I’m in the middle of a very trying dilemma. My fiancé and I are conflicted because we’re torn between purchasing a build-to-order HDB flat in a new estate, or jumping the gun and getting a older HDB flat in a mature, more central location.

My fiancé, Mr Practical, insists that we take the government’s age-old gift and wait in line like everyone else. I think, with the market at its lowest ever, this would be a great time to get a HDB in a central location. What say the rest of you?

Let me lay down some facts first:

Mr Practical and I can only afford to spend $400,000 on a new home. Like most new couples, we’ve just started our careers and are therefore eligible for all the housing grants offered by HDB.

Considering our budget, these are some basics we had to take note of (hopefully this is helpful to others who face the same problem as us):

 

BTO

Resale

What can $400,000 get you?

A four-room HDB A three-room HDB
Flat sizes? 900++sqf 700++sqf
Waiting time An average of 3 to 4 years depending on how fast the site is built. It will take about 3 months to purchase the flat.
Location

New estates: such as Punggol, Bukit Batok, Yishun and Woodlands.

Mostly devoid of good amenities.

Mature estates: such as Tampines, Kallang and Central areas.

Close to the MRT, great hawker centres, every possible amenity we need.

Renovation costs

A BTO flat comes completely empty, which means you’re given the flexibility to do anything you want with the home. Basic renovation costs are between $20K and $40K, depending on how much you want to do to your home. Getting a resale flat means having to work around its existing design. The usual idea is to tear down everything that has been built and renovate from scratch. This could bring the price of renovation up to $40K to $60K depending on how much work and repairs need to be done.

Costs

If you take a HDB loan, you’ll pay 10% of the purchase price as down payment. Either in cash, CPF or housing grants.

Grants available

$30,000 for couples with an income ceiling under $10K and $40,000 for couples who opt to live near their parents.

Knowing our basics wasn’t enough. We also wanted to know what the value of HDB flats would be like in the future. So we turned to a friend, a property agent, who pointed us to several websites that watch the property market, to help us make an informed decision.

We popped by SquareFoot.com.sg to check out on some property trends over the past five years on the areas we were interested in.


 Punggol 4-room flats sold at an average of $474psf in May 2014


Kallang 3-room flats sold at an average of $546psf in May 2014

First, take note that 3-room flats are usually priced at a higher amount per square foot because they are smaller. But at the end of the day, flats in Kallang, being more central, command a higher price tag as compared to the ones in Punggol. As verified by our property agent friend, location is everything when it comes to property.

Truth be told, there is no conclusion to this never-ending battle. I'd love to tell you that there's a concrete answer to our dilemma, but we're stuck. Our only advice: be open to all options, view some old homes, and you'd never know what might catch your attention.

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