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Executive Condo Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Buying an Executive Condo in Singapore

·20-min read

The executive condo (EC) is one of the most popular housing types in Singapore.

They are more 'atas' than HDB flats, and compared to private condominiums, ECs are more attractively priced and come with comparable facilities and design.

So, without making your brain explode, we'll be explaining all there is to know about an EC.

What Is an Executive Condo (EC)?

Known as the “sandwich flat”, an EC is a public-private housing hybrid catered for middle-income Singaporeans who don’t qualify for an HDB flat due to the income ceiling cap, but still consider private condominiums too expensive.

ECs are developed and sold by private developers but are subsidised by the government. As such, while they have condo-like attributes such as swimming pools, gyms, clubhouse and better design, they are cheaper compared to private condos. As former National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan puts it, it's like buying a Lexus at the price of a Corolla.

The flip side of being a hybrid development however, is that ECs are considered HDB properties for the first 10 years, which means they’re bounded by HDB’s rules. These include the 5-year Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP) rule, HDB’s various eligibility schemes, HDB’s selling restrictions and the resale levy (if you’re buying it from a developer).

However, once ECs hit their 11th year, they will be privatised – and that’s when they truly shine; because now you can sell it to a bigger pool of buyers.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of buying an EC:

Pros

Cons

New ECs are eligible for CPF housing grants

Bound by HDB’s rules for first 10 years

Cheaper than private condos

Usually located at more “ulu” locations

Good value and potential appreciation

Not eligible for HDB housing loan

Turns private from the 11th year onwards

Resale ECs not eligible for CPF housing grants

Designed for own-stay purposes

Few EC launches

Pros:

1. New ECs Are Eligible for CPF Housing Grants (First-Time Buyers Only)

One of the good things about buying a new EC, is that you’re eligible for CPF Housing Grants, which can help to offset some of the cost. There are two types of grants available for ECs:

  • Family Grant

  • Half-Housing Grant

The main catch (other than being a first-time buyer) is that your gross monthly income has to be $14,000 and below. Apart from that, your citizenship and housing status (i.e. if a co-applicant is a second-timer) matters too.

Below is a table of how much you can get from the Family Grant and Half-Housing Grant:

Family Grant

Average monthly gross income of applicants/occupiers

Singapore citizen (SC) household

SC/Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR) household

$10,000 or lower

$30,000

$20,000

$10,001 to $11,000

$20,000

$10,000

$11,001 to $12,000

$10,000

Not eligible

$12,001 to $14,000

Not eligible

Not eligible

Buying as a SC household consisting of a first-timer and a second-timer (someone who has previously received a housing subsidy)?

The good news is that you can still receive ‘half’ of CPF Grant in the form of the Half-Housing Grant. Here’s the grant amount you can get:

Half-Housing Grant

Average monthly gross income of applicants/occupiers

Half-Housing Grant

$10,000 or lower

$15,000

$10,001 to $11,000

$10,000

$11,001 to $12,000

$5,000

$12,001 to $14,000

Not eligible

2. Executive Condos Are Cheaper Than Private Condos

Everyone likes buying things at a discount right?

When you buy an executive condo, you’re buying a condo that is subsidised by the government.

This means not only are you buying at a slightly cheaper price, but you’ll also get to enjoy facilities typically found in condos such as swimming pools, tennis courts, BBQ pits, function rooms and gyms. ECs also come with fully equipped kitchens and bathrooms, as well as finishings that are comparable to private condos.

On top of that, you can also take advantage of the CPF Housing Grants mentioned earlier, which are handy to help offset the cost.

3. ECs Become Privatised After the 11th Year, With Generally Good Value

Sure, the first 10 years might be a bit of a drag, but once the 5-year MOP period is up, you can sell it (only to SCs or PRs), or rent it out.

From the 11th year onwards, ECs will be privatised, which means you can sell it to foreign buyers.

Also, the value of ECs generally gets better over the years. Remember that when you buy an EC, you’re buying at a subsidised price. However, once the property hits the MOP and the 11th year, the capital gains are generally higher compared to resale condos.

