8 Crazy HDB Upgrader Mistakes to Avoid in 2022

Your HDB BTO is in its 5th or 6th year of ownership, and you’re wondering what to do with it. Make sure that you make a wise decision because this one more can have a great impact on your next 15-20 years.

Before you make a final decision you need to avoid the following 8 mistakes I see HDB upgraders make.

Spend 5-6 minutes reading this article and you could potentially save 20 or 30 years trying to fix an easy, totally avoidable mistake.

1. Sell high now but buy MUCH higher

Singapore HDB prices are at an all-time high and that means if you are selling high you are also buying high especially if you are buying a HDB in a matured estate.

Unfortunately, if you are a HDB BTO Upgrader, then you are probably selling a 4-5 Room HDB BTO flat in a non-matured estate so there is a slim chance you will get cash over valuation for your HDB flat when selling.

But as a buyer you will be buying a HDB maisonette or an executive flat which means you will be paying an extra $40,000-$50,000 cash over valuation for a much older HDB flat that is more than 30 years old.

Let’s not forget the $50,000 in extra cash for renovations for these old and huge properties. So if you make $100,000 from your MOP BTO flat almost all of your profits goes to the next older HDB flat.

With the current Covid situation renovation costs can only go up and up.

Think about the money you’re wasting on that titanic ship and the worst part is that after a few years most of your hard earned CPF will be lost as well due to capital depreciation on the older HDB flat.

Consider all your property upgrading options first before you think that a HDB flat is your only option.

2. Buying a 30+ Year HDB Resale Flat.

Resale HDB EM/EA/5 room flats are bigger than new ones so naturally HDB upgraders flock to these types of property. Unfortunately the only good thing about a Maisonette or an Executive Apartment is it’s size.

Even if you are able to sell your HDB on the 40th year who will be able to buy your HDB then? The lease balance would be less than 60 years and most potential buyers are not able to use all their CPF to pay for the property.

If a couple is 30 years old and loves old Maisonettes, they can’t even afford a Maisonette because new CPF rules will limit their CPF usage.

An old property might not be worth paying cash every month for this young couple. Older couples won’t buy a maisonette (they hate stairs) or an executive apartment (I hate cleaning too)

So you’re stuck with the old HDB flat, which is going to depreciate and take your hard-earned CPF money. Let’s just say if you want space, look deeper. Maybe you only entertain guests or your children’s friends every two weeks? Wouldn’t a multipurpose condo hall/meeting room do?

3. Don’t Know All your Upgrade Choices

HDB BTO Upgrade

A lot of people assume that ‘private property’ is for the ‘rich’ any many other toxic ideas that prevent them from taking action.

Are you aware that you have many options when upgrading?

Here are some you might want to consider:

  • Resale HDB flats
  • Resale Condos (this includes ECs)
  • Brand new ECs
  • New Launch Condos
  • Landed Properties (Freehold & 99 Years)

You might think you can’t afford a landed property, and you’re right unless you pool your finances with your siblings or parents. However have you done calculations for other options?

Would you be surprised to learn that 90% of private property and EC owners don’t pay cash every month? Would you rather retire from a $1.5 million condo you bought 15 years ago for $1 million.

Or would you want to retire from a $500k, 45 year old maisonette or 5-room apartment that you can’t find a buyer for?

Imagine paying $550 a month for a new condo, then selling it for $300,000 profit, which you could use to buy a HDB flat (that won’t increase in price) and probably fully pay it off.

We had a High Park Residence buyer who came from a 3 room flat and bought a 3 bedder unit.

The best thing you can do for your family is to know all your property options.

4. Only 1 or 2 Goals When Upgrading

Like most HDB BTO upgraders you want to upgrade because you want something bigger than your current place. Your mindset is that it won’t be worth the hassle if you can’t get a bigger house.

If that’s the only goal, then a 40 year old jumbo is the best choice. What about retirement?

Wouldn’t it be nice to give your kids a head start in life with your property profits?

It’s important to think about other people’s goals before you decide which upgrade is best for you. Your decision will affect others in your household for many years to come.

Before you start your HDB BTO upgrade, try to include three to four goals that are wants like size and location, but also needs like retirement, thriving community, etc.

5. Buying a Bad Resale Condo

Think twice if you think that any private property is an “investment”. Even if you splurged on a $1.2m resale condo in Flora, none of them would make any money.

In fact, in most areas you got to, it’s the same story, no profits in the near future. Buying the wrong resale condo is like upgrading to a wrong, bigger HDB flat.

Not all resale condos are great.

