How to (legally) enlarge your HDB flat

PHOTO: Unsplash

I remember when I was about 10 years old, we stayed in a 4-room flat with a special little corridor with fish tanks lined up neatly at the side.

We would spend some evenings sitting at the tiny benches and stared at the little guppies flapping their tails.

(Anyone remember those primary school excursions to tiny ponds, where we scooped poor guppies that couldn’t survive more than three days?) Anyway, this special corridor looked slightly different from the rest of our house.

Apart from being the only part of the house with bluish-green tiles, it was the little pathway that led into my living room.

After growing up, I then got to know that this little corner wasn’t an original part of the house.

My parents bought it under the Sale of Recess Area.

If you never knew you could legally expand the HDB flat that you felt was a little too snug for your liking, this is something for you to consider!

TL;DR:Enlarge your HDB flat with the HDB sale of recess area

PHOTO: Seedly

What is Recess Area?

Recess area refers to the ‘free’ common space that is just outside the main door of the unit, which leads up to the house.

It is the space where we usually place our plants, shoe cabinets and bicycles (though it’s legally not the houseowner’s space, oops).

This additional space is more commonly seen for corner units, which sometimes make corner units more appealing due to the increase in options and privacy. By purchasing this additional space, you can freely utilise this area without having the fear of neighbours complaining.

Purchasing this space also means an opportunity to zhng your flat by adding a beautiful corridor like this one.

Gorgeous design for this addition right?

Can all spaces right outside our doors be purchased as a recess area?

The short answer?


There are some basic conditions to fulfil if you’d like to purchase this additional space, and all of them has to be met:

  1. Technical requirements related to design, access, fire safety and ventilation have to be met
  2. No service ducts such as gas pipes, water meters and electrical ducts in the space

In addition, you also would not be able to purchase the space if your flat is:

  • Built after 1996 or under a Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) project

As HDB BTO flats were first launched in 2001 (replacing the Registration for Flats System (RFS), this means that BTO units are not eligible for such a purchase.

So if you’re a prospective resale flat buyer or already an owner of one, this is good news for you!

Also, if your flat is

  • Located beside a corner unit
  • Located in a point block where it is the only unit on the floor which has the recess area
  • Located next to the opening that leads to the canopy of the protruding access balcony

Or if the space does not comply with the Fire Safety Code or it contains electrical risers, you will not be able to purchase it.

Another method to find out whether the space is eligible for sale is to submit an application via HDB’s e-Services.

HDB will carry out an inspection on whether the space meets the following requirements, and will inform its feasibility after evaluating.

Do note that this e-Service is only available for current HDB flat owners.

How much would a HDB recess area cost?

As with other parts of your flat, you can choose to pay for this additional recess area using CPF or cash. HDB provided an example of the purchase of a recess area of 4 sq metre outside a regular 3-room flat.

Assuming that HDB is appointed to act for this purchase, the additional costs payable include:

Additional Cost What It Is Estimated Cost (S$)
Purchase Price The price of the recess area which is based on a Fair Market Value, and reviewed every three months $6,800
Stamp & Registration Fees Fees payable for a property purchase $221.20*
Conveyancing Fees Legal fees for engaging solicitor to act for the purchase

Cost of fees depend on who is appointed (HDB/private solicitor)
Survey Fees Fee for engaging a Registered Surveyor to conduct the strata survey on area to be purchased

Approving authority for the survey is the Singapore Land Authority
Other Fees Additional costs including relocating service ducts, fittings, or fixtures out of the recess area, and for renovation works to be carried out, whenever applicable Depends on what is required

*Different fees apply depending on who is appointed to act on this purchase (HDB or private solicitor)

For any renovations required, only HDB Registered Contractors can be engaged.

How do I apply for the purchase of recess area?

Applying for the purchase of the recess area is a relatively simple process.

This process can be done entirely online.

After logging into the MyHDBPage with your SingPass:

  1. Click on “Add e-Services to Favourites”
  2. Followed by “Residential” and “Living in an HDB Flat”
  3. Look for “Application to Purchase Recess Area”

How is the application timeline like?

Here’s an overview of the application process.

PHOTO: Housing & Development Board

As mentioned above, the site and technical assessment by HDB will commence after the submission of application online.

If the space is eligible for purchase, HDB will inform accordingly and kickstart the process. Do not that the approval for renovation work would not be granted before the completion date of purchase.

Purchase of recess area – the legal way to expand your lovely home

If you’re someone who is used to living in a bigger space, this option is relatively affordable and worth exploring.

Instead of steathily fencing up the little space beyond your doorstep to get a bit more privacy.

Why not take the chance to legally spruce this corner up and turn it into a beautiful space to watch some fishes too?

PHOTO: Facebook/Fatema Design Studio

This article was first published in Seedly.