Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) 2023: Guide to Buying an HDB SBF Flat in Singapore
Note: The May 2023 SBF launches have been released. Applications close on 5 June 2023, 11.59pm.
First-time homebuyers who can’t afford to wait four or five years for a BTO flat or pay for an HDB resale flat – which prices continue to climb upwards, rising by 0.9% in Q1 2023 – can fast-track the process by applying for the HDB Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) 2023 exercise or Open Booking of Flats (OBF) exercise.
However, the SBF exercise can be competitive, with the success rate for SBF has declined from 52% in 2017 to 17% in 2021. Meanwhile, the success rate for securing a unit during the OBF exercise also dipped to 65% in 2021, compared to the 100% success rate when it was first launched in 2019.
In this article, we’ll explain the HDB SBF exercise and how it compares against the BTO and OBF launches. And should you decide that you’d like to apply for an SBF unit, we’ll also guide you through the eligibility criteria and application process for the HDB SBF 2023 exercise.
What Is the Sale of Balance Flats Exercise?
SBF HDB scheme is essentially an exercise that pools unsold flats from past BTO launches, surplus flats from Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) projects, and any flats repurchased by HDB.
The SBF exercise occurs twice yearly, usually in May and November. These SBF HDB flats are released alongside the BTO flat launches in those months.
Watch Our Video On SBF Units in Singapore
Number of SBF Units Launched (Nov 2020 to May 2023)
What Happens to Unselected Sale of Balance Flats 2023 Units?
Previously, all unsold flats from HDB SBF exercises will be first offered through the Re-offer of Balance Flats (ROF) exercises. If these flats remain unselected, they will be made available for open booking. However, in March 2020, the government announced the ROF scheme would be removed to allow home buyers to obtain their flats more quickly.
With the removal of ROF exercises, all unsold BTO flats will first be offered through the SBF HDB exercise. If they remain unselected, these HDB flats will then be offered under the OBF exercise.
These flats under the OBF exercise are available on a first-come-first-served basis. That means once all the flats are booked, that’s it!
What are they
HDB SBF flats
When they are made available
Twice a year, typically in May and November
Subject to HDB’s announcement
Balance flats from previous BTO launches, surplus flats from Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) projects, and any flats repurchased by HDB
Balance flats from past HDB SBF launches
Number of flats offered
Varies, typically about 3,000
Varies, typically less than 300
Open throughout the year (ends when all available flats are booked)
Most unit types are available
Limited choices for unit size
Relatively spread out among different races
Usually, fewer units for Chinese buyers
HDB BTO Flats vs Sale of Balance Flats 2023: What’s the Difference?
1. SBF Units on Offer Have a Shorter Wait Time Than BTO Flats
The main difference between the HDB SBF and HDB BTO flat is the shorter waiting time for a completed unit.
Since the construction of BTO flats will only begin if at least 70% of flats are booked, this means the process is longer as the waiting time is usually about three to four years. Furthermore, while COVID-19 BTO construction delays have largely been alleviated, their effects still linger. These factors can weigh on first-time homebuyers who are considering marriage and having kids in the near future.
In contrast, HDB SBF launches sell leftover flats from projects that are either under construction or have already been completed (that are ready to be moved into). As a result, you can anticipate receiving your home much sooner.
This is especially great for young couples who do not want to delay marriage until they have a home, or do not wish to spend money on rental homes while waiting for their BTO unit to complete. Single unwed parents and seniors also stand to benefit from the shorter waiting time for the SBF exercise.
In the May 2023 BTO sales launch, keen buyers can look forward to balloting for a flat in Bedok, Kallang/Whampoa, Serangoon, and Tengah. However, do take note that you can only apply for one scheme at any given time.
So, if you’re already planning to apply for the May 2023 BTO launch, you can’t put in an application for the Sale of Balance Flats 2023 May exercise.
2. SBF Launches Offer More Locations to Choose From Than BTO Flats
Since the scheme pools unsold flats from many projects, the HDB SBF launches are located in both mature and non-mature estates. While there are fewer total units available for sale, you have more locations and options to choose from when applying for an HDB SBF flat.
3. You May Not Get an SBF Unit You Like
When you submit an application for a flat under the BTO program, you’re essentially balloting for the opportunity to choose the best flat out of the bunch. However, applying for a flat under the HDB SBF exercise is different.
Since the HDB SBF units available are ‘leftover’ flats from previous sales exercises, these flats are sometimes considered ‘undesirable’ by previous buyers due to the units’ location. For example, lower floor units that are close to the centralised rubbish chute disposals, west-facing units or units with obstructed views.
Having said that, this isn’t the case for every leftover flat. Some desirable units might have ended up in the pool due to previous buyers being indecisive, financial constraints, or having to give up the unit for other reasons like a breakup. Therefore, depending on your luck, you might just find your perfect unit.
4. There’s More Information About SBF Units Compared to BTO Flats
Another perk of the sale of balance scheme is that HDB provides information down to the last detail.
In addition to the location, type, flat size and map (things that are provided in BTO sales), you will also know the block and unit numbers of the balance flats, as well as the HDB quota when you want to apply for HDB SBFs exercises.
5. SBF Units Could Be Slightly More Expensive Than BTO Flats
Even though the government also subsidised HDB’s Sale of Balance Flats, they can be slightly more expensive than BTO flats. However, they still cost much lesser compared to HDB resale flats.
