Date, get married, buy a house, have kids – while the last part is optional, most couples understand the urgency of wanting a place to call their own as soon as possible. In certain cases, some couples jump the gun and plan ahead by applying for a flat before the marriage even takes place.
After all, applying for a BTO flat is akin to trying your hand at the lottery. Unless the marriage has been legally registered and you have a kid between the two of you, your chances of landing a unit in your locale of choice are slim.
But if you do, then you comfortably have 3-4 years to sort out marriage and your finances since waiting for the completion of your BTO takes that long even without any delays.
A natural decision after years of dating
For one couple Andrew and Jane, getting a flat seemed like the natural and obvious next step to take now that they’d been dating for 3 good years and marriage was definitely on the horizon.
Image credit: TheSmartLocal
Applying for their BTO was a leap of faith in which they just so happened to strike the jackpot. It was pure chance that they came across Toa Payoh’s BTO launch.
And seeing as the BTO plot was in the same hood as Andrew’s folks, they knew they’d be eligible not only for additional grants on the unit but 2 extra ballot chances for applying for a unit within the 2KM radius of one’s parents.
To solidify their decision, even though the odds were against them, the pair still managed to snag a ballot number of under a hundred which gave them a very good chance of selecting a favourable unit a.k.a. one that was located on a high floor away from the communal chute.
Buying a 4-room BTO flat in Toa Payoh
A render of an HDB home in Toa Payoh.
Image credit: AGCDesign
One thing quickly led to another, and before they knew it, the pair were proud homeowners of a 4-room BTO flat in Toa Payoh. Their damage? Approximately $500K.
At that point, it really did feel as though they had lucked out – Toa Payoh was a mature estate that had soul and a full suite of amenities in every direction they looked. It was also a short train ride away from the CBD and town.
Where others would have been thankful to purchase resale flats in this location, they had scored a brand new flat with a full 99 years on the lease. Now all that was left was the wait for completion, and of course, marriage.
Breaking up & the repercussions that followed
In a Reddit thread on BTOs and break-ups, it’s often said that the success rate for relationships of couples who BTO before marriage is around 50%, with not many couples being able to weather the years that come with waiting for their flat to be complete. Unbeknownst to Andrew and Jane, they’d soon be part of the statistics in a matter of months.
Image for illustration only.
Image adapted from: TSL TV
Not before long, life took an unexpected turn and the pair decided to end their relationship with Andrew getting a sudden dose of cold feet. As the couple had only graduated from university and were in the midst of finding their footing in the corporate world, the responsibility of a house on top of their differences became a bit too much for them to manage.
What came as just as hard a hit as the relationship ending was the impending knowledge that they were going to have to forgo a home in such a prime location.
1-year HDB ban and $70K repayment
With limited information online, Jane found herself writing into HDB to cancel their application. The pair were then informed by HDB that following the surrender of their BTO flat, they would be barred from applying for another home for a period of one year.
They were also made to sign an application to surrender their flat. Then it came to money matters. Of the $500K they paid for their 4-room flat, they’d have to forfeit the 5% down payment of the flat which amounted to $25,000.
On top of this, they had to forgo the $20K stamp duty and cough back up the grants they had taken to offset the cost of their flat plus interest on top of that. Which brought the total amount payable to HDB to a grand total of around $70,000.
Not wanting to confront all the money they would lose along with their relationship, during the course of returning their flat, the couple tried some last-ditch attempts to keep the home they had been so eager to buy.
One of them was appealing to HDB to allow for Andrew’s new partner to be listed as the co-owner of the unit instead, but HDB shot that down. In the end, the pair resorted to depleting most of their respective Ordinary Accounts and coming up with the shortfall in cash.
And while they did split the losses fairly, the emotional toll of the break-up and Andrew’s hands-off approach when it came to the administrative matters left a bitter taste in Jane’s mouth.
Lessons learnt from breaking up after getting a BTO
No one gets into a relationship with an intention to end it, and the same goes for applying for an HDB BTO together. But sometimes life intervenes, and plans don’t work out the way we want them to.
Image credit: TheSmartLocal
In Andrew and Jane’s case, the relationship was at its peak when they decided to apply for a BTO together, but time revealed differences between them that were too big to reconcile. And while they’d lost what would’ve been one of the more valuable assets in their life, Jane was glad that she didn’t end up getting “the right house with the wrong guy”.
Here are some things you can do to recover from a BTO break-up as amicably as possible:
- Both parties should take equal responsibility when it comes to dealing with all the administrative matters
- Factor in all previous payments made for the application and split the total payable amount as fairly as possible to avoid fighting over money matters
While losing your brand new flat can be a tough pill to swallow, Jane advises couples to “focus on the bigger picture” and weigh all your options carefully before turning to the exit door as the solution. Money can be earned, but time is one thing you can’t replace.
Read our other home guides here:
- HDB Cash Over Valuation – All you need to know
- Feng Shui mistakes at home
- Rent vs. resale – which to choose?
Cover image adapted from: TheSmartLocal