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Choosing a Good BTO Unit: Have You Checked These 5 Essential Things?

From sun direction to nearby amenities.

After a few anxious weeks (or months!) of waiting, you’ve finally got your BTO queue number! Phew, that’s one step down.

Next comes picking a unit… but you might be stumped at how to pick one: is it all about avoiding the glaring sun? Or making sure you snag a high-level unit for the views and fewer pests?

You can put your worries to ease because we’ve broken down the most important considerations so you know what to look out for when you’re picking your unit!

1. Unit orientation

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Source: Unsplash

It’s hard enough handling the blazing sun when you’re out and about – now imagine having to deal with that in your own home!

While you can’t do anything about where the sun sets, you can look out for a home orientation that helps you avoid the worst of the afternoon heat.

While we know the sun sets in the West, do you know that its trajectory varies over the year?

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Source: Unsplash

From March to September, the afternoon sun sets in the North-West direction; from October to February, it sets in the South-West direction.

(If you’re wondering about its trajectory at your estate, you can use this interactive SunCalc to check.)

Because of this, the sun’s rays will hit West-facing stacks/units for most of the day – needless to say, most Singaporeans would avoid such flats to avoid the baking heat in their homes.

Pros and cons of a sun-facing unit

Unit orientationProsCons
If your unit receives the sun (typically East, West direction)
  • Abundant natural light streaming in most of the day
  • Good for drying laundry and gardening
  • Warmer nights if your unit faces the West
  • Constant exposure to direct sunlight may cause discolouration in furniture and flooring over time
  • May have higher electrical bills with increased use of the fan/aircon, if unit has poor ventilation
If your unit is shaded from the sun (typically North, South direction)
  • More cooling; North-South facing units get no direct sun throughout the year
  • South-East facing units get good morning light
  • Units will get partial or direct sunlight at different times of the year, depending on the sun’s trajectory
  • If the unit is totally shaded from the sun for most of the day, it might encourage mould growth
  • Difficult to dry laundry if there is little sun
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Taking note of the wind direction and maximising airflow is also important, since it helps to alleviate the heat and keep your house well-ventilated.

As a rough gauge, from April to October, the wind blows from South to North while from November to March, it blows from North to South.

To give an example, the wind blows in from the North in South-West facing units during hotter months, so hot air is not trapped inside and the house remains cool.

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Sun trajectory over the year (indicated by yellow arrows) and wind direction for a North-facing unit.

If you want a unit that gets no direct sun, pick a North- or South-facing unit. Thanks to the wind mainly blowing in from the North and South, it is also well-ventilated and cooling throughout the year.

If you do end up with a sun-facing unit, you can always block out the heat with solar films and blackout curtains.

2. Unit location

You’ve probably heard by word-of-mouth that you should avoid low-level units at all costs, and corridor units too if you can help it. Keep reading to find out why (and why that’s not always the case!).

a) High-level vs low-level

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If you’ve got a queue number that’s pretty far down the line, it’s likely that the higher level units will already be snapped up. But don’t fret – as with all things, there are pros and cons to both high- and low-level units.

Unit typeProsCons
High-level units
  • Well-ventilated and have fewer pests
  • Homeowners usually enjoy unblocked views and good natural light
  • Better resale value
  • Priced higher than low-level units
  • If facing major intersections/roads, it will be noisy as sound can travel upwards; can also get very dusty, requiring more frequent maintenance
Low-level units
  • Priced more affordably than high-level units
  • Less dependent on the lift – you might find the stairs more attractive
  • Noisier than high-level units
  • Likely to have more pests and insects
  • Less natural light than higher floors, especially if blocked by trees and other buildings

b) Corridor vs corner units

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Source: Unsplash

For maximum privacy, corner units are the best option – they also enjoy higher resale value since they’re limited.

While you won’t find corridor-facing windows in recent and upcoming BTO launches, having your main entrance along the common corridor means strangers can still take a peek when the door is open.

