The Ultimate Guide to Selecting a BTO Unit in Singapore

by Amanda Chiu

For many of us who are new to adulting, conversations with friends have evolved from school assignments, attractive classmates, and annoying teachers to proposal planning, wedding invites, as well as BTO—or Build-to-Order—flats.

We are all too familiar with the endless questions that arise when conversations surrounding BTO flats occur. “Should we stay near our parents?”, “Is staying in a new town or a mature estate better?”, “What if I choose a place with a bad fengshui?!” The list of questions goes on and on.

Surely, choosing a BTO flat is a major milestone. I mean, it is literally deciding on a new place to call home. Besides, it is a huge financial commitment that will be tied to you for decades to come.

With so many things to consider when it comes to picking an ideal BTO unit, the process of doing so can be extremely daunting. Therefore, we have put together this ultimate guide for you to select an ideal BTO unit here in sunny Singapore! Go through this article and you’d be one step closer to owning your very first home!

The ABCs of a BTO Flat

For the uninitiated, a BTO flat is a brand-new flat with a fresh 99-year lease. Such flats come in 2-rooms, 3-rooms, 4-rooms, 5-rooms, and studio apartments. Generally, BTO flats are launched before they are constructed. Construction will begin only if 65% to 70% of the apartments in the flat have been booked. During a sales exercise, eligible buyers can choose to book a flat and commit to a wait time of three to four years from the date the construction begins.

Now that we have established the general characteristics of BTO flats, lets dive into the factors to consider when selecting a BTO unit in Singapore.

Consider Location—assessing accessibility

Where your BTO flat is situated will affect your experience that you will have living in it. Let’s face it, you don’t want to be living in an ulu area that is hard to get to and hard to get out of. Therefore, assessing the location of the BTO flat that you are looking at is a step that you should never overlook. Make sure that you have access to convenient transport around you—having an MRT station within walking distance is an added bonus.

As much as possible, you also do not want to have to take a bus or walk for a long time before you can satisfy your hunger or get to your grocery shopping. So, be sure to check if there are nearby amenities such as shopping malls, supermarkets, food centres, clinics as well as schools.

If sports and recreational facilities are important to you, check out if there are libraries or swimming pools around the neighbourhood. It may also be useful for you to make a mental note of the main roads as well as nearby expressways, especially if you drive.

Here’s a pro tip for you! If you are unaware of the upcoming developments in a specific neighbourhood, head over to URA’s website to check out their Master Plan. You can find useful information about future developmental plans of an area.

Assessing the location of a BTO flat is not only important for your convenience—it is also a smart financial move! Where your flat is situated has a direct impact on its resale value, if you eventually decide to sell it. 

Consider Unit Level—aim for mid-to-high levels

Staying on higher floors comes with a whole host of advantages—you generally avoid dust and pests, you are further away from noise, and you get a better view of your surroundings. However, with every level increase, you will have to fork out additional money. This additional sum differs from one estate to another. As such, many couples opt for the wallet-friendly option of going for a lower unit.

While a lower unit can save you some money, keep in mind that it may bring about inconveniences. For example, rats, cockroaches and other creepy crawlies can easily invade your home. You may also have to deal with litter thrown from inconsiderate neighbours residing above you!

To avoid these pesky situations, aim for a mid-to-high level unit as far as possible. You do not have to burn a hole in your pocket to aim for the highest possible floor, unless of course, that is what you and your partner want to do!

Consider Sun Orientation—opt for North-east and South-west facing units

Ask any experienced homebuyer and they will tell you to avoid any flat that faces the west unless you want to turn your home into a sauna. BTO flats that are west-facing are typically affected greatly by the midday sun. As a result, temperatures can be unbearably high, especially in Singapore’s perpetual summer heat.

To get the most out of Singapore’s windy monsoon seasons, keep your eye on north-east and south-west facing units! But with that said, you also do not want a home that is totally void of sunlight. The unit that you consider should not be blocked by any tall neighbouring structures such that you can have natural light and ventilation all day. Being exposed to a bit of the afternoon sun can also allow your laundry to dry quicker. Besides, you could do with some Vitamin D!

