This is a Part 2 of Zuraidah’s story, click here if you missed Part 1.
Planning for our own home
Once we decided together as a family that we wanted to own
our own home, we did a lot of homework:
- To calculate the maximum amount our home could
cost if we only wanted to use CPF for monthly loan repayments (without topping
- To calculate how much CPF we needed for the down
payment and loan
- To find a job with CPF contribution (as my
husband found work as a cleaner which gave him employer CPF contribution)
- Checking regularly with HDB on BTO locations to
apply for which were within our budget
- What grants we were eligible for
But how can I own my own HDB when I was not working?
When my youngest daughter was four years old, we had a
family conversation about me returning to work.
My children and husband were supportive, and the CDC allowed
us three extra months of financial assistance until I was stable enough in my
job to stop the assistance.
With Beyond’s help, I enrolled in a parenting
workshop to regain my confidence and computer classes to upgrade my digital
skills. Beyond also found subsidised childcare places for my two youngest
children while we applied for KidSTART.
With my children’s education settled, I could have peace of
mind to look for a job. I saw an advertisement from an eldercare centre looking
for a cleaner, and called the manager to apply.
He was very kind, and after speaking to me, he said I should
try applying for the position to run programmes for the elderly. “Just because
you might not have the qualifications now doesn’t mean you cannot learn and be
qualified for this role. I’m sure you can learn,” he said.
That was how I secured my current job in an eldercare centre,
taking in a steady income with employer CPF contributions (as well as
How we paid for our flat with our CPF
In 2013, we successfully applied for a 3-room BTO flat in
Sengkang which cost $189,000.
My husband then utilised his first-timer grant of $25,000
and we used some of our CPF to fulfil the down-payment. We also appealed to HDB
to add the $20,000 resale levy to the total cost, this meant we could then use
CPF to make the monthly repayments.
For the HDB loan, I had enough CPF in my bank account (saved
up over the years since I worked as a teenager) to shave off a large amount of
This meant that my husband and I only had to fork out $350
collectively every month to pay off our 20-year housing loan, and our CPF
earnings based on our permanent jobs could cover this $350 without having to
fork out extra cash.
I was so amazed I could save up so much over the years in
CPF, so I always tell my children to get a job with CPF employer contributions.
Paying for a HDB we own vs rental housing
In the past, my husband and I paid $450 a month for our
rental flat based on our gross salaries. There were times that we were not able
to afford the rent and had to contact Social Service Offices for help. Thankfully
after they spoke to HDB, HDB allowed us to pay the outstanding rental bill in
instalments. This incident also made me want to own my own HDB.
Looking at the math, paying $350 a month in loans to own our
own HDB is indeed much better than paying $450 for a rental flat.
After learning how to plan and buy my own HDB, I’ve also
helped my sister plan and apply for her HDB.
This is #myHDBstory
We renovated our home simply, with brown
cabinets for kitchen and I decorated my TV console with flowers.
I like to spend time with my family at home, and am grateful
I can talk to my children about topics such as purchasing a HDB flat.
I want to share my journey so more people can learn how to
own their HDB, to have a space they can call their own.
Author’s footnote: After she moved out of her rental
flat in Lengkok Bahru to Sengkang, Mdm Zuraidah still returns to Lengkok Bahru
regularly to volunteer with Beyond Social Services.
Special thanks to Mdm Zuraidah and Beyond Social
Services for the interview and for sharing her #myHDBstory.
My name is Zuraidah. This is my story of home.
My first home was a 3-room HDB flat with my parents and
siblings at Bedok Reservoir.
At 13 years old, I quit school to work at a confectionery to
support my family.
When I was 17 years old, I got engaged to my first husband
and married him when I turned 21.
We wanted to stay near his parents, so we bought our first
HDB flat, a resale unit, at a block next to my in-law’s flat. As first-timer
HDB buyers, we tapped on the first-timer grant which reduced our cost by
With our new home, we started a family.
I gave birth to our daughter at the age of 22 years old.
Both of us worked to raise our family and pay the bills. I
worked hard over weekends doing shift work in the sales line.
But… we drifted apart, our marriage broke down. My daughter
was only 4 years old, and I was expecting a son.
