What is open booking of flats?
Open booking of flats is a sales mode introduced by the Housing Development Board in 2019. This provision affords interested individuals the option of instant flat booking consequent upon submitting an online application, which can be done at any time and from anywhere. It removes the waiting period that characterises the regular process of applying for and booking an HDB flat: applicants using this process can get booked flats within twenty-four working hours. This process, however, operates on a ‘first-come-first-serve’ principle and is open only to individuals who meet eligibility requirements as stipulated by the Housing Development Board.
Who is eligible?
Eligibility requirements vary according to the type of HDB flat applied for. HDB flats are typical of two types: 3-room flats and bigger and 2-room Flexi flats. Generally, 3-room flats and bigger and 2-room Flexi flats are reserved for citizens and permanent residents of Singapore. Generally, these citizens or permanent residents also satisfy the following eligibility requirements:
- Meet a minimum age limit pegged at 21.
- Be eligible for one of either public, fiancé/fiancée or orphans schemes.
- Meet income requirements for the selected HDB flat. HDB flats that are four-room or bigger and three-room have a gross monthly household requirement of S$14,0000 and S$7,000 (or S$14,000), respectively.
- Not own other properties within and outside Singapore and must not have sold a property within thirty months before the date of application.
- Must not have bought or owned any of the following: a new flat from HDB, a design, build and sell scheme (DBSS) or an executive condominium (EC) flat. Also, this provision stipulates that applicants must not have benefited from a housing grant beforehand. Again, they must have bought only one of those properties or benefitted from a housing grant.
Interested applicants also submit the following documents to meet the eligibility requirements:
- Payslips for three months before the date of application (for employed applicants). A letter issued by the applicant’s employer attesting to salaries for three months prior to the date of application.
- Income documents for six months prior to the month of application (for applicants who fall within other categories of employment)
- A proof of unemployment for applicants without employment.
- An IRAS-issued notice of assessment document or annual accounts statement duly certified by an audit firm.
Also, persons who wish to apply can check their eligibility through an online platform provided by the Housing Development Board through the link: https://services2.hdb.gov.sg/webapp/BP13EligCheck/BP13SHome?strSystem=CHECK.
What grants are available for use?
– HDB Grants
First-time applicants for HDB housing units enjoy a number of grants which are restricted to specific sales schemes: these grants mainly cover BTO, SBF and Resale with minimal coverage for executive condominium house sales. Generally, accessing these grants requires the satisfaction of basic eligibility requirements. Fundamentally, the eligibility pool is restricted to citizens of Singapore. Apart from this provision, applicants must be aged 21 and above or 35 years and above to qualify through the Single Singapore Citizen Scheme, Joint Singles Scheme or Public Scheme. To be eligible, applicants must also have worked for a period of 12 months prior to the date of application along with meeting a monthly average gross income household income equal to or below S$9,000 for a 12-month period prior to the date of application. Additionally, they must neither own other properties within and outside Singapore nor have bought or owned any of the following: a new flat from HDB, a design, build and sell scheme (DBSS) or an executive condominium (EC) flat.
HDB Grants include the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG), Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG) Singles, Family Grant (FG), Half-Housing Grant (HHG) and Proximity Housing Grant (PHG). These grants have specific eligibility and income requirements. Additionally, they are specific to various HDB sale schemes and types. The Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG) and the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG) Singles cover housing units offered under the BTO and SBF and Resale Schemes. The Family Grant (FG) is available for housing units offered under resale and executive condominium schemes. The Half-Housing Grant (HHG) and the Proximity Housing Grant(PHG) cover resale and executive condominium sales schemes, respectively.
These grants are not disbursed as cash payments to recipients. They are rather credited to recipients’ Central Provident Fund Ordinary accounts. According to the Housing Development Board, eligible individuals apply for these grants by completing a signed application form in an invitation letter and submitting it during a flat booking appointment. Furthermore, according to the HDB, these grants reduce the amount to be paid on housing loans and the necessity of cash-based monthly loan instalments.
– HDB Housing Loan
The Housing Development Board offers credit facilities to help eligible applicants fund their purchase of a flat. However, these credit facilities are accessible to individuals who meet various requirements pertaining to nationality, household status, income and property ownership. Needless to say, HDB-issued loans are available to citizens of Singapore. Applicants who satisfy this basic requirement are also mandated to satisfy other requirements, some of which include the following stipulations:
a. Must not have been a beneficiary of more than two credit facilities advanced by the Housing Development Board
b. Must not have owned private residential property within or outside Singapore
c. Must not have an average gross monthly household income exceeding a specified amount. In the case of families, extended families and singles, figures must not exceed S$14,000, S$21,000 and S$7,000 respectively.
Eligible individuals proceed to apply for the HDB Loan Eligibility Letter online at www.hdb.gov.sg/hleapply after satisfying associated eligibility requirements and uploading income documents for assessment as stipulated by the Housing Development Board. Income documents differ according to employment status and category. Completed loan applications are processed within a 14-day window from the date of application.
Open booking vs BTO vs SBF
Open Booking, Build-To-Order (BTO) and Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) represent various modes the Housing Development Board (HDB) uses for the sale of its housing units. Comparatively discussed, all three modes are characterised by various differences in detail and operation.
The Build-To-Order is considered a flexible sales scheme. It was introduced in April 2001. Under this scheme, applicants are offered flexible choices as per the location and timing of application. This scheme uses a balloting system and conducts sales (alternatively called launches) on a quarterly basis annually (typically in February, May, August and November). Interested applicants pay S$10 to ballot for specified flats during the application window for Build-To-Order flats. Housing units under the BTO scheme are usually built on demand. Applicants who apply for units within this scheme can wait for a period of 36 to 48 months before taking delivery of their flats.
Under the Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) scheme, the HDB auctions surplus flats (housing units) from earlier Build-To-Order sales, Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) replacement as well as flats rebought by the HDB. These auctions occur twice a year, usually in May and November. This mode offers a shorter waiting period reduced to as short as 90 days for the delivery of flats.
Open booking, on the other hand, operates without time restrictions. It occurs throughout the year. This mode presents interested individuals with opportunities for instant flat booking consequent upon the submission of an online application, which can be done at any time and from anywhere. It removes the waiting period that characterises the regular process of applying for and booking an HDB flat: applicants using this process can get booked flats within twenty-four working hours. Houses available under this scheme are usually surplus flats from earlier Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) auctions.
Pros and cons of open booking of flats
The open booking of flats scheme derives its advantages from three prominent features: the shorter waiting period, affordability and availability. Unlike the SBF and BTO, it affords applicants the luxury of selecting their options within 24 working hours at an affordable rate and at any time and anywhere.
On the other hand, the limited range of options it presents to applicants and the structuring of its application process handicap the scheme. Basically, the scheme only lets applicants choose from earlier Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) auctions. These options typically do not exceed 100. Furthermore, the scheme’s instant, unreserved method of allocating housing units also counts as another disadvantage, given the fact that it does not allow for thorough, careful decision making by applicants.
Who should opt for it?
Open booking of flats is ideal for individuals with lean budgets and means who cannot afford to wait for BTO and SBF flats launch/sales period. Ideally, flats of that make should be perfect for working-class Singaporean citizens.