Press ESC to close

BTO vs Resale Flat: A First-Timer’s Guide to Buying Your Dream Home in Singapore

Hey there, fellow young Singaporeans!

At 27, I’m right there with you – that exciting yet slightly nerve-wracking phase of life: buying your first home. The question swirling in my head (and probably keeping you up at night too)? BTO or resale flat? It seems everyone has an opinion, but there’s a lack of resources specifically for us first-time homebuyers who are new to the property scene.

Let’s face it, some of our friends in the same age group are already moving into their new flats – renovating or eagerly waiting for construction to finish. There’s a natural fear of missing out (FOMO, anyone?) And honestly, I feel like I started a bit late. Knowing I’m earning more now than before, there’s a worry about eligibility for grants.

But fear not! This guide dives deep into the world of BTO vs Resale flats. We’ll analyze the pros and cons, and share my thought process as I navigate this crucial decision. Hopefully, it will shed some light and prevent you from those late-night Googling sessions I’ve been through!

Key Takeaways:

  • Budget-conscious and okay with waiting? BTO offers affordability and a long lease but requires patience.
  • Prioritize location and immediate move-in? Resale flats give you flexibility but may cost more and have a shorter lease.
  • Affordability: BTO flats are generally cheaper.
  • Speed: Resale flats offer a quicker move-in.
  • Location: Resale flats give you more location choices.
  • Lease Length: BTO flats come with a brand new 99-year lease.
  • CPF Housing Grants: Both options qualify, but resale flats have a wider range.
  • Capital Appreciation: BTO flats might have higher resale value in the future due to a longer lease.

What is a HDB BTO flat?

Tight on cash, but still craving your own place in Singapore? Look no further than the BTO flat, your gateway to homeownership without breaking the bank. These brand new flats come straight from the HDB, with a fresh 99-year lease and government subsidies that make them super attractive for budget-conscious folks like us.

The downside? Patience is key. Unlike a resale flat where you can move in ASAP, BTO applications involve a bit of a waiting game. Think 3 to 5 years after applying before you get the keys to your new digs. There’s also a 5-year Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP) before you can resell, but hey, that just gives you more time to break in your new place and make it your own!

The real perk? BTO flats are some of the most affordable housing options in Singapore. They’re perfect for young buyers who might be hesitant to jump straight into a massive home loan. Plus, the government subsidies mean you’ll save a significant chunk of change compared to the resale market. It’s like getting a head start on your homeownership journey, with a dash of patience on the side.

The downpayment for your flat can be paid using a combination of cash, CPF savings, and CPF housing grants. To understand how much you can leverage your CPF for your downpayment, check out this blog post on why I am not topping up my CPF SA.

HDB BTO Eligibility Criteria

AgeMinimum 21 years old
Marital StatusMarried couples or singles above 35 years old
CitizenshipAt least one Singapore citizen, together with another SG citizen or PR
Income CeilingCombined household monthly income should be below $7,000 for 2- or 3-room flats; below $14,000 for 4-room flats

Pros & Cons of a HDB BTO Flat


  • Price: Generally cheaper than the market value of resale flats in the vicinity.
  • Lease: Comes with a fresh 99-year lease.
  • Housing Grants: Enhanced Housing Grant (EHG) is available, which is basically like free money from the government to help you with your down payment.
  • Modern Amenities: Newly-built with modern layouts and facilities.


  • Wait Time: Anywhere between 3 to 5 years.
  • Location: Predetermined by HDB. Most BTOs are also located in non-mature estates, which means they might be developing areas with fewer amenities compared to mature estates.
  • Unit Selection: Balloting process determines allocation.

What is a Resale flat?

Craving more control over your living situation? Resale flats offer the freedom to choose your exact location, from the neighbourhood to the specific floor you call home. Unlike BTOs, you’re not limited to HDB’s selection. Think of them as “pre-loved” HDB flats – existing units that have fulfilled their Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP) of five years and are now up for grabs on the open market.

Resale flats come with fewer restrictions on buyers compared to BTOs. They also tend to boast larger floor areas, balconies, and squarish layouts, offering a more spacious living experience. However, this convenience comes at a premium – resale flats typically have a higher price tag than their BTO counterparts.

The biggest advantage? Instant gratification! You could be moving into your new resale flat within a couple of months, eliminating the years of waiting associated with BTO applications. But remember, just like a pre-owned car, resale flats might have a shorter remaining lease term compared to a brand new BTO. Weigh the benefits of immediate occupancy against the potential limitations of a shorter lease before making your decision.

