The government’s efforts to provide affordable public housing to its citizens have resulted in numerous housing estates across the island. These HDB towns or estates can be broadly categorised into – “mature” and “non-mature”. Anyone looking to purchase an HDB flat in Singapore must have heard these terms.
Interestingly, HDB provides no clear definition or explanation of how an estate is called mature or non-mature. However, estate classification plays a part in driving buyers’ choices and property prices.
In this article, we will dive deeper into the two types of HDB estates, understand the differences between them, and see if mature estates still have a competitive edge as before.
Many people define the maturity of an estate or town with its age. Typically, residential areas that have been around for more than 20 years are deemed mature, such as Clementi, Tampines and Bishan.
According to popular definitions, mature estates are older and have better amenities and established transport connectivity. These estates in more developed residential areas enjoy better amenities like markets, food centres, schools, transport networks, shopping malls, and everything that makes life easy. That is why most buyers would prefer mature estates over their non-mature counterparts.
In general, residential areas or towns built in recent years (less than 20 years old) are classified as non-mature estates. These estates include Yishun, Jurong West and Punggol. In a newer, non-mature estate, amenities are still a work of progress and may not be as convenient as in mature estates. They may not be fully built or readily accessible yet.
Let’s take a peek at Tengah – Singapore’s newest HDB town.
The initial launch of Tengah BTO flats took place in November 2018, with completion in 2023. HDB’s Master Plan highlights a community-centric estate featuring expansive parks, pedestrian malls, childcare centres and thematic playgrounds with excellent connectivity.
However, such extensive amenities take a considerable amount of time to complete. For instance, the Jurong Region Line (JRL), which is scheduled to operate through the Tengah Estate, is slated for operation only in 2026, signifying three years without an MRT station, which is a long wait.
However, more and more non-mature estates will transform into mature estates over time, and there will be newer non-mature estates in Singapore.
Before we dig any deeper, here is a list of mature and non-mature estates listed on the HDB website:
|Ang Mo Kio
|Choa Chu Kang
Fig. List of mature and non-mature estates
There are currently 15 mature and 11 non-mature estates in Singapore. Looking through the list, you will probably understand why there is no easy way to classify the estates.
In the past years, the usual trend is that Singaporeans drift more towards BTO launches in mature estates, while only a handful of non-mature estates have emerged as exceptions.
In the last ten years, the average selling price per square foot (psf) for BTO flats in mature estates has increased faster than in non-mature estates.
|$/PSF of Mature Estates
|$/PSF of Non-mature Estates
Table. PSF between 2018 and 2022 of mature & non-mature estates
|Volume of Mature Estates
|Volume of Non-mature Estates
Table. Volume between 2018 and 2022 of mature & non-mature estates
HDB BTO flats launched in mature estates are almost always over-subscribed, thanks to their central location. Mostly, these estates are well-situated – closer or within the Core Central Region or the Rest of Central Region.
However, you may find some exceptions to this, like Pasir Ris and Tampines. The different rates of increase in land costs in mature vs non-mature estates could have resulted in the variation of BTO flat prices.
In general, a mature estate offers established connectivity when it comes to public transport and roads. You could find more MRT lines and bus interchanges within walking distance, providing faster access to town and more convenience when travelling.
Residing in non-mature estates situated in outer regions may result in longer travel times, thereby contributing to the comparatively lower property prices in these areas as opposed to mature estates.
Moreover, mature estates tend to command a premium due to their proximity to the city centre and established amenities. This results in stiff competition for new HDB flats in these areas as the available pool of flats is typically smaller than in non-mature estates. That is why HDB units in mature estates tend to draw more interest and better prices when sold or rented out.
Also, mature estates tend to have more comprehensive amenities, such as more hawker centres and shopping malls, which attract buyers when buying a property.
These are a few reasons why most of the million-dollar resale HDB flats in Singapore are in mature estates, and only a few large HDB flats in non-mature estates have made it to the million-dollar mark. However, the trend of mature estates commanding higher prices may not stay long.
A non-mature town or estate is one of the best places to look for the most affordable, value-for-money options.
If you want to increase your chances of getting a BTO flat, it is best to ballot for a BTO project in a non-mature town or estate. Non-mature BTO launches generally have lower competition. However, there are exceptions to this. For example, during the August 2021 BTO launch, the Kovan Wellspring BTO in Hougang was 24.9 times over-subscribed for 4-room flats.
