A Practical Guide To Selecting Your BTO Unit

By Esther Rachel Lai. - 1/17/2018

Since I’m still waiting for my home to be fully furnished (it’s about 90% done now) I thought I'd share some tips with you guys about owning your own home before the actual post about my house interior and I hope you guys are interested!

I think some of these tips are not just applicable for BTO home owners but are quite relevant for those who are soon-to-be owners of ECs, DBSS and Resale Flats as well, so I really hope this post will help!

When Shane and I got the letter to select our flat about 3 years ago, I remember thinking "Okay cool, so we'll just go down during our appointment and select whichever flat we FEEL is most suitable for us." But then my Mother-in-law suggested we seek advice from an aunt of ours who's a housing agent before going down to select. I initially thought it was really redundant cause I think all flats are more or less the same right? Like, just close eyes, eeny meeny miney moe and tikam can already what! But thank God we met his aunt anyway and learnt SO MUCH on what to look out for when choosing our flat! I'm talking about practical tips here and not Feng Shui tips (cause Shane and I don't believe in Feng Shui) or investment tips (cause I know nuts about that). So if you’re interested, do read on for a list of things to take note of when choosing your flat but please note that this is soley based on my personal experience and I’m no expert on the matter!

Consider where the Sun sets!

(Image credit: @chuttersnap)

What does our solar system have to do with the flat you choose, I hear you say? Well, unless you enjoy living in a microwave, one thing to consider is whether your flat is facing the afternoon/evening sun! Given Singapore’s insane heat (sans the recent abnormally cold weather), choosing a unit where the afternoon/evening sun directly hits your flat might not be a good idea. The morning sun however, is perfectly fine cause it’s generally a lot cooler and less humid in the mornings. That being said, it’s also good to have a bit of afternoon sun facing your service yard so that your laundry can dry better. To check how the sunlight will affect your desired unit of choice, you don't have to sit there the entire day and stare at your half-developed future home. All you need is your estate's floor plan and know that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West! Alternatively, there’s also something called a “Sun calculator” which you can probably Google more about. For us, our aunt simply used the floorplan to gauge -it’s really not rocket science.

Does noise bother you?

(Image credit: @vberruezo)

If you’re a light sleeper like me, noise might be one of your biggest concerns when it comes to selecting your flat so if you can, avoid selecting a unit that’s directly facing or above these places:
- Main roads (noise from motorcycles, buses etc.)
- Multi-storey carparks (think: screeching tyres)
- Multi-purpose halls / Pavillions / Auditoriums (people usually hold funerals/weddings there)

Higher unit = higher price

(Image credit: @anniespratt)

A lot of people aspire to live in high units because of the view and breeze they get but what I’ve noticed from many conversations I've had with different people is that a lot of people don’t know that with every level or every alternate level increase, it’s an additional cost of a few thousands. I’m not sure what the exact cost is and I think it differs from estate to estate but for my estate (if I remember correctly), it was an additional of about $4000 for every 2 levels (e.g. Level 4 would cost $4000 more than level 2, and level 6 $8000 more than level 2 & so on). That being said, while opting for a lower unit is more wallet-friendly, it might cause some inconvenience if you have inconsiderate neighbours who like to throw litter out of their windows (especially if you have a balcony) or in resale flats, you might have to put up with dripping laundry.

Balcony or not?

(Image credit: @grantlemons)

Speaking of balcony, having a balcony can really enhance the look of your apartment but before you jump right in, it's crucial to find out if your balcony is an internal or external balcony. Internal balconies mean that if you look up from the outside, the building is completely flushed and the balcony is not protruding out. Internal balconies tend to eat into your apartment's internal space, leaving you with a smaller living area.

Your home's privacy

(Image credit:@te3pot)

The thing about new flats these days is that most of the units are built very closely facing each other with some service yards literally just a climb away into the next unit's service yard so do take a closer look at your floor plan to select a flat which is more decently "spaced out". Apart from that, another thing to consider is how far away from the lift your unit will be. If your unit is the first right after the lift landing, then you can expect having many neighbours walk past your unit to get to theirs and even peering into your unit as they do. Corner flats are generally a good option in this case because they're right at the end of the block, which means you'll have minimal strangers / neighbours walking past your unit. A lot of BTOs now have roof gardens on certain levels as well and if you're not a fan of seeing strangers / neighbours from other levels coming in and out of your unit's level, then try to choose a flat that's one or two levels above/below the roof garden.

Where the rubbish chute's located

(Image credit:@gary_at_unsplash)

New flats these days don't come with an in-built rubbish chute in your unit. You usually share a common one with all the rest of the homeowners on your level so avoid choosing a unit nearest to the rubbish chute because it'll obviously be quite dirty and unsightly. And if some inconsiderate neighbours choose not to dispose of their rubbish proper, any seepage from their waste might leak right up to the front of your flat.

Shortlist more than one unit

(Image credit:@craftedbygc)

At the end of the day, there’s bound to be some give and take to the flat you choose, especially if your queue number isn’t the most ideal. So it’s important for you to list down a few units of your choice in order of preference before your appointment date. Shane and I shortlisted about 15 units, of which, 80% of our preferred unit was snagged up before our appointment date and we were left with only 2 or 3 of our shortlisted units (eventhough we had a relatively good queue number of 400+/1400++). To be safe, your list should include options that you don’t think would be the “most popular” choice as well. To see if you stand a good chance in getting the unit you like, prior to your appointment, you can also check out the myHDB portal to see which units have already been taken, strike those out from your list, and shortlist more if need be.

The design of your home you envision to have

Adding this last point in which I left out previously but another one of the major things I took into consideration was the layout of the flat itself. If you have certain ideas on what you want your home to look like, this could be a very crucial factor. For me, I initially wanted to hack the walls of our master bedroom toilet to create an open concept toilet. Some of the units that were available for our selection had an undesirable layout for what I wanted to do. While you may or may not proceed with the idea come renovation time, I think it’s good to factor those ideas in first so when the day comes and you choose to go ahead with your initial idea, you won’t be disappointed just because your flat’s layout restricts you.

& that’s pretty much all the tips I have for you when it comes to selecting your unit! I think unless you have the good fortune of getting a really good queue number (like first few), the odds of getting your top choice is quite unlikely so manage your expectations, be realistic and remember that you can’t always have your cake and eat it too! It’s okay not to have the most perfect house, what matters more is the home that you will build in the coming years! :)

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