Buying a HDB Flat for resale in Singapore | Information

Living in Singapore, we will at some point in our lives have to buy a roof over our heads. At which point, there are many things that one will have to consider. Firstly, do they want to buy a HDB Apartment or a Private property. If they are to consider a HDB Apartment, will they prefer a Built to Order Flat or a Resale Flat. There are many who will go the well trodden path of balloting for a BTO flat. However, the waiting time is often long and the process can be arduous. While there are perks to buying resale, the problem for first time buyers is that the entire resale process can be a little daunting. So we have decided to write a post about the process of getting a resale flat.


Having a roof over one’s head is not an investment. There have been rife rumours or hearsay about how your first property can be an investment. In fact, some people do claim that it does not matter what price you buy a HDB apartment at as the price will only go up. Others seem to believe that it is possible to eventually sell your HDB flat and buy two private condos, one for stay and the other for rent. We hope to express our opinion that your first hdb flat which you have bought for stay is not an investment as it does not generate stable cash flow returns for you. Rather, it is a liability that you are funding from your monthly CPF contributions.

Some may argue that looking at the recurring cash flows does not include the high possibility of strong capital gains after the 5 year minimum occupancy period (MOP). While that is a theoretical possibility it is becoming increasingly improbable.

Advantages of buying resale

There are many reasons to buy resale. Below are just a few

  • Short waiting time
    • Resale flats have a shorter waiting time as compared to BTO flats. This is because they only start tendering for a contractor to build the flats after 70% of the flats have been booked. Given that it takes at least 2-3 years to build the apartments, families who successfully balloted for the flats will have to wait long for their flats. In comparison, those who buy resale will be able to get their keys in 3-6 months.
  • Mature Estate
    • Resale flats are typically in mature estates and thus have more supportive services (i.e. clinics, coffee shops)
    • It is important to consider that the demographics of BTO estates is mainly young families. This means that there may be an overwhelming demand for services such as childcare.
  • Larger Apartments
    • Older apartments tend to be larger. 5 Room flats built in the 1980s are about 120k sqm whereas those which are built in the 2000s are slightly smaller at 110k sqm. Further, there are not many 5 room flats available in the new BTOs as most of the flat offerings are either 3 room or 4 rooms.
  • Save on Renovation Cost
    •  If you have no serious preference for renovation and the seller has just renovated the apartment 5 years ago, then you stand to gain from whatever inbuilt furnishings that the seller is leaving behind along with the property.

Disadvantages of buying resale

However, there are some disadvantages to buying into Resale Flats

  • Shorter lease
    • All HDB flats are with 99 year leases. A resale flat will tend to have a shorter lease than a BTO Flat, which has a fresh 99 year lease. This does not quite matter for flats that are up for sale after the initial MOP Period. However, it can be an issue for older mature flats.
  • Cash over Valuation
    • Resale Flats in mature estates can be expensive. If the previous owner has a high asking price, it may involve a significant cash over valuation.  
  • Seller’s Motivation
    • With a BTO, there is no need to concern yourself with the motivation of the seller. However, it is hard to discern if the seller of a resale flat is selling because of financial difficulties. At times, that may mean that debtors will continue to come to your new apartment demanding payment.
  • Renovation Cost
    • If you do not like the condition of a resale flat, renovating it can be very costly especially when hacking of tiles is involved. They may even need to change the pipes and electrical wirings.
  • Property Agents
    • As a first time buyer, you are faced with serious information asymmetry because the property agent is bound to know more than you. Hence you need to be especially careful when buying resale apartments.


Buying a Resale HDB flat is not a well trodden path. However, it can have some real benefits if you manage the risk well.