How to Choose the Ideal BTO Unit

  • Nov 30, 2023

About to purchase your first BTO? Take these factors into account before choosing your unit. 

The Big Picture

Neighbourhood: What’s around me?

The number one thing to consider: Neighbourhood. No point having the perfect unit in a neighbourhood that doesn’t fit in with your needs.

Is the neighbourhood primarily residential or is there a mix of light industry and commercial shops? If it's the latter, it could mean that there are some heavy vehicles passing through the area and the available amenities may cater more towards workers.

And if it's a residential area, are there more older homes or is it mostly occupied by young families? This can help determine if there will be vacancies for nearby preschools or primary schools, for example.

Image: Unsplash

How bustling is the neighbourhood with both pedestrians and vehicles? This will give you an idea of whether it's a quiet area or if there are more activities happening.

A couple of things that I think are also pretty important to look out for when you’re sussing out your neighbourhood: the location of the nearest supermarket or wet market, especially if you cook frequently, and nearby food centres where you can grab dinner on busy weeknights. These could be coffee shops, hawker centres, or food courts. You’ll want them to be at least within a max 10-min walking distance.

Image: Unsplash

The good-to-haves are things like a neighbourhood/town centre, a shopping mall, a community centre, a sports centre or a park connector. These will help drive up the appeal of a neighbourhood (also resale value!), but aren’t absolute essentials.

Nearby primary schools are another factor to consider if you have younger children or are planning to grow your family. Check out online maps to determine how far the primary schools are and whether your choice schools are within a 1-km distance for priority admission.

Connectivity

For those who rely heavily on public transportation, look out for the nearest MRT stations (existing or upcoming) and see if they are a comfortable walking distance. You could head down to the BTO site to see if the walk from the station is a comfortable one.

Image: Unsplash 

If the site isn't conveniently close to an MRT station, you can consider checking out the nearest bus stops instead. For those selecting BTOs in areas that are still relatively undeveloped, keep in mind that the bus stops shown on HDB site maps may not always materialise due to low demand or other reasons. Check if the buses in the area are feeder services or long-haul options, and also see how often the buses you might depend on in the future run.

If you're planning on driving, I would suggest checking the connectivity to expressways or your workplace beforehand. It might also be a good idea to visit the site during peak hours to get a better understanding of the traffic conditions. We can't always rely on Google maps telling us it takes only 15 minutes to drive down to Orchard when in reality it could be closer to 30 minutes.

Prime, Plus or Standard

For those who are planning to get a BTO from the latter half of 2024, BTOs will be reclassified to either prime, plus or standard. Each of these categories come with their own stipulations (and will affect subsequent sales), with prime encompassing the tightest restrictions and standard the lowest.

Here’s a broad and quick overview of the differences based on the current information available:

 

Standard

Plus

Prime

Subsidies

Fewest

More subsidies than standard

Most

Restrictions

5-year MOP

10-year MOP, some subsidy recovery upon first resale

Some BTO eligibility restrictions upon resale

10-year MOP, full subsidy recovery upon first resale

No full flat rental

Eligibility restrictions upon resale, such as $14K income ceiling, not holding or selling property in last 30 myths

Location

All locations

Choice locations within regions, e.g. near MRT or town centre

Choice locations, including central neighbourhoods like city centre

Are these restrictions something that will work with your needs and future property aspirations?

Unit Mix

Consider also the variety of units available in the neighbourhood or within your own estate. If they are more spacious units like 4- and 5-room flats, chances are there will be more families in the area. If the units tend to be smaller, you can expect more couples or singles within your neighbourhood. This will affect the overall dynamics and atmosphere in the area, which may be an important consideration if you're thinking longer term. 

Image: Unsplash

BTOs with more bigger flats may indicate a more family-oriented community, with families gathering at playgrounds and parks and children playing together, allowing for more opportunities for neighbour-to-neighbour interactions and building relationships. Smaller units may foster a more independent, self-sufficient atmosphere where people tend to keep to themselves, and there may also be fewer communal spaces within the area. 

Nitty Gritty Details

Now that you’ve selected the neighbourhood, let’s get down to the nitty gritty details on how to choose the perfect unit.

Sun direction

If you spend a lot of your time at home or telecommute, then getting a unit that doesn’t feel like a baked oven is probably paramount for your sanity and utility bills.

