wife's and my dream to have our own home."

Helping Young Couples Get Their Homes Sooner
New Options to Get HDB Flats Sooner

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