5 Rare HDB Types That are Basically Private Houses
Nothing basic or standard about these houses!
(This article was first published on 6 June 2017)
Urban lofts or SOHOs, tropical bungalows or ritzy penthouses? If an expensive condo or private property comes to mind – well, we’re here to turn those thoughts on their heads and towards the humble HDB.
More than just a developer of cookie cutter BTOs, HDB has also been responsible for some of the most unique housing spaces in Singapore over the years. And you’d be surprised; from hipster cool to the extremely spacious, these rare HDB flats below can easily pass off as fancy condo/landed developments – without the hefty price tag.
1. HDB Terrace Houses
Double storeys, front porches, and a sloped roof; all features of a typical terrace home, except that these actually have HDB block numbers on them! Developed by SIT (Singapore Improvement Trust, a predecessor of HDB), these landed-looking spaces were constructed around the Queenstown, Whampoa and Jalan Bahagia areas in the 1960s.
Perhaps realising that it wouldn’t be feasible with Singapore’s land constraints, HDB hasn’t been building any more of these since. So, snagging one is pretty much hitting the jackpot – besides a limited supply, a HDB terrace is significantly cheaper than similar landed properties for the same size.
When this article was first written in 2017, they were listed at prices of $600,000 onwards – but in recent years, they’ve been seen on multiple property listings at just under a million dollars. One of these HDB terraces was even sold for $1.26mil in 2021
A Peek Into An HDB Terrace Home
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Hurtle back in time with this eclectic, retro-themed home! Complete with teak furniture, ventilation blocks, and patterned tiles, this quirky space puts a contemporary twist on the colonial houses of old.
With its access to lush greenery and simple furniture, the outdoor porch looks just like something from a kampung. It really is hard to believe that this is an actual HDB!
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2. HDB Loft Units
For all that private developers have been harking on about SOHOs and lofts, HDB has jumped in on the bandwagon offering their own, more affordable versions. Seen in recent developments such as SkyTerrace@Dawson and Treelodge@Punggol, these HDB loft units sometimes double as multi-generation houses, depending on its size.
Along with the main residence, some flats come attached with a studio apartment, on the second level, which could be used as a space for the parents/in-laws. Talk about getting the loft and townhouse treatment without getting a fancy condo!
Nevertheless, HDB loft units do come at a premium – as of 2022, you’ll be lucky to find one at $900,000 or less.
A Peek Into HDB Loft Units
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Looking like a penthouse more than an HDB flat, lofty full length windows and ceiling heights add instant luxury to this neat space. Its open-plan living and kitchen areas help to maximise the home’s smaller square footage.
Meanwhile, the rest of the rooms are equally space-saving and functional; playing on the flat’s Scandinavian theme, concealed doorways and hidden cubbyhole shelving bring a hint of mystery (and practicality).
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It’s hard to believe this impressive, towering space, complete with huge windows and an extensive built-in loft space is all part of an HDB flat! Fun times abound, as the apartment unfolds itself in different styles in different areas.
The striking glass staircase is decidedly futuristic, the master bedroom classy with a few classic touches; the study/gaming space stays laid-back with cosy bean bags and unfussy furnishings.
3. Jumbo HDB Flats
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Call it a happy accident or beautiful disaster; in the 1990s, when many 3 and 4-room flats went unsold in Woodlands and Yishun, HDB decided to combine unoccupied, adjacent units to form jumbo flats!
With some as big as 192 sqm, it’s no surprise that these flats can go from $600,000 all the way to over a million dollars. Of course, with only 2,900 units in Singapore (and an ever-increasing demand for a bigger home), you can expect these prices to keep increasing.
A Peek Into Jumbo HDB Flats
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The best part about having a spacious jumbo flat? Having enough room to do whatever you want.
Blending multiple styles (like modern, Scandinavian, and contemporary), this eclectic jumbo flat in Woodlands brings the best in one conjoined space. While each room seems like a disparate style from the other, that’s exactly what makes it so charming.
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This jumbo flat in Yishun is the epitome of a clean, uncluttered home. While it sports a mostly white theme, the potted plants, wood accents, and gold touches all contribute to this expansive home’s visual appeal.
Minimal, uncluttered furniture with a ton of smart storage shelving and features further enhance this home’s clean, relaxing rep.
4. HDB Penthouse Maisonettes
We’ve all heard of maisonettes, but guess what? Forget expensive condominium penthouses – you can live the literal ‘high life’ with HDB’s very own ‘penthouse’ maisonettes!
Developed in the 1990s, these top-level humongous apartments commonly found in Bishan, Pasir Ris or Hougang can go up to 215 sqm, and come with a sky garden/balcony that provides an unprecedented view of the city.
While they may be more affordable than condo penthouses, they still don’t come cheap, with prices averaging at over a million dollars.
A Peek Into a 'Penthouse' Maisonette
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One glance at the balcony of this ‘penthouse’ maisonette in Pasir Ris, and you can tell that that’s no ordinary maisonette.
With a sky-high ceiling and full length windows, natural light pours into this cosy home uninterrupted, keeping things bright and airy.
Plus, the combination of the ever-loved white-and-wood theme and organic accents from the plants and rattan furniture makes the place seem like a Bali resort!
5. Post-War SIT Flats
Besides being located in Singapore’s ultimate hipster enclave, the unique, Bauhaus style of these old-school HDBs in Tiong Bahru exude a vintage charm that’s unlike any typical flat/condo.
Built by the SIT in 1948 to 1951, only a few select blocks are under the public housing scheme. The rest, which consist of 1930s pre-war flats, are privatised.
Good luck snagging one – despite their 99-year lease closing in, there’s still strong interest and flats usually range around $600,000 - $700,000. But don’t expect this price to remain as it is – in 2020, one of these post-war flats was sold for a whopping $1.1 million dollars!
A Peek Into Post-War SIT Flats
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Keeping most of the home’s original features (like the slatted windows and panelled doors), this post-war SIT flat in Moh Guan is the perfect blend of old and new.
Though this unit came with a number of tricky structural beams, they were all concealed with wood-look laminates and cleverly-designed carpentry that ensures a seamless look.
While most of the flat’s original features were left intact, this post-war flat in Tiong Bahru puts a fresh spin on the retro look.
Here you’ll find funky terrazzo floors, transom windows, and minimal furnishings, all of which contribute to a bright, airy look.
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