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'I was so shocked': New property cooling measures scupper some private owners' plans to sell homes, downgrade to HDB flats

SINGAPORE — Hoping to sell her 1,004-sqf three-room executive condominium (EC) apartment in Canberra at the end of the year, Ms Lee, a real estate agent, was shocked when she found out that she would have to wait 15 months before she can buy a Housing and Development Board (HDB) resale flat.

'I was so shocked': New property cooling measures scupper some private owners' plans to sell homes, downgrade to HDB flats
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  • Private property owners intending to downgrade to HDB flats have been affected by the new property cooling measures that kicked on Sept 30
  • They were caught off guard by the new rules, which included a 15-month wait-out period for private home owners before they can buy a non-subsidised HDB resale flat
  • Some have considered temporarily moving in with family or renting during the period
  • Others are turning back to private properties
  • Analysts said that they believe the longer wait would help slow down the property market and keep HDB flats affordable

SINGAPORE — Hoping to sell her 1,004-sqf three-room executive condominium apartment in Canberra at the end of the year, Ms Lee, a real estate agent, was shocked when she found out that she would have to wait 15 months before she can buy a Housing and Development Board (HDB) resale flat.

“I just woke up, and saw the notifications on my phone from news sites about the cooling measures, and the messages from clients asking how they will be affected… I was so shocked,” the 53-year-old said.

Ms Lee, who declined to give her full name, had planned to downgrade to a four-room HDB flat in Yishun after selling her apartment at her ideal price of S$1.15 million.

“After we sell the EC, the amount that will go back into our Central Provident Fund (CPF) accounts would cover my retirement (account) minimum sum,” she said. 

Because she turns 55 in 2024, Ms Lee will need S$102,900 — the basic retirement sum stipulated by CPF. She has not met this amount because she is not required to contribute to her CPF account as a self-employed person.

“Taking off what we owe on our outstanding housing loan (from the projected sale price of S$1.15 million), we have a balance of about S$580,000, which is just enough to get a four-room HDB flat that could be easily resold in the future,” Ms Lee added. She has no children but hopes to leave behind “something” for her niece and nephew.

“But assuming we can get a rental apartment for S$3,500 a month, we have to fork out S$52,500 (for 15 months), which is not a small sum for us when my income will be affected by the cooling measures (for the property market) and with my husband’s contract work ending next year.”

Ms Lee is not the only one affected.

Other property agents who spoke to TODAY have similarly been inundated with phone messages from clients about how the cooling measures that took effect last Friday (Sept 30) would affect them. 

The new measures include:

  • A lower loan-to-value limit for HDB loans, from 85 per cent to 80 per cent
  • Tightened maximum loan limits for HDB housing loans and private financial institutions
  • A 15-month waiting period between the sale of private property and the purchase of a non-subsidised resale HDB flat (waived for seniors aged 55 and above buying a four-room or smaller resale flat)

One agent was Mr Donny Lim from PropNex, who said that four of his 10 clients had contacted him early last Saturday morning because they had bought or sold their HDB flats in September and were mainly worried about their loans and interest rates.

"When I saw the announcement, I texted my clients to let them know… One of them had just bought a HDB flat and was concerned if the interest rate for the HDB housing loan might increase but I assured them that they are not affected,” he said.


These measures have forced many people who recently sold their private properties with the intention to downgrade to HDB resale flats to reconsider their decision.

Some buyers said that they plan to wait out the 15-month period by staying with relatives or renting, while others may turn to buying private property again.

Such was the case for Mr and Mrs Peh, both 41, who declined to give their full names or be interviewed, but directed TODAY to their property agent, Ms Corraine Choo.

After selling their Tampines condo unit for S$1.4 million on Sept 24, the couple planned to move to a larger resale HDB flat with more space for their family, while also reducing their overall expenses, Ms Choo said.

They had planned on buying an older HDB flat in the same neighbourhood to be close to their daughter’s school.

Then, after the measures kicked in less than a week later, their plans were disrupted and they decided to start looking at other nearby condominiums instead.

