TWO GOOD TO BE TRUE
The relaxation of HDB rules has allowed singles to apply for new two- room Flexi flats since 2013. Find out how this has led to more diverse buyers, including young professionals seeking a debt- free lifestyle.
Once stereotyped to be the home of retirees and less well-off families, two-room flats have been gaining popularity in recent years among singles. This growing trend rode on the back of the government’s relaxed rules since July 2013 to allow singles to purchase new two-room Flexi Build-To-Order (BTO) flats from the Housing Board. Previously, they could only buy flats from the more expensive resale market, though they were not restricted to the flat type. In 2016, new two-room flats were so well received among singles aged between 35 and 54, that 6.6 singles vied for every flat available for booking. In comparison, the total application rate for families, the elderly and singles, was only 2.7 per flat. This resulted in many single applicants having “to try several times before they are successful”, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong to TheStraits
Times. To meet the demand, HDB increased the supply of two-room Flexi units in non-mature estates from 320 units in 2012 to an average of 4,000 units per year between 2014 and 2016. About 40 per cent of these flats are set aside for elderly applicants, including singles, aged 55 and above. The rest is split equally between non-elderly singles and families. Any balance flats that are not taken up by the elderly or families are then offered to singles. If you are considering a two-room Flexi flat, here’s everything you need to know.
How big are two-room flats?
Buyers can choose between the smaller Type 1 (36 sq m, or 387.5sqf) and bigger Type 2 (45 sq m, or 484sqf). Both come with one bedroom, one bathroom, a kitchen and a storeroom-cum-bomb shelter. Buyers can also choose the lease term and fittings.
Who qualifies to buy a two-room Flexi flat?
The same eligibility conditions apply to both 99-lease and Short Lease units. You need to meet the criteria under any of the following: Public, Fiance/fiancee, Orphans, Single Singapore Citizen, Non-Citizen Spouse, or Joint Singles scheme.
For the 99-year lease units, buyers must be at least 21 years old and at least one must be Singaporean, while the other must be Singaporean or a Singapore Permanent Resident, if you’re applying under Public, Fiance/fiancee or Orphans schemes.
Under the Single or Joint Singles (maximum four singles) schemes, you must be Singaporeans and at least 35 years old. For the Short Lease units, the buyer/ buyers/spouse must be at least 55 years old at the time of application, and the lease must be able to last you, your spouse, and all buyers to the age of 95 and above. Any income ceiling or other restrictions? For the 99-year lease units, your average gross household income cannot exceed $6,000; or $12,000 for Short Lease units. You also cannot own other properties overseas or in Singapore and did not sell any of these in the 30 months.
What’s attracting professional singles to buy two-room BTO flats?
The affordable pricing is definitely a big pull factor. In the recent August 2017 launch, prices at Bukit Batok’s Sky Vista and West Scape projects started from just $87,000. At Sengkang’s Rivervale Shores, the two-room Flexi flats start from just $78,000, or $4,000 after deducting grants.
In the upcoming November BTO launch, two-room Flexi flats will be offered in Sengkang and even mature estates like Geylang and Tampines, though prices were not released yet at press time.
Affordability aside, there are other reasons, too. Some pragmatic singletons,
IN 2016, NEW TWO- ROOM FLATS WERE SO WELL RECEIVED AMONG SINGLES AGED BETWEEN 35 AND 54, THAT 6.6 SINGLES VIED FOR EVERY FLAT AVAILABLE FOR BOOKING.
who don’t see themselves getting married and needing to upgrade to a bigger home, just want to buy a roof over their head that will last them for a long time. Hence, it makes sense to buy a BTO flat with a fresh 99-year lease.
While many Singaporeans seem to pursue the ‘bigger is better’ mindset, some are happy to buy a small flat. “It’s easier to maintain, for a bachelor like me,” says Tan Jin Meng, who is waiting for his new BTO flat in the North. On the other hand, former two-room flat owner Elaine Toh found the new two-room Flexi flats too small for her liking. Hence, when her old flat at Tanglin Halt struck the Selective Enbloc Redevelopment Scheme lottery and she had the opportunity to buy a new similar or bigger BTO flat, she chose to upgrade to a three-room flat. “Even then, my old bedroom is bigger than my current master room!” says Elaine, a common complaint among buyers who moved from roomier old flats to the new BTOs. Of course, it helps that she was offered compensation of nearly $300,000 and a $15,000 grant for her old two-room flat. It almost covered the cost of her new three-room flat’s $320,000, in an enviable location at Ghim Moh. Others, like BTO buyer Sheryl Teo, who is waiting for her Bukit Batok two-room Flexi flat that will be ready in 2020, prefer to pay off their home in one fell swoop. “It was my second try balloting for a flat; my first attempt was in Yishun. With hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t get my Yishun choice because it’s quite far from my parents’ place.”
Sheryl, who initially considered buying a resale flat in more popular locations, changed her mind when she viewed a few units. “They were very expensive yet very old, and required major renovation. I’m glad that singletons are now allowed to buy two-room Flexi BTO flats so there are less problems with wear and tear. Most importantly, I can be debt-free!” She has enough CPF funds to fully pay off her $118,000 flat that’s 484sqf.
For now, Sheryl does not intend to move into her BTO flat when it is ready, as she prefers to stay at her parents’ place, which is closer to her office. “Although it is small, it’s my very own place,” says Sheryl, who intends to use it as a weekend home. Unlike some buyers who treat their HDB flats as an investment to flip as soon as they meet the Minimum Occupation Period of five years, she does not intend to sell it. “I’m glad to have a property of my own. In Singapore, a property is always a good investment.” Interestingly, these two-room Flexi flats are attracting a more professional demographic like Sheryl and Jin Meng. Once obsessed with climbing the corporate ladder, 40-something bachelor Jin Meng decided to slow down and gave up his Shenton Way job. He now dabbles with freelance consultancy work. Buying a two-room Flexi flat, especially in a spiffy new estate, meets all his needs without digging deep into his pocket. “I have seen my peers buy luxurious homes with maximum loan terms, which they spend their whole lifetime paying off. That was what I thought I wanted, too, but now, I’d rather be debt-free and enjoy myself, and have the financial flexibility to choose the projects I want.”
Jin Meng and Sheryl represent a new, and diversifying group of two-room Flexi buyers joining the usual low-income families, seniors and lower-income Joint Singles. With 31.6 per cent of our population being single, and a growing ageing population, it is a laudable and, perhaps, necessary move by the government. It helps even the playing field a little for singles who have been sidelined for years as the government focused on families in its HDB policies. The flexible short-term leases also help the elderly who want to downsize and maintain their cash flow by buying a home with enough lease for their needs. It makes for a more interesting mix of residents, too, and promotes a more inclusive and diverse environment. And that can only be a good thing.