Buying A HDB Resale Flat

I’m going to share my experience in buying a resale HDB flat because I find that there is currently no one writing about how you go about buying a HDB resale flat out there on the internet.

At some point in time you may want to decide to buy a resale HDB flat. And if you are reading this, it is most likely you have no idea where to begin.

When I started out, the first step I took was to search in property listing sites like Property Guru, STProperty,etc. I bet you are doing the same now! Wrong!

Before one even looks at these property classified site, you should get your HLE first. Yes, HLE stands for HDB Loan Eligibility

1. Apply for HLE

When I started calling the agent who listed the property that I was interested in, the first thing they all asked before proceeding to talk more was “Have you gotten your HLE?” And the moment you replied “No” the conversation will end with them telling you to get your HLE first then call them back.

So what’s the big deal with this piece of document call HLE? It is basically a document that states what (HDB) loan ceiling are you eligible to apply, how long a (HDB) loan can you apply, your monthly repayment amount, and the type of flats you can buy.

That is what HLE states, but it is the application process that is crucial. During the application, HDB would have access and establish your income, what kind of flats can you buy, etc. Therefore if you managed to obtain a HLE, it will means that you would have the necessary financial ability and meet HDB requirement to purchase a resale HDB flat.

The application process is quick, it took me about 20 minutes. The time it took from application of HLE to getting the HLE dropping into my mail box took 2 weeks. And the HLE will be valid for a period of 3 months from the time of approval.

2. Where to look for property


There are a handful of websites and mobile apps that provide property listing/classified. But the best I found useful and most updated are Property Guru and STProperty. Both have pretty solid website and mobile app. But Property Guru is what I used most of the time as STProperty is very difficult to navigate and filter. Somehow I failed to set a filter by the housing district. And also because Property Guru also has a subscribe mode. I get daily updates of new property listing that fits my criteria.

A note on Mobile Application is that if you are on iOS, then you will have a inconvenient compared to people on Android. When viewing the map, the new iOS updates no longer displays blocks!!! It will just place a pin in the middle of no where and expect you you know that is the block.

Another thing to take note is that there are actually more information available on the Property Guru than in the app. And the photos are also much higher resolution.

To me, I find a lot of agents who are either just gimmicky or just pure lazy. I prefer listing to display every single details about the unit. With full information disclosed this cut short buyer’s time spend on on calling up agent only to find out the flat does not suit you or is not ideal.

Through experience, those advertisement listings that do not state which floor it is are usually the low floors. Those listing without publishing valuation are sometimes not serious about selling their unit. And those flats stating that they are “renovated” but offers no pictures are bull-sh*t. Most of them will just renovate one toilet, or a small part of their kitchen and that is considered renovated. To the agents it shows that they can drive traffic. To me they are all just wasting buyers’ time.

Me and my wife spent like 5 months looking for a flat, with most of the flats being not ideal. But why view when they are not ideal? This is because of untruthful declaration or partial disclosure of the flats’ detail. A complete waste of our time.

The flat that we bought were from a Propnex agent. Everything was disclosed. Photographs. And we bought the unit on the day of the first viewing. No time wasted.

3. What is COV?

There are a lot of jargons used by property agent when it comes to property. Knowing them will help ease some of the frustration.

COV – Cash Over Valuation. It is the difference between the asking price and valuation price. Usually in property listing there are two prices, valuation and asking.

Valuation price is done by professional bodies and typically will consist of a report with photographs of all the rooms, living rooms, and kitchen, including a map. It will entail the type of flooring, type of ceiling, and other details like island kitchen etc within the unit. Iirc, per every 5 floor the valuation will increase by $10,000. Renovation work are seldom being taken into consideration.

Asking price is what the owner of the flat wants from buyer. The asking price is usually the market rate for COV + valuation. A high floor or larger unit or good location flat can command higher COV.

For example, the valuation of a 4 room HDB is $390,000. And that the owner is selling the flat at $420,000. The the COV is $30,000.

HDB website publishes the quarterly average COV prices of the various estates. The link is here (HDB Quarterly Average COV Prices). The complete average COV history is here (Average COV History).

How Much to Pay?

Unfortunately, the only price element that is within your control is COV. The valuation is done by a professional company and you cannot bargain on valuation. Valuation as far as I can tell, depends on location, floor level, interior fixture, age of flat, condition of flat. HDB publish a quarterly average of prices of resale flat by estate on their website. You can find the link here (Quarterly Average Resale Flat by estate.

4. Working out your finances

The HDB website has a very useful finance calculator. Simply punch in your income, your available CPF, the selling price and the COV of the flat that you want to buy and it will break down for you your cash payment schedule and monthly instalment amount etc. Neat. You can access it here >Resale Financial Plan

 5. Procedures to Buy

So you have short-listed the flat that you like. The next step is to make an offer to buy. Usually, the selling price is also the ideal price the owner wants to sell at. It is perfectly normal to transact at below the price of the asking price.

Your agent, if you have one, will usually want you to prepare a cheque (no more than $5,000 as regulated by HDB regulation) upon your first serious offer to the seller. When the owner accepts your cheque, then the contract is binding unless HDB disapprove.

Both party will have to sign the OTP (Option to Purchase) form, and as the buyer you will need to sign a buyer’s check-list as well. More precise details can be viewed over at HDB’s page. After which you need to go online and fill in yet more forms… @$#%$@%

And that is not the end of the end of it. You need to go through interviews with HDB together with the seller, TWICE. Yes, TWICE. And at the time when we bought our flat, the waiting time for the first appointment is 2 months… GOD D@#$ IT. And another 6-8 weeks more for the second interview. @$@%$ Updates (Mar 2013): After reading online and talking with friends, it seems that the 2nd appointment date is determined by the seller. If the seller and buyer have differing dates, HDB will consider seller’s date.

So all in all, from viewing flats, to paying deposit, to collecting key, it takes more than 9 months… 4 months are spent waiting for HDB dates, 5 months wasted on viewing because of misrepresentation by housing agents.


Things to ask when calling a listing:

Age of flat
When was the unit last renovated
What is the reason for selling
What is the current highest offer



Still work in progress…to be continued…

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Chi Siang Written by:

Hi! I am a Singaporean who used to work and live in Saigon for 6 years. I am married to my Vietnamese wife and we travel back to Saigon regularly. My years living amongst the Vietnamese and not amongst the expats community, gave me an unique insight into Vietnamese people, their culture, and their way of life.

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