My experience with HDB
In November 2013, J and I enrolled ourselves as first-time applicants to sales of balance flats (SBF) exercise under the fiancé/fiancée scheme. We chose Seng Kang district out of many other districts because of its proximity to my parents’ house, and that it is a relatively new town. Punggol was the other up and coming new town but we are concerned about the distance and facilities they have yet-to-date and so we focused more on Seng Kang. We were able to calculate our chances as they update the statistics on the SBF main page and we watched that space till the very last day of the application exercise to click that “apply button”. The statistics showed the number of applicants versus the number of units available. For Sengkang there were 43 available SBF flats. Silly of us and being amateurs, we did not go in depth to study the facilities and convenience near the vicinity of the available flats. We merely calculated our probability and I reckon that is the typical trait of Engineers!
It was a long and excruciating wait and alas! On 29 Jan 2014 we received this email from HDB:
APPLICATION FOR NOVEMBER 2013 SALE OF BALANCE FLATS EXERCISE
Thank you for your application to buy a 5-room / Executive flat at Sengkang
2 Your application has been balloted with a queue position of 22, which is within the supply of 43 unit(s) of flats on offer.
3 The selection exercise is expected to start from Apr 2014. You will receive the invitation package by post soon. The package will contain the flat list, the appointment date to book your new home and the list of documents which you will need to bring along. You can also check for any updates via My HDBPage at http://www.hdb.gov.sg using your SingPass”.
We were extremely worried and excited at the same time. It was then we really looked into the detailed map of Sengkang and started investigating the locations of the available units. Much to our shock, almost half of the 43 units are in the west and under-developed part of Sengkang and 6 of them are repurchased flats which means they were already 10-15 years old, pre-own and bought back by HDB. There were probably only 14 flats that are new, in relatively good location as compared to the rest, and ready or almost ready for keys collection. Nonetheless we came up with a ranking list of 43 units and updated it as we carried out site survey every available weekend and got ourselves prepared for the worst.
Soon after in February or March, we received another package telling us that our appointment for our flats selection is scheduled at 9:00am on 28th April which is a Monday morning.
A week before the selection date, I started browsing the HDB website for updates to check what the others with smaller queue number have chosen. It became a really dreadful habit for that whole week as I was practically checking the website every hour and striking off units on my list. J called HDB on Thursday to check the SBF selection status and was told that there will be 5 selections on Friday and we are the first to select our flat on Monday. Towards the end of the week on Friday, a number of 16 flats had been booked. To our relief, we thought 5 couples with smaller queue numbers before us must have chosen to give up their chances in this SBF exercise since Saturday and Sunday are not typical working days.
So, confidently, on that Saturday before 28th April, we went down to survey Anchorvale Horizon and two other re-purchased flats that we have shortlisted. We had breakfast in Macdonalds in Seng Kang Sports and Recreation Centre (SRC) and also went for a swim. We even planned to visit Horizon in the evening so that we can have a feel of what is it likeat night and fully utilized the late afternoon for shopping in Ikea and Courts at Tampines before going back to Anchorvale Horizon. On that night we took the lift up to check that available unit that is on top of our list and chanced upon a neighbor smoking at the corridor outside his unit. He and his wife were very nice to let us have a tour in their unit and were full of praises and good comments about both of our units since both units are just beside each other and having almost similar views. That tour made us more eager and desperate to get that unit. We did not feel that way until hearing fantastic reviews from this neighbor. Towards the end of the tour and before saying goodbye, the lady owner asked about our selection date and time and told us to be there early as they experienced queue jumping during their BTO (Build to Order) selection exercise. That was when she also mentioned they did their selection on a Sunday and there might be flats selections on Sunday. I felt my world crashing down. We were extremely horrified when we heard that news. Our hopes of being the first to choose the remaining flats plummeted and fell to rock bottom. Our prediction about 5 couples giving up their chances in the SBF exercise might not be accurate after all! There might be just another 5 couples waiting for their selection on Sunday before us and that means we might not be able to get this dream unit. I felt my lips turn pale and lost all appetite for dinner that night at Pasta Mania. J and I both had a sleepless night.
I went to Kwan Im Thong for a piece of mind on that Sunday morning and prayed that if there is selection that Sunday; please let that unit stay unbooked and available for me to book on Monday morning. I started refreshing the HDB webpage on my smartphone every hour to check after I left the temple. Towards the end of the day, I still could not believe our eyes when we affirmed that there were no flats selections on Sunday. We had our doubts on whether the website was down for maintenance and kept our attention there till the next morning.
In light to our experience, the SBF exercise is actually different from the BTO exercise as there are not as many applicants and HDB only have appointment for each town every 1-2 days. The other point to note is that there might or might not have flats selections on Sunday and calling HDB to enquire the flat selection status on their working weekdays can help solve all the troubles. They do not entertain calls on weekends and only an auto-answer machine will attend to you.
The entire night before 28th April was sleepless too. We were not confident in getting that dream unit after that eventful weekend. We went to HDB hub really early (we were second in the queue for the e-ticketing kiosk) to retrieve our queue number and waited anxiously for our number to be called. Of course, eventually, we did manage to book that dream unit and left HDB for our mini brunch celebration at Wild Honey.