HERE’S HOW TO DO IT YOURSELF
Are you looking to buy a house and do not have the budget / prefer not to engage a property agent?
Well, it is definitely possible to DIY and skip having to hire an agent, and today I will teach you how
in 10 simple steps:
Step 1: Search for your desired house on as many property marketing portals as possible.
Search for a house based on the estate, room type, price, floor level (high or low), and the advertised
Watch out for cases where the price being advertised may be too high – there have been cases where
the seller could be in a desperate situation to sell so their eventual transaction price could actually be
much lower than what you see. However, as a DIY buyer, this might be a bit harder to find out,
although not impossible either.
Step 2: Visit property portals and HDB website to check for prices.
Find out whether the asking price is reasonable by cross-referencing other property portals and
HDB website for average transaction prices and the estimated valuation of the house.
Do note though, that as these are all past historical transaction prices, it does not necessarily reflect
the actual current price that sellers may be willing to sell at. Many sellers have ended up selling to
agents at a price lower than what is advertised online. At the same time, many DIY buyers have fallen
into the trap of paying the market transaction price without realising that they can get it for cheaper
because of various reasons, such as depreciation or seller urgency.
Step 3: Register your intent to buy on the HDB Resale Portal.
Since 1 January 2018, the new HDB Resale Portal now allows for interested buyers to use your
SingPass and submit your application, where they will be guided step-by-step on how to buy a resale
flat. Register your intent to buy a flat on the portal, and it will display your eligibility together with
available housing grants for you. You can also view information on HDB concessionary housing loans,
and apply for an HDB Loan Eligibility Letter here if you intend to take up a HDB housing loan instead of a
The portal will also guide you through the request for valuation, required documents, payment of
fees, OTP, and more.
Step 4: Call up every single unit that you are keen on and arrange for a viewing.
Because you need to visit actual units and see them for yourself in person in order to know if they
truly are as good as they appear to be online. The more units you view, the better you get at figuring
out whether a unit is truly good…or simply marketed very well to give a better impression than what
is really is.
If you do not have the luxury of time to view many units, you may wish to consider if engaging a
realtor would be more beneficial because they tend to know if a unit is hot or not, given they would
have many other buyers on hand (aside from yourself) who can give them feedback on the ground.
Step 5: Take time to learn and familiarise yourself with the environment and profile of
residents in that area.
The last thing you would want is to move into a house and be faced with loan shark issues (which
the seller probably wouldn’t have told you about, because why would they when it decreases the
value of their house?), or even a pervert in the area, etc.
Since you will be staying there yourself, the safety and well-being of you and your family is important,
so spend time talking to the neighbours and residents in that cluster to understand the environment
and the backstory of the owner whose house you are about to purchase. You can try knocking on the
neighbours’ doors to ask them if they would kindly share some information with you as you are
looking to move in and be their future neighbour.
Step 6: Find out what is the lowest price of the house that the seller is willing to let go at.
Ask the seller, or the seller agent.
However, you may or may not be successful in this aspect because the sellers would seldom give you
the real lowest price that they are willing to settle at, in order to give room for negotiation and
bargaining. Every seller wants to get the highest price possible for their house.
If the price is low, you should also question and ask why. Why are they willing to sell you so low? Is
there anything fishy, or something they are hiding from you?
Yes, these are difficult questions indeed, but the answers to these questions are crucial to ensuring
you get a good sale and pay the lowest possible price for your desired unit.
This is where engaging an estate specialist could be useful, as he and his team can keep revisiting
the same house with different buyers and find out the different offer price each time, while without
exposing who the real buyer is. By working as a team, it is more likely that they will be able to dig up
the real lowest price that the seller is willing to settle at. Otherwise, you might end up annoying the
seller if you keep asking, and no one likes to sell to someone who has offended them.
Step 7: Visit the house at least once, or twice, to inspect the condition of the house.
