How to boost your BTO application chances
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How to boost your BTO application chances

Feb 2023
May 2022
boost HDB BTO chances - singapore property

Note: This article was first published in February 2022, and updated on 27 May 2022.

“As your balloted queue position has far exceeded the flat supply, we regret to inform you that your application is not successful.” 

That dreaded sentence has become a familiar disappointment for young Singaporeans looking to settle down. A Build-to-Order (BTO) flat can sometimes feel more elusive than the record $19.4 million Toto Hongbao jackpot. 

With the fierce competition for a HDB BTO unit in Singapore, how should you boost your application chances? We break it down here. 

How does the application rate work?

application rate formula

This formula calculates the application rate of each project. For instance, if the application rate is 3 for a four-room BTO flat, this means that there are three applicants vying for one unit in this project. 

From the previous launches, one of the most oversubscribed projects include:

Application rates of past BTO projects

Based on 4-room flats

Project name Application period Application rate
Non-mature Towns/Estate
Hougang Citrine/
Kovan Wellspring
August 2021 18.5
Mature Towns/Estate
Telok Blangah Beacon May 2021 49.6
Central River Peaks I & II November 2021 10.3
Dakota Crest February 2022 28.8

Source: HDB

The introduction of the new Prime Location Public Housing (PLH) model did not deter BTO applications. For every one four-room unit in Central River Peaks I & II, about 10 applicants were vying for it. Other highly anticipated projects include BTO launches in popular areas like the Greater Southern Waterfront and Farrer Park, yielding more than 7000 BTO units in these prime areas. The first launch is targeted to be within the next 3 years. Meanwhile, resale prices have risen.

The odds of BTO balloting

The Housing Development Board (HDB) gives out more queue numbers than the number of units available. For example, if the flat supply is 200, HDB may give out 250 queue numbers. If your queue number ranges between 1 and 200, you will definitely get a unit. If your number goes beyond 200, you will only get to pick a flat if couples before you choose to forgo their chances. Queue numbers are assigned randomly. 

First time vs second time BTO applicants

As it is, first-timers enjoy higher chances of snagging the flats available. You also get 2 times the ballot chances as compared with second timers. 

Flat supply distribution

First timers vs second timers

First Timer Second Timer
3-room flats (Non-mature estates)
70% 30%
3-room flats (Mature estates)
95% 5%
4-room flats or larger flats (Non-mature estates)
85% 15%
4-room flats or larger flats (Mature estates)
95% 5%
4-room flats or larger flats (shorter waiting time)
95% 5%

Source: HDB

Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP)

In 1989, the EIP was introduced to limit the percentage of homes that can be occupied by an ethnicity in each neighbourhood. If the number of units reserved for minority races are fully subscribed by the time you get to your queue number, your valid ballot may be voided. But in that instance, that void queue number does not count towards your ballot chances.

How to boost your BTO application rate

Utilise HDB priority schemes

There are various HDB priority schemes with different flat allocations. Each offers a higher chance of getting a queue number.

HDB BTO priority schemes

1. Live near your parents

Priority scheme name: Married Child Priority Scheme

If you apply for a HDB BTO project within 4km of your parents’ house, you can enjoy the perks of this priority scheme.

For first timers, up to 30% of the units will be allocated to those who live near their parents. For second timers, up to 15% of the units will be allocated to those who live near their parents.

If you have successfully balloted under this scheme, your parents must continue staying in their current property throughout the Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP) of five years. 

2. Become neighbours with your parents

Priority scheme name: Multi-Generation Priority Scheme (MGPS)

To improve your chances even further, you may want to live in the same BTO project as your parents to qualify for a joint application.

For this priority scheme, your parents will only be able to apply for two-room flexi or three-room flats while you can apply for all flat types. Up to 15% of the two-room flexi or three-room flats (or a minimum of 20) will be allocated to your parents. A corresponding number of units of all types will be allocated to you.

You may choose to live on the same floor as your parents, or elsewhere within the BTO project from a group of pre-identified flats. If allocated a place through the ballot, you get three queue numbers: one under MGPS and two under the public scheme — one for your parents, and one for you.

Under MGPS, you may either choose the flat jointly under MGPS, or separately under the public scheme. 

3. Have children

Priority scheme name: Parenthood Priority Scheme (PPS)

For first timers with or expecting a child, up to 30% of BTO units will be allocated to you. Your child would have to be 18 years old or below.

