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HDB loan vs Bank loan 2024: Which is cheaper and better to pick?

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Your first home is one of the most major investments that you will ever make in your life. So understandably, you want to make sure that you’re making smart decisions and to fully understand how housing loans work in Singapore. This research process can be long-drawn and confusing. 

If you are looking to buy a HDB in Singapore in 2024, a common thought comes to mind, “Should I choose a HDB loan or a housing bank loan?” Both options have their own advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to understand the differences between them to make an informed decision.

As mortgage interest rates have steadily increased from the start of 2022, in line with the US interest rate hike announcements, HDB loans are now cheaper than bank loans.

The basics: What is a HDB Property?

HDB housing offers a temporary leasehold basis of 99 years only. With HDB flats, there are rules and regulations to follow. One key difference between HDB and private property types is that you must be a citizen of Singapore to buy and own a new HDB flat. If not, they should at least have permanent residency and must belong to a certain income bracket.

For Singapore Citizens to own a new HDB flat, they must not have a monthly income exceeding $14,000 (or $21,000 for extended families). If you are a foreigner in Singapore, the most you can do is rent an HDB flat. You can’t own it unless you have a permanent resident (PR) status in Singapore.

Is an executive condominium (EC) considered HDB? 

An executive condominium which has not exceeded 10 years from obtaining the Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP) is considered public housing and therefore classified as a HDB unit.

On the other hand, an EC which is more than 10 years old after getting it’s TOP is a privatised unit and no longer held under the guise of a HDB property.

Apart from the first timer CPF housing grants which are available for an EC bought directly from developers, bank loans for an EC are also subjected to the same mortgage servicing ratio (MSR) requirements as HDB properties.

In summary, taking into account both the restrictions and financing requirements from banks, a newly launched EC bought directly from a developer can be considered a HDB.

How does a HDB housing loan work?

If you buy an HDB flat, you must obtain a HDB Flat Eligibility (HFE) letter. It refers to a letter that you need to apply before you can buy an HDB flat. With this new process, your eligibility to buy, receive HDB grants and take up the HDB housing loan will just be assessed once.

The HFE letter replaces the HDB Loan Eligibility (HLE) letter, which you’ll need when you book a flat (for a new flat like a BTO) or before you get an Option to Purchase (for a resale flat).

The HDB loans are easier on the pocket since there is a lower downpayment obligation of 20%. You can pay your downpayment using your CPF funds, provided you have enough savings in your Ordinary Account (OA).

Additionally, interest rates for an HDB loan are fixed at 2.60% for the entire loan tenure. It takes away the headache of having to monitor interest rates and deal with fluctuating monthly instalments.

HDB loans come with consistent interest rates and a lower downpayment. For many years, interest rates on HDB loans were higher than interest rates on mortgage loans from banks – but not any more!

With global inflationary pressure, the world’s central banks, including the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), have increased interest rates since March 2022 to curb inflation. Tightening of monetary policy have also lead to higher interest rates.

Who is eligible for a HDB loan? 

While an HDB loan does sound attractive to newly married couples because of the low downpayment required, they have a stricter set of criteria that applicants must adhere to. Here are some pertinent rules and regulations that HDB loan applicants need to be mindful of:

  • At least one buyer/applicant must be a Singapore Citizen.
  • When applying for an HDB loan, the buyer cannot own a private residence in Singapore or outside the country.
  • There is a monthly income ceiling, which decides the eligibility for this loan. If a couple wants an HDB loan, their monthly income should not exceed $14,000. For extended families, it is capped at $21,000.
  • Under the Single Singapore Citizen (SSC) scheme, the income ceiling for singles is capped at $7000 when buying a 5-room or smaller resale flat, or a 2-room new flat in a non-mature estate.
  • If a buyer has already taken two previous HDB loans, they won’t be eligible for any HDB loans.
  • When applying for an HDB loan, the loan officers check whether or not the buyer has disposed of their private residential property within 30 months before the loan application. If they have, then their application is rejected.

