Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Most two-room BTO flats taken up eventually

TWO-ROOM flats typically attract fewer takers at build-to-order (BTO) launches, but most of the leftover units are usually taken up eventually.

The Housing Board explained that this happens as buyers who first pass up on these one-bedroom units for their lack of size eventually buy them when they realise these units can still meet their needs.

The HDB noted that, on average, only about a third of two-room flats were taken up in BTO selection exercises held between July 2006 and last June.

But when the unsold units were later re-offered for sale, nearly all of them were snapped up, with buyers 'right-sizing' their purchases and settling for these smaller units for various reasons.

In November last year, the take-up rate for 270 units of completed two-room flats was nearly 100 per cent; only three units remained unsold.

Many of these buyers told The Straits Times they eventually went for these small units out of necessity or practicality, although some held on to their dream of a bigger - but still affordable - unit.

Only those households with a monthly income of $2,000 or less can buy these units.

For taxi driver William Tan, 56, the cost of the two-room Sengkang flat he shares with his wife happened to be within his tight budget in 2007.

'These flats are designed for older people like us, and if we live a simple lifestyle, it can be a good environment to retire in,' he said.

Semi-retired businessman Lai Weng Poh, 60, who travels overseas to sell design software, said he went for a two-room flat as an alternative to studio apartments, which were unavailable in 2006.

The bachelor is happy with his $90,000 10th-storey flat in Jurong West, which is a breeze for him to keep clean, given that he does not have a lot of time.

He said: 'I did my homework. There's a good view here, and the block faces away from sunrise and sunset, so it's not too hot.

'Jurong didn't have many facilities at the time, so I had to make sure the flat was worth what I was paying.'

The HDB stopped building two-room flats in the early 1980s, when demand grew for bigger units. It started building them again in 2006 to give lower-income families a shot at buying their first home or downgrading to a smaller one.

The BTO system launched in 2002 en-ables the HDB to build flats in response to demand for them. The most recent BTO launch was the one for the proposed Orchid Spring project in Yishun Avenue 11. This development will have 1,272 flats, of which 192 are two-room ones.

The smaller units are also a boon for retirees whose children live elsewhere. Retiree Ling Than Tuan, 73, lives with his wife, in a modest Jurong apartment, which he bought in 2007 for $96,000.

He said of his flat, which used to be half of a five-room unit reconfigured by the HDB into two smaller units: 'This is more than enough for two old folk like us. We rely on our savings, and whatever our two daughters give us every month. And it's enough.'

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