We sold our home, the matrimonial flat, at the current
market price, which was unfortunately not in our favour. We made a loss, but it
couldn’t be helped.
I moved back home to my parents’ 3-room HDB with my two
young children. When I worked, my mum helped me look after them at home.
It was tough being a single mum.
I yearned to be independent, to have a home to call my own,
as I have been working since 13 years old.
In 2003, I applied for a rental flat. I was actually shocked
how fast the application went through!
Three months later, I moved to a rental flat in
The location was a bit far from Bedok, but this didn’t stop
my family of three from travelling back to Bedok to visit my parents often.
Throughout all these upheavals, I met my current husband. My
daughter looked up to him as a father figure, a role which was absent in her
We got married in 2005 and had two children of our own. In
2008, my parents sold off their 3-room flat and my mum stayed with us for a
year before moving to my brother’s house.
Our humble rental flat was then home to 3 adults and 4
children – it was a bit of a squeeze, but we made it work.
We all slept on mattresses that could be folded and kept by
the side. We took turns to use the only toilet based on how early we had to
leave the house to get to school or work.
Worrying about home.
After I had my fourth child, I quit my job to look after my
I didn’t know I would be unemployed for five years. My
husband fell ill and could not hold a full-time job.
We struggled to pay our bills – I worried we would be
Thankfully, when I approached the Community Development Council,
they were able to offer some financial assistance for our rent and electricity
as well as $350 a month to put food on the table.
Being unemployed was very stressful.
In the past, I tried different jobs, whatever I could do
with my set of skills, as long as employers were willing to give me work. At 16
years old, I was a department store cashier. At 21 years old, I became a sales
With my time divided amongst my children, I had very little
time left on my hands. I also did not have skills that I could use to earn
money while working from home such as sewing or baking.
On top of that, I breastfed my children and was
not ready to stop breastfeeding as it meant a lot to me being able to provide
for their nourishment as a mother.
Singapore has a world-class public housing system that helps Singaporeans own their own
homes, from 9% in 1960 to over 90% today.
Yes, Singapore is often
talked about and used as a successful example of public housing done right. Our
home ownership of 91% lands us in the top three highest in the world, and over
80% of Singaporeans live in high quality and affordable HDB flats.
Housing a Nation
This was not the
case in the early years, when most people lived in over-crowded and unhygienic
The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew is a key driver in
of public housing in Singapore. The nation’s founding prime minister had set up
the HDB in 1960, and launched an ambitious building programme to provide proper
homes for Singaporeans – Housing a nation.
Watch this to find out how Singapore
fixed its housing problem,
Let’s Meet the People Living in these
You should have noticed by now that
we’re publishing a series of #myHDBstory where we check out Singaporeans’ HDB
homes and invite them to share with us their HDB stories.
we’re checking out the home of Bob
day job is a Business Manager with SingaporeBrides.com, one of the leading bridal resource
portals in Singapore. But when he’s not working, Bob transforms into a
tastemaker of sorts. Here is someone who has always loved all things
in this career, he was a highly accomplished makeup artist who helped women
look more beautiful. Some years back, he was also running a wedding gift tray business and mind you, he was so good at making
beautiful wedding gift trays he was perpetually booked!
when he’s not working, he’s an accidental Instagram-Influencer who spams lotsa
posts of beautiful
fabulous reno and cool
And believe you me, his casual post about something he bought can cause the
item to be sold out at all outlets! He also likes to feature yummy food and
seemingly fabulous people too!
Bob’s #myHDBstory is
Home to Bob is a 4-room resale flat in
Bukit Panjang, a place where Bob insists is much much nearer to town than most
people think. It’s also near where his family is staying. The flat was
completed in 1998, so it’s around 20 years old.
He knew he wanted a flat near his
family home, so that helped lots to narrow down where to start looking. But
even then, he shared that he viewed a total of 13(!!) units! The funny thing is
he ended up buying the very first flat he’d viewed. He took over the flat on
19th December 2016, signed the renovation contract on 1st January 2017 and he
has been living there in solo bliss for over two years now.