There are other restrictions for people who own and operate commercial properties. You can check out HDB’s official website for a full overview of HDB loan conditions.

How does a HDB bank loan work?

Compared to HDB concessionary loans, a bank loan is fairly simple to understand and has fewer restrictions. It is a general housing loan from the bank or financial institution of the buyer’s choice. Bank loans are based on the interest rate packages offered by the bank, the loan application process and the repayment process.

They are typically applied after paying the option fee and before exercising the Option To Purchase (OTP).

An HDB bank loan has two main criteria which you must meet: the Mortgage Servicing Ratio (MSR) and Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR). Both these frameworks take into account the income and debt obligations of the borrower and are put in place to ensure people don’t borrow more than they can afford.

As long as there is a good credit score or repayment history, securing a bank loan for your HDB unit is fairly simple.

Monthly instalments for an HDB bank loan can be paid via cash or CPF as desired. If you have sufficient funds in your CPF OA, you can pay your entire monthly instalment through CPF.

Key Differences between HDB and Bank Loans

Based on all of the above mentioned points, here is a comparison and list of differences between HDB and bank loans:

Loan Eligibility Criteria. For an HDB loan, there are citizenship and income ceiling requirements, plus other criteria that decide your eligibility. On the other hand, if you have a good credit score, low monthly debt obligations and a stable monthly gross income of more than $2,500, you are pretty much eligible for a bank loan.

Interest Rate HDB loans are known for their stability, offering a concessionary interest rate that is pegged at 0.1% above the prevailing CPF Ordinary Account (OA) interest rate, which has been consistently set at 2.6% for many years.

The HDB loan interest rate is more or less fixed at 2.6%, which is pretty cheap in today’s climate. Banks peg their interest rate to SORA rates which fluctuate frequently. They typically offer lower introductory rates compared to HDB loans.

The interest rate for bank loans can be either fixed or floating. The floating rates can significantly rise or go down over time. Currently, banks such as UOB, OCBC and DBS are charging close to 3.00% in interest and upwards.

However, there’s a possibility that banks in Singapore might reduce their home loan rates in 2024, anticipating that the US Federal Reserve will lower its benchmark interest rate on at least three occasions throughout the year.

Monthly Instalment. Since interest rates have much less volatility over a longer period, HDB loans have a more stable monthly instalment. If you need consistency in repayments, HDB loans win hands down. Monthly instalments for bank loans fluctuate and are much more unpredictable over a longer period (more than three years) due to either a refinancing or repricing, where interest rates and loan tenures can be changed.

Downpayment Amount. The downpayment for HDB housing loans is 20% of the unit’s purchase price. A significant advantage is the ability to utilise the savings in your CPF Ordinary Account to cover the downpayment. In contrast, bank loans require paying 25% as a downpayment. Please note that 5% of the initial downpayment must be paid in cash only.

Maximum Loan Amount. Before 30 September 2022, homebuyers could borrow up to 85% of their flat’s value when taking an HDB loan. However, after the rollout of cooling measures on 30 September 2022, the Loan-to-Value (LTV) limit for HDB loans was tightened from 85% to 80%. On the other hand, the maximum loan quantum for bank loans remains unchanged at 75% of the purchase price.

Minimum Loan Amount. There is no such mandated minimum loan amount for HDB loans. For bank loans, it is typically $100,000.

Maximum Loan Tenure. With HDB loans, the maximum loan tenure is 25 years or until you reach the age of 65, whichever is earlier. On the other hand, bank loans for HDB flats have a longer maximum loan tenure of 30 years, which may make them more appealing to homebuyers who want lower monthly repayments at the expense of higher total interest paid over the life of the mortgage.

Penalties. Since HDB loans don’t have a lock-in period, no early repayment penalties are applicable apart from a late payment on an HDB loan. The late payments penalty is usually 7.5% of the amount that is late, and not the full or outstanding loan amount.