4. Other priority schemes

HDB priority schemes
Scheme name Flat allocation Conditions
Third Child Priority Scheme (TCPS) Up to 5% of BTO units Families with more than two children
Assistance Scheme for Second-Timers (ASSIST) Up to 5% of BTO two-room Flexi and three-room units in non-mature estates
*Quota is shared with the 30% quota set aside for second-timers
Divorced or widowed persons with children
Tenants' Priority Scheme (TPS) Up to 10% of two-room Flexi and three-room BTO units Living in a HDB public rental flat for at least two years
Seniors Priority Scheme (SPS) Of the two-room Flexi units set aside for elderly (40%, subjected to min. 100 units for each BTO project), half of it will be under SPS Elderly applying for a BTO project within 4km of existing flat, or parents/married child flats

Source: HDB

Choose a less popular project 

Less popular projects can be found at non-mature estates, or be some distance away from the MRT and other popular amenities. If you’re thinking about the valuation or convenience of staying in these BTO projects, you may also look at the URA Master Plan to know what the government has in plan for the area. 

Keep trying

After 2 failed attempts at non-mature estates, your balloting chances will increase by 1, though still for non-mature estates only.

Balloting chances

Valid for non-mature estates only

No. of previous unsuccessful applications Total no. of chances
(Additional chances + 2 first timer chances)
0 or 1 2
2 3
3 4
4 5

Source: HDB

What happens after application for successful applicants? 

Congratulations if you’re one of the lucky few to get your queue number! 

The outcome of the ballot will usually be released via email about 3 weeks after the application period closes. Next, you will be invited to book a flat over the next few months depending on your queue number. At this point, you will need to pay an option fee. The option fee will be offset from your down-payment in the future. 

What happens if you give up a queue number

If you fail to make an appointment or turn up for booking a flat, you are giving up your queue number. This is known as a non-selection count. There is just one "free" pass for all types of applicants. This means that you will be able to give up your queue number once before your future applications are affected.

  • Consequences for first timers: After two non-selection counts, your subsequent BTO applications will be placed under the second-timer category for one year from the date of your second chance given up. This will greatly reduce your chance in getting a BTO
  • Consequences for second timers: After two non-selection counts, you will not be allowed to participate in any BTO or other sales exercises for 1 year.

Possible reasons to give up your queue number 

Units available are not ideal

Your desired unit is no longer available by the time comes for your turn to pick. 

Change of mind

While waiting for your flat booking appointment — which can take months — you may still apply for another BTO sales exercise, as long as you have not booked a flat. In this event, you may wish to give your queue number up if you prefer another development. 

Financial difficulties

The BTO process can take months, and financial situations may change in that time.

End of relationship  

If a couple decides to part ways, the application cannot proceed with only one party. Both applicants have to be either married or be under the Fiancé/Fiancée Scheme.

What comes after choosing your flat

Congratulations! You’ve made it this far in the BTO tussle, and secured your first home.

The battle is not over yet. The final stage comes down to paying for your home. Here's a quick guide, including a BTO payment timeline, to help you plan your finances for this major purchase.

When you sign the agreement of lease, about four months after choosing your flat, you will have to choose between a HDB loan or a bank loan. Regardless of the loan type, you would have to pay for the 10% downpayment, stamp duty and legal fees. However, the loan type will determine the amount to be paid in cash or by drawing down from your CPF Ordinary Account.

Try using the Endowus CPF calculator to better prepare yourself for your BTO flat.

Recent property cooling measures have also impacted the market in several ways. Find out more about the outlook for Singapore's property market.

To get started with Endowus, click here.

Next on the Endowus Fin.Lit Academy

Read the next article in the curriculum: Financial independence, retire early — Is the FIRE movement for you?


This article is for information purposes only and should not be considered as an offer, solicitation or advice for the purchase or sale of any investment products. It is recommended that you seek financial advice as to the suitability of any investment. Whilst Pte. Ltd. (“Endowus”) has tried to provide accurate and timely information, there may be inadvertent delays, omissions, technical or factual inaccuracies or typographical errors.

Any opinion or estimate above is made on a general basis and none of Endowus, nor any of its affiliates, representatives or agents have given any consideration to nor have made any investigation of the objective, financial situation or particular need of any user, reader, any specific person or group of persons. Opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.  

Investment involves risk. The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up, and you may not get the full amount you invested. Past performance is not an indicator nor a guarantee of future performance.

Please note that the above information does not purport to be all-inclusive or to contain all the information that you may need in order to make an informed decision. The information contained herein is not intended, and should not be construed, as legal, tax, regulatory, accounting or financial advice.

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