Strong demand for re-offered balance flats

Aug 9, 2017

First exercise oversubscribed by four times; units even more popular than latest BTO flats

Tan Tam Mei

There were more than four interested buyers for every unsold flat offered by the Housing Board (HDB) in its inaugural Re-offer of Balance Flats (ROF) exercise.

These flats, which included units in popular mature estates, drew even more interest than those offered at HDB's third Build-To-Order (BTO) launch this year. The ROF and BTO units were both made available on Aug 1.

Property experts said the ROF flats proved popular because they are near completion or in move-in condition. The flats are pooled from unsold units in the November 2016 Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercise.

ZACD Group head of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak said: "As time goes on, it gets easier to find takers for units that are ready or almost in move-in condition as buyers won't have to wait too long."

The shorter wait mitigates negative attributes, like unit size or flats being located on lower floors- possible reasons why they were unsold in the first place, said Mr Mak.

The ROF exercise closed yesterday with 6,102 applicants vying for 1,394 flats. In a statement on Aug 1, HDB said about 71 per cent of ROF flats were completed, and 393 units were in mature estates such as Toa Payoh and Queenstown. The BTO launch, which closed on Monday, had an application rate of 1.7 with 6,654 applicants for 3,897 new flats.

"One of the complaints we get is that BTO applicants wait quite awhile to get their flats, so typically units from SBF and now ROF are more popular," said Mr Mak.

ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim said buyers who secure a four-room flat in Queenstown in the ROF exercise can save up to $180,000 compared with purchasing one in the open market.

Unlike the existing SBF exercise, the ROF groups all available balance flats in a common pool. Home buyers do not have to indicate their preferred flat type and estate in their applications. Based on their balloted queue numbers, buyers will be able to book a flat - subject to availability and the ethnic quota - when their turn for selection is due.

Of the ROF applicants, 2,868 were first-time applicants and 2,408 were applying for the second time. Others included the elderly who are eligible to buy a two-room flexi flat - a scheme that affords them a flexible lease.

At least 95 per cent of the ROF supply was set aside for first-timer families, and up to 5 per cent for second-timers.

HDB said ROF exercises will be held twice yearly, in February and August. Applicants in the recent ROF exercise will be informed of the outcome later this month.

In the August 2017 BTO exercise, HDB launched units at three projects in Bukit Batok and Sengkang. In the upcoming November 2017 BTO exercise, HDB will offer about 4,800 flats in Geylang, Punggol, Sengkang and Tampines, concurrently with an SBF exercise. This brings the total BTO supply this year to around 17,500 units.