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Close to 17,000 applicants in the February 2023 HDB BTO exercise

Overall application rate of 3.83 times the number of BTO flats for sale.

Pigeons flying between a yellow and blue Housing and Development Board (HDB) block, to illustrate a story on Feb BTO exercise.
Close to 17,000 applicants applied for a flat during the February 2023 HDB BTO sales exercise. (PHOTO: Getty) (Hak Liang Goh via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — There were 16,993 flat applicants during the February 2023 Housing and Development Board (HDB) Built-To-Order (BTO) sales exercise, representing an overall application rate of 3.83 times the number of units for sale.

The exercise ended at 11.59 pm on Monday (6 March) and saw 4,428 new units made available for sale across five projects in a mix of mature and non-mature estates at four locations — Queenstown, Kallang Whampoa, Tengah, and Jurong West.

HDB data showed that three-room and bigger flats in Jurong West and Tengah had a total of 4,227 applicants while the number of applicants for 3-room and bigger flats in the mature estates of Kallang Whampoa and Queenstown more than doubled that amount at 10,292.

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The two BTO projects in Kallang Whampoa — Farrer Park Fields and Rajah Summit — were the most popular. A total of 7,530 applicants had applied for 3-room and bigger flats, while the 2-room units at Farrer Park Fields saw 821 applicants. The application numbers for the two projects were combined in the 3-room and bigger flats category.

Higher chances for application rates below 1.7

Across all five BTO projects, the application rate for three-room and larger flats ranged from 0.6 to 3.4 for first-timer families, with most projects having an application rate of two and below.

In contrast, the application rate for second-timer families in the 3-room and bigger flats category went as high as 45.7, indicating stiffer competition for such applicants hoping to secure flats. Most flat types on offer saw second-timer application rates of 10 and above with the exception of the 2-room Flexi flats in the Brickland Weave project in Tengah at 1.2.

HDB noted that application numbers in this latest BTO round had included those who have applied in earlier sales launches, some of whom may be waiting to book a flat. This group formed on average about 20 per cent of total applications.

It said that from past sales launches, about 40 per cent of invited flat applicants did not proceed to book a flat. Thus, most applicants will be able to select a flat if the application rate of the project is below 1.7.

HDB added that it would be shortlisting beyond 100 per cent and potentially up to 300 per cent of the total flat supply to account for respective quotas. Shortlisting more applicants than the available flat supply has been normal practice in previous sales launches. These shortlisted applicants will be given a queue number and may have a chance to secure a flat if applicants with a smaller queue number drop out.

Measured response

Compared to previous application rates in 2022, the February 2023 BTO launch appears to be "quite measured", according to PropNex Realty CEO Ismail Gafoor.

Three out of four BTO launches in 2022 had application rates of between 5.8 and 7.8 times the supply, with the exception of the November 2022 launch which posted an application rate of 2.5 times due to the supply bump of 9,655 flats for sale.

"With the promise of more BTO supply to come, some buyers may want to wait for other projects that may better meet their needs," said Ismail.

"Some applicants may also be eyeing flats in mature estates Bedok and Serangoon which will be launched in the May 2023 BTO exercise," he continued. BTO projects were last launched in Bedok and Serangoon back in November 2016 and January 2014 respectively.

"We anticipate there'll be pent-up demand for these upcoming flats in Bedok and Serangoon, as well as strong interest for 5-room units there," said Ismail.

First timers

First-timers stand a higher chance of selecting a flat as they have more ballot chances. Up to 95 per cent of BTO flat supply is also reserved for them.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong announced in his recent Budget speech that applicants who belong to the first timer parents or married couples category would get greater priority in BTO applications from the August 2023 BTO exercise.

Ismail also opined that the recent Budget announcements on higher CPF housing grants for eligible first-time buyers may have led to some demand being channelled into the resale HDB market, leading to a "moderate application rate in this BTO".

Couples in this category "could be waiting to put in their application later this year as it gives them a higher chance of getting their flats in more attractive locations of their choice".

"Taken together, this suggests that the ramping up of BTO supply and measures to help first-timer families own their first homes are starting to work through the market, leading to a stabilisation of the application rates," said Ismail.

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