Applicants for February BTO exercise lowest since 2020: HDB

Mar 06, 2023

THE February 2023 Build-To-Order (BTO) exercise posted the lowest overall number of flat applicants, particularly first-timer applicants, since February 2020.

As at 11 am on Monday (Mar 6), the median application rate for first-timer applicants for three-room or larger flats stood at 1.8, close to that of the November 2022 BTO sales exercise, which had double the flat supply of the latest launch.

For comparison, the median application rate for November 2022 was 1.8, while the rate for February 2021 stood at two. The rates of these two launches marked the lowest in the Housing and Development Board (HDB)’s quarterly launches from 2020 to 2022.

While the total number of applications for the latest BTO launch was not disclosed, HDB on Monday said it hovered around half the number of flat applications in some of the past 11 BTO launches.

Some 12,493 applicants applied for three-room or larger flats in the February 2023 BTO exercise, of which 7,513 were first-timers. These figures are lower than in February 2020, when 14,145 first-timers were among the 20,252 applicants in total.

For the three-room and larger flats available for sale in the February 2023 exercise, all five BTO projects across mature and non-mature estates had first-timer application rates of 1.7 or lower for one or more flat types. This means that, on average, there were fewer than two applicants vying for each flat.

It also implies that first-timer applicants who applied for these flats stand a good chance of getting invited to book a unit – particularly those who applied for Jurong West Crystal and Brickland Weave in the non-mature estates of Jurong West and Tengah, as well as Ulu Pandan Glades in the mature estate of Queenstown.

HDB indicated that these projects have low first-timer application rates of between 0.2 and 1.8 across the various flat types. They also previously experienced an average rejection rate of 40 per cent at the flat-selection stage.

Among these projects, successful applicants of BTO projects in the non-mature estates of Jurong West and Tengah will be able to move into their new homes earlier, as they have shorter waiting times. Jurong West Crystal’s waiting time is estimated to be at about 47 months, while Brickland Weave’s is 48 months.

HDB also said all of its first-timer applicants of BTO flats in non-mature estates had a chance of booking a flat within their first three tries, with about nine in 10 to stand such a chance within two tries.

The February 2023 BTO sales exercise will close at 11.59 pm on Mar 6.

HDB noted there were early indications that BTO application rates have reduced and are stabilising.

The slowdown comes after HDB announced tighter rules to shorten the long lines for new public-housing flats, including bumping down those who turn down their first chance to choose a flat in BTO exercises.

From August 2023, first-timer homebuyers who register one non-selection count, after declining to book a flat when invited to, will be relegated to second-timer status for a year. Those who decline to choose a flat as second-timers will be blocked from HDB sales exercises for a year.

While analysts say the stricter rules will improve flat allocation as BTO application rates fall as a result, some buyers may be prompted to look to the resale market.