6. SBF Units Are Subject to the Ethnic Race Policy (EIP)
Buying an HDB Sale of Balance Flats unit also comes with a race quota restriction: it might not be available for certain racial profiles, particularly for Chinese persons.
7. It’s Harder to Secure an SBF Unit than a BTO Flat
Since there are much fewer HDB SBF units available compared to BTO flats, thus your chances of securing an HDB SBF unit are slimmer.
Want to get an HDB SBF flat? Here’s an overview of the eligibility criteria for HDB SBF Flats 2023.
HDB Sale of Balance Flats 2023 Eligibility Criteria
Eligible applicant/ Family nucleus
You’ll need to qualify for a new flat under one of HDB’s existing eligibility schemes:
At least one of the applicants must be a Singapore Citizen
At least one other applicant must be a Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident
You must be at least 21 years old
You are within the set income ceiling for the flat that you want to apply for: $14,000 for families, $21,000 for extended families
1. You and all other applicants/occupiers listed in the flat application don’t own other property, whether overseas or locally
Note that the above criteria are only if you’re applying as a family nucleus, or with your fiance/fiancee/spouse.
If you are a first-timer single applicant buying an HDB SBF flat, you’ll need to fulfil the following criteria:
You must be a Singapore citizen
You must be at least 35 years of age if you are unmarried or divorced, or 21 and above if you are widowed or an orphan
You must meet the EIP and SPR quota for the area your flat is in (this is more likely to impact the location of your flat)
Your monthly household income doesn’t exceed $7,000
How Do I Buy an HDB SBF Unit?
1. Submit Your HFE Application
With effect from 9 May 2023, the new HDB Flat Eligibility (HFE) letter replaces the old HDB Loan Eligibility (HLE) letter. What the HFE letter does is inform you of your HDB flat eligibility, CPF Housing Grant eligibility and HDB loan eligibility, as well as the amounts you qualify for and can loan.
If you’re not financing your BTO flat with an HDB loan, this is where you should apply for an In-Principal Approval (IPA) from participating Financial Institutions (FIs) through the HDB Flat Portal.
Who Needs an HDB HLE Letter?
For those applying for
What you need to complete
May 2023 BTO launch
Preliminary HFE check
August 2023 BTO launch
Valid HDB HFE letter
Other new HDB flats (BTO, SBF, OBF); after May 2023 Sales launch
Valid HDB HFE letter
Another thing to note: it takes 21 working days for you to receive the outcome of your HDB HLE letter. HDB has given a heads-up that the processing time could be longer during peak periods (i.e. before and during the month of a BTO launch). So don’t leave the HFE letter application to the last minute!
You can submit your particulars for the preliminary HFE check to obtain your HFE letter via the HDB Flat Portal.
2. Apply for a Unit During the HDB Sale of Balance Flats Exercise
From the HFE letter, you’ll know how much you can loan and the grants available to you. Then, you can work backwards to figure out what type of housing you can afford.
Once HDB announces the sale of unsold flats, you can proceed to submit an online application within the application period for your ideal flat. This is provided you meet all the eligibility criteria.
Each launch is about a week long, so you do have some time to make a decision about the flats. So unlike the OBF application, there’s no need to rush and apply during the May 2023 SBF launch.
3. Await HDB SBF Results
Following this, if your application is successful, you will be shortlisted via a computer ballot. The HDB SBF results are usually announced in about one and a half months.
If luck is on your side and you have a short queue number, then your chances of getting the flat you really want are much higher. Check out the SBF flat distribution for non-seniors in mature and non-mature estates on the HDB website to better understand your chances.
4. Book Your Flat With HDB and Get Your Finances in Order
Congratulations if you’re one of the lucky ones who got an SBF flat! You will then be invited to book your flat according to your allocated queue number and unit availability. This is when you will also need to pay the Option fee: it’s $1,000 for a 3-room flat, and $2,000 for a 4-room and bigger flat. If you are buying a 2-room Flexi flat, the option fee is $500.
You’ll be shown what’s available to you when you go to the HDB Hub for your appointment, and if you like what’s available, you can make the booking on the spot.
Also, you’ll now want to get your finances to prepare for the flat purchase. If you’re taking out a bank loan or one from a participating FI, this is when you should request a Letter of Offer (LO). You need the LO to confirm your housing loan.
5. Sign the Agreement for Lease and/or Collect Your Keys and Make the Downpayment
After you have booked your flat, you will be asked to sign the Agreement for Lease within nine months. Then you will collect your keys nearer to when your flat is built.
For flats that are already built, you can collect the keys and sign the Agreement for lease within nine months of booking your flat.
When you sign the Agreement for Lease, you will have to pay the downpayment. Depending on how you are choosing to finance your HDB flat and how much your flat costs, this amount will vary.
For those eligible for and opting for the Staggered Downpayment Scheme, you will pay your downpayment in two parts: the first when you sign the Agreement for Lease, the second when you collect the keys to your flat.
Alternatives to the HDB Sale of Balance Flats 2023 Exercise
As you can see, the HDB SBF exercise offers the attractive prospect of getting a brand-new HDB flat, but with shorter waiting times than an HDB BTO flat. But the chances of a successful application can be slim.
Alternatively, you can take a look at HDB resale flats if you need a home in a hurry. For those who are particular about wanting an HDB resale flat with a long lease, check out this list of freshly MOP-ed HDB resale flats in Singapore to expect in 2023/2024.
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