4. ECs Are a Good Option for Middle-Income Singaporeans

With an average gross monthly household income cap of $16,000 (which was raised from $14,000 previously), ECs are more appealing to middle-income Singaporean families who can’t buy BTO flats due to the income cap. Meanwhile, singles who cannot ‘afford’ BTO flats will also find ECs appealing, thanks to the $7,000 income cap.

5. ECs Are Designed for Own-Stay Purposes

Because of the eligibility criteria, ECs are targeted at owner-occupiers (buyers who own and live in the house), which is quite different from private condos, as it attracts investors as well. This is the reason why ECs usually start from three-bedroom units, whilst private condos usually have one-bedrooms.

As such, not only are EC units typically bigger than private condos, but the demographic usually consists of local families, whilst private condos are more diverse.

Cons:

1. ECs Are Bound by HDB Rules for 10 Years

As mentioned above, ECs are considered as HDB properties in the first decade. During which you need to abide by HDB rules, such as HDB’s five-year MOP, where you’ll need to reside in your home for five years before you can sell/rent it out (only to SCs and PRs). Note that the MOP period only begins once the development receives its Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP).

Apart from that, you’ll also need to meet the other rules, including the income ceiling cap, the property ownership rule, resale levy rule, and the various eligibility conditions (see below).

2. Executive Condos Are Mostly Located in ‘Ulu’ Locations

In order to keep EC prices low, they need to be built on areas with lower land costs. And that’s why ECs are typically located in the outskirts of Singapore such as Sengkang, Punggol, Woodlands, Choa Chu Kang and Sembawang. Apart from that, most ECs aren’t ‘near’ to MRT stations or bus interchanges either.

3. You Can Only Apply for a Bank Loan

That’s right, ECs aren’t eligible for HDB loans. This means you need to get a loan from a bank or financial institution.

Unlike an HDB loan, the loan-to-value ratio (LTV), which is basically the maximum amount you can borrow from a bank, is 75% of the property valuation or price (whichever is lower).

This means you need to fork out at least 25% in downpayment from your own pocket. Out of this, 5% must be paid in cash, while the remaining 20% can be a combination of CPF and cash. So, if you’re buying an EC for $1 million, for example, you must fork out $50,000 in cash.

Apart from that, be prepared for the fluctuating interest rates for bank loans (which might not be a bad thing considering interest rates are at an all-time low during this COVID-19 pandemic).

Also, you’ll need to take the Mortgage Servicing Ratio (MSR) and Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) rules into account. For MSR, you can only use 30% of your monthly income to service your home loan. As for TDSR, your total debt repayments – which include car loans, credit cards and student loans – cannot be more than 60% of your monthly income.

Also read: Guide to Mortgage and Housing Loans in Singapore (2020)

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Need expert advice to work out a financing strategy, or want to compare the best home loan rates in Singapore? Speak to our Home Finance Advisors on PropertyGuru Finance. You can also find and compare bank loans in Singapore.

Don’t forget to try our free-to-use affordability calculator to get an estimate for the maximum loan amount and downpayment needed to finance your home.

4. EC Launches Are Far and Few

Whenever there’s an EC launch, it usually prompts people to make a mad dash to buy it. That’s because even though the demand for ECs is high, only a handful of launches happen each year.

For instance, Piermond Grand EC in 2019 was the first EC launch in nearly two years. While Parc Canberra and OLA EC were the only EC projects in 2020 (and were also highly subscribed).

In other words, you’ll be facing stiffer competition because there’s a lot of demand but not enough supply.

5. Buyers of Resale ECs Aren’t Eligible for the CPF Housing Grant

Unlike resale HDB flats, buyers of EC units in the secondary market aren’t eligible for the CPF Housing Grant as they are considered as private properties.

Now that you know what are the pros and cons of buying an EC, let’s a take at how ECs defer from regular condos:

What’s the Difference Between an EC and Condo?