However, most homebuyers tend to focus more on BTO launches in more developed mature estates. However, not everyone can apply for a BTO in these estates.
Those aiming to get an HDB BTO flat in a mature estate should fit the below two criteria:
1. You cannot be single.
After turning 35, singles are not allowed to buy a BTO flat on their own in a mature estate.
2. You must form a family nucleus for a better advantage in landing a BTO within a mature estate.
Families eligible for the Parenthood Priority Scheme (PPS), Married Child Priority Scheme (MCPS), or simply applying for a BTO flat will find a greater number of HDB BTO flats set aside for them in mature estates compared to non-mature estates.
Due to the high demand for BTO flats in mature estates, forming a family nucleus can help increase your chances of securing a BTO flat.
Also, there is usually a higher supply of BTO flats in non-mature estates, so the chances of securing a queue number are naturally higher.
BTO flats located in non-mature estates tend to be cheaper, which makes them more likely to appreciate in value down the road. In contrast, mature towns or estates may already have reached their full potential in terms of amenities, making them less attractive when selling your property after 20 years or so.
But with newer developments and amenities introduced into your neighbourhood over time, non-mature towns are likely to be more competitive in the market, and the value of your BTO flat rises even more.
As a single buyer, you can only apply for an HDB BTO flat in a non-mature estate. To be more specific, you can only buy a 2-room Flexi BTO flat in that non-mature estate.
However, you can still go for resale HDB flats in a mature estate. There are no restrictions for singles aged 35 and above on buying resale HDB flats. Read also: Single & Buying a HDB in Singapore
The main difference is that the mature estates also have mature neighbourhoods and better amenities while the non-mature estates are still in the process of developing and thus an attraction for new projects like eco-towns.
As per the Ministry of National Development (MND), non-mature towns or estates are known to have a relatively larger land availability for public housing, while mature towns and estates typically have a limited land area for public housing development.
All other factors being equal, the price of HDB flats in mature estates tends to be approx. 10-15% higher than their non-mature counterparts. For example, the recent BTO launch price in Tengah for a 4-room flat is about $300,000, whereas the Bishan BTO launch price is around $500,000.
Many people opt for BTOs in a non-mature estate due to reasonably high property prices in a mature estate. It is worth asking yourself whether the advantages of having quick access to better amenities are worth the additional expense of $50K or so.
The maturity of an estate and its remaining lease possess an inverse relationship. The more mature the estate, the lesser years you can live in a particular home of that estate. It means HDB flats in a mature estate tend to have a shorter remaining tenure, which significantly affects the property value.
While common sense says the younger your HDB flat, the better, most Singaporeans do not seem to care about it.
According to the recent URA master plan, the government has plans to develop every inch of the island. Maybe not now, but after a couple of years, you may be able to take advantage of the newer amenities around your property in a non-mature estate. Therefore, properties in non-mature estates have far more potential for property appreciation than matured ones.
Let’s look at the table below showing why people prefer living in each type of estate.
|Mostly on the higher side
|Mostly on the lower side
|Usually within or nearer to central region
|Usually outside of central region
|Shorter remaining lease
|Longer number of years left on the lease
|Availability of Amenities
|Fewer amenities, work-in-progress
|Higher appreciation in the short term
|Higher appreciation potential in the long term
|Better established public transportation
|Less established public transport network
|Noisier and more crowded, but has a trendy vibe
|Generally more peaceful with a suburban vibe
|Fewer larger unit types (5-room flats) available
|More larger unit types (5-room flats) available
Though mature estates are located in well-developed neighbourhoods, in a few years, non-mature estates may be able to enjoy the same amenities.
Non-mature estates are fast-evolving. They have come a long way from 10 or 20 years ago when the differences in amenities and accessibility were more drastic. As non-mature estates grow older, the distinction between mature and non-mature estates has become less significant.
For example, Jurong East, a non-mature estate, has been rapidly upgraded and developed in recent years, with four big shopping malls near the MRT station and a highly accessible Ng Teng Fong hospital. On the other hand, a mature estate Bukit Timah isn’t as connected as Jurong East and doesn’t have as many developments.
