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8 Things You Can Get With a Resale HDB Flat (But Not BTOs)

The resale flat market is hotter than ever, and here’s why.

Old or young, single or married, almost every Singaporean homeowner will one day stumble upon one particular dilemma: whether to purchase a BTO or a resale HDB flat.

Tampines Street 24 by MET Interior
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Despite (typically) higher costs and shorter lease periods, more homeowners are choosing the latter. But what is it about resale flats that is so appealing to Singaporeans? Here, we take a closer look at the benefits – both in terms of actual features, as well as other homeowner considerations.

Physical features

1. Bigger sizes

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The floorplan of a 5-room resale flat in Kaki Bukit (130 sqm) vs the floorplan of a 5-room BTO flat in Tampines (110 sqm)

Pre-2000, sizes for 5-room flats could surpass 120 sqm, whereas 3-Gen BTO flats today don’t usually go beyond 115 sqm – which is a testament to the fact that homes are getting smaller and smaller these days.

Tampines Avenue 5 by Innerspac
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Also, ‘special’ house types like executive apartments and maisonettes – which boast even more floor space than a regular 5-room resale flat – have long been discontinued. While everyone knows this is done to maximise the number of homes for future developments, no one can deny the appeal of a larger home, especially in space-starved Singapore.

So, really – it’s no wonder that these types of homes are in sky-high demand today!

Explore: 5 Rare HDB Types That are Basically Private Houses

2. The ability to hack your store room to enlarge the space

You’ve definitely heard that hacking your household shelter is illegal, since its reinforced structure is meant to keep you safe in times of war.

resale HDB flat BTOs
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A 5-room resale flat in Kembangan. Note how the indicated store room was not built with reinforced walls.

But did you know that not every house has one? For older resale flats (specifically, those built before new building code regulations took effect in 1996), they either don’t have one at all, or have small ones built without reinforced walls.

For houses that fall into the latter category, what this means is that, yes, you can actually hack the walls of your store room to enlarge the space!

Explore: How to Read and Interpret Any HDB Floor Plan in 5 Minutes

3. The ability to purchase recess areas outside your home (in some cases)

Certain HDB flats come with additional ‘free space’ in front of their unit – but while homeowners tend to use this space as a mini-porch or planter area, it technically is a communal area that doesn’t belong to them exclusively.

Woodlands Street 81 by Aart Boxx Interior
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However, there’s an option to purchase this recess area if your house was built before/in 1996, which you can then feel free to incorporate into your own home.

So far, homeowners have used them as a simple means to expand their living room, or to turn it into a grand (private) walkway, but if you’re lucky enough to secure one, feel free to experiment with the space!

4. Quirky layouts

Browse through brochures for BTO estates, and you’ll realise that BTO flats these days all sport a similar layout – a largely rectangular-shaped space, with bedrooms clustered on one end, and a household shelter situated by the entrance, corridor, or kitchen.

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The layout of a 4-room flat in Bishan

Look through the floorplans of resale flats, however, and you’ll find way more variety. We’re talking fan-shaped spaces, pointed nooks, and even ski-slope ceilings!

While this can make renovation a tad trickier, it does give the home a unique charm – something that’s absent from a regular BTO flat.

Other considerations

5. A shorter waiting time for key collections

Compassvale Crescent by Ethan Interiors
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Here’s probably one of the – if not, the biggest reason – why homeowners are choosing to go with a resale HDB flat.

Excluding renovations, you can move into a resale flat almost immediately after purchasing it (read: by “immediate”, we mean a process of about 6 to 8 weeks), whereas you’d have to wait an average of 4-5 years to collect the keys to your BTO flat. And that’s if there are no construction delays!

6. More choices for estate and unit location

resale HDB flat BTOs
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Source: HDB

By all accounts, choices are limited for BTO flats. For one, your location choices are limited by the developments that are announced. For another, your unit choice will obviously be confined within the estate you balloted for – that means you can’t look at flats in other areas, even in neighbouring BTO estates.

But for resale flats, the (metaphorical) world’s your oyster. You can look at any location you wish, and you can even go deeper and choose a unit based on the tiniest details – like the block number, or its proximity to a famous bak chor mee stall (more on that next).

7. More established amenities around your estate

Brochures for new BTO estates often list the available amenities within an estate – but chances are, they’ll only be ready a few years after the estate is ready.

Conversely, the amenities around resale flats would have been around for a while – particularly if you’re looking at a unit in an older location. Transport hubs will have since been established, and places like supermarkets, hawker centres, and clinics would already be readily available.

8. More financial grants

Lim Liak Street by The Makers Design Studio
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It’s a well-known fact that resale flats are pricier than BTOs, so unsurprisingly, the amount of subsidies you can get from CPF housing grants tend to be higher.

Plus, potential resale flat owners are eligible for one grant that BTO homeowners aren’t: the Proximity Housing Grant (PHG). If your unit of choice falls within 4km of your folks’ home, you can snag an additional $20,000 to alleviate the cost of your home (and the burden on your savings).

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