Open Booking Vs SBF (Sale of Balance Flats) Vs Resale Flat: Which Should You Buy in Singapore (2022)?

Open Booking Vs SBF (Sale of Balance Flats) Vs Resale Flat: Which Should You Buy in Singapore (2022)?
Open Booking Vs SBF (Sale of Balance Flats) Vs Resale Flat: Which Should You Buy in Singapore (2022)?

With longer estimated completion times for newly launched BTO flats, many are considering other options for their first home. Especially if they have urgent housing needs, they may consider their options: open booking vs SBF vs resale flat.

It’s clear many young Singaporeans are flocking towards the SBF and Open Booking of Flats exercises. Declining rates of young couples obtaining a flat through these means have fallen since 2017. Still, they remain viable alternatives.

The process of buying a unit via the Open Booking of FlBats or SBF exercise is different than buying a resale flat, making it important for homebuyers to research which type of HDB flats they should pick. In this article, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of each type of flat.

Open Booking Vs SBF Vs Resale Flat: What Are They?

HDB flat type What is it?
Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercise Released twice a year, in May and November. New from HDB (fresh 99-year lease), but already completed or is undergoing construction, so you can expect a shorter waiting time. Have to ballot for a flat like the BTO launches. More affordable than resale flats.
Open Booking of Flats exercise Leftover flats that remain unchosen from previous SBF exercises. Flats under this exercise are available immediately and are based on a first-come-first-served basis, but unit choices are extremely limited. A fresh supply of flats will be made available to view in March 2023.
Resale flats Available year-round and offers the shortest waiting time. Extensive range of choices and locations. However, they are typically more expensive despite having shorter leases and prices are subject to market conditions.

What Is Open Booking of Flats?

You might be wondering, “How does the Open Booking of Flats exercise work?” Well, the exercise comprised any leftover flats from SBF exercises, they would be pooled together and re-offered again via the Open Booking of Flats exercise.  

Previously, any unsold SBF flats were offered through the Re-Offer of Balance Flat (ROF) Scheme. Like SBF flats are leftover flats from BTO exercises, ROFs consisted of balance flats from previous SBF exercises. 

Potential buyers also had to apply for a ROF during the specific twice-a-year window. If there were still unsold flats, then they would be available through open booking. 

The ROF scheme was scrapped in March 2020 to make the process more efficient; unsold SBF flats would be immediately available for open booking. Buyers can apply for a flat online at any given time of the year and book a flat as early as the next working day.  

The next fresh supply of HDB open booking of flats will be made available to view on March 2023.

What Is the Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) Exercise?

HDB Sale of Balance Flats (HDB SBF) flats are unsold flats from previous HDB BTO exercises, Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) projects, or any flats repurchased by HDB. SBF exercises happen twice a year (in May and November), along with BTO flat launches in those months. 

Unlike BTO flats, which usually take three to four years to complete, flats launched under the HDB SBF exercise are either already completed or have begun construction. Therefore, getting an SBF is quicker and is also a great option for those who don’t fancy a resale HDB flat.

Also, since HDB SBF flats are unsold flats in past BTO sales, you have more areas to pick from than BTO launches, which are limited to three to four areas each time. 

What Are HDB Resale Flats?

After deliberating between a BTO and a resale flat, George and Charlynn decided on a 4-room resale flat in Woodlands. Read how they navigated their homebuying journey.

While HDB SBF flats and Open of Booking Flats are new flats sold by HDB, resale HDB flats are sold in the secondary market by their previous owners. These flats have reached their 5-year Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) and are older.

Open Booking vs SBF vs Resale Flats: Affordability and Grants

CPF Housing grants differ for HDB Open Booking of Flats, SBF, and resale flats. This is because flats launched under the Open Booking of Flats and SBF exercises are already subsidised by the government, while resale flats are priced on a “willing buyer, willing seller” basis. As such, to make resale flats more affordable, buyers, especially first-time homeowners, tend to enjoy higher CPF housing grants.

For instance, buyers of open booking flats and SBF are eligible for CPF Housing Grants, namely the Enhanced Housing Grant (EHG) (for first-timers; up to $80,000) and Step-up CPF Housing Grant (second-timers; up to $15,000).

Meanwhile, resale flat buyers are eligible for the EHG, as well as a Proximity Housing Grant (up to $30,000) and Family Grant (up to $50,000). In total, resale flat buyers are eligible for a maximum of $160,000 in grants, which is more than what you would receive from buying new/balance flats. 

HDB Grant Amount Available for Open Booking vs SBF vs Resale Flats

Type of flat CPF housing grants available
Open Booking of Flats flat Up to $80,000 for first-timer, and $15,000 for second-timers
Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) flat Up to $80,000 for first-timer, and $15,000 for second-timers
Resale flat Up to $160,000

Do not be easily enticed by the high housing grants for resale flats, though. Aside from being generally more affordable, the downpayment for flats bought from the Open Booking of Flats and SBF exercises can be paid for via HDB’s Staggered Downpayment Scheme. This allows you to pay the downpayment of your flat in two instalments; the first when you sign the Agreement for Lease, and the second instalment will be paid once you collect the keys for your new flat. This option is great for those who don’t have lots of immediate funds or CPF savings. 

Plus, since the lease is fresh for SBF and HDB Open Booking of Flats, you can expect to borrow a higher amount and also don’t have to worry about CPF withdrawal limits.

You may also need to cough up Cash over Valuation (COV) when buying a resale flat. COV is the price difference between the actual price you paid for the flat and the actual valuation by HDB. The amount typically ranges between $20,000 to $50,000 but can be up to $200,000.

Open Booking vs SBF vs Resale Flats: Waiting Time

Type of flat Waiting time
Open Booking of Flats flat As early as three months.
Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) flat Dependent on construction progress. Ballot results will be available about 1.5 months after applications close.
Resale flat Around 8 weeks after HDB’s acceptance of the resale application

A key consideration when buying a home in Singapore is the waiting time. After all, many are looking at these HDB housing alternatives to avoid the long wait time for BTO flats. As such, homeowners can expect to move into their units in a shorter period than those balloting for BTO flats. Still, that is not to say there is no waiting time.

As previously mentioned, HDB SBF flats are either already completed, have begun construction, or are close to completion, so you can get a new flat more quickly. However, compared to widely available resale flats, there are fewer SBF flats up for selection. Hence, securing a flat is not only harder, but you may also not get a chance to pick a unit on your first attempt in an SBF exercise.

Here is where the HDB Open Booking of Flats exercise comes in. With open booking, successful homebuyers who manage to get a queue number can book a flat as early as the next working day. This allows buyers to book and move into their new homes more quickly (as early as three months) and is especially helpful to those who are in urgent need of a home.

Open Booking vs SBF vs Resale Flats: Capital Growth

In Singapore’s home-flipping culture, it is common for homeowners to think of the future: Will my home’s pricing appreciate in the five years or more to come?

Since SBF flats have a fresh lease and are bought at a subsidised price, there’s a chance for capital growth if you decide to sell after the MOP is fulfilled. If you bought a unit in a non-mature estate, your home would also likely fetch a higher value as the area develops further.

Open Booking vs SBF vs Resale Flats: Flat Choices

As flats available under SBF are leftovers of the ‘best’ ones that are taken during the BTO launch, you can expect fewer unit choices to pick from. Choice of flats is even more limited for the HDB Open Booking of Flats exercise, as they are the ‘balance flats’ of the ‘balance flats’, unit. As such, you may not be able to select a flat that you prefer, such as the unit type or direction of the flat.

Additionally, those who apply for the Open Booking of Flats exercise face tighter ethnic quota restrictions. With fewer flats available, certain ethnic groups may find it difficult to get a flat if the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) quota is maxed out.

As such, picky homeowners may rather opt for resale flats as there are more flat types to pick from in the resale market. From spacious jumbo flats and DBSS flats to two-storey maisonettes and HDB terrace homes, these flats are more suitable for bigger families who need more space.

Resale HDB flats are also found in most neighbourhoods, including mature estates with readily available amenities. It also definitely helps that you can pop by the unit to get a sense and feel of the house, as well as the neighbourhood.

Open Booking vs SBF vs Resale Flats: Renovation

As with new BTO flats, HDB SBF flats and most Open Booking of Flats units come with a fresh 99-year lease. Since it’s new, you don’t have to worry about any damage from the previous owner.

In comparison, resale flats will never come with a fresh 99-year lease, which will affect two things: The amount of CPF funds you can use for the flat, and the value of your property due to lease decay. Also, remember that the older the flat, the more likely it will suffer from wear and tear.

Resale homebuyers can also expect to incur some renovation costs, as the home will have existing furnishings from the previous owner that may not suit their sale. If the resale flat is old and in dire need of renovation, then you will likely have to spend more to repair/replace existing fixtures and fittings or overhaul and remove previous installations.

That being said, older resale HDB flats may have more floor space and/or larger rooms than newer flats, which is a plus point for those looking for a bigger house.

So, Which Home Is Right for You?

If your priority is to get home as soon as possible, then resale flats are for you. Not only is the waiting time shorter, but you also don’t have to spend extra time and money renovating the house if it’s already in move-in condition.

Since resale flats are more spread out, there’s a larger pool of available flats and flat types, so you have more choices to pick from, including unique HDB flats that are no longer in production. Furthermore, you also have the option to live in an area that’s well-connected to amenities.

On top of that, resale flats have more CPF Housing Grants. If you plan to live close to or with your parents, then you have up to $80,000 more in grants (in addition to the EHG), which would help to offset the price of the flat.  

On the other hand, if getting a brand new home matters more, or if you’re short on funds, then applying for a flat under the HDB SBF and/or Open Booking of Flats exercises may be better for you. Aside from being more affordable, you will also get a flat with a fresh lease and have more flexibility to pay the downpayment. Other than that, there are also fewer restrictions on CPF usage and LTV limits.

Since you’re buying a new property at a subsidised price, there is also potential for higher capital gains if you decide to sell it in the future. This is especially true once connectivity and amenities in the area improve over time.  

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