Note: The information in this article has been updated on 7 November 2023.

Can’t wait to buy your first flat? Here’s the ultimate TL;DR on what you need to know when buying an HDB flat as a first-timer, with links to more useful resources on HDB BTO flats and resale flats.

📄 Prefer info in a printable format? Download the HDB Cheatsheet for First-Timers here.

What are my housing options?

Not sure if you should buy an HDB BTO or resale flat? Here’s an overview of the differences.

 Flat from HDB (BTO, SBF, Open Booking)Resale flat
Waiting timeBTO flats
Median waiting time is currently 4-4.5 years, HDB aims to bring waiting times down to 3-4 years by 2024.  
💡 Some projects have shorter waiting times of less than 3 years.  

SBF/ Open booking of flats
Completed flat: About 4 months after booking a flat  
Flats under construction: When flats are completed
About 8 weeks from HDB’s acceptance
LocationVaries depending on projects/ balance flats available. Check out our sales launch page for the latest info on upcoming launches.A wide choice of resale flats across various towns
Lease lengthBTO flats
99-year lease  

SBF/ Open booking of flats
Varies, depending on balance lease of flat
Varies, depending on balance lease of flat
Income ceilingUp to $14,000 for families
Up to $7,000 for singles  

You may apply for Deferred Income Assessment when you book your flat, if eligible.
No income ceiling. Income ceiling applies for CPF housing grants and/or HDB housing loan.
PricePriced with generous market discountsNegotiated between buyer and seller.  

💡 Check out HDB Map Services and the resale flat prices e-Service for recent transacted prices.
GrantsUp to $80,000 for first-timer families
Up to $40,000 for first-timer singles  

💡 See also our guide to CPF housing grants.
Up to $190,000 for first-timer families
Up to $95,000 for first-timer singles  

💡 See also our guide to CPF housing grants.
How to buyBTO flats
Apply during BTO sales exercise  

SBF flats
Apply during SBF sales exercise  

Open booking of flats
Apply online any time. Applications will be suspended prior to each inject of fresh supply of flats or when all the flats are booked.
Buy from the open market any time.

What are the steps involved in buying an HDB flat?

Step 1: Apply for an HFE letter

The HDB Flat Eligibility (HFE) letter informs you of your eligibility to buy an HDB flat, receive CPF housing grants, and take up an HDB housing loan. If you are interested in taking up a loan from a financial institution (FI), you can also concurrently apply for an In-Principle Approval from participating FIs when applying for an HFE etter.

You will need to have an HFE letter before you can:

  • Apply for a flat from HDB during a sales launch or open booking of flats
  • Obtain an Option to Purchase (OTP) from a flat seller for a resale flat, and when you submit a resale application to HDB

The HFE letter is valid for 9 months, so bear in mind its validity and consider applying early!

Learn more in our guide to applying for an HFE letter.

Step 2: Plan your finances

Here’s how you can calculate your flat budget, by summing up your:

  • Available cash savings
  • Available CPF OA savings
  • Eligible CPF Housing Grants
  • Estimated housing loan

You can also use HDB’s budget calculator to help you with the math. The calculator pulls information from your approved HFE letter, so you don’t have to enter the information again!

💡 Not sure whether to take up a loan from HDB or an FI? Here are some considerations to think about.

Next steps

Your next steps will depend on whether you intend to buy a BTO or a resale flat. Check out our respective guides to learn more.

Buying a BTO FlatBuying a Resale Flat
Step 3: Look out for sales launches
Step 4: Submit application
Step 5: Receive application outcome
Step 6: Book flat
Step 7: Sign Agreement for Lease
Step 8: Collect keys to flat

Check out the full steps in our guide to applying for a BTO flat.
Step 3: Search for a resale HDB flat
Step 4: Obtain an Option to Purchase (OTP) from a seller
Step 5: Submit a Request for Value (if needed)
Step 6: Submit resale application    

Check out the full steps in our guide to applying for a resale flat.

Check out these other useful guides for first-timers:

  • Wong Li Ying

    Social media nerd who dabbles in writing, design, and photography. Spends an embarrassing amount of time on the internet, thinking too much about pop culture.