On 15 April 2001, HDB (Housing Development Board) created BTO (Built-To-Order) as the means to sell its new flats. It replaced the RFS (Registration for Flats System). Thus, the BTO is one of 2 ways HDB sells New flats, the other being Sale of Balance Flats (SBF).
Moving to the actual question now, in 2022, can you still make money from buying a BTO flat? In our opinion, the short answer is, YES! However, the answer is not an easy one; just like everything else in life, it depends on how you go about it!
To understand further, let’s look at the Macro.
If you bought an HDB in 2012, you’d basically have made 13.93%, barely covering the costs of loans from HDB @2.5% per annum. So, the past 10 years haven’t been great for HDB owners. Nevertheless, unfortunately, it is not as straightforward as that.
So, let’s take an example from here.
A typical price of a Bishan BTO is $605,000. And the typical resale price of a Resale Transaction for a similar size unit is $715,000. Resultantly, your profit is about $36,000 or a 5% return.
When you factor in your waiting time to collect your BTO keys (which is about 5 years) and the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) (which is another 5 years), you have a total of 10 years. So, a 5% return on your investment over 10 years is, quite frankly, dismal.
Wait! There’s one thing that you are missing here. You have had 10 years’ worth of living in that apartment, essentially RENT-FREE for you and your family. Therefore, it is not a fair approach.
Hence, you still get to make money from a BTO. But with many other factors that come into play, like timing, interest rates, Singapore’s demand and supply for real estate, etc.
Let’s get some basics out of the way first.
What Is BTO (Build-To-Order)
Build-to-Order (BTO) allows buyers to choose from a wider range of units and finishes. The project will be built if applicants are at least 70% of the number of apartments in a specific contract. Otherwise, the project is not built.
Understand BTO Launch Details
Because BTO flats are heavily subsidized, you’ll need to see if you can actually buy one.
Join the BTO priority queue
Priority schemes enhance your chances in a computer ballot. You may apply for these if you meet the qualifications and eligibility conditions.
To promote marriage and parenthood, applicants who qualify for Parenthood Priority Scheme (PPS) may apply for another priority scheme, such as the Married Child Priority Scheme (MCPS) or Third Chile Priority Scheme (TCPS).
The thing here is, if you’re on the priority queue list, make sure you take advantage of this!
Bank Loans vs. HDB Loans – Cash Flow
It is common to hear business folks talk about cash flow in any business. Since you’re an investor, it’ll be good to understand the difference between TDSR and MSR.
Knowing your loan numbers and cash flow a month is important. It’ll give you options.
In the past, it was a given when HDB loans were the lowest, and it was a no-brainer. But these days, it’s a little different. Bank loans were at one time lower than HDB loans, so it was better to get a bank loan than an HDB loan.
But understanding MSR and TDSR is also important because it defines how much you can borrow. And yes, it’ll be a huge difference in some cases for loans for different households.
URA Master Plan
Knowing ahead of what and where the developments of HDB BTOs will greatly enhance your chance of making money. As they say in Real Estate, the only 3 things you look for in Real Estate Investing are Location, Location, and Location.
The Great open secret of the Greater Southern Waterfront (GSW) is a prime candidate for almost a sure thing to make money. But so will the expectation with the number of applicants? Recent Yishun and Jurong West saw an average of 9x oversubscribe on the number of flats available. What then about the Keppel Golf Site in GSW when it is released?
But still good to look at macro plans of the hot spots of Singapore’s developments. A good place to start looking is the URA Master Plan 2021, which was published on 15 January.
Rising Bank Interest Rates vs. Low Supply
Interest rates are on the rise, and the recent feds announcing yet another rate hike is certainly expected to be a killer on the sentiment on Real Estate. But with the inventory still at its 19th year lowest, the battle of Interest Rates vs. Low Supply has yet to play out, and the expected winner is not a given.
So, we’re in for quite a match-up, and it’ll be keenly watched by many people for sure.
Cooling Measures 2021
The cooling measure introduced on 15 December 2021 hasn’t turned out to be quite the buzz kill on the property prices. But its effects, while temporal, effectively cooling the first 2 months following, has seemed to be forgotten.
Asset progression is how many people get rich—borrowing low interests money to buy assets that appreciate ahead of the cost of funds. It is an age-old formula that has worked for generations and will probably work for a few more.
BTOs are usually the starting point of that Asset Progression. It is affordable; it allows you time to build an asset base while giving the benefits of a shelter.
It is where almost everyone starts in Singapore, i.e., the Singaporean way, to reach that epitome of luxury living or financial freedom.
A guide to using these basics to start your journey available here.
The case of Condo vs HDB will be continually debated hotly. The answer is not an easy one but the chart does make the argument that condos do offer better value for appreciation.
A simple argument for this is that HDB prices is kept low for the masses. So that every Singaporean can afford one.
While Condos reflect the signs of the times better. Tracking Inflation, costing in the rise of an economy’s growth and just open to the market’s true demand and supply, or in short, what people are willing to pay.
There are indeed many factors to look at when considering an investment in a BTO. It’s a great part of your asset progression strategy. And when used right, it can be a powerful a sling shot to Asset Progression and Financial Freedom.