For bank loans with a lock-in period, the usual penalties range from 0.75% to 1.50% of your remaining loan amount – usually much more than 7.5% p.a. The penalty will generally apply if you choose to have an early repayment, refinancing, or sell off your HDB home within the lock-in period.

In the current high interest rate climate, when your monthly repayments are higher, don’t expect banks to waive your late payments penalty when you make an appeal. HDB loans, on the other hand, are generally easier to negotiate and more forgiving. Unless you are a repeat offender, HDB may provide a fee waiver or reduction if you make an appeal.

Historical Interest Rate Trend 2014 to 2024: HDB loan vs Bank loan

The historical interest rates (shown in the chart below) for HDB loans has been around 2.60% for the past 10 years, whereas HDB bank loan rates, specifically looking at the main 3M & 6M SIBOR market rate, has been around 0.50% to 2.00% over the same period from 2014 to 2021.

historical trend of bank loan vs hdb loan interest rate

The surge in mortgage interest rates in Singapore since early 2022 and throughout 2023 has significantly impacted homeowners, especially those with floating-rate home loans. The rise in rates, largely influenced by global economic conditions and foreign economic policies, has heightened financial anxiety among borrowers as their monthly repayments have increased.

It could strain their finances, especially for those with tight budgets or fixed incomes. This situation underscores the interconnectedness of global financial markets and the direct impact of foreign monetary policies, such as those of the US Fed, on local borrowing costs.

The pause in benchmark rates by the US Fed at 5.25% to 5.50% in September 2023 brought some respite, indicating a moment of stabilization in the global economic landscape. However, the cumulative effect of rate hikes prior to this pause has already set a challenging scenario for borrowers.

The 3M compounded SORA, a key benchmark for floating rate loans in Singapore, rose by about 3% due to these global events, reaching close to 3.6%. This marks a significant increase, especially when compared to the historically stable 2.6% interest rate offered on HDB loans.

But that has not always been the case. Before 2022, bank rates were comparatively more affordable (as show in the chart) and that can be a reality again if the global economy recovers its stability.

However, it may be prudent to opt for an HDB housing loan in 2024 as it comes with lower interest rates (than current bank interest rates) and more stability in the years of inflation, considering the current inflationary environment.

However, if the mortgage interest rates drop in H2 2024, you may choose to refinance to an HDB bank loan after the lock-in period if you find a lower interest rate package to maximise your savings.

If you and your partner are a recently employed, young couple, it is likely that you may not have a significant amount of surplus funds readily available. Opting for an HDB loan can prove advantageous in such circumstances, as they require a lower interest rate and reduced down payment of 20% of the property’s purchase price. Furthermore, you can use your CPF savings to make the payment.

You can also consider refinancing each time your lock-in period ends to maximise savings and enjoy competitive interest rates. In such a situation, those with floating-rate loans might consider locking in a fixed-rate loan to mitigate the risk of further rate increases, although this decision depends on individual financial situations and market outlooks.

How do you know if a HDB loan is better for you? 

Let’s highlight different scenarios when you should opt for an HDB loan over a bank loan when interest rates are climbing. HDB loans are a more suitable choice if:

  • you are conservative and want to minimise cash outlay in your downpayment;
  • you might need more forgiving penalties for not paying your loan on time;
  • you are self-employed with an unstable income over the past two years;
  • the purchase price of your HDB flat is less than $400,000; or
  • you have a poor credit rating or score due to previous defaults on other loans or credit cards.

If the above factors are not on your priority list, you might be more comfortable with a bank loan for your HDB property.

If your monthly household income exceeds HDB’s maximum income ceiling, you have no choice but to take an HDB bank loan. Additionally, the bank rates are highly variable and may decrease again to reach their pre-inflation levels once the global economy settles and inflation drops.

At the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to finding the best mortgage rates in Singapore — it all depends on your background, income and the property type that you are interested in. For advice on which would work best for your needs, get in touch to speak to a DollarBack Mortgage consultant.

best home loan rates

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