Here’s a quick table comparison between ECs and condos:

Housing type

Executive condo

Private condo

Price

More expensive than HDB flats

More expensive than executive condos

Lease

99 years

99 years or freehold

Public or private

Public for the first 10 years

Private

Who can buy

Only SC + SC or SC + PR households

Anyone

Can singles buy?

Yes, only if you’re 35 years old and above, and buying with another single

Yes

Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP)

Five years

Doesn’t apply

Income ceiling

$16,000

No income ceiling

Eligible for CPF housing grants?

Yes (first-timers only)

No

Selling/renting restrictions?

Yes

No

Location

Usually in outskirt locations that are not immediately near MRT stations

Some condos are near MRT stations, while others are not

Launch frequency

Fewer, about one to two per year

More, over 20 per year

How to Buy an EC in Singapore: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Check Your Eligibility

As with HDB properties, you’ll need to fulfil certain requirements when it comes to buying an executive condo.

Family Nucleus

For starters, you’ll need to buy under one of the eligibility schemes; namely, the Public Scheme, Fiancé/Fiancée Scheme, Orphans Scheme or Joint Singles Scheme.

What

Who

Public Scheme

Your spouse, children, parents, siblings, or children under your legal custody (if you’re widowed/divorced)

Fiancé/Fiancée Scheme

Buying with your spouse-to-be

Orphans Scheme

Buying with your siblings (both must be single and orphaned)

Joint Singles Scheme

Buying with up to three other co-applicants who are all SCs. All applicants must be single, at least 35 years old, and must be co-applicants

Age

All buyers will have to be at least 21 years old and above (for singles buying under the Joint Singles Scheme, you need to be at least 35 years old). If you’re planning to buy alone, you can only buy a resale EC and won’t be eligible for a CPF Housing Grant. See all ECs for sale on PropertyGuru here.

Citizenship

At least one of the buyers will need to be SC, with the other applicant a SC or PR. When buying under the Joint Singles Scheme, both buyers will need to be SCs who are 35 years and above.

Income Ceiling

The combined average monthly household income must not exceed $16,000. For Option to purchases (OTP) granted before 11 September 2019, the income ceiling is $14,000.

Property Ownership

All applicants cannot own another property, both local and overseas, or have disposed of them within the last 30 months. You must also not have bought, or have only own/received one of the following in the past:

  1. An HDB flat

  2. A Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS)

  3. An EC

  4. CPF Housing Grant

Read more on HDB’s eligibility schemes here.

Step 2: Sort Out Your Finances

Once you’ve determined your eligibility, you’ll need to sort out your finances next.

But first, you need to get an Approval-in-Principle (AIP) from your bank. AIP is basically how much a bank is willing to borrow you. Getting the AIP is crucial as it helps to set your budget for your property purchase.

Securing your AIP will also determine the LTV amount, which is based on your income, age, loan duration, and if you have any outstanding loans. As mentioned above, the maximum LTV amount for a bank loan is 75% of the property, with a downpayment of 25% (at least 25% must be in cash).

Remember, buying a home isn’t just about the purchase price — there’s also tax and other fees to consider. These include the Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD), option fee (5% of the purchase price, non-refundable), legal fees, fire insurance, and resale levy (if this isn’t your first HDB purchase).

Then there’s also the various restrictions the government has set in place, including the ones mentioned previously such as TDSR and MSR.

If you’re planning to use your CPF monies, be sure to check how much funds you have in your CPF Ordinary Account (OA) and the amount you can use based on the valuation limit.

Overwhelmed by the numbers? Speak to our Home Finance Advisors or use our mortgage affordability calculator to calculate the maximum loan amount you can borrow.

Step 3: Pick an EC Project

Whew! We got most of the complicated stuff out of the way, but we’re not quite out of the woods yet.
Now comes the fun bit: Picking an EC of your choice according to your budget.

So far, Parc Canberra and OLA EC are the only two EC launches in 2020. The highly-anticipated Canberra Link EC and Parc Central Residences are two upcoming EC projects that are likely to launch next year.

Pop on by the showflat to view the units and get good sense of the project. However, for EC projects that are yet to launch, developers will usually require you to register your interest online. This doesn’t mean you’re obligated to buy, it’s just to show your interest.

