Singapore’s property market is booming. Ask any realtor who uses TikTok or YouTube to post creative house tours and ads. “Singapore’s resilient real estate market is acing the pandemic test,” said the South China Morning Post last September. “Singapore’s Home Sales Remain Resilient Despite Covid Flare-up”, screamed a Bloomberg article headline in October. Financial Times posted this cheery headline in September: “Overseas buyers return to Singapore’s property market”.


The Straits Times reported 20 HDB units sold for more than $1 million in October, with a five-room Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) flat at Bishan’s Natura Loft topping the charts at $1.26 million. The total value of Good Class Bungalows sales are heading to a 10-year high as well, with 68 sales worth $2.05 billion transacted in the first eight months of 2021.


What is it like buying and selling during a pandemic? Here are some of the things we learned from real estate agents and buyers and sellers.

Preference for resale over BTO flats

Construction was hit hard by Covid-19 as building materials took longer to arrive, migrant workers living in dorms fell sick and strict Safe Management Measures slowed construction.


Last August, HDB announced that its main contractor, Greatearth Corporation and Greatearth Construction, had run into financial difficulties, halting work on five Build-To-Order (BTO) projects. Sky Vista at Bukit Batok, Senja Heights and Senja Ridges in Bukit Panjang, Marsiling Grove in Woodlands, and West Coast Parkview in Clementi (a Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) replacement site) were affected.


One couple has ditched the BTO route and is shopping for a resale flat. According to Daniel Wong, a director at PropNex Realty, “BTO flat buyers affected by construction delays on Covid-19 might be able to cancel their bookings without incurring penalties.”

“BTO flat buyers affected by construction delays on Covid-19 might be able to cancel their bookings without incurring penalties.”

Daniel Wong, Propnex Realty


Many buyers are turning to resale flats due to urgent housing needs. As a result, the housing market has become a seller’s market. Homeowners can sell their property faster and for more money.


HDB resale prices rose by 0.9 per cent from September to October 2021, making it the 16th straight month of gains across all flat types and in mature and non-mature estates. The HDB upgraders are taking advantage of this opportunity to cash out at a reasonable price.


This is the first significant increase in HDB prices since 2013. HDB prices were stagnant for seven years before the spike in 2020. Daniel adds, “Those caught up in the high prices in 2013 can now sell with little to no loss.” There is also a strong demand for private property from HDB upgraders.

The tighter viewing restrictions have put pressure on buyers, says Kelvin Leong, senior associate director at Orange Tee & Tie. “Buyers have ‘no choice’ and will make their decision after viewing a few units.” Even though interest in the market is strong, realtors have had difficulty arranging viewings.


Daniel used to hold open houses for his properties for sale. Due to the previous five visitors restriction, he could only conduct one or two viewings per day for one condo apartment that attracted 13 viewings over seven days. Despite that, he had a few offers and ultimately sold the 19-year-old unit for $60,000 above the owner’s expectations.

WFH culture = Bigger units with great views, please


According to Low Po Yu, senior marketing director at ERA Realty Network, “I’m seeing buyers looking for larger homes to accommodate home-based learning and working from home. I’m also seeing a rise in older, larger condos like Sommerville Park at Farrer Drive.”


Daniel notices a trend among his buyers. “There is a good demand for large-sized homes in most regions, particularly in the Outer Central Region. More people are working from home, so they prefer larger units with extra rooms. Also, some buyers cook more, so a large kitchen is needed.”


Po Yu also notices an exciting trend. People want a view of the sea. Due to the tranquillity, several of my buyers were actively searching in Sentosa. Renters are also looking for a more pleasant environment since they spend so much time at home now.”

“There is a good demand for large-sized homes in most regions, particularly in the Outer Central Region. More people are working from home, so they prefer larger units with extra rooms.”

Low Pu Yu, ERA

The Return of Cash-Over-Valuation (COV)Increasingly, buyers prefer properties that don’t need renovations and do not mind paying a premium. “They are willing to pay cash-over-value (COV) for a home that requires minimal work,” Kelvin says.


Mr and Mrs Wong spent over a year, much effort, and $1 million trying to renovate their semi-detached house over a decade ago. They recently sold it to upgrade to a bungalow after searching for almost a year for the perfect house.

The couple eliminated several options from their list that would have required rebuilding or extensive Additions & Alterations (A&A) work since it would mean renting a temporary home for an indefinite period if things deteriorated for Covid-19. Eventually, they paid almost $8 million for a house in excellent move-in condition with a cosmetic renovation that can be completed within months.


HDB flats older than 25 years are also seeing an increase in COV. Kelvin transacted two 45-year-old five-room flats at Boon Lay Drive, with at least $40,000 COV each. “The units received multiple offers within two days of viewing. Private condo resale units are also moving quickly. A majority of listings are sold within a month of active marketing.”


Kelvin clarifies, however, that these units sold quickly because they were priced reasonably. “Some of my associates have been marketing listings that are priced 20 to 25 per cent above market trends, and some have been on the market for six months or longer.”

Rental prices and demand are rising

The HDB rental prices of the units Kelvin has been marketing have risen by at least 10 to 15 per cent. HDB resale prices rose primarily because of BTO delays. More owners who were subletting sold their flats. Tenants had to move.

“Several of my HDB rentals received offers even without viewings. There was a “bidding war” between half of these tenants, who had little to no other requests, despite some flats being unfurnished or in original condition,” Kelvin says.

“Several of my HDB rentals received offers even without viewings. There was a “bidding war” between half of these tenants, who had little to no other requests, despite some flats being unfurnished or in original condition.”

Kelvin Leong, Orange Tee & Tie

Daniel also notices an increase in the demand for larger rental units such as three- and four-bedrooms from families, as they want a workspace. Simultaneously, the need for smaller, one- and two-bedders units rose, especially among families and couples who share a place.


Since it is difficult to conduct work meetings with parents and siblings at home as well, they moved out of their family home. “They believe it is worth it to pay for rental since they will be spending more time at home.”

Investors are back!

Po Yu, who has been managing rental units for years, has received requests from some tenants to help them search for a permanent home. “Even tenants are buying since they are stuck in Singapore indefinitely. Foreign buyers and local investors who think that Singapore has handled the pandemic well so far are also coming into the market.”


Among the local investors, she has noticed a trend of buyers wanting to upgrade, both for the extra space and also as an investment. She feels that being unable to travel has actually given clients more time to plan for retirement and a legacy for their children.

HDB blocks


One of her clients, who has four children, is upgrading to a bigger unit with at least four bedrooms. Another is actively planning to expand her property portfolio and create wealth. “In a way, this is a ‘good’ effect of Covid-19; it has encouraged people to take more interest in planning for their future.”