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Example of 12-storey floor plan at Woodlands South Plains with bends and corners

Source: BTOHQ

Do take a look at the storey floor plan in your project brochure as the layouts can vary, with a lot more bends and corners rather than the traditional long stretches of corridors.

The corner unit is the furthest from the lift lobby (and the rubbish chute if you’re keen to avoid the pests and smells), and typically has a small ‘private’ space.

While you’ll have to walk more to get to your unit (and to the chute), it’s definitely a small price to pay for the privacy you’ll get in return. More on that next.

3. Privacy and the view

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Others getting an eyeful of your private haven is definitely not what you’d want after settling in, so besides opting for a unit far from the lift lobby and the rubbish chute, make sure you pick a stack that isn’t very close to another one.

Imagine heading to the service yard and realising your neighbours can see right into your kitchen… and you, into theirs!

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Stacks 667 and 669 at Block 338A of Yishun Boardwalk are facing each other – estimating according to the legend, the distance between the service yards is only about 10m.

Source: BTOHQ

You can check for this in the BTO estate’s site plan, as well as the URA master plan to note other upcoming developments in the area, like parks, malls or new housing estates.

This will also help you determine if you’ll be blessed with an unblocked view.

4. Noise level

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Besides privacy and the view, you can use the site and master plans to check the potential noise level in the area if you simply cannot stand noise.

If your desired unit is close to and facing a Multi-Story Carpark (MSCP), you enjoy convenience as a motorist – but at the potential cost of light beams shining into your home, the cacophony of car alarms going off and vehicle doors slamming shut.

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The downsides to living close to a MSCP, as told by HardwareZone forum members

Similarly, if your unit is facing the main road or a major intersection, expect noise (and air pollution) from the vehicles passing by, although you might enjoy greater accessibility to amenities like public transport.

You should also look out for other common areas in the vicinity like multi-purpose halls and mid-level (viewing) decks where gatherings are commonly held.

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Source: Unsplash

Playgrounds and schools can be noisy too at certain times of the day – with the latter, you may hear the national anthem in the mornings and kids’ excitement depending on the unit level and proximity.

You can check on places of worship nearby as well if you’re concerned that it might be crowded and noisy during ceremonies.

5. Distance from amenities

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Source: Unsplash

While you might want to distance yourself from some amenities due to the noise, don’t undermine the convenience of having them close – depending on your lifestyle, some of them might be what you’ll need everyday, like an MRT station/bus stop that’s close by, or supermarkets and eateries.

If this is important for you, be sure to check how far your preferred stack is from the amenities both within the estate and in the surrounding area, especially if it’s a bigger estate.

Want to find out what amenities are already available? You can explore current facilities in the estate’s neighbourhood on HDB’s website.

Some bonus tips

Do a site recce

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Source: Unsplash

Since it usually takes from weeks to months between the time you get your queue number and the first appointment with HDB to pick your unit, find a day (or two) to visit the ground where the estate will be built.

That’ll help you figure out the traffic conditions at different times of the day and the sun direction better than Google Street View can.

With all the above tips in mind, like unit orientation and floor level, you’ll also know what to look out for if you decide to head down to the site.

Check the unit layout

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4-room floor plans at Sun Plaza Spring – the position of the household shelter varies, with one in the living room (left) and the other within the kitchen (right).

Source: BTOHQ

While units in the same estate for each room type usually have the same layout, do check the project brochure carefully for any variations.

The positioning of the household shelter or the junior bedroom might be different, for example, which might affect what you have in mind/want to try for your renovation!

Confused about how to read a layout? This handy guide covers everything you need to know!

Weigh all the options for your dream home

Northshore Drive by Ovon Design
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In this first step to one of the biggest investments in your life, take your time and weigh all the possible options so you don’t end up rushing to shortlist units.

At the end of the day, it’s all about what you want for your home, so choose wisely!

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