Bob had bought the flat for around
$350,000 in late 2016. Did you know that about 80% of first-time homebuyers are
able to pay their monthly mortgage instalment fully with CPF? This means that
they do not pay any cash out-of-pocket. That’s the same for Bob too! His
monthly housing instalments are all taken care of via his CPF, so no cash
out-of-pocket for him too!
Bob’s #myHDBstory is every single
Guess how many IDs Bob had checked out
before deciding? Eight.
Whoa. Not only did he top the number of
viewings I’ve ever heard of, he’s also right up there in terms of the most
number of contractors a homeowner has met for quotes. Anyway, he eventually
decided on Tid Plus, an ID that he highly recommends. He says they’re great
value-for-money and deliver good work.
Let’s go on a tour of #bobsretirementhome now!
Don’t you just love that gate! And
white doors are quite rare in HDB estates!
Come, let’s go in!
Bob shared that he had initially wanted
a black-and-white look in the colonial style.
But once he decided on this unit and
fell in love with the abundance of light flowing into the living space, he
decided that the natural light would be wasted on a high-contrast
black-and-white look. He next considered to go full-on white, but his ID
advised him against it. An all-white look might look too sterile and clinical
for a home.
In the end, Bob went
for a white-and-grey palette which was light and airy, whilst providing some
Bob truly believes that adding dashes of green in the form of plants works wonders. It warms the space immediately, and gives it life.
I love how the plants and his soft furnishing break the straight lines of the renovation and furniture, softening it nicely to add homeliness to the cool, modern look.
Bob has always wanted an open-concept kitchen. So he worked with the ID to hack away a curved wall that the previous owner had erected. So yea, he got his open kitchen that flows seamlessly into the dining area and opens up to the living space.
Incidentally, this is also where Bob does his work too!
His employer is apparently a very progressive one. Since SingaporeBrides.com started in 2000, the team has always worked from home. Very good, they were green and contributing to reducing carbon footprint even before it’s a thing!
And as if he ain’t talented enough, Bob
is also a good cook! Man, what can’t this bachelor do??
He loves having his friends over and
feeding them delish food that he’ll whip up himself. So yea, the kitchen is not
mere showpiece for photography, he actually puts it to good use too!
Let’s check out the bedrooms now!
Whoa, I quite like the master bedroom!
And did you think no one will actually sit on that chair? WRONG. Bob does!
We asked him where is his favourite spot at home, and he said it’s right here!
There are two other bedrooms, but we only took photos of one of them since Bob uses the third bedroom for storage.
The second bedroom, with the sofa-bed, effectively is a guestroom.
By now you must be very curious how
much the renovation and all cost. Bob had spent $46,000 on the renovation. This
seems to be a reasonable amount as resale flats sometimes can cost
significantly more than BTO in terms of renovation costs because there are
usually hacking and remodelling work, etc.
The TV and refrigerator were gifted to
Bob, but even then, he had spent only $5,000 on furniture and appliances! He
was very careful with what he spent on, and he even had a rule of not buying
anything over $1,000. He would watch the sales and promotions with eagle eyes,
and he enlisted the help of his Chinese friends to help him order items on Taobao.
His efforts sure paid off and his home
is one of the nicest we’ve featured for the #myHDBstory series.
More about the Single Citizen Scheme
As with most developed cities,
Singapore is also seeing her citizens getting married later in life, and there
are also Singaporeans who choose to remain single. The Government has
recognised this trend and in order to cater to the needs of singles, HDB
first implemented the Single Citizen Scheme to allow Singaporeans who are 35 years
old and above to own their own HDB flats in July 2013.
Singles can choose to buy BTO or resale
flats. Singles can apply for 2-room BTO Flexi units at non-mature estates and
for resale units, there are no restrictions on location or size; so singles
who want bigger flats or want their flats immediately will usually go the
There have always been grants for first-time home buyers, be it families or singles. But earlier this month, the Government announced even more good news and these enhancements were effective from 11th September 2019.
- Eligible first-timer singles aged 35 and above, and earning not more than $4,500 a month, can also enjoy an Enhanced Housing Grant (EHG for singles) of up to $40,000, and are subject to the same conditions.