As buyers avoid decaying leases and younger estates slowly become just as convenient as older HDBs with equal access to amenities and transportation, the price gap between mature and non-mature estates continues to shrink and gradually blur.
Singapore’s growing MRT network and development of regional centres and heartland amenities have narrowed the gap between the two estate types.
With improved urban landscape, some newer estates are being developed as smart and sustainable HDB towns, like Punggol and Tengah.
Some newly created HDB towns and estates, such as Canberra in Sembawang and Tengah – the newest HDB town, benefit from innovative urban planning, prioritising placemaking, community building and sustainability. These younger estates challenge the conventional mature and non-mature classification.
As non-mature estates may soon evolve into a neighbourhood with the same amenities and connectivity, the mature towns may lose their competitive edge in the near future.
If you are just starting and don’t have too much cash on hand, the non-mature estates may be a smarter choice. In any case, you can always upgrade later.
Since HDB estates are ambiguously classified into two categories, deeper research will help you realise that non-mature estates aren’t always less ideal than mature ones. It is all about finding a neighbourhood that suits your lifestyle.
Let’s talk about common misconceptions people have about both types of estates.
While most mature estates tend to be more centralised, it is not always true. For example, Tampines, a mature estate, is approximately 15km from the city, while non-mature estates like Hougang, Bukit Panjang or Yishun are about the same distance to the city, or arguably closer.
This myth can be debunked if you look at younger estates like Pasir Ris, which are classified as mature estates, and towns like Yishun and Jurong West have been around for as long as 30 years, are still categorised as non-mature estates.
Despite being classified as non-mature, estates like Punggol, Sengkang and Woodlands have a well-connected transport system with bus routes, MRT stations, and amenities such as malls, parks, etc. Woodlands has five MRT stations across two lines, and another non-mature estate, Hougang, has proximity to several prestigious schools in the town.
The amenities and accessibility of these non-mature estates are comparable to mature towns like Tampines, Pasir Ris, Ang Mo Kio, and even Toa Payoh.
Similarly, a flat could be built in a poorer location within a supposedly mature estate than another flat in a non-mature estate.
For example, in the November 2020 BTO launch in Tampines (a mature estate), the location of the BTO flats was quite far away from the main downtown Tampines area, where the majority of the amenities were concentrated. It was also far off from the two MRT stations.
In contrast, in the August 2020 BTO launch in Woodlands, the location of the BTOs was right beside Causeway Point Mall, Woodlands MRT station and the future Regional Centre.
Although BTO projects launched in mature estates tend to be considerably more costly than those in non-mature estates, this is not always the case. There are certain non-mature estates that are currently commanding higher prices than their mature counterparts.
For example, a non-mature town like Punggol has 4-room flats listed as high as $700,000 on online property portals, while 4-room flats in a mature estate like Bedok are averaged about $400,000 to $600,000.
The age and size of the flat determine the higher price tag rather than how developed an estate is where the property is located. Younger flats are more expensive as they have more years on the remaining lease, fresher interior design, and much better resale conditions.
Rather than focusing too much on the type of HDB town or estate, homebuyers should prioritise other aspects of the property, including the condition of the unit, the remaining lease, the amenities available in their immediate surroundings, and others.
As the Ministry of National Development in Singapore is reviewing its approach to estate classification to reflect modern changes, there have been suggestions ranging from getting rid of the labels altogether to classifying each BTO site based on its attributes instead of the estate under which it falls.
Since each type of estate has its own merits and demerits, there isn’t one that is better than the other. Choosing between a mature and non-mature estate depends on your preferences and priorities. While HDB flats in mature estates offer the advantage of being closer to the city and having established amenities, they may come with a higher price tag.
On the other hand, HDB flats in non-mature estates may offer more affordable options but with fewer conveniences and amenities. However, you might want to consider other factors such as budget, proximity to work, lifestyle preferences, future developments and long-term goals to help you make an informed decision.
With many stereotypes attached to mature and non-mature estates, we can only research to reach any conclusions. As non-mature estates get older, the distinction between the two estate types will become less relevant.
Enjoy the lowest mortgage loan rates when you refinance a home loan or buy a new property!
The relationship between US Fed interest rate hikes and home loans in Singapore is complex but...
Deep dive into mature and non-mature HDB estates and understand the differences between them
Beyond the property purchase price, don’t overlook these upfront costs...