S’porean Couple Who Waited Over 5 Years For BTO Explains Why It Was Worth It

Singaporean Couple On Why The Wait For Their Woodleigh Hillside BTO Was Worth It

When Singaporean couple Benjamin Lim, 33, and Elizabeth Lee, 32, agreed to take their relationship to the next level and buy a home together in 2016, they knew they wanted to go the BTO route.

BTO wait

While that would mean getting their own place much later, they decided it was worth it because it was affordable. After all, they were only in their mid-20s and working in their first jobs.

After successfully balloting for a flat in the Bidadari estate in July 2017 on their third try, they looked forward to moving in within the next four years or so.

Alas, Covid-19 plunged the world into a standstill in early 2020, delaying construction and their move-in date.

They finally collected their keys back in January. Now that renovations are complete, they’ll be shifting in at the end of 2023 — with a tiny new family member joining them.

Couple gets Bidadari flat after 3 BTO applications

MS News met Mr Lim and Ms Lee in their Woodleigh Hillside flat in June, when it was still being furnished after being renovated.

In the middle of the living room was a foldable table — the kind one would bring on a camping trip — and several plastic stools. A temporary workstation for when they went over to oversee renovations and needed to get stuff done on their laptops.

It’s also where we sat down to learn more about their love story, which by their own admission, was a pretty “typical” one.

The pair met as students at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, in 2011. They started dating the following year and registered their marriage in January 2020.

But before that, they had to do what many other Singaporean couples do before they say “I do” — discuss where to set up their love nest.

In 2016, they applied for a BTO in Senja Heights at Bukit Panjang as it was affordable and near Ms Lee’s parents’ home. While they received an offer to book a unit, they backed out as they realised the area lacked the amenities that would suit their needs and long-term goals.

“We wanted somewhere nearer to our workplaces,” explained Ms Lee, a marketing manager and content creator. She added that her husband, who works in human resources, would like their children to attend his alma mater, Maris Stella High School.

BTO wait

The Bidadari BTO fit the bill.

While their first application in late 2016 was unsuccessful due to oversubscription, they had much better luck the second time around and, in July 2017, snagged a queue position of 398 — well within the supply of 680 units on offer.

However, while Mr Lim and Ms Lee were not penalised when they backed out of booking a flat the first time at Bukit Panjang, potential buyers should note that HDB has since tightened its non-selection rules on applicants who give up the chance to select a flat after getting the opportunity to do so.

Over 5-year wait for BTO due to Covid-19 delays

Their four-room flat is located in Woodleigh Hillside and was originally supposed to be completed sometime in 2021.

However, like countless other building projects, construction had to be put on hold when the pandemic struck. By the time Mr Lim and Ms Lee got their keys in January 2023, it had been more than five years since the time they balloted for a flat.

BTO wait

Fortunately for them, they could stay at Mr Lim’s parents’ house in Serangoon for the past three years, allowing them to proceed with their plans to start a family.

Ms Lee, who was around 35 weeks pregnant at the time of our interview, has since given birth to the couple’s first child, a boy.

They plan to move into their new home in December when things are more settled.

Saved 70% to 80% of salary each month for own home

Though it’s been a very long journey, the pair maintained that the wait was worth it as getting a BTO allowed them to save more money and grow their CPF.

In total, the flat cost them about S$512,000.

To compare, Mr Lim recalled seeing resale prices for five-room units in Ang Mo Kio and in the Central Area in the S$600,000 to S$700,000 range or higher — something they could not afford on their first-job salaries back in 2016.

“We knew all along we wanted to go for BTO because we had time to wait, plus there was the affordability factor,” he explained.

BTO wait

While they didn’t qualify for any CPF Housing Grants because they had crossed the income ceiling, they got a housing loan from HDB of S$198,300 to finance their purchase.

Currently, they’re paying around S$900 a month in mortgage, all through their CPF Ordinary Accounts (OA) without additional cash.

But of course, they had to save up enough to afford the initial downpayment and other costs such as legal fees and stamp duty.

It may sound intimidating, but that’s exactly what these self-proclaimed “hardcore savers” managed to achieve.

Every month, they’d set aside 70% to 80% of their salaries, which was possible as they lived with their parents and didn’t have bills or other financial commitments to worry about.

Still, Mr Lim admitted that it “was not an easy journey”, albeit “an essential one”.


The long wait time due to Covid-19 restrictions could occasionally be “demoralising”, but they acknowledged that it was out of everybody’s control.

That aside, they declared they have no regrets about their BTO as the area has everything that suits their needs.

Besides being close to the school they want their son to attend, it’s also near a childcare centre and Mr Lim’s parents’ house, making it easy for them to drop their baby off if they need extra help to take care of him.

Various grants & schemes available for BTO buyers

Of course, every BTO buyer’s needs and preferences are different. So if you’re considering applying for a flat soon, be sure to do your research to see the options available.

The Housing & Development Board (HDB) has various financial schemes and grants, especially for first-timers, to help them own their first home.

Starting from the next sales launch in end-September, HDB will introduce the new First-Timer (Parents & Married Couples) — FT(PMC) for short — category to help young families buy their first home and settle down quickly.

FT(PMC) applicants will have a total of three ballot chances in BTO and Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercises.

There’s also the Family and Parenthood Priority Scheme (FPPS), which is the enhanced version of the Parenthood Priority Scheme (PPS).

Up to 40% of the public flat supply in each BTO sales launch and up to 60% of the public flat supply in each SBF launch will be set aside under the FPPS.

FT(PMC) applicants will also get priority under the FPPS for 4-room and smaller BTO flats in non-mature estates.

Woodleigh Hillside
Image courtesy of HDB

Getting a BTO doesn’t mean burning a hole in one’s wallet.

Eligible first-timer households may receive housing grants of up to S$80,000 for BTO flats.

Most first-time BTO buyers can also service their housing loans using their CPF savings every month with little or no cash outlay, giving them more to save up for other essential items.

For more information on how you can get started on buying your own BTO flat, check out the MyNiceHome guide.

While you’re here, don’t forget to follow HDB on Facebook and Instagram for more tips, news, and updates.

All the best in your journey to homeownership

With all the news about inflation and rising prices, it can feel like you’ll never be able to afford your very own home.

However, Mr Lim and Ms Lee’s experience suggests otherwise – the couple reiterated that they found their BTO affordable.

Their homebuying journey was also a smooth one. In fact, they struggled to even think of any challenges they faced while getting their flat as any hiccup was swiftly solved with a visit to the HDB Hub or with their estate manager’s help.

Because of this, they now urge young couples who feel ready and believe they’re with the right partner to apply for a BTO as soon as possible, especially if time is on their side.

“Don’t be afraid to take the leap because you can always work and save up again,” said Mr Lim. “After all, this is for a longer-term purpose: to become a homeowner.”

This post was brought to you in collaboration with the Housing & Development Board.

Featured image by MS News. Photography by Gavin Chua.

Drop us your email so you won't miss the latest news.

  • More From Author