Buying a Resale HDB Part 3: Shortlisting Flats to Buy

Posted on October 6, 2023 — Life

Shortly after applying for the HFE, even before it was approved, I started browsing through PropertyGuru more intensely.

Yup, it was time to start thinking about the details of our next home!

Should I Engage a Buyer’s Agent When Purchasing an HDB?

Here is how the property purchasing landscape works in Singapore. Typically in a transaction, there are two sides: Seller side and Buyer side. Enganging an agent is optional on both sides. There is actually no requirement for any side to be represented by an agent, but most transactions will at the minimum have a Seller’s Agent.

When you’re viewing a listing at PropertyGuru, it is very likely the listing was made by a Seller’s Agent, a property agent that the seller has paid to market and represent them in the transaction. The Seller’s Agent will typically act in the best interest of the seller.

So do we as a buyer need to engage a Buyer’s Agent? Well… there is no right or wrong answer for this, it really just depends on your personality.

If you are the type who likes to do your own research, get involved in the buying process, and knows how to price a property, then you don’t need a Buyer’s Agent. But if you prefer to just sit back and be shown around units, then you can use an agent.

Keep in mind, if you use an agent when purchasing an HDB, you’re expected to pay 1% agent fee of the property value. So, if you ended up purchasing a $720,000 HDB, you’ll be expected to pay $7,200 in agent fee. I thought this was weird and goes against the motivation of the agent to negotiate a better price for me 🤔

Back in 2019, we used an agent. I don’t think the work our agent did justified the 1% fee we paid. So this time around I decided to forgo an agent and did all the work myself. Browsing PropertyGuru and recent property transactions are already my secret hobbies, and the HDB website was very helpful in terms of what steps we need to take, so it was pretty easy to just DIY everything.

A Quick Note on HFE

In the current market, I recommend sorting out your HFE first before looking for property. Almost all of the agents I inquired with asked what my HFE status is, and some would not let me view the flat if I hadn’t applied for HFE yet.

At the minimum, you can apply for HFE then start looking. Then if you found a flat you like and you think your HFE is taking longer than promised (and they tend to be these days) you could enlist your MP’s help to expedite your HFE.

HDB Flat Types and What They Mean

When I first began my search, I realized that no HDB is built the same. Each HDB estate has different floor plan and different types assigned to it. I was overwhelmed by the many types of HDB flats. Even when I’ve decided that I wanted a 5-room flat, there are still types like standard, improved, model A, etc.

Thankfully, I came across a list of all the HDB Flat Types out there by Teoalida. This list was integral for me in understanding what HDB types are out there and even has samples of floor plans.

Searching and Shortlisting For the Perfect Home!

For searching properties in Singapore, my favorite website remains PropertyGuru - but on a laptop. I specifically said laptop because the search experience is so much better than the mobile experience. You get access to all the search filters, and you can view the property on a map, which makes it easier to single out the properties you want at the location you are keen for.

On top of that, I have other personal criterias as well, which were:

  • No bombshelter in the apartment, because I think they are a total waste of space and ended up being used as a store room anyways.
  • No trash chute in the kitchen, because I vehemently dislike cockroaches and do not want them in the kitchen.
  • Must be a corridor end unit or point block, because I’m an introvert and I’m not a fan of corridor units with passerbyers looking into the unit.

Based on my criterias, I could narrow down the search to only 5-Room Improved or 5-Room Model A from the 90s that were completed roughly from 1993-1998.

I say roughly because the HDB we ended up getting was completed in 1999 but it still satisfied the criterias above.

Beware of Cash Over Valuation (COV)

I briefly touched on this on my previous post, but COV is a very important factor that could make or break a sale.

COV is basically a way for HDB to prevent buyers from offering a price for a unit that is way above what HDB thinks it is valued at. So for example, you might see a very nicely renovated unit with luxury fittings and great condition going for $960,000. However, there is a possibility that HDB thinks the valuation for this flat is only $800,000.

COV cannot be paid using CPF or loan, so then you’ll need to come up for extra $160,000 in cash to be able to purchase this property. Naturally, this will weed out some buyers as not many people have extra $160,000 lying around.

In order to estimate valuation, you can check the recent transactions for the block you are interested in. Or, you could also a third party app like SGPropInsider for an easier way to look at the data.

And that’s all I have on the topic of shortlisting flats :)

Up for a discussion?
I'm sorry I haven't gotten around to implementing a commenting system yet! If you want to discuss something or have questions, I can be reached via email
← Back to blog