Stepping into the property world for the first time is daunting enough, but deciphering the confusing language that comes along with it can feel like yet another chore. Whether you’re buying, selling or renting out your HDB, knowing exactly what you’re signing up for is a pressing need for all homebuyers alike.
Here are 10 housing terms explained in the layman’s tongue, so you don’t constantly feel like you’re decoding a secret message in Morse or reading Greek.
1. MOP (Minimum Occupancy Period)
From finding higher property values to needing some spare cash, there are many reasons why you’d want to sell or rent out your current HDB. But to avoid getting in trouble with the law, you have to occupy your flat for a minimum period of five years first.
Whether you’ve landed yourself a BTO, HDB resale or executive condo, going through this minimum occupancy period is a must. Make sure to track your MOP from the moment you collect your keys, though, as there’s a common misconception that the five-year countdown begins only after your grand move-in.
And unfortunately, “shortening” this strict occupancy period by living overseas for some time is a no-go. Your MOP pauses when you’re overseas, and resumes when you’re physically residing in your flat again.
In a nutshell: Occupy your flat for five years before selling or renting out your HDB freely.
2. SERS (Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme)
It goes without saying that our little red dot is stretched for space. To optimise land use in Singapore, the government organised a scheme where older flats are remodelled into fresh ones – all without having to dedicate a separate plot of land for the latter.
This Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) usually targets older estates, so not to worry if your new home is already in mint-condition. Even if the government notifies you that your HDB has been selected for SERS, you score yourself a compensation package and the opportunity to purchase newer flats at a subsidised rate.
Usually, residents have enough elbow room to choose a new flat that’s located close to their old neighbourhood.
In a nutshell: The government takes your old flat, gifts you money for it, and then gives you the option of moving to a new flat with a fresh 99-year lease.
3. TOP (Temporary Occupation Permit)
Although not as drastic, waiting for our new homes to be fully built can sometimes feel like Rose’s 84-year wait for Jack in Titanic. The Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP) cuts you some slack from the average waiting period of five years, by allowing you to occupy your flat before construction is completed.
Don’t let cases of falling ceilings and flaky pillars scare you, because HDB has to go through a process of legal documents before deeming the flat ready to be occupied. Think of your TOP property as a space that’s ready to be lived in, with only facilities like swimming pools and gyms needing some extra elbow grease.
For both HDB and executive condo owners, applying for a TOP is possible. You’ll have to wait for four weeks for your application to go through, before getting the green light to move in.
In a nutshell: You gain the opportunity to move into your new flat before it’s fully constructed.
4. Sale of Balance Flats (SBF)
During the frequent BTO launches that some of us are constantly eyeing, there are some units which are left unsold. To make sure none of them “go to waste”, HDB pools the remaining flats from past launches and opens them for sale to the public under the Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) scheme. Possibly, inauspicious floors and unit numbers along with non-centralised location could be the reasons why not all units are sold in a certain launch.
Because SBFs are usually prioritised for new couples, larger families or those with children, you can even slip your name under schemes, such as the Parenthood Priority Scheme or Multi-Generation Priority Scheme to secure a home faster.
As long as you’re eligible, this shouldn’t be a problem when going through with your application process. The best part? Since SBFs are fully constructed or nearing completion, waiting times are much shorter as compared to ordinary BTOs. From almost five painstaking years, your intermission period is crunched down to about one and a half to three years on average.
In a nutshell: In this scheme, flats which are unsold from past BTO launches up for grabs.
5. DBSS Flats (Design, Build and Sell Scheme)
Apart from thinking this acronym sounded a whole lot like a bank in Singapore, I’ve never understood anything else about the highly-raved DBSS flats until today. Now, I’ve learnt that these homes could be your go-to if you’re gunning for bigger spaces and dem premium feels without spending a tonne on a condo.
DBSS flats usually come with extra features that aren’t commonly found in normal HDBs, such as floor-to-ceiling windows, study and balcony areas. Their architectural design is just as atas, because they’re usually constructed by private developers who build higher-end dwellings such as condos.