Also remember to check with the developer on the documents needed such as IC, proof of income and marital status.

Read our reviews of past EC launches here.

Step 4: Submit Your Application

Have your eyes set on an EC project? Submit your e-application when the submission period opens. Developers will go through your application to check your eligibility again, and give you a ballot number. It will include the appointment date for you to select a unit of your choice.

Step 5: Book Your Flat

On the day of your appointment, you can visit the showflat and pick a unit of your choice. Note that you still have the option not to proceed with the purchase if the unit that you want isn’t available.

Should you choose to proceed however, you need to present a check to the developer in order to secure the OTP. This will include the 5% booking fee, which must be paid in cash.

Once that’s done, you’ll be presented with a set of Property Details Information (PDI) documents such as floor plans, site plan, rules and regulations and sale and purchase agreement (S&P). You will need to read and agree to the terms. The developer will then provide you a copy of the OTP.

HDB will then review your application. This process can take up to four weeks.

Be sure to fill in and send the CPF Withdrawal Form RPS/1A (Residential Properties Scheme) to CPF if you intend to use your CPF monies (which also includes any CPF Housing Grant you’re eligible for).

Step 6: Hire a Conveyancing Lawyer, Secure Your Loan and the Letter of Offer

While waiting for HDB to approve your application, you can use the time to resolve the details of the bank loan, secure the Letter of Offer (LO) and appoint a conveyancing lawyer. You’ll need to provide the lawyer and your bank with the OTP copy.

Remember to get as many quotes from different banks as possible so that you can compare and select the best loan package. Find the best home loan rates on PropertyGuru Finance.

Finalise the details of the loan and get your back to issue the LO.

Note: Don’t sign the LO until your application for the unit has been approved, otherwise you might risk losing your cancellation fees.

Step 7: Sign the S&P Documents and Pay Stamp Duties

Once HDB approves your application, you can expect to receive the S&P documents soon. Then, you must exercise the option, which you’ll need to exercise within three weeks if you decide to go ahead with the purchase.

If you choose to go ahead, you have to pay the remaining downpayment/exercise fee, which is 15% (you can use your CPF). This is due at the point of signing the S&P, or within nine weeks of signing the option, whichever is later.

Last but not least, you have to pay stamp duties on the S&P within two weeks of signing it. If you choose not to go ahead however, you need to forfeit 25% of the Booking Fee.

Step 8: Wait for the EC to Complete, and Make the Rest of the Payments

After exercising the S&P agreement, you need to decide how you want to pay for your condo. For ECs, there are two options:

  1. Normal Payment Scheme (NPS), or Progressive Payment Scheme (PPS)

  2. Deferred Payment Scheme (DPS)

Basically, NPS is how a buyer would normally pay, based on the property’s completion process. Here’s how NPS works:

  1. Pay the 5% option fee in cash

  2. Sign the Sale & Purchase Agreement and pay off the remaining 15% downpayment (CPF funds can be used)

  3. Settle any stamp duties (Also possibly with CPF funds)

  4. Pay 10% once the foundation work is completed (payment through your home loan)

  5. Pay 10% once the reinforced concrete framework is completed (payment through your home loan)

  6. Pay 5% when the partition and walls are done (payment through your home loan)

  7. Pay 5% when the ceiling is completed (payment through your home loan)

  8. Pay 5% when the internal plumbing and plastering, door and window frames, and electrical wiring (payment through your home loan)

  9. Pay 5% when the carparks, drains and road are completed (payment through your home loan)

  10. Pay 25% when you receive your TOP (payment through your home loan)

  11. Pay 15% when you get the Certificate of Statutory Completion (CSC) (payment through your home loan)

Read more on the NPS here.

Meanwhile, DPS works very differently.

You only need to pay 20% downpayment (5% option fee + 15% sale and purchase agreement). The remaining 80% can be paid once the project receives its TOP. The caveat to this is that you need to pay more for the EC.

DPS is attractive to those with outstanding mortgage loans and want more time to repay the existing loan (the LTV limit for one home loan is 45% or 25%).

