I'm a Student - How Do I Apply For a BTO Flat?

By Joanne Poh, 10 May 2018 34171

So you haven’t graduated yet, but you’ve already found your life partner and you would like to start balloting for a Build-to-Order (BTO) flat as soon as possible. After all, it will be some years before your flat is built, so you want to get a head start.
The BTO process allocates new HDB flats to applicants via a lottery process. When they are launched, the flats have not been built yet. Successful applicants generally wait 2.5 to 4 years before their flats are ready.
As a student, the biggest challenge you’ll face in the balloting process is not having a full-time income. This means that the HDB won’t be able to calculate the grant amounts you’re eligible for. It also means you might have trouble getting a home loan, as you won’t be able to show proof of income to the lender.
From May 2018, the HDB will allow assessment of income for housing loans and grants to be deferred to just before the couple collects their keys. For students, this means that there is no better time to ballot than the present.
Here are the steps you must take to get your BTO flat.

Check sales launches to find a flat you like

Your first step will be to identify sales launches you might be interested in balloting for. A list of BTO 2018 sales launches is published on the HDB website. As a student, you qualify for two-room flexi and larger flats.
Most sales launches are for HDB BTO flats. However, you will occasionally see Sale of Balance Flats or Re-Offer of Balance Flats. These are unsold flats from previous sales launches that have been returned to the HDB. They are usually further along in the construction process, with some having already been built.
Balloting for and being allocated a Sale of Balance Flat will enable you to collect your keys sooner; however, they are also generally more expensive and your chances of being allocated a good unit are lower.
Before balloting for a flat in a development that’s caught your eye, check the estimated date of vacant possession to know when you and your fiancé(e) need to register your marriage.
Also ensure that you only ballot for a flat size you can afford. As a student, you might not be sure of your future income, thus you want to exercise caution and ensure you don’t overstretch yourself financially.
At the same time, consider your future planning needs. If you plan to have children, you will need a certain amount of space.

Check your eligibility for the flat and estimated grant amount

Before you can ballot for a flat, you will first have to satisfy the HDB’s eligibility requirements. You can check your eligibility here.
You must be at least 21 and, unless you are an orphan or over the age of 35, your only option will be to apply under the Fiancé/Fiancée Scheme. In addition, one of you must be a Singapore Citizen, while the other must be either a citizen or PR.
If both you and your partner are full-time students, you will run into issues when asked to submit income documents for calculation of grants. Only part-time students with full-time jobs can receive grants based on their income, and you’re required to submit evidence of at least 12 months’ of income, although HDB sometimes accepts fewer.
However, from May 2018, you can opt to defer income assessment to when you collect your keys.
It’s a good idea to estimate the amount of grants you think you’ll qualify for. If you don’t have a full-time income right now, you will not qualify for any grants until your income is eventually assessed. Here are the grants you might qualify for depending on your future income:
- Additional CPF Housing Grant - $5,000 (for average gross monthly household income of $4,501 to $5,000) to $40,000 (for average gross monthly household income of $1,500 or less)
- Special CPF Housing Grant – $5,000 (for average gross monthly household income of $6,001 to $6,500) to $20,000 (for average gross monthly household income of $1,500 or less)
Do note that all grants will have to be paid back into your CPF account with interest when you sell your flat.

Ballot for the flat online

When you’ve found the right sales launch, it’s time to take the plunge and ballot for a flat. This can be done on the HDB InfoWEB site.
You will be charged a $10 fee each time you ballot for a flat, whether or not you are successful. This fee can be paid by credit or debit card.
You can log into the My HDBPage at any time to view all communications and transactions with the HDB.

Book a flat and pay option fee

After balloting, you will be allocated a queue number based on the luck of the draw. The queue number will determine the order in which you may select a unit vis-a-vis the other applicants. There are more queue numbers being allocated than available units, so a high queue number could mean you will not be able to select a flat, or will not get a choice unit.
When you head down to the HDB to book a flat, you will have to pay the option fee on the spot.
The option fee is as follows:
- $500 for 2-room flexi flat
- $1,000 for 3-room flat
- $2,000 for 4/5-room flat and EC
Payment of the option fee can only be made by NETS, so ensure that your daily transaction limit is not below the option fee amount before you attend your flat booking appointment.