Resale Flat Eligibility Criteria

AgeAt least 21 years old for people who are married, widowed, or orphaned
Marital StatusAny
CitizenshipAt least one Singapore citizen or two Singapore PRs
Income CeilingNo income ceiling
Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP)Must be fulfilled by the seller

Pros & Cons of Resale flat


  • Immediate Move-In: Can move in as fast as 2 months.
  • Location Flexibility: Wider selection of locations, often in mature estates. Resale flats offer a wider selection of locations to suit your lifestyle.
  • Unit Selection: No balloting required; freely choose the desired flat. Browse listings, compare options, and select the unit that ticks all your boxes, from size and layout to floor level and view.
  • Size: Typically larger than newer BTO flats.
  • Housing Grants: EHG, Family Grant, Proximity Housing Grant (PHG), and others are available, helping you save on the upfront costs.


  • Price: More expensive than BTO flats due to the immediate occupancy and potentially larger size.
  • Lease: Declining lease term. This could affect your future eligibility for loans or resale options down the road. Be sure to factor in the remaining lease length when making your decision.
  • Potential Renovation Needs: Older flats may require significant renovations. Factor in potential renovation costs when budgeting for your resale flat purchase.

Great Debate of BTO vs Resale:

Let’s face it, buying your first home is a thrilling yet nerve-wracking experience. As a young professional myself, I’m constantly grappling with the age-old question: BTO or resale flat? It’s not a simple choice, and there are a ton of factors to weigh before making that big leap. Let’s dive deeper into some key considerations:

Budget Considerations

Let’s face it, affordability is a major concern for most young adults like myself. That’s where BTO flats shine! Thanks to government subsidies and generally smaller floor areas compared to older resale flats, BTOs offer a significantly lower price tag. Imagine the potential savings – a serious head start on your financial journey! This affordability comes with a trade-off, though – the infamous waiting time. Be prepared to wait 4 to 5 years after a successful ballot before you can finally move in. While renting can bridge the gap, seeing friends settle into their brand new flats can be a touch of FOMO-inducing. But hey, the financial benefits of a BTO might just be worth the wait!

Note: The price gap between BTO and resale flats tends to be wider in mature estates where BTOs are highly sought-after. In non-mature estates, the difference might be less significant.

Speed to Move In

Let’s talk about the wait! BTO flats are undeniably attractive with their lower price tags, but patience is a must. Be prepared to wait 4 to 5 years after a successful ballot to collect your keys, and factor in potential delays due to unforeseen circumstances. There’s also the Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP) of 5 years before you can sell your BTO. So, if you’re looking for a quick move-in and future upgrade flexibility, a BTO might require some long-term planning.

Resale flats offer the opposite end of the spectrum – instant gratification! You could be settling into your new home within a couple of months of purchase. This is perfect if you need a place to call your own right away, like for an upcoming wedding or growing family. However, keep in mind that resale flats typically come with a higher price tag and a shorter remaining lease term compared to a brand new BTO. Some resale flats, especially older ones, might also require renovations to modernize the space.

Ultimately, the choice depends on your priorities. Are you budget-conscious and willing to wait for a brand new flat with a long lease? Or do you prioritize a faster move-in and the flexibility to choose your exact location, even if it means a higher cost and potentially shorter lease? Weigh the pros and cons carefully to find the option that best suits your needs and timeline.

Location Flexibility

Affordability is important, but let’s be real, location is a huge factor for many of us (myself included!). BTOs are known for being built in non-mature estates – areas that might feel far-flung and lack established amenities. While this is generally true, there’s always a chance you might snag a coveted “prime location” BTO in a mature estate with great access to amenities. The catch? These are super competitive and require some serious ballot luck.

Resale flats, on the other hand, offer a wider selection of locations from the start. You have the freedom to choose a flat close to work and family in a bustling mature estate, or prioritize proximity to an MRT station or other conveniences. With a vast pool of resale flats available across Singapore, you can find a location that perfectly complements your lifestyle. Just remember, while resale flats offer more flexibility, they typically come with a higher price tag. It’s all about finding the right balance between affordability and that ideal location.

Lease Length

The lease term is a crucial factor to consider. BTO flats come with a brand-spankin’ new 99-year lease, offering peace of mind and potentially higher resale value in the future. Think about it – you’ll have a longer lease term to attract buyers when you eventually decide to sell. Resale flats, however, are pre-loved, which means the remaining lease term might be shorter. This could affect your future eligibility for loans or limit your resale options down the road.

While a shorter lease on a resale flat might seem like a disadvantage, it can also be an opportunity. If you plan to live in the flat for a shorter period, say 10-15 years, a resale flat with a shorter lease term could be a cost-effective option. Just be sure to factor in the remaining lease length when making your decision and consider your long-term housing goals.

