Buyers of replacement Housing Board flats under the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers) will now be able to sell their units only five years from the date of key collection, starting with the Ang Mo Kio Sers site.

Previously, they could sell either seven years from the date of selection of the flat at the designated replacement site or five years from the date of key collection.

This meant that owners who opted for flats at the designated replacement site were able to sell their units even before they have lived in it for five years.

This gave them a leg up over the Sers owners who applied for replacement flats elsewhere with their Sers rehousing benefits under the Build-To-Order (BTO), Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercises or through open booking, which they can sell only after five years.

According to the HDB website, the revised rule will kick in for Sers sites announced on or after April 7, the date that four Ang Mo Kio HDB blocks were picked for the scheme.

The change in the minimum occupation period (MOP) rule means that all Sers owners are subject to the same five-year MOP as those who buy a flat from HDB and on the resale market.

MOP is the time period that owners are required to live in their flat

In response to queries from The Straits Times, HDB said the streamlining of the MOP criteria was to ensure “consistency of treatment” for all Sers flat owners, regardless of the replacement flats they buy.

Flat owners of Blocks 562 to 565 in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 were also informed of the streamlined MOP criteria in the information package given to them on the day of the Sers announcement, said HDB.

The revised MOP rule comes after a five-room replacement flat – for a Redhill Close Sers project in 2011 – in Block 96A Henderson Road sold for an all-time record of $1.4 million last month.

It had 96 years and one month left on its 99-year lease.

Property analysts said the revised MOP rule closes a longstanding loophole and ensures fairness for all flat owners.

PropNex Realty chief executive Ismail Gafoor said the previous seven-year MOP option allowed Sers owners to sell their replacement flats on the open market after occupying it for just around three years, after factoring in a four-year construction time.

“These Sers replacement flats will have a longer lease balance which tends to make them more attractive to resale flat buyers and would generally command a higher resale price as they are virtually new,” said Mr Ismail.

Huttons Asia senior director of research Lee Sze Teck said the move levels the playing field for buyers of all types of flats, whether it is a Sers, BTO, SBF or resale flat.

While the revised rule means Sers owners will no longer be able to cash out earlier, it is unlikely to have any significant impact on their resale prices, said Mr Lee.

This is because owners of Sers flats, similar to those of BTO flats, will likely see “good gains” on the resale market as both flat types are highly subsidised, he added.

Originally published in The Straits Times.