So, before you decide on any particular unit, be sure to visit the unit in the afternoon to see for yourself how the sunlight affects the unit. Alternatively, you can use tools such as a Sun Calculator to determine how the sun’s movement affects the particular BTO flat that you are eyeing.

Consider Home Privacy—steer clear of lift landings

In land scarce Singapore, newer flats these days tend to be built such that units are very close to each other. If privacy and personal space is important to you, select a flat that is decently spaced out. In addition, take note of where the lift landing will be and how far it is from your unit.

If the unit that you are eyeing is the first unit after the lift landing, you may have to get used to kaypoh neighbours or strangers peering into your unit every now and then as they walk past you. In this regard, corner units are generally a better option.

You should also avoid going for the lower floors where windows are facing the carpark as it would be annoying if the light beams from vehicles reach your home. You will also not be spared from exhaust fumes, the sounds of vehicle doors opening and closing, unusual alarms setting off and terrible honking noises.

Consider Price—How much can you afford?

As with most things, price is a factor that we should always keep in mind. Coupled with renovation works, interior design, and home décor, purchasing a BTO flat will undoubtedly set you back a significant sum.

The general rule of thumb is that the more rooms there are in a unit, the pricier it will be. So, based on your savings, income, and future family plans, decide whether a 3-, 4- or 5-room BTO flat would be preferred.

Here, you want to ask yourself guiding questions such as:

  • Do you and your partner want a family? How big do you envision your family to be?
  • Do you and your partner plan to live here for the long run? Or are you planning to move in just a few years?
  • What kind of home are you building? Do you need “special” rooms such as a study room or a gaming room?

With the answers to these questions, you can begin to understand your needs and preferences, making it easier for you to make an informed decision!

It is also important to keep in mind that the price of the BTO unit that you are eyeing will vary with all of the factors above! For example, a unit with a better location or higher level will be more expensive than one that is located in a not-so-ideal location at a low level.

Other Tips & Tricks

Now that we have gotten the major factors of location, level, sun orientation, privacy, as well as price out of the way, here are some bonus tips and tricks that will be helpful for you on your BTO hunting journey.

You may feel that some of the factors mentioned are unimportant to you on your home hunting journey. However, keep in mind that someone else—a potential buyer—may deem them important. So, do not skim through them lightly now only to regret it later!

Take note of where the rubbish chute is located

This may seem like a mundane factor to consider. But picture this: you come home from a long day at work and plop yourself down on your comfortable sofa. As you are about to switch on the TV to watch your favourite Korean drama, you notice from the side of your eye an unsightly bag of rubbish with waste leaking out of the bag.

With new flats, homeowners share a common rubbish disposal area. So, try your best to select a unit that is not too near to the rubbish chute!

Don’t limit your options

When you find a unit that you like, don’t just stop there because the truth is, you may not get it! Many couples don’t get their desired flat on their first try. So, make sure you shortlist at least 8 to 15 different units to avoid disappointment.

Have an idea of how you want your home to look

Is having a walk-in wardrobe or an open concept toilet important to you? If so, this means that your dream home would entail hacking of walls and some major renovation works. This also means that some BTO units may not be suitable for you.

If you have an idea of how you envision your home to look, you can cross out BTO units that have undesirable layouts. The last thing you want is to find out that your flat’s layout will restrict your dreams and plans.

Do an on-site recce before coming to a decision

While this may seem like a given, you would be surprised to learn that many couples do not walk the grounds before selecting a BTO unit. We would recommend you to do an on-site recce twice: once on a weekday morning, and another time on a weekend afternoon.

On the weekday morning, look out for the traffic flow in the area during peak hour. Is it really congested as residents are making their way to school or work? On the other hand, during weekend afternoons, look out for the sun orientation, as mentioned above. You do not want the sun to wake you up when you wish to sleep in during the long awaited weekends!


Purchasing a BTO unit is almost like a rite of passage for Singaporeans. This major milestone, however, can be stressful and daunting, especially since most young couples are doing it for the first time. With this ultimate guide to selecting a BTO unit in Singapore, you will be one step closer to purchasing your ideal BTO unit!

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