CPF Housing Grants

The Singapore government offers a helping hand with CPF housing grants to make buying your dream home more affordable. Both BTO and resale flats qualify for grants, but resale flats generally have a wider range of grants available.

Grant TypeBTO FlatsResale Flats
Enhanced Housing Grant (EHG)Up to $9,000Up to $80,000 (income-based)
Proximity Housing Grant (PHG)Not AvailableUp to $30,000 (Families: $20,000 + additional $10,000; Singles: $10,000 + additional $5,000)
Family Grant (FG)Up to $14,000Up to $50,000 (flat type dependent; 2- & 4-room: $40,000 – $50,000; 5-room & bigger: $30,000 – $40,000)
Step-Up Housing GrantNot AvailableUp to $15,000
Half-Housing GrantNot AvailableUp to $21,000 (flat type & family situation dependent; 2- & 4-room: $25,000; 5-room & bigger: $20,000; additional $10,000 if living with parents/child; additional $5,000 if living with parents; $21,000 if purchasing with extended family)

Note: This table is a simplified overview. Eligibility criteria and specific grant amounts may vary. Always check with the Housing & Development Board (HDB) for the latest information.

Capital Appreciation Potential

Considering how your flat’s value might change in the future is crucial. BTO flats shine with their long lease terms – a major selling point for future buyers, potentially leading to a higher resale price. Some BTOs in non-mature estates might also benefit from upcoming developments, boosting their value over time. Resale flats, on the other hand, can be a gamble. Their market value depends on when you sell and the remaining lease – shorter leases typically mean lower resale value.

Ultimately, both BTO and resale flats offer a place to call home, but with different long-term investment considerations. Think about your exit strategy and how long you plan to stay in the flat to decide which option aligns best with your financial goals.

Real Talk from Singaporean Couples on BTO vs Resale

Here are some insights from real Singaporean couples on Reddit who have grappled with the BTO vs. resale flat decision:

  • Newlyweds and the Stepping Stone: Just like you mentioned, some couples see resale flats as a stepping stone, especially for newlyweds. It allows them to experience living together while they save up for their dream BTO in a preferred location.
  • The BTO Application Timeline Gamble: One important point raised was the uncertainty of BTO applications. With income potentially increasing quickly after graduation, some Redditors felt it was risky to wait for a BTO as they might exceed the eligibility criteria in a short time.
  • Prioritizing Location and Lifestyle Over Wait Time: Another couple highlighted the value they placed on location and immediate move-in. They were willing to forgo the BTO wait time and potential savings to secure a resale flat in their desired area with a good layout and view.
  • Time vs. Cost: A Balancing Act: The trade-off between time and cost was a recurring theme. Some Redditors felt the convenience and relationship benefits of having their own place right away outweighed the slightly higher cost of a resale flat compared to a BTO with grants.

My Leaning: BTO with a Side of Patience

After all this deliberation, I’m leaning towards a BTO flat. The affordability, long lease, and potential for future appreciation outweigh the waiting time for me. Plus, with careful planning and budgeting, I can manage the rental situation in the interim.

Bto house
An AI generated snapshot of my dream home

Remember, buying a flat is a long-term financial commitment. Factor in future expenses like renovations and potential cost increases. My other blog post provides valuable strategies to manage your finances effectively and cope with rising costs like housing.

Tips for Managing the Rental Situation

  • Budget Wisely: Allocate a portion of your income for rental expenses while saving for your future home.
  • Consider Short-Term Leases: Look for rental contracts that offer flexibility in case your BTO completion date changes.
  • Shared Accommodation: Consider sharing a rental apartment with friends or family to reduce costs.

The Takeaway: There’s No One-Size-Fits-All Answer

The choice between BTO and resale truly depends on your individual needs and circumstances. This guide is meant to equip you with the knowledge to weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision that aligns with your financial goals and lifestyle aspirations.

Bonus Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

  • HDB Website is Your Friend: Use the HDB website’s eligibility checker and flat search tools to explore your options.
  • Factor in Renovation Costs: Remember, both BTO and resale flats might require renovations. Budget accordingly!
  • CPF Housing Grants are Awesome: Look into CPF housing grants on the CPF website that can significantly ease the financial burden of buying.

Eugene Chai

With five years of financial experience (and maybe a few too many all-nighters fueled by cold brew and craft beer), Eugene tackles complex financial concepts and breaks them down for young adults. Featured on Investment sites and CNA's Money Talks, this self-proclaimed "Finance Whisperer" isn't your stuffy suit. He uses relatable narratives (think "adulting, but make it money") to turn numbers into your financial BFFs, guiding you towards smart choices with your hard-earned dough.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *