Aerial View Singapore HDB

First-time homeowners in Singapore usually resort to going for an HDB flat. It’s almost a no-brainer. You can get quality housing in the city well within your income and a cozy piece of multiple-square-foot space for you to call home.

Now all you have to do is answer this question—should you purchase a build-to-order (BTO) flat or a resale flat?

When choosing between BTO or resale flats, the usual competing factors are that BTO prices are lower but with a longer waiting time, while resale flats have a higher price tag with a shorter waiting period.

But that’s not all you have to keep in mind. In this article, we will go over what you need to consider when choosing a BTO or resale flat.

What are BTO and Resale Flats?

An HDB BTO flat, as suggested by the name, is an apartment that is launched and sold before it is built. Interested buyers will have to submit their application during a BTO sales launch amid other applicants, and the construction of the new BTO flats will only proceed once 70% of the units are spoken for

The waiting time for a BTO flat can take 3 to 5 years before its completion. In addition, BTO flats within mature estates are in high demand, contributing to the challenge of acquiring one.

HDB resale flats are what you might call “pre-loved”. As per their name, resale flats are older HDB flats that another party currently owns.

Its pre-loved status means a resale HDB flat has already accrued some years of use. Hence not having the lease can be significantly shorter. Unlike the heavily subsidised nature of BTO pricing, resale flat prices are more affected by the fluctuation of the open market, resulting in higher prices.

However, resale HDB flats are already built, so you don’t have to wait a while to get your dream home.

Factors to consider when choosing between a BTO and resale flat

When choosing between an HDB BTO flat and an HDB resale flat, there are a total of 9 factors that you have to consider. These are:

  1. Eligibility Criteria
  2. Flat Size and Layout
  3. Flat Location
  4. Flat Price
  5. CPF Housing Grants
  6. Waiting Time
  7. Renovation
  8. Lease Tenure
  9. Market Value Potential

1. Eligibility Criteria

Before you purchase a BTO or resale flat, you have to check your eligibility.


One of the primary criteria is citizenship. If you are applying for either flat as an individual, you must be a Singapore citizen.

Singapore Permanent residents can only apply if they are applying with a Singapore citizen as a couple.


Unmarried or divorced applicants need to be at least 35, while widowed, orphaned, and married applicants need to be at least 21.

Income Ceiling

  • 3-room flat
    For 3-room flats, the household income ceiling depends on the property, fluctuating from S$7,000 – S$14,000.
  • 4-room flat and larger
    The household income ceiling for a 4-room BTO flat or larger is at S$14,000 monthly. For applicants with extended or multi-generational families, the monthly household income maximum is at S$21,000.

Property Ownership

BTO flats require you to not have:

  • purchased more than 1 HDB/DBSS flat or Executive Condominium in the past,
  • owned any private properties, local or overseas, and
  • disposed of any such properties within 30 months before the BTO application.

You are also prohibited from investing in any private residential properties until after the BTO flat Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) of 5 years.

For resale flats, all previously-owned HDB apartments and local and overseas private properties must be disposed of within 6 months of purchasing a new resale apartment.

BTO Flat Resale Flat
Must be a citizen of Singapore. As a couple, one must be a citizen of the country, while the other can be a Permanent Resident or another citizen.
At least 21 years old for people who are married, widowed, or orphaned. 35 years old for unmarried and divorced.
Singles can only buy a 2-room Flexi flat in a non-mature estate. No limit for married couples. Singles and couples can buy any size at any location.
Income ceiling varies, from 7,000SGD to 21,000SGD monthly (for couples, combined income must not exceed the given ceiling) No income ceiling.
Must have only purchased 1 HDB flat, DBSS flat, or EC in the past. No limit on past purchases.
No owned property, locally nor internationally, and no property disposed within 30 months before your application. If there is an HDB flat or other private property owned, locally or overseas, it must be sold within 6 months of your resale flat purchase.

2. Flat Size and Layout

It’s a common belief that HDB flat sizes have been at a steady decline. People seem to think older flats are bigger, while BTO flats are smaller.

There is some truth to this, but, likely, you will only find a difference with older HDB flats of about 30 or more years old. Any younger than that, the sizes have remained somewhat consistent, and layouts are now more optimised to accommodate more space despite being slightly smaller.


The size difference between BTO flats and resale flats may be more prevalent in mature towns. This is because they likely have a bigger number of older flats; ergo, a bigger chance for larger flats. The size difference is less significant in non-mature estates, and the layout is more likely to compensate for the discrepancy.

3. Flat Location

BTO flats tend to be found in non-mature estates. A non-mature estate is a residential area that is no older than 20 years old or those that are still in planning. Some of these include Choa Chu Kang, Hougang, Jurong East, Tengah, Bukit Batok, Jurong West, Punggol, Yishun, Bukit Panjang, Sembawang, Woodlands,and Sengkang.

Resale HDB flats, by their very nature, can be found all over the country.