It is fine to ask for repeated viewings, especially if you are a sincere buyer who is genuinely keen on
buying the house. After all, few people go into details on the first viewing to inspect every nook and
corner of the house for cracks, wiring issues, etc. Make sure you look out for areas of defect because
you may want to factor in the cost of repairs and that will affect the eventual offer price you give to the
seller as well, to ensure that you do not bust your budget.
Step 8: Evaluate the pros and cons of the houses you have viewed and make an offer.
By now, you should be well-armed with information and the knowledge to DIY your own house
searching and make your offer!
After your offer price has been accepted by the seller, get the seller to issue a prescribed Option to
Purchase (OTP) document to you, which prevents them from dealing with any other buyers during the
option period. In return, you will have to pay an option fee (usually $1000) and you will have 21 days
to consider and exercise the OTP.
Do note that you will have to return the OTP to the seller on the 21st day afterwards and before 4pm.
Next, if you intend to use your CPF funds to finance your purchase of the flat, you will need to submit a
Request for Value to HDB on the portal for a valuation. This will cost $120, payable to HDB, which
then be used to stipulate your housing loan and how much CPF you can use for this purchase.
You will need to submit the Request for Value together with a scanned copy of the first page of your OTP
by the next working day after the expiration of the Option Date. Typically, HDB should inform you via
email once the value of the flat you’re eyeing is available on the HDB Resale Portal, usually within
10 working days.
Once you have obtained the valuation report from HDB, you may then proceed to exercise the OTP and
pay a deposit to the seller. The deposit is usually less than $5000 (inclusive of the $1000 option fee you
Note that you can offer less than $1000 for the option fee but it usually diminishes your sincerity as a
buyer in the seller’s eyes, so do weigh this carefully before you act on it.
Step 9: Both you and seller must submit the resale application to HDB.
Both you and the seller will have to go to the HDB Resale Portal to submit the Resale Application with
the required supporting documents listed. Both of you will also have to pay an administrative fee of
$40 – $80, depending on the size of the flat. Make sure that both of you have submitted within 7 days
of each other, or your application may be deemed void. Then, wait for HDB to verify the information and
notify both of you once it has been accepted, either via SMS or email. You can also track the status of
your application on the HDB Resale Portal.
You will both need to endorse the documents within 6 days after. If you fail to do so even after the
reminder SMS by HDB has been sent to you, especially within 2 days of the reminder, your application
will be cancelled so please be mindful of this.
As a buyer, you will need to also confirm the Financial Plan, do the online withdrawal of your CPF
funds and the HPS health declaration, endorse all the online forms, and finally make online payment.
All this will be available on the HDB Resale Portal for you.
HDB will then grant the resale approval and prepare for completion.
Step 10: Go for the Completion Appointment.
Once your application has been approved, HDB will arrange for an appointment for you and the seller
to complete the resale transaction and sign all the necessary documents in person. You will also be
able to view these completion letters prior to you coming down for the appointment, on the HDB
On the date of the completion, you will need to prepare a cashier’s order and purchase the fire
insurance from the HDB-appointed insurer (usually Etiqa) if you successfully obtain a HDB loan. You
will also have to sign the mortgage document and then you will receive a letter of confirmation for
the transaction of your resale flat.
And then you’re done!
Of course, there have been many DIY buyers screw up during the process and end up having their
option fee or even the deposit forfeited, so if you’re worried, you can also consider if you would like
to engage an agent for this, a company for a nominal fee, or do it yourself. Documentation services
start from $1,688 depending on the complexity of your deal. Just make sure you don’t make any
mistakes, for a house is a huge financial commitment and you need to make sure everything is
So there you have it, a guide to helping you DIY if you do not wish to engage the services of a
But are you really saving money by not hiring one? And what about your time, effort, the learning
curve to making sure no mistakes happen, and ensuring that you aren’t cheated while committing to
what is possibly the biggest purchase of your life?
There is a reason why realtors continue to be valued for their services (at least, the good ones are),
and they will definitely never be displaced, nor can technology ever substitute them. But if you’re
willing to put in the time and effort on all the steps above which I’ve detailed out, that’s how you can
DIY if you want to.
I wish you all the best of luck in finding your dream house!