For the love of BTO

Should young couples buy a HDB flat before getting engaged?

Ong Ting Jia

Published: 12 June 2017, 3:39 PM

It seems applications for built-to order (BTO) flats have replaced engagement rings. In a trend unique to Singapore, it has become increasingly common for couples to apply for a flat, long before getting engaged.

What’s going on? 

On Jun 4, The Straits Times shared the stories of three couples, who applied for BTO flats years before they planned to married or engaged. This reignited the age-old debate of whether young couples should be making the commitment to buy a Housing Development Board (HDB) flat together, so long before committing to get married.
On one hand, many take the pragmatic approach. Undergraduate Alfred Tay, 22, said: “I feel that it is a practical decision to look into BTOs early due to the long wait for houses to be built. It will also give couples more time to select a BTO in a location that they prefer.”
While there is the quicker option of resale flats, many young couples still prefer BTO flats. Priscilla Tan, 31, a new BTO home owner, said: “I did not consider resale flats at all, as HDB benefits for young couples choosing a BTO are very attractive. Except for the longer waiting time, there are more pros than cons in purchasing BTO over resale flats.

“In addition, because of the subsidies given, less cash is needed for the transaction. This cash can go towards wedding preparations or renovations instead. Most importantly, BTO flats are newer in condition and nothing beats being the first owner of the unit.”

However, others expressed concern of the possibly of couples going their separate ways after the first flushes of romance fade. When that happens, there are consequences to face.

The current average waiting time for a BTO flat is three to four years, although the government has committed to reduce this to 2½ years by next year. PHOTO CREDIT: JOURNEYTOHDB.WORDPRESS.COM
Cindy Teo, a 22-year-old student, said: “I know a friend who broke up with his girlfriend right before receiving the keys to their new house. Not only was it a devastating experience, they ended up losing more than $20,000.”

Depending on the size of the flat, couples can lose anything between $10,000 and $25,000 if they break up, leading some to feel pressured to marry for the sake of the flat.

Some also feel that the romance of a marriage proposal and planning for marriage is lost when a couple chooses to apply for a flat first.

Nicky Yong, a 23-year-old student in NUS, explained: “How exciting and romantic can a relationship be when all the couple can think about is earning money and saving up for a BTO? Maybe it would be better to think of BTO after marriage when the ‘honeymoon period’ of dating is over and the couple is more committed to building a life together.”

What’s your take?

1. Would you apply for a BTO flat with your significant other before marriage? Why?

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