With hopeful grins, my partner and I submitted our application for a Build-to-Order (BTO) HDB flat with a shared whisper, “Let’s try and see if we’ll get it”. 

Little did we know, this moment marked the beginning of our journey as a first-time homebuyer in our twenties. It was an exciting yet intimidating decision – navigating uncertainty, information overload, and the weight of a decision that would shape our lives for the next five years.  

Getting a BTO was a multi-step process. We first had to submit an application for a HDB Flat Eligibility (HFE) letter via the HDB Flat Portal, and after a month-long waiting period, we finally received the anticipated letter which confirmed our eligibility and grant entitlement. With this crucial step completed, it began our lookout for upcoming BTO launches. We only had 7 days to decide and apply which meant that we had to make an informed decision within a very short time frame.  


The Value of Shared Knowledge and Experience 

With this time sensitivity, discussing with our loved ones distilled our criterias and narrowed down our search. My parents, for instance, shared their own experiences from raising a family in a less central estate to eventually living in a more central location. We learnt about how their priorities shifted as their family grew and their experiences highlighted the importance of considering our lifestyle and unique needs at each life phase.   

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This ultimately guided us towards a 4-room sales project within a mature estate, where it would have close proximity to central locations and to our parents’ places. As we applied and awaited our application results, we received the thrilling news that our ballot application had been successful!  

We were overjoyed that we were now a step closer and this initial enthusiasm fuelled our extensive research journey in search of our ideal unit and estate. Soon, we were scouring through the internet on opinions and articles as well as evaluating the financial aspects of down payments. This made us eye a particular housing stack that was on a high floor that had unblocked views overlooking the city. 

However, while we were narrowing down our options, we encountered a harsh reality – our queue number’s significant impact on securing our dream unit. Despite our meticulous research and planning, we were disheartened to see our preferred units swiftly taken up by other eager buyers, leaving us uncertain about our chances.

It was during this moment that our loved ones, who had been patiently guiding us through this journey, offered empathetic counsel and valuable perspective. They iterated that having a house is merely a foundation for our new life together – a place where we could build memories, grow, and evolve as a couple. Instead of obsessing over a perfect checklist, it was helpful to embrace an open mindset and realise that each house has their own unique selling points. 

Friends also shared similar disappointments of missing out on desired units and having to reconsider their options. This made us feel less alone and more mentally prepared to adapt accordingly when it came to our turn.  

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Navigating through the ups and downs of our house-hunting journey gave us the opportunity to feel the warmth and kindness of strangers and friends alike. A particularly memorable conversation with a friend over lunch stood out, as she shared how she overlooked the Optional Component Scheme (OCS) and rushed to make a decision on the day of her unit selection.

Image source: HDB

Because of her vulnerability and openness, that enlightened us to carefully consider the OCS which included features like sanitary fittings, internal doors and floor finishes, all of which would be added to the flat’s price. We eventually opted for it, and were thankful that we had that conversation! 

Through spontaneous exchanges with friends, we also found out about the BTO Telegram group where future home occupants like us could join. Within this group, project-related information was consolidated, making it a one-stop resource for all. 

It was likened to a live Reddit community – where members built upon conversation threads, shared videos and photos, and even exclusive HDB mock-up models. For example, a few couples who physically visited the site sent videos depicting its views and noise levels, and also suggested the floor numbers from which it overlooked the city. This offered a tangible sense of what to expect even if couples didn’t manage to go down on site. Notably, one of the members went above and beyond, dedicating his free time to create a comprehensive Excel spreadsheet to not only track the queue numbers for the day, but also the dropout count. This gave better visibility and access to applicants like ourselves to gauge the potential units left. He also took the initiative to rally the help of applicants by requesting updates on their end to maintain a precise record.  

Despite being strangers of diverse backgrounds, we all found common ground in this shared housing journeys – fostering a sense of belonging and digital camaraderie. And the best part? Members were congratulating each other on their successful unit selection and the community’s joy was contagious. Some were even teasing each other about being future neighbours! It was a beautiful sight to see that securing a home is not just a personal milestone, but also a shared celebration of community. 

A Milestone to Remember 

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Just as our BTO Telegram group transformed from strangers to a supportive community, our shared experiences mirrored the collaboration that enriches our society. Through life’s ups and downs, it fosters a deeper sense of belonging where compassion and connection are nurtured. 

While we faced our fair share of disappointments, we approached the appointment day with renewed confidence and collective strength. This journey not only marks a new chapter in our lives, but also testifies the unified spirit that is a precious commodity in this digital age – inspiring hope and resilience for a brighter future.