Singapore

Home buyers can get unsold HDB flats faster under new sales option

First batch of 120 flats under new scheme to open for booking around middle of this year

Eager home buyers can soon book a Housing Board flat the next working day after applying.

A new sales option will offer unsold flats on a rolling basis, available for booking any time.

The first batch of 120 flats under the new scheme will be open for booking around the middle of the year, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said in a blog post yesterday.

Currently, the fastest way for buyers to get a flat is under the Re-Offer of Balance Flats (ROF) exercise, which offers unsold flats from previous sales exercises and is usually conducted twice a year.

Applicants have to wait for a week till applications close before they find out if they are successful.

The new scheme means they can find out within a day if their application for unsold flats is successful.

"In other words, flat buyers can apply online any time on a first-come, first-served basis, and book a flat by the next working day," said Mr Wong. "This will effectively reduce their waiting time to book a flat to just one day."

A Ministry of National Development spokesman said details, such as how often the flat pool will be refreshed and how many units will be offered each time, will be announced later.

This initiative is the latest of several policies to speed up the home-buying process - in what some say are moves to encourage young couples to start families sooner.

Last year, the HDB allowed some young people, including undergraduates and national servicemen, to apply for grants to buy a flat earlier instead of chalking up one year of employment first.

There are also selected Build-To-Order (BTO) estates with shorter waiting times of two to three years, compared with the usual three to four years.

Since the launch of the ROF in August 2017, 2,500 families have booked a home under the exercise. Nearly two-thirds of these households have collected the keys to their flats, said Mr Wong.

Unlike the BTO or Sales of Balance Flats exercises, applicants do not need to indicate the flat type and location under the ROF.

LESS PARTICULAR

They can book any available unit according to their eligibility, which benefits home buyers who are less particular about flat attributes or location, or have more urgent housing needs.

Mr Wong said he hoped the increased range of options will make it "easier and more convenient for potential home buyers to find a flat that meets their different needs, preferences and budget".

International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong said the new scheme gives would-be buyers more choice: "It was previously a bit artificial to hold the leftover flats in storage. It is good that there is a rolling exercise separate from BTO launches."

OrangeTee & Tie research head Christine Sun said the scheme gives couples more flexibility in buying a flat, which can help in making other major life decisions, such as planning a wedding or having a child.

ZACD Group executive director Nicholas Mak hoped for more details about how the flats would be allocated, and wondered if less technologically savvy buyers would know how to apply and secure a flat online quickly.

Meanwhile, flash estimates from real estate portal SRX yesterday showed that more Housing Board flats changed hands last month compared to December, the first increase in HDB resale transactions since last July's cooling measures.

In all, 1,560 resale flats were sold last month, 8.8 per cent more than in December. It was also 43 per cent more than the 1,091 units sold in January last year (2018).

FOR MORE, READ THE STRAITS TIMES TODAY

Property