Can your HDB flat still be used as a retirement plan?

Is your HDB Flat your only retirement plan?

Avoid making this mistake before it's too late.

I felt compelled to write this post after reading this post on PropertyGuru about a 64 year old Singaporean who would not have much cash for retirement even after selling his Tampines Court Apartment. This is even though he bought the unit before privatization i.e. it experienced a substantial increase in price from the time he purchased it.

The owner was appealing to buy a BTO from HDB, most likely for the lower prices, which would free up more cash for his retirement.

Reactions on the Propertyguru FB post showed that most people were not convinced that this could happen and accused him of lying to get special privileges from HDB.

Tamp Court FB Pic Singapore

However, as a practicing agent, I feel that it is important for the general public to know that this type of scenario is NOT an exception.  It is increasingly becoming the norm, and it is especially sad for those who want to retire but then realise that they will NOT have much cash proceeds from the sale even though their flat price has appreciated substantially. 

By that time, you won't have sufficient time to start a proper retirement fund and most would have to resort to working for the rest of their lives. 

If you are still confused about how this might happen, I've included a case study below from a Singaporean couple who I have recently spoken to. Details have been made generic for educational purposes. 

CASE STUDY

Mr and Mrs XYZ are in their late 40s and have 3 children who are still in school. They bought a resale executive flat in Tampines for $443 000 in 2001. They took a HDB loan with a 2.6% interest rate.  Currently the selling price of that flat (as well as the estimated valuation from SRX) is around $620 000. 

They have been monitoring the market and since prices of flats have been falling, they would like to cash out and downgrade to a fully paid 4 room flat before their CPF gets compulsorily diverted into the Retirement Account.

Outstanding Loan : $195 000

They do not have much CPF in their ordinary accounts (OA).​

MR XYZ : CPF Usage for property + Accrued Interest = $ 230 712 +$61 379 =$ 292 091

MRS XYZ : CPF Usage for property + Accrued Interest : $83 642 + $23 130 = $106 772

Total to be returned to CPF = ​$292 091 + $106 772 = $398 863

Cash Proceeds  = Selling Price of the Flat  minus (-)  the existing loan minus (-) the amount you need to return to CPF. 

Therefore for this couple , the cash proceeds from the sale of their flat would be a mere $620 000 - $195 000 - ​$398 863 = $26 137.

This also means that they are only able to use $398 863 from their CPF funds for their next flat, without even considering additional factors like renovation costs etc. 

If they delay their decision, we predict that the HDB ramping up supply would lead to a further dip in prices, and with interest and accrued interest still accumulating, they might have a negative sale further down the road.

Alternatively, they might want to wait until their children are all grown up, and move into a studio apartment so that they can pocket more cash from the transaction. 

Why were my parents able to retire on the funds from their HDB flat? 

  • ​Prices of HDB Flats were extremely low 30 - 40 years ago and it is a norm to see prices of flats appreciate by 3-4 times. In contrast, the prices of flats of flats purchased about 10 years ago have only appreciated by less than half. 
  • The previous generation most likely paid for their flats by cash (instead of CPF) and this reduces the amount of CPF and the accrued interest to be refunded back into the account.
  • The minimum sum for couples increase according to inflation  which means you will be paying more.

Will the prices of HDB go up? 

There will definitely be an increase based on inflation but we don't forsee double digit growth or a doubling of prices like that in 2008 - 2015. If you look at the HDB Price Index Below, you'll see that the growth did not occur in history and probably would not continue, especially with Ministers promising to keep public housing affordable. 

HDB Price Index 2016

What does this mean for you? 

We are not fortune tellers and we cannot predict how the market would be like when it is time for you to retire but this is some advice that we would like to give so that your situation won't be so tight 20 - 30 years down the road. Of course, you have to carefully consider each one with regards to your own risk appetite and financial situation.

  1. Plan for retirement early and don't depend on your HDB flat as a retirement p​lan. 
    • Just to understand how much interest you will be paying ( believe me it can be a shocker) , find a free mortgage calculator app or online. The total amount of interest you pay will be based on your the interest rate, your total loan amount, and the number of years you are taking the loan for.  Unfortunately there are no calculators online to estimate accrued interest, so you can estimate it using a 2.5% interest rate. 
  2.  If you are the type who allows excess CPF to just sit in your OA, you should consider paying of your home loan early.
    For HDB loans, this reduces the total amount of interest and accrued interest you have to pay. Making Partial Capital Repayment  on HDB loans is extremely easy to do and there are no penalties for early repayment. 
    For bank loans, you need to check with your banks if there are any penalties for early repayment.
    • NOTE : We understand that there multiple point of views about paying off a mortgage loan early. From our point of view, paying off mortgage loans early works well if it is for your own residence. For properties that you rent out, the strategy should be different since it is the tenants who pay for the interest and the principal. 
    • We also know about the argument that a person shouldn't pay off their home loan early because if you die, your home would be covered by insurance and your spouse will get both your existing cpf and the insurance payout ( instead of nothing since you used up your CPF to pay for the loan) . Well we can't argue with that, but we also hope that you have a plan in place if both of you live long and healthy lives. 
  3. Look into other forms of retirement plans or purchasing another private property  to fund your retirement as the rent that your tenants pay will contribute towards your equity. Once the tenants fully pays off your mortgage for that property, it can be a source of monthly income for you. 
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Siti Zubeidah is a Marketing Director with ERA Realty Network Pte Ltd. (CEA No.: R050625J) She has a Bachelors Degree in Informations Communications and Sociology from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and a Masters of Mass Communications from Nanyang Technological University (NTU). With vast experience in the HDB market, Private and Landed Properties in Singapore, she is confident that she can assist you to make the correct decision regarding the purchase of your dream home as well as to get you the best price on the sale of your property. She can be contacted at 96918885 or at askus@propertyrocking.com.

Comments

  1. But wouldn’t selling off a appreciated HDB and moving into a, say – 2 room flexi made for the elderly to retire be more wise instead ? Downgrading and retiring off the ‘profits’ would most likely occur only when parents wish to pass down a property to their children. But since we’re focusing on retiring here I think you should have considered a short lease-termed 2 room flexi instead.

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