BTO vs Resale HDB vs EC -3 Test Questions to help you decide which property to buy

3 Test Questions to help you choose between BTO, Resale or EC

In 1997, before the BTO system was implemented, there was this Asian financial crisis that came in and the demand for HDB flats fell sharply. What happened was that the government was left with about more than thirty thousand unsold HDB units. These are completed units that are unsold, so this became a very big problem for the government.

After that, they switched to this BTO system which is the current system. There will be no issues with unsold HDB flats. This actually saved a lot of time and resources for the government.

Instead of building first then sell, now they wait for the demand to be at least 70% before starting to build it. It is a lot more prudent for HDB.

Which Property to Buy?

We came out with with three test questions to help you decide which property to buy.

📌Question 1: Can you wait?

The typical waiting time for a BTO is between two and a half years to four years. It might be longer now if COVID causes a shortage in labor. So for those couples who have urgent or immediate need to have their own space, or they need to move out from their parents houses for whatsoever reason, then this may not be so suitable for you.

If you need to move out immediately, then the fastest solution will be resale. If you have found your ideal unit, it can be completed within three months. If you don’t like what you see, then you can choose not to buy it right now.

If you are ready to go for a BTO flat, bear in mind that you need to go through the balloting system. That means you might or might not get the unit that you want, especially for very hot and mature estates themselves.

If you have decided on BTO, there are four HDB launches in a year, usually in the month of February, May, August and November. The dates will be released by HDB, so keep a lookout at the HDB portal.

One way to shorten the wait for BTO flat is to consider applying through the sales of balance flats (SBF) exercise. These are the unsold flats and they could be less popular. However, some of these could be units taken up earlier, but due to some reasons, it was given up and added back into the pool. If you’re lucky, you might have some good units as well.

Don’t forget that sales of balance flats could include completed flats at times. That is really the best of both worlds. It is something new, something you can move in quickly and it is already completed. So you don’t have a long waiting time of two and a half years. Because you are buying directly from HDB, chances are that it will be subsidized as compared to resale market.

📌 Question 2: Are you flexible with location?

What we mean by flexible is whether you are okay with staying anywhere in Singapore, as long as it ticks off some of the check boxes in your list.

Among these three choices, BTOs and ECs are more likely to be remote areas. These are likely to be developing towns, non-matured towns or non-existent towns like Tengah itself. But if you are flexible, these will be good choices.

If you have certain preferences for location, such as staying near your parents or a particular school, then chances are that resale HDB will be more suitable for you. Because the beautiful part about resale hdb is that you get to choose where you want to stay, at any level if it’s available on the resale market.

You also get to choose the block as well, because even in a particular cluster, block A may not be as good as block B and vice versa.

i can see the trend is that buyers are moving more and more towards the resale. Because our Government has also encouraged children to stay near their parents, so gives out a proximity grant, up to $30,000. Some of the buyers want to do their duty to take care of their old age parents or they simply want to be close to them so they can meet up regularly.

This is family kinship that cannot be quantified by money.

Choosing resale so that you can be near to your parents is a more personal decision and nothing to do with an economic point of view. But if you were to
be asking which one would make more money, which would bring in more returns, then this would lead us to question number three.

📌 Question 3: Cost Factor

The total quantum of the flats between the bto and the resale, the resale tend to be on the higher side because that particular house has already changed hands a few times, so profits have been made two or three times already.

But a BTO is a different thing. It comes directly from HDB, meaning to say that it is the cheapest possible price for that particular block or that particular estate.

Young couples who are a little cash tight or they have a restriction on their budget, if you’re just talking about cost alone, then BTO will be the better choice.

BTO generally will be cheapest and the wonderful thing is that you buy BTO and you’re taking the HDB loan, you can choose not to come up with any cash. You just need five percent deposit taht can be payable from your CPF.

You can take a maximum up to 90%. This would be great for those young couples who just started out. They basically are cash tight.

At the very beginning of the video, we have already talked about the three choices which is BTO, resale or executive condo. So between these three choices I would say executive Condo will be called first tier, which is most expensive.

This is followed by resale hdb and lastly BTO in this case. Bear in mind that the mortgage will be higher for EC. Although EC once privatized after five years, can sell to PR. If you wait ten years, it is fully privatized and the returns will be quite substantial and likely the biggest. You also have to fork up more mortgage money.

📌 Which property to buy for capital gain?

When we talk about capital appreciation in one of our earlier videos, BTO has been found to have one of the highest appreciation. In this case, we are just talking about public housing. But the price point to enter the BTO is also the lowest.

So if you are looking for the maximum amount of returns, the first kind of housing that you’re looking at will be the BTOs. Going in at the lowest and exiting at the highest point. But if you are looking for even higher appreciation, naturally we will have to look at executive condos.

Bear in mind that the price point or the entry-level for an EC, between these three different categories, will be the highest in this case. The wonderful thing is that for ECs, it is open to selling to permanent residents after five years and after 10 years, it is fully privatized.

HDB is supposed to be bread and butter for the majority of Singaporeans because it is for their own stay and not for speculation. If you are an existing EC owner or a first-and EC owner, I’m very sure you will see a significant amount of appreciation upon the five-year mark.

