Quick Guide for First-time Home Buyers of BTO HDB Flats

Are you interested in buying a BTO flat, but not sure how to go about doing it? Is this your first time attempting to apply for it? Fret not! We have summarized and created a quick guide for you; ranging from a step-by-step of the procedure for you, as well as the available schemes.

Exterior image of Ecopolitan building in Singapore

Ecopolitan. Picture: iProperty

Background of the BTO system

Firstly, we will provide a little bit of background on what the BTO system is about. The Built-To-Order (BTO) system was introduced by the Housing Development Board (HDB) on 15 April 2001 as an alternative mode to sell its new flats at a subsidized cost for Singapore citizens, to replace the previous Registration for Flats System (RFS).

Under the previous RFS, buyers were only allowed to select the broad geographical zone of their desired flat location, as the exact location and cost of the flat were only made known after buyers were invited to select their flats.

As such, buyers were unable to predict the exact completion date for their flats, resulting in the problem of some buyers being unable to pay the down payment in the event that their flats were completed earlier than anticipated. In addition, some buyers were also unhappy with the final location of their flat given.

Hence, the BTO system addressed these issues by letting buyers know upfront when their down-payment was expected and providing them with the flexibility to select the location and type of flat desired.

Process for buying a BTO flat

Under the BTO system, buyers have the option of choosing 2-room Flexi, 3-, 4-, 5-room flats, and 3Gen flats. After applying for their preferred flat and town, a ballot will be conducted to determine whether their flat application is successful. The process of obtaining a BTO flat can be summarised as follows:

1. The announcement of the flat sales launch

For BTOs, launches are done on a quarterly basis. As such, keep a lookout for what will be launched and if it suits your preferences

2. Check for eligibility

This should be done while awaiting and keeping a lookout for the BTO flat sales launches Also, for application periods, you can do it via HDB’s website (www.hdb.gov.sg)

You should be checking your eligibility for:

  • Meeting the criterion for the intended BTO flat
  • HDB or bank loans
  • Whether you have the finances

3. Submit the application for your BTO flat

Do submit your application during the 1 week application period when it opens via the following platforms:

  • hdb.gov.sg
  • HDB Hub (walk-in)
  • Any HDB Branches (walk-in)

Your application will then be sent for balloting.

4. Outcome of Ballot

Results of the ballot will be known about 1.5 months after the application period closes

5. Booking a flat

Brown Building HDB in Punggol singapore.

Punggol Walk. Picture: iProperty

This will occur 1 to 2 weeks from the release of the ballot results, depending on your queue position. At this point, you will be invited for an appoint to book a flat.
However, if you decide to take the HDB Loan, you will need a valid HLE (HDB Loan Eligibility) letter.

6. Signing Agreement for Lease

Upon the previous step, HDB will provide a time period within 4 months for this.

In the signing of the agreement of the lease, it is important to note that if you are taking a loan, you need to submit either one of the following:

  • A valid HLE Letter (for HDB loan)
  • A Letter of Offer (for a bank loan)

7. Key Collection

In about 3 years’ time, the BTO flat will be ready for occupation

As such, the process above is the general procedure of what goes on for first-time homebuyers of BTO flats. Next, we will be sharing with you what are the available schemes for first-time BTO flat buyers.

It is imperative to note that for first-timer applicants, there lie two main types of schemes to assist them: privileges and grants. These are utilized concurrently to ensure not only the increased success rate for application in terms of privileges but also to ease the affordability in purchasing the intended BTO flat.

RelatedSave $400 with your own BTO Defect checking


Under the BTO system, HDB will allocate a higher proportion of flats for first-timer applicants, while unsuccessful applicants with two or more application will be given additional ballot slots to increase their chances of obtaining a flat.

A higher proportion of flat supply.

More ballot chances.

Additional ballot chances for unsuccessful attempts.

May be eligible for Staggering Downpayment scheme

95% of flat supply is set aside for first-timer families during the initial launch period (1 month) 70% of flat supply is set aside for first-timer families during the initial launch period (1 month)

Furthermore, in order to ensure a more fair allocation of flat units to buyers of different profiles, HDB has introduced priority schemes to increase the chances of certain profile groups to obtain a flat, as depicted below:

Priority Scheme Available for 
Parenthood Priority Scheme (PPS)  Yes  No  No
Multi-Generation Priority Scheme (MGPS) Yes  No  No
Married Child Priority Scheme (MCPS)  Yes  Yes  No
Third Child Priority Scheme (TCPS)  Yes  Yes  No
Assistance Scheme for Second-Timers (Divorced/Widowed parents) (ASSIST)  Yes  No  No
Tenants’ Priority Scheme (TPS)  Yes  No  No
Senior Priority Scheme (SPS)  Yes  No  No
 *The DBSS developer will only make known the flat quota during the initial project launch and has flexibility in how it administers the priority schemes. Please check with the developer for more details.

It is important to note that buyers are able to obtain up to 2 priority schemes from the list above. However, of course, applications will be reviewed to verify your eligibility for the applied schemes. A further elaboration on the details of each scheme can be further found on the HDB website.

RelatedSingles attain more success at securing new BTO flats


HDB currently provides many grants to mitigate the financial burdens of purchasing a flat in Singapore. The following section includes the existing Central Provident Fund (CPF) grants available for different housing types, subjected to eligibility of individuals:

Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG) and Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG)

Under this grant, the Central Provident Fund (CPF) offers grants to various individuals such as:

  • First-timer applicants
  • Second-timer applicants
  • First-timer and second – timer couple applicants
  • Non-citizen spouse scheme
  • Single Singapore citizen scheme
  • Joint singles scheme or orphans scheme

However, in determining the amount of grants the government would provide, this would be done according to their profile such as age, income, marital status, citizenship, the frequency of application, and others depending on the criteria for the respective aforesaid grants.

CPF Housing grants for DBSS

Furthermore, the CPF Board also provides grants for BTO flats under the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS), which includes:

  1. Family Grant*
  2. Half-Housing Grant*
  3. Singles Grant
  4. Additional Housing Grant (AHG) for Family
  5. AHG for Singles
  6. Proximity Housing Grant

* These 2 grants also apply to Executive Condominiums, another type of housing under the BTO System.

Other Payment Schemes

Finally, HDB has also implemented several payment schemes to assist buyers to purchase their flats within their means/comfortably. The available schemes are as follows:

Staggered down payment scheme

Buyers can pay their down payments in 2 installments – when the Agreement for Lease is signed and when the key for the new flat is collected. The table below indicates the phases for the payment with respect to taking either a housing loan from the bank, HDB or if you are not taking any loans at all:

Picture: Redbrick

Temporary loan scheme

Buyers can make use of their sales proceeds from their existing flat to pay off this loan. This will exempt them from taking on a long-term mortgage loan, as this loan will be redeemed with the net proceeds from the sale of their existing flat. Should the temporary loan amount be insufficient to cover the new flat cost, buyers have to top-up the shortfall in cash within a stipulated period.

Fresh start housing scheme (Fresh Start)

This scheme aims to help second-timer families with young children, who are currently living in public rental flats. It assists them in owning a 2-room Flexi flat by integrating financial assistance with personal responsibility and social support.

All in all, the BTO system aims to provide sufficient housing for the public, and also provide fair opportunities for all eligible applicants to purchase a flat in Singapore, especially so for first-time buyers. Nevertheless, it is important to ensure that you check that you meet the eligibility requirements for application for your new BTO HDB flat. Make sure you have the finances to sustain the payments required upon successful acquisition of your new home.

Article by Amanda Ng. This post was originally published on Redbrick Mortgage Advisory.