Image: Unsplash

In Singapore, the afternoon sun comes in from two angled directions: north-west and south-west, depending on the time of the year. The morning sun coming in from the east direction can also heat up your space considerably, though it’s milder than the afternoon sun. Try to go for a unit where the main windows of your home (bedrooms + living room) aren’t facing these directions.

But even if your main windows are facing these directions, there’s a chance you may be blocked by neighbouring blocks—provided those buildings are taller than yours—so that will go some way to alleviate the heat coming through your windows.

❯❯❯ Read more: Can Energy-efficient Windows Save Me Money?

The only instances you actually want sun coming through your home is if it's through the service yard and you have the habit of hanging your clothes out to dry, or if you keep plenty of plants at home.  

Determine walking proximity to public transportation or car park

If you rely on public transportation, it’s worth checking to see how close your block is to the nearest bus stop or MRT. We’ve came across larger HDB developments where the block furthest away from the bus stop within the development is actually further away than the neighbouring block in another development.

Image: Unsplash

Drivers, just a tip for more convenience—figure out how long it takes to walk to the car park in your estate and if it’s a sheltered walk.

The views

Looking for unobstructed views? A good tip to keep in mind is to consider the surrounding buildings. The rule of thumb really is to go for a unit on a floor higher than the neighbouring structures. 

For those picking a unit that’s overlooking neighbouring stacks, determine how close they are to yours, particularly if your main windows are overlooking theirs. A 40 to 50 metre distance is actually pretty decent, although with developments a lot less spacious these days, these may be harder to come by.

Image: Unsplash

While units overlooking MRT tracks or busy traffic junctions/expressways tend to offer relatively unblocked views, they can be noisy. I recommend staying away if you you’ll be at home for a good part of the day or if you happen to work shifts or are a light sleeper. Otherwise, invest in sound-absorbing curtains that will help to mitigate the high noise levels.

Just a word of caution to those looking at units with completely unobstructed views— don't get too excited just yet. In land-scarce Singapore, unblocked views don't stick around for long. So before you make any decisions, I would highly advise checking the URA maps and master plans to ensure that there are no future projects in the pipeline for those areas. 

Adjacent to or facing on-site amenities

If noise is something that concerns you, it might be a good idea to avoid units that face amenities or are located next to them. Amenities such as pavilions are often gathering spots for activities like weddings, funerals, or community events, which means they tend to attract crowds and can get quite noisy.

Other communal areas like parks, hard courts, playgrounds, and fitness corners can also be noisy, but it depends on the makeup of the neighbourhood. In areas with many young families, playgrounds are often well-used, while estates with an older population tend to see more activity in the fitness corners.

Image: Unsplash

It’s also advisable to steer clear of units that directly overlook multi-storey carparks. Not only can this compromise your privacy, but you'll also have to contend with the constant sound of vehicles revving throughout the day.

Privacy factors

If you value privacy, it's a good idea to consider choosing corner units that are secluded from heavy foot traffic. These units are usually farther away from the lift lobbies and communal rubbish chutes, which tend to attract more people. It might be wise to avoid units that are directly adjacent to each other as well.

Image: Unsplash

Alternatively, you could invest in a foyer divider to prevent curious glances from passersby.

Optional component schemes (OCS): are you in or out?

Finally, another consideration is whether to opt in for HDB's Optional Component Scheme. HDB gives residents the option to opt in for their OCS, where they take care of the installing of sanitary fittings, internal doors, and floor finishes. The advantage is that it's probably more cost-effective compared to doing it yourself.

However, the drawback is that you have limited design options, and if you change your mind later and want a different interior design theme that doesn't match these finishes that you picked, you'll have to spend extra to remove or replace them. In terms of quality, I can't fully guarantee the ones by HDB (they're not exactly luxurious), but I've used them myself and they're not too shabby if you maintain them properly. 

If you're considering purchasing a sale of balance flat, it's possible that you might end up inheriting the OCS from the previous homeowner, leaving you with little choice but to accept it.

In all honesty, there's no such thing as the perfect BTO unit (although some are better than others, lah). It's important to carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages, and determine which aspects you're willing to compromise on and which are non-negotiable. What suits you may not necessarily suit someone else. Renonation.sg provides comprehensive analyses on new BTO launches. Visit our blog for more details. 

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