Getting the right HDB space you need — 3, 4 or 5 room

Are you poised to take the plunge into Singapore’s public housing market, but are unsure of what kind of HDB flat and how much space you and your family will require? Are you worried over paying too much for space you won’t use in the future, or settling for a flat but subsequently find out that it has become too cramped for your growing family?

Read this informative guide to assist you in choosing which HDB flat is spacious enough to accommodate your current and future lifestyle without breaking your bank account.

Below is a table showing the complete specification of all kinds of HDB flats available, including their sizes, features and latest median resale prices.

 

Unit Category Two-Room Flexi Three-Room Four-Room
Size (sq m) 36 or 45 60 or 65 90
Size (sq ft) 387.5 or 484.4 645.8 or 699.6 968.8
# of Bedrooms 1 2 3
# of Bathrooms 1 2 2
Other Features Kitchen Kitchen Living/ dining area
Storeroom-cum-apartment shelter Living/ dining area Kitchen  
  Common bathroom Common bathroom  
  Service yard Service yard  
  Storeroom-cum-apartment shelter Storeroom-cum-apartment shelter  
Median Resale Prices -1 S$260,000 to S$349,000 S$330,000 to S$870,000

 

Unit Category Five-Room 3Gen Executive Flat
Size (sq m) 110 115 130
Size (sq ft) 1,184 1,237.80 1,399.30
# of Bedrooms 3 4 3
# of Bathrooms 2 3 2
Other Features Living/ dining area Living/ dining area Living area
Kitchen Kitchen Dining area  
Common bathroom Common bathroom Kitchen  
Service yard Service yard Common bathroom  
Storeroom-cum-apartment shelter Storage-cum-apartment shelter Storeroom-cum-apartment shelter  
Median Resale Prices S$393,900 to S$845,000 -2 S$470,000 to S$662,500
Source: HDB. Median resale prices as of Q2 2018.
1. Most towns posted less than 20 resale transactions, meaning the median prices may not be representative.
2. No data available.

 

Singles as well as the elderly who only live with their spouse are may be alright with living in a two-room flexi flat, but those who are just starting to grow their families will prefer to buy larger HDB flats, which will also depend on their salary.

As such, it is paramount to consider your partner’s and your current income and what type of HDB unit fits your household budget, taking into account your monthly expenses.

If you and your spouse are looking to purchase a built-to-order (BTO) flat, kindly consult HDB’s Loan Estimate Enquiry to determine the maximum loan quantum you can get based on your household salary and other financial obligations.

Then using the maximum loan amount you got, consult the Housing Board’s Monthly Instalment Enquiry to estimate how much you need to repay each month for the mortgage or housing loan.

Financial experts caution against loaning too much to the point that your family will struggle to meet its daily necessities just to get a larger HDB flat. You should also set aside ample savings in case you encounter medical emergencies or find yourself out of a job or dire financial straits.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has also capped the Mortgage Servicing Ratio (MSR) for those seeking funding for HDB flats or Executive Condominiums (ECs). For HDB and EC loans granted by commercial banks, the figure is only up to 30 percent, while the rate for mortgages granted by the Housing Board is capped at 35 percent. This means a borrower can only use up to 30 percent or 35 percent of his gross monthly income to repay the monthly instalments of his housing loan.

If you and your spouse are purchasing your first HDB flat, you will qualify for Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG) and Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG) totalling S$80,000, depending on your average household income. Basically, families who earn less are eligible for a higher grant amount. These grants can be used to offset the price of the flat, thereby reducing the amount you need to loan. For more details, please see table below.

 

Average Monthly Household Income* AHG SHG Total
Up to $1,500 40,000 40,000 80,000
$1,501 to 2,000 35,000 40,000 75,000
$2,001 to 2,500 30,000 40,000 70,000
$2,501 to 3,000 25,000 40,000 65,000
$3,001 to 3,500 20,000 40,000 60,000
$3,501 to 4,000 15,000 40,000 55,000
$4,001 to 4,500 10,000 40,000 50,000
$4,501 to 5,000 5,000 40,000 45,000
$5,001 to 5,500 Nil 35,000 35,000
$5,501 to 6,000 Nil 30,000 30,000
$6,001 to 6,500 Nil 25,000 25,000
$6,501 to 7,000 Nil 20,000 20,000
$7,001 to 7,500 Nil 15,000 15,000
$7,501 to 8,000 Nil 10,000 10,000
$8,001 to 8,500 Nil 5,000 5,000
* All working persons’ (occupants and applicants) average income in past 12 months before application
AHG only applies to two-room Flexi or larger flat    
SHG only applies to two-room Flexi, three-room, or four-room flat in non-mature estates

 

Other important factors to consider

If you’ve set your sights on a resale HDB flat, bear in mind that public housing in Singapore constructed in the 90s came with 10 percent greater floor area than those built from the year 2000 onwards. This means, it’s possible to buy a four-roomer on the secondary market with nearly the same space as a five-bedroom unit. And if you are really lucky, you may even chance upon a jumbo flat in Yishun, Woodlands or Jurong East. These are basically two flats – either a three-roomer or four-roomer – that were combined together.

Another important thing to think about is whether your wife will be having children soon or if your parents will be living with you in the future, as both scenarios will require you to have sufficient space to house them.

If you’ve already bought an HDB flat but eventually realise that there’s not enough space for your kids and extended family, selling your current flat and buying a larger unit is not quite as simple. This is because under the five-year Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP) you’re prohibited from divesting your current flat. You’re also not permitted to purchase another home, whether it is an HDB unit or a private condo.

Nevertheless, if there’s a vacant flat next to your unit, you can ask the Housing Board if your existing home can be combined with the adjacent flat via the Conversion Scheme. For more details, please check this HDB webpage.

Aside from the MOP, another issue is the Resale Levy, an amount you need to pay if you’re buying a second subsidised home from the Housing Board. The objective of this charge is to ensure an equitable sharing of government subsidies between first-time buyers and second-timers.

Basically, the amount of resale levy that needs to be paid depends on the type of unit sold and the category of housing grant obtained before. This charge ranges from S$15,000 to S$50,000 for household grant recipients. For particulars, please see table below. Given such, please bear in mind the future needs of your family before committing to buying an HDB flat in the first place.

 

Home Sold Resale Levy Amount
Single Grant recipients Household Grant Recipients
Two-room $7,500 $15,000
Three-room $15,000 $30,000
Four-room $20,000 $40,000
Five-room $22,500 $45,000
Executive flat $25,000 $50,000
EC N/A $55,000

 

In addition, take into account the situation of your family and the nature of your work and how this will affect the amount of residential space you will require. For instance, if you’re a freelancer who works from home, you will likely need a separate workspace so you can focus on your tasks. If you have family members in other countries, it’s also handy to have a spare room just in case they visit.

Finally, set priorities, keeping in mind the difference between needs and wants. In the above example, having a separate workspace is essential as it allows you to be more productive and work in a peaceful environment without being bothered by the ruckus in the living room.

But if you want extra space for a walk-in wardrobe – that’s a luxury you can live without. Similarly, the balcony and bigger living room provided by a four-roomer or five-room HDB flat are merely wants. While they’re good to have, they aren’t paramount, unless you have a large household. Keep this in mind.

Buying an HDB flat, whether a BTO or a resale unit, is a major financial commitment that you will shoulder for many years to come, so don’t act rashly. Do your homework before signing the dotted line and make sure you aren’t overstretching yourself financially.

For other tips, you can also check our other guides on buying a BTO flat and a resale HDB unit.

 

To get more guides like this, check out PropertyGuru