Buying a house in Singapore is a lot of brain work (not just because of the headache when planning your finances). To start off, consider these: If I want my house to be a profit-making asset, how important is the location? How family-friendly is the estate? How near is it to, you know, stuff?
Underlying all of these is an important factor: Whether your desired location is a mature or non-mature estate.
Mature vs non-mature estates
First things first: How do we differentiate between mature and non-mature estates in Singapore?
HDB doesn’t provide any definitive list, but in general, non-mature estates are residential areas that are considered less than 20 years old, namely:
- Bukit Batok
- Bukit Panjang
- Choa Chu Kang
- Jurong East
- Jurong West
And the mature estates are:
- Ang Mo Kio
- Bukit Merah
- Bukit Timah
- Marine Parade
- Pasir Ris
- Toa Payoh
Most notably, Build-To-Order (BTO) launches tend to be in non-mature estates, and less frequently in mature estates (but you can find resale HDB flats everywhere!).
How much is a HDB flat in each estate?
All other things being equal, you can expect the price of a HDB flat in a non-mature estate to be 10-15% lower than in a mature estate.
What determines price? One of the biggest differences between mature and non-mature estates is how built up they are, and this is also one of the most important price determinants:
Are there amenities in the neighborhood?
Mature estates typically have more amenities and better accessibility – shopping malls, MRT stations and bus interchanges, F&B options, and basically everything else that makes life convenient.
In contrast, in a newer, non-mature estate, these amenities might not be fully built, or readily accessible… Yet.
When Punggol New Town was announced in 1997 and the first BTO flats were completed in 2002, the area was only serviced by Punggol MRT Station.
The snazzy Punggol we know today – Punggol Waterway Park, Waterway Point, an extensive LRT loop – only happened later on.
Punggol Waterway Park was only unveiled in October 2011; the East Loop of the Punggol LRT line was fully operational in 2011, and the West Loop in 2018.
Or, take a peek at Tengah, Singapore’s newest town (building in progress!):
The first Tengah BTO flats were launched in November 2018 and are expected to be completed in 2023.
And in the meanwhile, HDB’s Master Plan promises a vibrant, community-centric estate: sprawling parks, pedestrian malls, childcare centres, thematic playgrounds, excellent connectivity, you name it.
But all of this takes time. Take for instance the Jurong Region Line (JRL), which will run through the Tengah Estate, but is slated to begin operations only in 2026.
3 years without an MRT station is a long time 🙁
Another key concern for parents or parents-to-be: The proximity of schools in the district. In particular, primary schools.
Children living within 1km from a primary school will be given priority when registering, which makes the location of your home especially important if you’re looking to send your kid to a particular school.
Tip: In order to gain priority admission this way, your child will need to live in that address for at least 30 months prior to the start of the registration exercise.
What’s more, the top primary schools are typically in mature estates. Case in point: All of the 9 primary schools offering the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) are located in mature estates e.g. Nanyang Primary School in Bukit Timah, Tao Nan School in Marine Parade, and St Hilda’s Primary School in Tampines.
Of course, there are options in non-mature estates as well; and chances are, more schools will be built in time.
Who are your neighbors?
Young couples and new families make up the bulk of BTO applicants; and in new towns where BTO projects are aplenty, expect the majority of your neighbors to fall under this demographic.
On that note, expect amenities to be extremely kids-centric as well. The event space at Punggol’s Waterway Point, for one, screams “KIDS ARE SO GONNA LOVE ME!!!”
Prefer diversity and being around neighbors in different stages of their lives? You’ll have better luck finding that way of life in older estates, where HDB flats might have changed hands multiple times.
How much profit can I make when I sell?
Because HDB flats in non-mature estates are cheaper, it’s one of the best places to look for the most affordable, value-for-money options.
Because you’re buying cheap, there’s a higher potential for price appreciation. Plus, with more amenities introduced into your neighborhood over time, the value of your HDB flat will rise even more.
When it’s time to sell, you can almost definitely reap a profit – some call this first mover advantage.
Sounds all too perfect? Beware the pitfalls: If you’re planning to sell your flat right after you’ve reached your 5-year Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP), consider this…
Your neighbors might be thinking the same thing.
When an entire block of BTO flats in your estate reach their MOP all at once, a lot of homes will be entering the resale market at the same time, and you’re going to have a lot of competition when you’re trying to sell.
TL;DR: The value of your flat might have theoretically increased, but you might find yourself having to lower your selling price to win buyers.
In a nutshell…
A HDB flat in a non-mature estate like Punggol might suit you more if:
- Budget is an absolute top priority, or you’re focused on higher potential capital appreciation
- You want to live in a young neighborhood
A HDB flat in a mature estate like Tampines might suit you more if:
- You’re willing to pay a little more for convenience or precise planning for your child’s education
- You want to live amongst a diverse community
Tbh, no matter which estate you’re living in (or moving to!), you’re bound to find your favourite Hokkien Mee, friends in your HDB block, or a secret hideout only you know. All reasons to call your neighborhood home!