- The monthly household income ceiling for eligible first-timer singles aged 35 and above will also be raised from $6,000 to $7,000.
about #bobsretirementhome: To sell or not to sell?
was penduluming between the thought of selling the current flat off after the
Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) of five years, or to carry out another round of
renovation at the current unit.
View this post on Instagram
; #bobsretirementhome | totally loveeee the morning ray on a sunday. why i am up at 7.00am on a sunday, i have no idea. but when your age is approaching 40, it has a funny way of telling you to sleep at 10.00pm and be wide awake at 6.00am. • yes, especially on a sunday. • … and the public holidays. • i was talking to @msofian about selling my house after the minimum occupation period of five years, and then downgrading to three-room flat and try to be as debt free as possible, while simultaneously talking to @tidplus_design to renovate this house to do #bobsretirementhome version 2.0. • this is another peril of old age. an almost immediate dementia. talked about selling the house, and then five minutes later, planning new renovation design of the very home that i intend to sell. • #bobsretirementhome have given me so much. like the huge amount of sunlight streaming through every morning, so many opportunities have opened up for me because of this home too. to sell, or not to sell, that is the question. the answer is, will sell if can earn 100% profit. eh? • and yes, eldershield will be reaching me next year. kurang ajar punya government. tak payah nak remind lah hawau!
He was wondering if he could make 100%
profit if he were to sell off the unit. ONE HUNDRED PER CENT?! That would mean
$700,000 leh, so I don’t think so? But it’s entirely probable that he will make
a reasonably tidy sum if he were to sell it.
At 25 years upon MOP, the flat is still relatively “young”.
remember this: Every flat will be upgraded twice.
keep all HDB flats safe and liveable, there will be one round of upgrading when
your flat is about 30 years old through the Home Improvement Programme (HIP),
and a second round when your flat is about 60-70 years old through HIP II. The
upgrades will address common maintenance issues such as repairing spalling
from upgrading, the Government will redevelop old estates through the Voluntary
Early Redevelopment Scheme (VERS) to ensure they remain vibrant places to live.
Residents offered VERS will vote as a precinct on whether they wish to return
their flats to the Government. They will be compensated for their flats.
my guess is if Bob were to sell his Bukit Panjang flat, there should be some
more upside given the flat’s relatively young “age”, and also that there should
be one round of upgrading at around 2028 when it turns 30.
about #bobsretirementhome: Unlocking the value
Bob decides to keep the unit and really make it #bobsretirementhome, there are
also several ways to monetarise the flat later, especially if he needs money in
his silver years.
- Firstly, Bob can receive cash monthly by renting out his bedroom(s) or even the entire flat and he can go live with his siblings or friends.
- Secondly, Bob can also sell part of the flat’s remaining lease to get a lump sum cash and monthly payouts in cash, for life. This is under the Lease Buyback Scheme.
- Thirdly, he can still sell the Bukit Panjang flat later in life, and buy a smaller flat or a flat with a shorter lease.
- Lastly, those moving from a larger flat to a 3-room or smaller flat can consider taking up the Silver Housing Bonus, to receive up to $20,000 in cash.
HDB, a place I spent my childhood running around with my friends playing block catching. The place I desperately longed to go home to some nights when I was made to work overtime.
The second I
stepped out of the HDB lift, I knew which house belongs to the family I was
going to interview. I spied a mini slide and a variety of kick-scooters,
ride-on toy vehicles, bicycles and a whole lot of shoes. “Must be the right
house”, I thought to myself. My guess was spot on as once the door was open, I
was greeted by chatter from the full house of children.
Housing everyone under one roof affordably
As we sat down to
talk, the children zoomed happily around on the electric toy car and indulged
in their favourite activities with their siblings, oblivious to this “intruder”
on a Saturday morning.
Steven brought us
back in time to 17 years ago when he and his wife, Laifong, first started
working. Laifong was living in her family home in Ang Mo Kio back then, and her
mother got to know of her neighbour two units away who had wanted to sell their
that the asking price was quite reasonable at $130K thereabouts for the 3-Room
HDB flat. Once he factored in the $30K first-timer housing grant and $10K
proximity housing grant for living near parents, the price came down to a very
When their fourth
kid came around, Steven and Laifong suddenly found themselves faced with a
choice of going ahead with the upgrading to a 5-Room BTO they had applied for
earlier, or to buy the adjoining 3-Room flat next door under the Conversion
Scheme since their neighbour was moving out.