Apply for a loan

This step can be completed before or after booking a flat. If you have a low enough queue number and are certain you will be booking a flat, it’s a good idea to make your loan arrangements as early as possible.
You have two options: an HDB loan or bank loan.
If you plan to apply for an HDB loan, you must produce a valid student pass. Note that HDB might approve or reject your application. If you are rejected, you can appeal and furnish HDB with information on your studies and any pending job offers. If you are a scholar who has a bond to be served at the end of your studies, or if you already have a confirmed job offer, your chances of success are much higher.
Once your application for an HDB loan is successful, you will receive a HDB Loan Eligibility (HLE) Letter.
From May 2018, BTO applicants can opt to defer income assessment for their HDB loan to when their keys are ready for collection.
As for bank loans, it is going to be difficult for you to get one as a student with no income, unless your parents are willing to stand in as co-applicants. If you successfully obtain a bank loan, the bank will issue an Approval-in-Principle (if you have not yet booked your flat) or a Letter of Offer (if you have already booked a flat).

Sign Lease Agreement and make downpayment

After booking a flat, you will need to sign your Agreement for Lease at the HDB by a certain date and make your downpayment at the same time. If you will be taking out a loan, you will also need to submit your HDB Loan Eligibility Letter or bank’s Letter of Offer.
Here are the downpayment sums you will need to pay:
- If you are taking out an HDB loan, downpayment is 10%.
- If you are taking out a bank loan, it is 20%, with at least 5% to be paid in cash.
- If at least one applicant is under 30, you are eligible for the Staggered Downpayment Scheme, which means you only need to pay 5% downpayment at this stage. The balance is to be paid upon collection of keys.
If you are eligible for the Staggered Downpayment Scheme, you will make your downpayment in the following manner:
Taking HDB loan / not taking any loan Taking bank loan
Loan ceiling of 80% Loan ceiling of 60% or 40%
Downpayment 10% 20% 20%
1st payment:
Signing of Agreement for Lease
5% using CPF Ordinary Account savings of cash -5% in cash
- 5% using CPF Ordinary Account savings or cash
10% in cash
2nd payment
Collection of keys
5% using CPF Ordinary Account savings or cash 10% using CPF Ordinary Account savings or cash 10% using CPF Ordinary Account savings or cash

There are also some payments you will have to make at this time, including legal fees, stamp duty and other administrative charges including caveat fees and registration fees. To check your stamp duty liabilities, use IRAS’s stamp duty calculators here. Your lawyer may collect these fees from you at this stage, or later on.

Collect your keys

When your flat is finally ready for habitation, you will be notified by the HDB to collect your keys.
It you have not gotten married yet, you will need to do so as soon as possible. Your marriage certificate must be submitted to the HDB:
- When you collect your keys if you applied for the Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG) or Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG)
- Within 3 months of collecting your keys if you did not apply for the AHG or SHG
At this point, you will have to pay the balance of the purchase price of the flat. Your home loan will be disbursed, and you will begin your home loan repayments soon after.
This is also the time when you will pay your survey fees and your premiums under the CPF Home Protection Scheme if you are using your CPF funds to pay for your home loan instalments.
Now, all that’s left to do is to transform your flat into your dream home.
Here is a rough timeline of the BTO process. Note that time periods may vary: 
Day 0 – ballot for BTO flat ($10 admin fee)
Month 1.5 – Receive outcome of ballot
Month 2 – Book a flat and pay option fee ($500 to $2,000)
Month 6 – Sign Lease Agreement and make downpayment (10% to 20%), pay legal fees and stamp duty
Year 3 to 4 – Collect keys, pay survey fees and premiums