BTO horror stories: Singapore couples break down the stressful, heartbreaking and spooky experiences of buying a house together

Artwork by Midjourney
Artwork by Midjourney

Buying a house together with your partner is definitely a romantic thing to do. Things like imagining the couch you will both cuddle up on watching movies and picking the colours of the kitchen cabinets where you’ll cook meals together – y’know romantic stuff. 

Even before the proposal that will be meticulously captured on social media, Singaporean couples usually apply for a Build-To-Order (BTO) flat to secure their dream home and start making plans for the future. BTO flats are newly built, subsidized Housing Development Board (HDB) flats that are sold before they are built. Applying for one is a rite of passage, it’s a textbook Singaporean milestone, it’s… love. 

But in real estate-crazy Singapore, the years-long wait between making that commitment as a couple and actually getting the keys to your BTO flat can be incredibly stressful, heartbreaking and just plain… bad. In some cases, it can involve actual horror.  👀

The template BTO horror story

In a recent case, a couple divorced before getting the keys to their house but the fight over the flat still got dragged into court

They had purchased a flat in Tampines in July 2017, but by January 2019 the man had stopped living with his wife and two children. She began the divorce process in March 2019 and in May 2021, she was assigned joint custody of the kids. The flat (which they had yet to get the keys to) was supposed to be given back to HDB, with any money the couple had invested refunded.

But the woman argued that if the flat was surrendered to HDB it would be removed from the matrimonial pool and both parties would face losses. She also said that the children would still need a permanent home. 

Her arguments were rejected by the court, with the presiding judge even calling her “utterly selfish and self-centred”, thinking of “only herself” with “no regard whatsoever” for her former husband. 

That’s just one of many similar stories. Don’t believe us? We asked our readers to send in their own BTO stories and they responded with some truly terrifying tales. 

*No actual names are used for privacy.

Covid cockblock

Couples may apply under the fiance/fiancee scheme before actually getting married. The average waiting time for a house pre-Covid was about two to three years but all of that changed when the pandemic hit. 

A young couple, Ben and Alicia, were in love and going strong after dating for eight years. They decided to make it official and applied for a flat thinking they could marry and get the keys to the house within two years. Long story short, the waiting time to get their keys turned into six years. They had a baby while still living with Alicia’s parents and there was plenty of tension in the house. They’re still about two more years from getting the flat and just trying to hang in there. 

Luke and Nicole applied for a place and got their keys just before the pandemic hit. Thinking they were the lucky ones, they had fun decorating and DIY-ing the home. Less than a year later, with everyone required to work from home, they realised that their relationship was not working out and that they really could not stand each other’s company. Luke started “online-cheating” and chatted up with people while still living under the same roof – which Nicole knew about. Once the pandemic was over, they filed for divorce, Luke immediately started dating and the couple is now fighting over who gets the appliances in the house. 

Unidentified foreign objects 

Paperwork is the worst part of getting a flat in Singapore. Knowing the level of detail here, there is lots and lots of paperwork and documents to be submitted, which is what put off Clara and her husband, who is a foreigner. Even after going through the tedious application process, the couple got rejected and now have to go through the hell of it all over again. 

Divide, divorce and delusion

Separations and HDB matters can get messy – especially if you find yourself still having to live with your former spouse who cheated on you after filing for divorce. That has been the case for Kate, who is not only putting up with her ex’s freeloading but also his insistence on dragging the proceedings through court by arguing that he rightfully owns half of their flat.

The thing is, he really doesn’t. 

Together with her lawyer, Kate showed sufficient evidence to prove that she had put in more money when applying for the house and also paid all the bills as well as furnishing for the house. However, her ex-husband still feels entitled to half the assets from its sale, as well as overstaying in the guest room.  

Actual horror

While some horror stories might just be terrible situations, some are just plain horror. Alan and Yasmin got their flat in a popular development that was in high demand at the time. For a couple without any children, a five-room flat is pretty big. 

Moving in was fun for the couple and they enjoyed filling up the place together. Alan’s job required him to be at the office most days of the week while Yasmin worked freelance and made the house her base. But three months after moving in, weird things started happening around the house. 

It began with faucets and lights turning on randomly and escalated to Yasmin hearing mysterious whispers and occasionally seeing “shadows”. She tried telling Alan, who didn’t believe her until he was alone at home one day. Yasmin had gone on a trip with her girlfriends and he stayed at home to take care of the couple’s cats. 

While Alan was in the shower, he heard his wife playing with the cats – her voice and the bell from the cat toy was audible from the toilet. Thinking she had decided to come back early, he rushed out to see that his house was empty. He called her and she said she was only going to be back home the next day, as planned. 

He tried to shrug it off that night and went to sleep, which went badly. Alan woke up from a nightmare at 4am and tried to go back to sleep when he suddenly heard a whisper in his room saying, “Did you hear me earlier?” Long story short, the couple has been trying to move out ever since while putting up with even more bizarre incidents around the house. 


Best places to break up in Singapore
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Best places to break up in Singapore
Happy Valentine’s Day!

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