Designed for multigenerational families, these special Build-To-Order (BTO) flats have been proving pretty popular. We weigh their pros and cons.
<b>design</b> JOEY KHU INTERIOR DESIGN <b>photography</b> DARREN CHANG
However you may feel about our newly crowned President, Halimah Yacob, there is one thing we can all agree on. Her Jumbo flat, which her husband says is “as huge as a penthouse”, is probably – if not one of – the largest HDB apartment in Singapore.
Back in the 1980s, before she entered politics, President Halimah had purchased a corner five-room flat and the four-room flat next door to convert into one sprawling apartment, so that she, her husband and their five children could live with the grandparents.
Such gigantic flats are hard to come by these days. But for those of us with similar dreams of keeping the family together, the HDB has new BTO 3Gen flats that you can apply for. First launched in September 2013, over 1,100 units have been offered across 18 projects as of December 2016. popular. We weigh their pros and cons. Take-up rate has been surprisingly high. From 2013 to 2015, 83 per cent – or 651 of 786 units offered – were booked. 3Gen flats in three projects – Saraca Breeze @ Yishun, 52 in Punggol BayView and 56 in Tampines GreenRidges – were even completely snapped up.
Thinking of booking your own presidential 3Gen home? Consider these pointers.
• You get to buy a subsidised HDB flat…
As long as you meet the criteria, you and your family can apply for a 3Gen flat. A multigenerational family is defined as either a married or engaged couple (using the fiance/fiancee scheme) and parent(s), or a widowed/divorced person, a child and parent(s). At least one parent must be a Singapore citizen or a Singapore Permanent Resident. Your combined household income cannot exceed $18,000.
In August 2017, we spotted some already built 3Gen flats listed under the “Reoffer of Flats” scheme. One 15th-floor unit at Boon Lay Avenue was listed at $399,000. At Tampines, a few Level 2 and Level 3 units were listed between $404,000 and $426,000. Application for these 3Gen flats have closed, but look out for the upcoming November 2017 launch, where 3Gen flats will be offered in Sengkang. Prices were not available at press time.
… But you can only sell to other 3Gen families in the future
Here’s the catch. Like all HDB flat owners, you must meet the minimum occupation period (MOP) of five years before you can sell your property. However, your 3Gen flat can be sold in the open market only to other eligible multigenerational families. Also, do note that within the MOP, you are not allowed to rent out any bedrooms.
• You get four bedrooms and three bathrooms…
The biggest selling point for 3Gen flats is that they come with four bedrooms and three bathrooms. Two rooms have en-suite bathrooms so the couple and grandparents can all enjoy the convenience of having an attached loo. “I don’t have to worry about (my mother) taking a long walk to the kitchen to use the common bathroom, and possibly stumbling in the dark,” says Patrick Wong, who is considering applying for a 3Gen flat specially for the second attached bathroom.
That leaves two free bedrooms for the kids. For a big household, the third bathroom comes in handy. Then there is the usual living/dining area, kitchen, service yard and storage-cum-bomb shelter. That’s a lot packed into a 1,237sqf space, just 54sqf bigger than five-room BTO flats.
… But it’s pretty squished, compared to the older five-room or bigger flats.
While the 3Gen flats come with four rooms, they must be pretty small. Some families prefer the older HDB flats which are at least 1,302sqf. We know several homeowners of such older flats who have successfully partitioned part of their living or dining room into an extra bedroom. The only downside is that such flats have just two bathrooms. However, one family we know got around the problem by opening up a second door to the common bathroom (previously accessible only via the kitchen), which is situated next to the grandparents’ bedroom.
If three bathrooms are absolutely essential to you, there are such flats out there in the open market, ranging from converted units (like President Halimah’s) to Executive Maisonettes. Buying a resale flat from the open market is usually more expensive, but you can choose from a wide variety of locations. The cheapest listing we found was for a low-floor, 1,400sqf unit at Yishun Avenue 7, converted from two three-room flats, and asking for just $408,000. On the other end of the spectrum is a 1,550sqf Jumbo flat at Veerasamy Road, marketed at an eyewatering $1.08 million.
<b>design</b> JQ ONG / THE ASSOCIATION <b>photography</b> FRENCHESCAR LIM
• You save on bills, look after your elderly, and get free babysitting help…
Combining two households makes a lot of sense. You can pool your resources to hire a domestic helper and save on grocery bills if Grandma can cook for the brood. If the grandparents are getting too weak, it also saves you time and money to live with them, instead of travelling across the island to visit them regularly.
If you have children who need babysitting, having willing (and healthy) grandparents in the next room is a priceless convenience. No more braving the morning traffic to drop off the kids before rushing to work!
… But be prepared for the usual politics of living with the in-laws
This is, in a way, inevitable whether you buy a regular HDB or a 3Gen flat. If you don’t get along with your in-laws, you probably wouldn’t want to share the same living space with them anyway. However, the difference between the two is this: If you buy a regular HDB flat with your fiance, fiancee or spouse, your parents’ (or in-laws’) names will be listed only as occupiers. So, should co-living not work out, they can always buy their own place later.
Lee KN and her husband previously sold their flat in Hougang and moved in with their eldest daughter when her five-room BTO flat was ready. But when disagreements began to brew between the elderly couple and their son-in-law, they decided to buy and move into their own three-room resale flat to avoid further conflict. “Thankfully, he didn’t buy a 3Gen flat then. Our names would have been ‘stuck’ with the 3Gen flat and we wouldn’t have been able to buy our own property,” she says.
So, purchasing a 3Gen flat really depends on your needs and budget. One big plus of buying one is that if you get a HDB loan, you need only fork out 10 per cent in cash or CPF. The rest can be serviced by a loan of up to 25 years. This truly helps lower the financial burden for families who need the extra rooms/toilets, but don’t have enough upfront cash.
Overall, we love the idea of having three bathrooms, but we wish the space could be more generous – perhaps at least 1,292sqf. After all, these apartments are meant to be a home for generations to come. This way, it may hopefully even inspire couples to fill the two extra rooms with more babies!
A BIG PLUS OF BUYING A 3GEN FLAT IS THAT IF YOU GET A HDB LOAN, YOU NEED ONLY FORK OUT 10 PER CENT IN CASH OR CPF. THE REST CAN BE SERVICED BY A LOAN OF UP TO 25 YEARS.
text STELLA THNG