One of the bigger cons of BTO flats is location. BTO flats located in mature towns tend to be highly contested and rare, while in very young towns, there could be a lack of facilities in the area.

On the other hand, older resale flats might be more widely available, but they are likely higher in price.

4. Flat Price

When it comes to pricing, BTO apartments usually are cheaper than a resale HDB flat in the same area and come at a lower price than resale flats located in the same estate.

Aside from the shorter wait time, older flats that are being resold tend to be more expensive due to a variety of factors, chief of which is a good location and surrounding amenities. This is fairly common in mature towns.


BTO vs. resale is not as simple at a glance. There are deeper things to consider.

Keep in mind that the BTO flat downpayment can be paid in two separate installments through the Staggered Downpayment Scheme.

When buying a resale flat, you should also take a look at the price per square metre. At first, it may seem like a 4-room BTO flat is cheaper than a 4-room resale flat, but if you look at the number of square metres, you might get more space for the same amount of rooms. In addition, there is an opportunity to negotiate and bargain with the resale purchase price.

5. CPF Housing Grants

As an HDB buyer, you get access to a housing grant. However, some housing grants are only available to a specific flat type. If you want a special CPF housing grant, there are more options if you go for buying a resale.

For BTO:

  • Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG)

For Resale:

  • Enhanced CPF Housing Grant
  • Proximity Housing Grant (PHG)
  • Family Grant (FG)
  • Step-Up Grant
  • Half-Housing Grant

6. Waiting Time

A BTO flat can take about 3 – 5 years before construction is completed, not counting the few years it might take to successfully ballot for a house.

An HDB resale flat will let you live out the remaining lease as soon as two months after you make the purchase.


New flats will take a while to build. As such, going for a BTO flat means, you need to have patience. It’s ideal to consider it as an investment for the future instead of an immediate decision. In BTO vs resale based on waiting time, the latter wins hands down.

7. Flat Renovation Costs

Being newly-built, a BTO flat will be minimally furnished, and as such, will require more renovation. The cost will vary depending on the design and how much you want to add.

Resale flat buyers will get an apartment that has been lived in, so you know it has been equipped with useful features. Should you choose to renovate one, however, you will have to apply new things and remove old fixings, possibly resulting in more cost.


Think of a BTO flat as a blank canvas. You have to take the time to do things yourself, and renovation might be necessary. A used flat might not need renovation but will be more expensive should you choose to. Either way, in BTO vs resale, which wins will be dependent on your preferences.

8. Lease Tenure

A new BTO flat will still have the full 99-year lease, while an HDB resale flat can have anywhere from enough to a few years left on the remaining lease.


BTO flats seem like the clear winner here, as while that 4-room flat in Ang Mo Kio seems like a good deal, it’s not quite ideal when there are only a few years left on the lease. This is called “lease decay”, referring to the decrease in value for a property with only a few years on its lease.

Of course, the choice will still depend on your circumstances. You may not mind a short remaining tenure if you eventually want to move away.

9. Market Value Potential

BTO flats have more potential because after their MOP they can be sold on the resale market. And because of their inclusion in non-mature towns, there is a possibility that development in the area could help the market value.

HDB resale flats, while often commanding a good price, might see some depreciation in market value after some years due to lease decay.

Resale vs BTO Comparison

Factor BTO Flat Resale Flat
Eligibility More requirements. Lax in income and ownership requirements.
Size & Layout Tend to be smaller. Older units are likely larger.
Location Rare and in demand in mature areas, common in towns that have yet to be developed. Available all over the country.
Price Cheaper. Usually more expensive.
Grants No additional CPF Housing Grant aside from EHG EHG, PHG, FG, Step-Up, Half-Housing Grants
Waiting Time 3-5 years minimum As early as 2 months
Renovation Costs Necessary due to minimum furnishing Renovation is more likely to not be required
Lease Tenure 99 years < 99 years
Market Value Potential More potential Less potential after a certain number of years on its tenure

Another Option: SBF (Sale of Balance Flats)

Instead of buying a resale flat or BTO unit, you have the option to go for a balance flat.

During a Sale of Balance Flats exercise, there are more location options compared to a BTO sales launch. In addition, a balance flat is more likely to have begun construction, meaning less waiting time.

However, flats during an SBF exercise are those that are left at the end of a BTO sales launch. As such, there are fewer units with fewer choices. SBF exercises also have an ethnicity quota, so certain ethnicities may be unable to apply.

To BTO or Not to BTO (Resale)?

Adulting is hard, especially because of the choices you have to make, more especially if those involve something as big as a household.

By taking the time to read this article and making note of the considerations, we hope to have given you some amount of assistance.

We can offer more assistance if your HDB purchase decision is tied to money. We at Raffles Credit can help you find a way to get that dream home with our trustworthy financial services.

Apply quickly and easily for a loan for up to 6 times your monthly income with no hidden charges, and pay it back with our flexible terms. Raffles Credit help you have your home hassle-free.