This appreciation will grow even more when the entire project is eligible to be sold to foreigners. So when it comes to capital appreciation, EC will enjoy the highest capital appreciation but at the highest entry-level.

Whereas BTO will have the lowest entry level but also the highest appreciation compared to a resale HDB.

Maybe to put things into another perspective, if you are a young couple that’s starting out. Asking you to jump from buying a BTO to EC might seem to be a tall order. If you’re a couple in the mid-30s and who are financially more stable and stronger. The wonderful thing for them is that the EC can choose a deferred payment scheme.

Which property to buy? Deferred payment scheme for Executive Condominium purchases
Which property to buy? Deferred payment scheme for Executive Condominium purchases

You pay only 20% as a downpayment. The rest can be paid when the project TOP. A new private condo will need you to pay by progressive payment all the way as you pay as they build.

So if you are still unsure which property to buy, then you can assess if you are financially strong. If so, an EC will be a good investment. But if you are just starting out and have limited cash flow and CPF, then go with BTO. Resale is in the middle between BTO and EC.

📌 Factor renovation cost for resale HDB

If you are considering resale for which property to buy, then don’t forget that you have to factor in renovation costs.

Renovation costs for resale will likely be the highest. Because BTO is brand new. It needs minimum or less renovation. EC comes with the renovation as well. You are buying over from another owner who might have different tastes. Or the design and renovation might be old-school.

So you have to hack the old tiles before you can bring in the new tiles. This is likely to incur more renovation costs. Renovation costs can get a little bit out of hand, especially if there are alterations that you need to do just to make it livable in the first place. It may not be so obvious the first time.

February 2021 BTO prices

Which property to buy? HDB BTO Exercise on Feb 2021
Which property to buy? HDB BTO Exercise on Feb 2021

This table is an example of the February 2021 BTO exercise. For those people considering a BTO flat, this is an example of what are the prices. There’s a column showing the nearby resale price for certain estates. After grants, the resale flat might actually seem cheaper than than the BTO flat.

So do your homework and check out which property to buy. Decide what is best for you and your family. Make sure you are looking at the right column. Transacted nearby vs transacted and the selling price for the BTO project are two different things.

There is a lot of wonderful information found on the HDB portal to help you decide which property to buy. So don’t be lazy, do your homework and make the best choice. We wish you all the best and we will see you in our next video/article.

📌 HDB Top 10 Questions

  • Where are the Million dollar HDB?
  • Which are Hottest HDB towns in 2021?
  • Is Cash Over Valuation (COV) making comeback?
  • How to Unlock the Value of Our HDB?
  • Upgraders Dilemma: Sell First or Buy First?
  • Should I buy an older Resale HDB?
  • BTO or Resale or EC: 3 Test Qns
  • HDB or Bank Loans? What is Repricing?
  • 3 Important Questions to Ask Before Buying
  • 5 Commonly Asked HDB Rules or Terms

Check out all HDB Top 10 Questions here

Like this Article or Video?

Check out more insights for HDB Upgraders here

Posted in

Your Property?

This is a big decision that will likely require additional financial commitments. Sit down and discuss with our Property Den experts to assess if this course of action is suitable for you.

Dennis Lim

Dennis has more than a decade of experience investing in real estate. Like many fellow Singaporeans, he grew up in a HDB flat with dreams to live in a condominium. Through careful financial planning & hardwork, this became a reality when he was 30. He now owns 3 private properties in Singapore and has helped hundreds of Singaporeans to achieve their goal of upgrading their homes in land-scarce Singapore.

Insight Topics

Connect With Us

Upgrader Insights

HDB to condo without ABSD

How to Upgrade from HDB to Condo without ABSD (Proven Hybrid Method!)   

30 August 2022

This article will elaborate on the hybrid method, which will help you upgrade from HDB to condo without ABSD and the hassle of having to move twice

Read More
CPF accrued interest

What is CPF Accrued Interest? Who should use less CPF for property mortgage?

29 August 2022

There are different views regarding the use of CPF for property mortgage because of CPF accrued interest. When is it better to use more CPF and when is it not?

Read More
keep HDB and pay ABSD (05)

Should you keep HDB and buy condo when upgrading (i.e. Pay ABSD)?

29 August 2022

Should you keep HDB and buy condo? A common dilemma for HDB upgraders who wants the passive rental income from renting out their flat but do not wish to pay ABSD

Read More
HDB to condo

Avoid these 4 Common Mistakes when upgrading from HDB to Condo

28 August 2022

Many HDB owners share the common aspirations to upgrade from HDB to condo after completing their Minimum Occupation Period (MOP). Below are 4 common mistakes to avoid when upgrading

Read More

Hottest HDB Towns in 2021

24 July 2021

Which are the hottest HDB towns in 2021? HDB prices have been rising for the past year and prices are near the 2013 peak. Watch this video to find out more.

Read More



"Dennis came with strong recommendations from a dear friend. He helped me with the purchase of my first property. He was very patient and never once tried to hard sell me to buy a property. Dennis is a trustworthy and knowledgeable professional who I highly recommend with confidence to everyone I know!"




"Dennis was very helpful and has guided us throughout on the process. He managed to get good number of clients for viewing of our unit. He is very responsive and always readily available when needed. He has excellent negotiation skills as well when required for the deal"