Applying for BTO: What to Seriously Consider Before Asking Your Partner “BTO, Ai Mai?”

The recent slew of HDB Build-To-Order (BTO) flats sees 3,870 BTO units offered in Tengah, Woodlands, Bukit Merah, and Geylang — with the spotlight being on Geylang and Bukit Merah for their central locations.

Of course, it’s expected that these attractive options will be oversubscribed, following the trend of the February 2021 BTO launch where flats in Bidadari and Kallang/Whampoa were oversubscribed in just 24 hours. Even more specific is 2020’s launch of BTO units in Geylang, which was 14 times oversubscribed.

Related article: 2020 BTO Report Card: Which Were the Most Popular HDB Launches This Year?

Beyond preparing yourself for “The Great BTO Ballot”, you’ll first need to pop the question, right?

And while you may be raring to move on to the next step in your relationship and the next phase in life, some financial planning is in order before you simply jump right in.

Here are some things you need to seriously consider before you ask your partner: “BTO, ai mai?” (in a more romantic way, of course).

Key Considerations Before You BTO


BTO Eligibility

Can you and your partner even apply to BTO?

Location – Proximity to parents or in-laws

How close do you want to live to your parents and/or in-laws?

Home Loan Eligibility

Which home loans (bank vs HDB) and how much loan can you take?

Mortgage Affordability

How much in mortgage repayments can you afford each month?

Renovation and Furnishing

How much must you spend to renovate and furnish your BTO before it is ‘move-in ready’?


Check Your Eligibility for Buying a BTO Flat

You want to BTO, but can you even BTO?

The first step to getting your new home is to check what you’re eligible for. Well, some of these key criteria include your citizenship, income ceiling, if you have any other property (maybe your parents put another house in your name) and so on.

Since this article is on asking your partner if they want to BTO with you, we’re assuming it’s your first time applying for an HDB BTO flat, you’re at least 21 years old, and that you’ll be applying under the Fiancé/Fiancée Scheme with no children in tow.

Here’s a complete guide to who’s eligible for an HDB flat and what the available schemes are.

Do take note that you’ll need to solemnise your marriage within three months of getting the keys to your flat. You’ll also need to submit proof to HDB of your marriage by way of a photocopy of your marriage cert.


Decide How Close You Want to Be to Your Parents (or Your In-Laws)

It’s only natural, if you share a strong bond with your parents (or in-laws), to want to hang out often. Living nearby is also excellent if you need help with your kids (and they’re willing to help), if you often worry about your parents, or if your mum loves to cook.

However, some couples prefer to be in their own world without unannounced visitors showing up at their door ever so often.

Those who need to get an HDB BTO flat as soon as possible could utilise this proximity to their parents to enhance their chances through various priority schemes.

Married Child Priority Scheme

For example, the Married Child Priority Scheme helps a married child and his/her parents live with or close to each other for mutual care and support. This extends to Fiancé/Fiancée Scheme applicants too. You’ll need to apply for a BTO project within 4km from your parents (or with your parents), and there is a 5-year Minimum Occupation Period where both parties cannot move house.

Multi-generation Priority Scheme

There’s also the Multi-generation Priority Scheme, in which the couple and the parents get new flats in the same precinct. They can make a joint application for two flats in the same BTO project, provided there are 2-room Flexi or 3-room flats available.


Be Realistic About What You Can Afford

It’s one thing to desire living in a 5-room flat in Bishan but realistically, your household income may not support that. Even if you scrimp and save to pay the cash outlay, how sustainable is that in the long-term, especially if you’re planning to have a baby?

Granted, the salary you’re drawing now may not be the salary you’ll be taking home in four to five years’ time, when the keys to your BTO are finally ready. Nevertheless, it’s better to be practical than aspirational about what you can afford to pay for your new home.

In 2020, Singapore’s median monthly household income from work was $9,189. Assuming that a combined $2,113 goes into their CPF Ordinary Accounts each month, and that they opt for an HDB Loan at 2.6% interest over 25 years, here’s how much cash outlay they could be paying for various BTO units in Singapore:

Type of flat / location


Monthly repayment

Cash outlay

3-room BTO (Non-mature estate)




4-room BTO (Non-mature estate)




5-room BTO (Non-mature estate)




3-room BTO (Mature estate)




4-room BTO (Mature estate)




5-room BTO (Mature estate)





Although they can likely still afford a 5-room BTO in a mature estate, they will also need to consider if they’d want some balance in their CPF OA for their retirement, and if they can continue paying the cash outlay.

Related article: Should You Use CPF to Pay Off Your Home Loan?

For a more detailed look at how much you can actually afford, check out PropertyGuru’s mortgage affordability calculator. When working out how much monthly mortgage repayments you can afford, be sure to also keep the Total Debt Servicing Ratio and Mortgage Servicing Ratio (MSR) in mind.


Check Your Housing Loan Eligibility: HDB BTO Flat Downpayment

In addition to affordability, you’ll also need to check your housing loan eligibility and how much downpayment you need to make for your HDB BTO flat.

As housing is a shared cost, pool your savings together to see how much upfront cash you can afford for the downpayment and other fees, and do discuss if you’d prefer a bank loan or an HDB loan (each has its merits). You should also check if you’re eligible for any HDB housing grants.

