Friday 18 November 2011

More first-time HDB buyers getting flats

73% invited to pick unit in July; second-timers have lower success rate
By Jessica Cheam, The Straits Times, 17 Nov 2011

FIRST-TIME buyers of Housing Board (HDB) flats are finding it easier to get their new homes, according to figures released yesterday by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

The numbers from a July build-to-order (BTO) sales launch by the HDB show that at least seven out of 10 first-time buyers - or 73 per cent of those who applied - were invited to select a flat.

The HDB received 12,116 applications for 3,556 flats launched across towns such as Yishun, Bukit Panjang, Sengkang, Tampines and Jurong West.

This means there were 3.4 applicants for every flat available.

Mr Khaw also cited figures to show that second-timers had a relatively low success rate of 11 per cent, as only 5 per cent of new flats are kept for this group.

While first-time buyers remain the priority for now, Mr Khaw said that second-timers can expect more flats to be made available to them in the near future.

Writing on his housing blog yesterday, Mr Khaw said: 'After we have cleared most of the first-timer queue, we will tweak the balloting rules to enhance the chances for second-timers. This should be towards the end of next year. I seek their patience and understanding.'

The success rate for the July launch was higher than in the HDB's May BTO exercise. The percentage of first-time applicants who were asked to select a flat then was 45 per cent. In the February launch, which was oversubscribed by five times, the success rate ranged from 37 per cent to 59 per cent for first-timers, according to Mr Khaw's previous blog posts.

Mr Khaw added that since he joined the ministry in May, the HDB has launched 16,000 new flats - of which nearly 14,000 were reserved for newlywed first-timers.

'With this ramped-up construction programme and priority in treatment, newlyweds now stand a very high chance of succeeding in BTO selection,' he wrote.

Mr Khaw said yesterday that he was confident the situation at the September launch of more than 8,000 flats would show further improvement. He also noted that not all who were invited to select a flat did so.

About three in five couples - or 62 per cent - who were invited to select a flat bought one in the end.

Among them were sales executive Yvonne Koh, 26, and her partner, who were third time lucky when they applied for a flat in Sengkang in the July BTO launch.

They received the queue number 820 for the 700 units available for the project.

'We didn't think we would get one, but we got invited to select a flat. Although the flat was not our first choice, we got one on a high floor that we are happy with,' she said.

The couple paid $360,000 for a five-room flat on the 13th floor.

Analysts The Straits Times spoke to yesterday said the HDB's aggressive ramping-up of supply seems to be soaking up strong demand from first-time buyers in the market.

ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim said the move to bunch projects together in large launches instead of launching them one-by-one looks like it is paying off.

'With a bigger pool of flats to choose from, the buyers' success rate is higher,' he noted, adding that the big sales launches have helped to alleviate demand in the red-hot public housing market.

However, PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail said that while the bumper supply has had a significant impact on the new-flat market, it has had a limited influence on buyers in the resale market, who cannot wait three years for a BTO flat to be built.

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