“Their main concern is that they wanted to cash out and have a downgrade in lifestyle so their monthly (expenses) are not so high,” Ms Choo added.

She said that her clients were looking at an older private housing estate nearby, where units cost slightly less than their previous home. However, she pointed out that by moving to another condo, they still have to pay higher monthly expenses, which was what they wanted to avoid.

The couple has appealed to HDB to waive the 15-month wait.

Mr Robin Chan, a real estate agent from property firm ERA, said that his clients have halted their plans to sell their private properties and he is thankful that none of them have been forced to scramble for a rental unit.

“One of my clients, a family of four, was planning to sell their three-room condominium in Clementi and move to a five-room HDB flat so that their children may have more space. Luckily, their oldest is in the middle of her PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination), so they were planning to put the house on the market after that,” he added.

“They could upgrade to a bigger resale condominium, but prices right now are very high and it would eat into their savings for their children’s education and their retirement savings. And taking a bigger loan would also not be ideal with the increased interest rates.”

As for 60-year-old civil servant Sandhu Gurdev, who lives in Euro-Asia Apartments in Serangoon, he is hopeful that he would still be able to buy a five-room HDB flat or executive maisonette and is waiting for the advice of the lawyers involved in his estate’s en-bloc sale.

His condominium estate was sold en-bloc for S$222.18 million earlier in July. Mr Sandhu would be able to buy a four-room HDB flat or smaller, but he would rather get a condominium unit instead.

Mr Sandhu was one of several residents TODAY interviewed during visits to 12 en-bloc condominiums sold between 2021 and 2022. Some residents were “thankful” that they had bought their HDB flats in time, while others are looking to buy private apartments to avoid renting.

A “long-term resident” of Gloria Mansion in Pasir Panjang, who declined to be named, said: “Renting is extremely expensive now and it would be a hassle to move between homes. Luckily, we bought our five-room HDB flat in September before the cooling measures were announced.”


Responding to TODAY's queries, the Ministry of National Development (MND) said that the number of private property owners buying HDB resale flats have doubled in 2021 and the first three-quarters of 2022, as compared to 2019 and 2020.

MND also reiterated a point made by National Development Minister Desmond Lee last week that private property owners generally have more financial means to buy resale flats, as compared to first-time home buyers or existing HDB-owners.

"Some may not even need to take loans to complete their purchase. They therefore tend to pay higher amounts of cash-over-valuation when buying resale flats."

MND did not respond to TODAY's query on how it decided on the duration of the wait-out period. 

When asked why the Government decided on this 15-month period, Mr Nicholas Mak, head of research and consultancy at ERA, believes that the figure could be arbitrary.

“It could be just half of the 30-month waiting period for private property owners who are first-timers and wish to apply for the CPF Housing Grant and Enhanced CPF Housing Grant,” he said.

Under these two grant schemes, eligible buyers who have never received other housing subsidies before may get a grant for their resale HDB flat of up to S$50,000 and S$80,000 respectively.

Mr Lee Sze Teck, senior director for research at real estate firm Huttons Asia, said: “In the past, private property owners were required to sell their properties within six months of their HDB flat purchase. They could have gauged that a 15-month wait-out period would be more impactful in cooling the market.”

Sharing the same sentiments, Mr Mohan Sandrasegeran, senior analyst for research and content creation at real estate company One Global Group, believes that there is no fixed rule when narrowing down the timeline of such rules.

“However, a lengthier wait of 15 months is likely to lead to a more significant impact… (in reaching) the relevant authority’s main aim to ensure that public housing remains affordable,” he said.

There is also no public information on the buyer profile of HDB resale flats, which might explain why the cooling measures target private property owners. 

On this point, Ms Christine Sun, senior vice-president of research and analytics at property firm OrangeTee & Tie, said that "based on ground observation, agents did tell us that many of the million-dollar flats or large units were bought by private homeowners or former en-bloc apartment owners who are cash-rich". ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SAMUEL NG

Related topics

property housing en bloc resale cooling measures HDB condominium

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