For example, one of the few things I recommend is to avoid condos with fewer than a certain number of units due to high maintenance fees and flat sales volume. (No sales volume = no appreciation)

It’s funny but sometimes it makes more sense to buy a HDB flat depending on your goals and affordability so make sure to keep your objectives in mind before you decide.

6. Not Interviewing At Least 3 Agents

The quality of your upgrade is highly dependent on what kind of advice you’re getting.

The way most people choose a property agent is by going onto Instagram. They look at a profile of an agent who shows beautiful HDB flats.

Then deciding that this is the right agent to help with our upgrade. While the agent is a good sales agent, he/she probably doesn’t have the right skillset to advise you on your plans.

They are order takers and they help you calculate what you want to buy. Sure they might whip out a glorified calculation of your HDB sales proceeds, which you can actually do on your own.

Or they can even show you a breakdown if you want to buy your next property. But do they have hard statistics to show you why a property purchase meets most of your goals?

Choose your property agent wisely when you want to do your HDB BTO Upgrade. Are they able to show you all the upgrades you can do?

Can they suggest 1-2 choices and why they’re good upgrades? Meet 3 agents, preferbly those who are HDB BTO Upgrade focused and don’t be pressured.

Give yourself a break, a cooling off period, before you decide what’s best for your family. Do some research and interview agents before just following the other 99% blindly.

Simply following the crowd and choosing the most ‘popular’ agent like a talent show will not do your family justice.

7. Relying Too Much on Online Advice

We just had an interview with a potential new salesperson last week.

He said he was looking for someone who could tell him how to make a great income. If we are open to sharing these secrets, he said.

As I sat back, I told him, “Bro, there’s no secret.” We have way too many secrets today that we’re paralyzed by trying to make sense of them all.

Here’s the thing: there’s just too much information out there, and you’ll often think that it’s better not to do anything after overanalyzing it all. So now it’s more important than ever to talk to someone and share your ideas with them.

You’ve got different needs. You’ve got different goals.

There’s so many creative ways to achieve your goals, but the internet doesn’t get it. Have a chat with three agents or even friends (that have done what you plan to do, not couch analysts) 

8. DIY HDB BTO Upgrade

Some agents say that since you don’t do your own teeth (you go to the dentist).

…Or fix your own car (still amazed by those who do it themselves)…..that’s why you shouldn’t do your own planning…I disagree and here’s why:

I’m sure you already know that there are over 30,000 property agents in Singapore.

I’m estimating only 20% of them are active (selling 10 properties a year or more), so most of them are closing less than 10 properties a year, meaning their advice isn’t backed by experience.

The chances of you getting bad advise and worse, losing $10,000 at the same time is amazingly high.

This is how advise from a so-so agent looks like:

You tell them what you want to buy. They take your order.

You tell them your plans. They give you advise based on what they know.

This is what’s most likely going to happen:

1. You lose $10,000 paying commission

2. You buy a 40-year-old HDB flat and can’t retire at 60

3. You buy a resale condo that cannot appreciate in price.

You continue working after 60 years old as you’ve made a misstep in your purchase 30 years ago. Choosing the wrong agent can lead to bad results both short and long-term. Don’t choose the wrong agent.

On the other hand, you don’t really need a special certificate to sell your own house as long as you are confident you’re the best person for the job. Just put it on Carousell watch our advise on how to get the highest price for your HDB flat.

But engaging the right agent would save you stress and make you more money:

1 – Sell $20,000 higher in 7 days.

You’ll save yourself at least $5,000 in unnecessarily stressful time and effort dealing with salespeople (that you are buying the property from)

2. You buy a property that will increase in value by $300,000 in 4-8 years.

3. You retire with $4,000 a month using property profits.

4. You’ll know exactly what you’re paying and your property plan will help you reach your goals.

If you’re serious about your HDB BTO Upgrade then you’d better get the right help.


I’m sure there are many more mistakes HDB BTO upgraders make, but these are the ones that come to mind as I was writing this. Selling or buying a property is a life-changing decision, whether it is a HDB flat or a private home.

Heikal and myself have helped people in their 60s downgrade with $50,000 of profits, which as you can see is not even enough to last them 2 years. We’ve also helped others retire with $1.7m in profits.

It’s not about greed, but would you rather spend time with the ones you love or work for your family in old age.

The retirees who sold for $1.7m in profits were both employees and non-executives, but they made the right property moves 30 years ago.

Fill out the form below and one of the Heroes will get right back to you within 24 hours if you’re wondering how to understand your property upgrading options.


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