In terms of space, they’re also pretty well-endowed with a possibility of four bedrooms instead of the usual three in a typical 5-room flat. For families that live together with their parents or siblings, this extra room would be useful when you’re craving some alone-time.
But, of course, most DBSS flats come with a higher price-tag, with a unit at Bishan even crossing the million-dollar mark in February 2021.
In a nutshell: Flats that are built by private developers, with more room and better architectural design.
6. 3-Gen Flats/ Multigenerational Flats
Parting is such sweet sorrow after staying with your parents for your whole life. Here’s where 3-Gen flats can come in handy, which are dwellings that allow your whole fambam to live under one roof without any goodbyes.
Just like DBSS flats, these units host larger floor spaces and facilities as opposed to ordinary HDBs. Multigeneral flats, for example, usually have an average area of 115 SQM that are about 5 SQM larger than your average 5-room flat. Since extra bedrooms and attached bathrooms are also an exclusive deal, these flats have become quite the hot pick since its announcement in 2013.
While the bigger space is definitely a breath of fresh air, do note that you can only sell your unit to other multi-generational families if you’re letting your home go at any point.
In a nutshell: These are flats with bigger floor spaces that allow your entire family to live under one roof.
When you’re thinking of settling down solo, a massive home isn’t much of a priority for most. To allow singletons to have their private nook, 2-room flats which are both
Hosting a living area, bedroom and storage-cum-shelter area, most flats under this category are about half the size of your typical 4-room flat. Tinier budgets will also find their perfect match in 2-room Flexi BTOs in non-mature estates, which typically go for around $90,000 and up.
And depending on whether you’re gunning for small interiors or slightly more stretchroom, you can also opt for either Type 1 or Type 2 floorplans respectively.
In a nutshell: These are 2-room flats for singles above 35 or senior citizens that come with a lower price tag.
8. EIP (Ethnic Integration Policy)
To ensure a balanced proportion of ethnic groups in a HDB estate, there’s a hard and fast rule in the form of the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) that all homebuyers should follow. Whether you’re buying a new flat or selling your unit to others, you can use the enquiry service to check if you’ve met the eligibility criteria first.
P.S. For mixed-ethnicity families, you can choose to classify your household ethnicity under the ethnic group of any owner or spouse.
In a nutshell: A policy that ensures balanced ethnicities in any particular HDB block, to promote a sense of racial harmony.
9. HLE (HDB Loan Eligibility)
Unlike mafias and their briefcases brimming with cash, most of us aren’t able to whip out cold hard cash when paying for our new home. To combat this, HDB lends you a given sum of money by issuing a statement in the form of the HDB Loan Eligibility (HLE).
The amount they’re willing to lend you depends on things like your age, income and financial standing. Not forgetting to factor in housing grants that you’re eligible for, you receive an overall loan offer from HDB.
In a nutshell: A statement from HDB that determines the loan amount you receive to pay for your flat.
10. OTP (Option to Purchase)
Unless you’ve settled on a home that’ll serve you till retirement, moving to a new flat might eventually be part of your plan.
In this case, the Option to Purchase (OTP) is your very own “contract” used when wanting to sell your HDB or private property. Although this sets the buyer back about $1,000 for HDBs and 1% of the selling price of your private property, it helps to officially “reserve” the home, in case either party suddenly decides to back out.
Do note that you have to pay up this amount within a certain time frame, though. After 14 and 21 days for public and private housing respectively, any sum you pay forward will be forfeited
In a nutshell: A contract that’s used between both buyer and seller of a particular property.
Housing terms explained in plain English
Whether you’re hopping onto a new BTO adventure or thinking of selling your resale flat, there are many procedures that one has to follow through for a smooth experience. From waiting out your MOP to snagging a classy DBSS flat, you can now make that HDB journey a whole lot easier.
This article was originally published on 8th September 2021, but updated on 24th October 2023.
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