I’m neck deep in HDB BTO woes and the madness is still going on so I haven’t had time to blog at all. However if not now, then when? It doesn’t look like the madness would stop anytime soon.

Securing your BTO from HDB is just the first step, so what next? I really REALLY underestimated the amount of things and time we need to get done. Hopefully this blog will help others be more prepared!

1: Waiting For The Letter

Okay so you have waited years and visited the site regularly to see the progress of the construction like a stalker-inspector, and finally the time is near. The HDB website says the probable launch date is September but where is the letter? Madness sets in and you start doubting yourself, asking yourself and your spouse whether if you did submit the application and made the payment and secured the HDB. You start dreaming delirious HDB-related dreams of wandering around huge, empty, and dark units. Then finally the mental torture is over! The letter comes and you see that key collection is another month away. You wished it was sooner cos the mental torture is pretty much all you can take, but better late than never I guess.

(Probably all those things never happened to you but it sure happened to us, the HDB was supposed to be complete in September but we only got our keys in November.)

I thought it was all over when we got our keys. Boy was I wrong!

Most people will start looking for an ID or contractor around 3 months before they get their keys. However, don’t rush the process and cave under pressure! Finding a good interior designer or contractor makes all the difference between future stress or relaxation. I highly recommend signing the papers only when you get your keys and when your ID/contractor can actually take a look at the place. They would not be able to do much even if you book them months in advance. Also, read on and you will find that they actually have plenty of time to come up with designs and schedule for work.

2. Keys collection

This part is easy. Everything you need to bring is in the letter. Have you got someone to do the renovations yet? If not, don’t worry, a house is a long term investment and just take your time to compare and compare and compare some more. For people interested, I will also post my contractor’s info and review once everything is done in Dec.

Once you think the wait is over, you wait some more at HDB. Up to an hour after your actual appointment time. At the same time, we asked HDB for the cement screed for vinyl and they will do it up to 40mm for free.

3. Defects Checking

Once you get your keys, bring two things before you go to open those glorious doors: 1. Some coloured tape with you and 2. a combination lock or padlock. You are given 7 days to submit any defects you find so I suggest starting right on the first day! Or you can engage an Inspection expert. Defects are cracks, leaking pipes, clogged drains, hollow tiles, paint bubbles or peeling and any other problems. You can find plenty of checklists online but frankly I used none.

The next shocker that I didn’t know was that you had to wait another (probable) 2 weeks for the defects to be done. More waiting.

Some people hire a professional inspector for $500 but I just employ the use of my eyes. As you discover more defects, you can report them to the office again and again within a year and they will fix it based on a case-by-case basis.

Meanwhile, I was rapidly looking for furniture and appliances for the house. One of the earliest items you’d want to start buying is the air-conditioning as that involves hacking and drilling. Also, popular aircon stores like Gain City have a 3-week waiting time so book early!

4. Start of Renovations and Electrical Works

Time seems to be passing really slowly. Renovations and electrical works and painting usually would take 2 months or more! That sounds crazy to me. However I wasn’t doing very much like fabricating built-in wardrobes so my renovations are just 4 weeks.

4a. Free HDB Cement screed

There is a huge debate on whether to top up or not if you are doing vinyl flooring. If you hire a contractor or ID, they can advise you better. In my case, I paid $650 to top up 5mm so that after adding the 5mm vinyl tiles, it should flush with the bathroom entrances.

5. Online Orders and Group Buys

So being super poor after getting the HDB, we decided to save on our furniture and appliances. We bought most of our items online, and they will take 1-2 months to arrive. Some of the best deals can be found at trade shows and expos.

What appliances you probably need for your house are:

  • Air-conditioning
  • Refrigerator
  • Washing Machine
  • TV
  • Fans
  • Cooker hob and hood
  • Lightings
  • Other miscellaneous kitchen appliances like kettles, ovens, microwaves

Some group buys are super gimmicky and pushy. If you don’t buy a lot, your savings will be negligible, and the sales people don’t even want to entertain you. I personally only attended two group buys, one by Gain City which I hated, and the other was by a lighting supplier which was quite good. Most other things I just bought when I thought it was a good offer.

6. Start of Renovations (Finally!)

After all the delays and problems, resolved by HDB, we finally can start the renovations. From here onwards, your ID/contractor should take over the process and let you know when to install all the necessities like gas, power, water, get electrical wiring and lighting up, advise on furniture and even when to move in!

Most importantly, although it is sometimes rather stressful, don’t forget to always enjoy the process! I know I am still learning to do that.