OUT of the 7,000 flats on offer in the Housing Board's latest flat launch, leftover flats proved the most popular as applications closed yesterday.
The number of interested home buyers per balance unit - flats either returned to the agency or with no takers - was 4.4.
These included sought-after rarities, such as a three-room terraced house in Jalan Bahagia and a handful of units at Pinnacle@Duxton.
As for Build-to-Order (BTO) flats, the application rate was 2.4.
Property market watchers say this turnout was expected, given the upward climb of resale prices so far this year.
Flash data released on Monday by the HDB showed resale prices for the third quarter grew a record 2 per cent.
Mr Chris Koh, director of property consultancy Chris International, noted that demand for the 3,328 balance units was keenest in mature estates such as Bedok, Ang Mo Kio, Tampines and the Central area.
He said: "There aren't many new launches in those estates, so new flats, which are cheaper and starting on a fresh 99-year lease, are always snapped up quickly."
Compared to their resale counterparts in these areas, these units are at least 20 per cent cheaper, he added.
ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim said balance flats are typically more popular as they are either already built or closer to completion.
Overall, there were 71 second-timer applications for every balance flat available to them. These applicants are allocated up to 5 per cent of the leftover units.
Mr Lim said more aid given to second-timers would help "take some heat off" the resale market.
National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan had said in a blog post last month that he was now focusing on this group, although results would be evident only next year.
In the latest results, the application rate of first- and second-timers for BTO units was 1.8 and 11.5 respectively, similar to numbers in previous launches.
The quota for second-time buyers was recently revised from 5 to 15 per cent, if they opt for a BTO flat in a non-mature estate.
Said Mr Lim: "The needs of first-timers seem to be well taken care of, as their success rate for getting a new (BTO) flat is high."
Dennis Wee Group spokesman Lee Sze Teck said the HDB could provide more targeted help.
"The HDB could look into fine-tuning its policy to help certain groups of buyers, rather than applying a broad-brush policy of allocating more BTO flats to all second-timers," he said.
Separately, the HDB yesterday said cancellations made up 0.7 per cent of the sales launch in March, down from 2 per cent in the January exercise.
In a bid to deter frivolous buyers, it had implemented, since March, a one-year ban on buyers who booked a flat but later cancelled the application.
This new policy would probably not concern house hunter Alan Lim, 48, very much.
The sales supervisor is selling his three-room unit in Ang Mo Kio to try for a five-roomer in the same area. He said yesterday: "I'm a serious buyer, and this is a small but important upgrade for a growing family."