The couple quickly did their sums. The asking
price of the flat next door plus the $90K he had paid for their existing flat
combined was still under the price of a 5-bedroom BTO in the same area.
During that time,
a 5-room BTO at Ang Mo Kio would have set the couple back about $510,000 after
how he and his wife gave up their BTO allocation in favour of knocking down the
wall between the two adjoining 3-Room units to form a jumbo flat with enough space for all. I guess it’s safe to say that our public
housing scheme has served Singaporeans well. For Steven and Laifong, it was not
so much a matter of whether they could house everyone affordably, but more of
what type of public housing and at which location would work better for them.
With over a million HDB flats spread across towns and estates, the
Singapore brand of public housing is uniquely different from the rest of the
world. HDB flats spell home for over 80% of Singaporeans, and our home
ownership stands over 90%, the third highest in the world.
Managing finances and balancing
not resist asking how Steven and his family manage… especially with 5 children. He shared that his
housing loan, which he and his wife split 50-50 is completely covered by CPF, freeing
up finances for day to day expenses. Home-cooked meals and hawker fare are
their go-to because eating out for two adults and five kids can be quite a
hefty sum. That said, they still budget for a yearly family holiday – Japan
being their next destination.
of seven does not own a car and they are used to taking public transport to get
around. Taxi rides are far and few between, a luxury reserved for special
circumstances or when they are very tired. Thankfully, various transport routes
are easily accessible from their home.
time is key
Being a full-time working parent,
Steven shared that time is really a precious commodity. As much as both he and
Laifong try to shower each child with individual attention, having a brood of five
means they do not get to spend as much time with each child as they would like to.
This is certainly a feeling many working parents can relate to.
This prompted Steven to come up with
an interesting way of overcoming this “guilt”. He started the habit of bringing
each child on one-on-one bonding trips overseas, timing it to coincide with
just before they enter Primary school, a nice way to spend quality time
together before they embarked on their formal education. He has since completed
3 one-on-one trips, bringing Steffi to Korea, Leroy to Gold Coast and Stacci to
He shared that these trips allowed him
to show his love for each child through spending dedicated time with them. Both
father and child got to learn more about each other on their bonding trips and
share many happy memories and experiences together. Steven’s advice – “Live the
moment, go forth and explore the world together!”
Endearing memories of home
happy squeals emanate throughout the Teo household, never a quiet moment when
the children are around. Their closeness as a family even spills over into
their unique sleeping arrangement. Even though their jumbo flat has several
bedrooms, the family of seven insists that they bunk all together.
in an elongated bedroom, made from knocking down the walls between two
bedrooms. Their configuration of two king sized beds and one super single on
the floor seems the perfect combination to fit all seven of them.
Steven which child sleeps where and he put it simply – he parks himself on one
king size bed, his wife on the other and the children will pick favourites for
the night! A recent family staycation also saw all of them cuddled up in a king
Challenges and joys
rounded up the interview to let the family get back to their lives, I
understood more and more Steven and Laifong’s decision to have more children
than the typical family. While there are challenges in raising such a big
family… the immeasurable joy and warmth the young ones bring is certainly
We thank Steven
and Laifong for sharing their #myHDBstory.
*Over the years, HDB has
enhanced its offering of subsidies and grants to help Singaporeans afford their
first home. Ninety per cent of first-time home buyers buy a flat directly from
HDB at subsidised rates.
From September 2019 onwards,
the newly announced Enhanced CPF Housing
Grant (EHG) will replace the existing
Additional and Special CPF Housing Grants (AHG and SHG).
Eligible first-timer families
buying a resale flat may now enjoy up to $160,000 of housing grants, comprising
an EHG of up to $80,000, a CPF Housing Grant of up to $50,000, and a Proximity
Housing Grant of up to $30,000.
live in a HDB flat? Share your own #myHDBstory!