For young couples who don’t have a lot of cash, opting for a HDB loan is the common choice as it allows a higher Loan-to-Value (LTV) limit, i.e. the maximum loan amount that can be issued, of up to 90%. The remaining 10% downpayment for an HDB loan can be fully paid for with your CPF OA monies.

Meanwhile, a bank loan has a lower LTV limit of 75%. You’ll also need to pay at least 5% of the 25% downpayment of your bank loan in cash (that’s $25,000 on a $500,000 BTO flat), with the balance payable with your CPF OA monies.

However, there are couples who prefer to opt for a bank loan as the interest rate may be currently lower than what HDB offers. Those who choose a bank loan must also be mindful that the rate tends to fluctuate according to the economy, and that one should explore refinancing every few years to get the best rate.

Related article: HDB Loan vs Bank Loan: The Complete Guide to Financing your HDB



Want to save more on your mortgage? Compare the best mortgage rates on PropertyGuru Finance, or contact us for more personalised advice and recommendations:


Renovation and Interior Design Costs for BTO Flat

Chances are, while your BTO flat is on its way, you’ll also be busy sourcing for a renovation contractor or an interior designer. At the very least, you’ll need to install lights, paint the walls, do your flooring, toilets, kitchen and window grilles/blinds/curtains.

Even if you’re going super bare bones, you’ll need to purchase furniture, appliances and other necessities for your home.

One good news is that BTOs, unlike their resale counterparts, are cheaper to renovate as there’s less/no hacking involved. Here are some cost estimates, provided by Qanvast:

HDB BTO flat type

Estimated renovation cost

3-room flat

$38,850 to $44,000

4-room flat

$43,000 to $45,000

5-room flat

$45,000 to $52,000

Costs vary, depending on the HDB fittings you’re opting for, how elaborate you want your renovation to be, if there’s any hacking involved, if you want built-in furniture or other customised work done, cost of the actual fixtures/furniture, and so on.

Related article: HDB BTO Renovation Cost Guide (2021)


How Much Money Should You Set Aside to Buy a BTO Flat

If you just want a TL;DR version on applying for a BTO as you’re more keen on planning your dream proposal, here goes:

Total Estimated Cost of Getting A BTO Flat in Singapore



Payment method

Estimated cost for 4-room BTO flat
(about $250k)


Submitting application




May be done multiple times, if the ballot isn’t successful

Booking of flat

Option fee: $1,000 to $2,000



Depends on the size of your flat; forms part of your downpayment

Signing of Agreement for Lease

Stamp duty and legal fees



Depends on the cost of your flat (Stamp Duty Calculator)

Downpayment (10% for HDB loan; 25% for bank loan)



Those on an HDB loan can use CPF; those on a bank loan need to pay at least 5% in cash

Collection of keys

Stamp duty and legal fees



Depends on the cost of your flat

Home Protection Scheme



Compulsory if you’re using CPF to pay for your housing loan

Fire insurance



Compulsory if you’re taking an HDB loan

Balance of the purchase price


~$1,100/month over 25 years

Depends on the cost of your flat and the interest rate of the loan


Contractor/Interior Designer

Cash or renovation loan


Depends on your desired renovation works



Do keep in mind that these are just estimated costs; the actual costs vary, depending on the actual cost of your flat, loan type and LTV limit, extent of renovation, amount of available CPF OA monies, as well as any possible changes to HDB policies in the future.

All set to apply for your BTO flat with bae right now? For a start, check out the May 2021 HDB BTO launches to see if anything catches your fancy. Otherwise, you can always shop for HDB resale flats too.


More FAQs on BTO in Singapore

How to Apply for BTO in Singapore?

When there is an HDB sales launch, submit your flat application online vian HDB InfoWEB at during the 1-week application period. The result will be determined by a ballot.

Can A Single Person Buy A BTO in Singapore?

Yes; but you must be eligible under the 2 schemes: Single Singapore Citizen Scheme and Joint Singles Scheme.

What is A BTO?

Build-To-Order (BTO) flats are HDB flats where construction will begin only if 65-70% of the apartments in the flat have been booked. The construction will be aborted if this requirement is not met.

How Long Does A BTO Flat Take to Build?

BTOs have a wait time of three to five years from the date the construction begins. As the start time is dependent on when HDB receives enough applicants, the actual wait time may increase. Currently, due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, construction is expected to be delayed by at least one year or longer.

Is the Tengah BTO Good?

BTOs in the new Tengah area have been progressively released during HDB BTO launches in the past years. The area is set to be a “forest city” yet is still close to Choa Chu Kang, Bukit Batok and Jurong, with two upcoming MRT stations on the new Jurong Region Line. Read the review of the Tengah BTOs in HDB’s May 2021’s launch.


For more property news, resources and useful content like this article, check out PropertyGuru’s guides section.

Are you looking to buy a new home? Head to PropertyGuru to browse the top properties for sale in Singapore.

Already found a new home? Let PropertyGuru Finance’s home finance advisors help you with financing it.


This article was written by Mary Wu, who hopes to share what she’s learnt from her home-buying and renovation journey with PropertyGuru readers. When she’s not writing, she’s usually baking up a storm or checking out a new cafe in town.

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