Step 9: Collect Your Keys

Now all you need to do is wait for the EC to receive its TOP so that you can move in and start renovating it.

Resale Levy for EC

You only need to pay a resale levy if you have previously bought a subsidised property, whether it’s a BTO flat or an EC from a developer (where the land sale was launched after 9 December 2013).

Simply put, you need to pay a resale levy if:

  • Sell your subsidised flat and buy another subsidised flat from HDB, or;

  • Sell your subsidised flat and buy an EC from a developer where the land sale was launched on or after 9 December 2013

You won’t need to pay a resale levy if you’re buying:

  • A Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) flat from a developer

  • An EC from a developer, where the land sale was launched before 9 December 2013

  • An HDB resale flat

  • A private residential property

The resale levy amount will depend on the type of flat, which could be up to $55,000:

First subsidised flat

Resale levy amount*

2-room flat

$15,000 (households), $7,500 (singles)

3-room flat

$30,000 (households), $15,000 (singles)

4-room flat

$40,000 (households), $20,000 (singles)

5-room flat

$45,000 (households), $22,500 (singles)

Executive flat

$50,000 (households), $22,500 (singles)

Executive condo

$55,000 (households), not applicable for singles

* Note: The resale levy amount is based on the resale price of the sold flat, or 90% of its market valuation, whichever was higher.

Can I Buy a New EC if I Currently Own an HDB Flat?

Yes, you can. But you must only own/have owned one of the following before your application:

  • A flat bought from HDB (i.e. BTO flat)

  • An EC/DBSS flat bought from a developer

  • Resale HDB flat bought using CPF Housing Grant (only for first-time applicants)

Eligible SCs are allowed to buy the above properties twice in total, and not twice per type of property. In other words, you can own an HDB flat and an EC, but not two ECs, two HDB flats, etc.

However, if you have already bought two such properties, you will not be eligible to apply for an EC or be listed as an essential occupier in an application.

Frequently Asked Questions on Executive Condominiums (ECs)

Is EC Considered HDB?

Executive condominiums (EC) are a public-private hybrid, so in some ways, yes they are a type of HDB property. This is especially so for the first decade as it is bound by many of HDB’s selling and renting restrictions.

Who Can Buy ECs in Singapore?

To be eligible, at least one buyer must be a Singaporean, and the other a Singaporean or PR. There is also an income ceiling, various eligibility schemes and property ownership criteria to look out for.

Can Two Singles Buy EC?

Yes, you can apply with up to three other singles. All applicants must be SCs, single (unmarried divorced or widowed), at least 35 years old, and must be co-applicants. Note that singles aren’t eligible for the CPF Housing Grant.

Can I Buy a Condo if I Own an EC?

You’ll be eligible to buy a condo provided if you’ve fulfilled your EC’s five-year MOP. However, if you decide to keep both properties, you’ll need to pay a 12% Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) for the second property purchase if you’re a SC.

In addition, assuming that you’re taking a second home loan, LTV limit also decreases from up to a maximum of 75% to a max of 45%.

Can Single PRs Buy Resale EC?

Yes, a single PR can resale EC alone. However, he/she can’t buy a new EC alone.

How Much Are ECs in Singapore?

EC prices depend on the specific project in question, but they are generally up to 25% to 30% cheaper than similar private condos in the area.

Get Expert Help to Finance Your Home, or Find an EC Unit on PropertyGuru

Looking for an EC unit? Whether you’re looking for a new or resale EC, find an EC on PropertyGuru now.

Need help with the financing part? Speak to our Home Finance Advisors on PropertyGuru Finance, or find and compare bank loans in Singapore.

Don’t forget to try our free-to-use affordability calculator to get an estimate for the maximum loan amount and downpayment needed to finance your home.

This article was written by Victor Kang, Digital Content Specialist at PropertyGuru. When he's not busy churning out engaging property content* or newsletter copies, he's busy being a lover of all geeky things. Say hi at: victorkang@propertyguru.com.sg.

*I mean, I'll try

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