So you’ve read my post about whether you should buy or rent your home and decided, “Hey, I want my own place! YOLO!” Next comes the part where you research more into buying a house. That’s when you realise that there’s a lot of money that has to go into this aspiration. So what can you do?
As we’ve covered before, there are many ways to finance a house: particularly saving up and taking a loan. Recently I learned of a scheme which, without knowing it was a Government Scheme, I would have thought it was a scam. Seriously, the benefits seemed too good to be true! So what is this magical scheme? It’s the…
Housing Fund Scheme
Also known as “Skim Tabungan Perumahan” (note: their page isn’t updated), this voluntary scheme is managed under the people behind TAP – our Employees’ Trust Fund. It aims to assist Bruneians towards buying a house of their own; especially for the lower income earners.
This scheme was born from His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei’s royal speech on his birthday on 15th July 2012. The result was exactly as decreed: a housing fund scheme with superb benefits.
Who qualifies for this scheme?
Remember that this scheme voluntary so if you never applied for it, you’ll never get it. And, it is only available to people who fit ALL of these criteria:
- Current members of TAP
- Citizens of Brunei (Yellow IC only)
- Below 55 years of age
- Not owning a house under them or their spouse’s name
- Not receiving any pensions for their service from the Government
Since I started talking about benefits, you must have wondered what they were. The housing fund scheme’s benefits are two-fold:
1. Guaranteed Dividends
This benefit pays a guaranteed 3% per annum on your balance. These dividends come from the TAP investment funds and if the payout is less than 3%, the Government will top it up to reach 3%.
And as far as I understand, this is a compounding benefit. Meaning you can earn the dividends on the the previous year’s dividends.
To be eligible, your salary cannot be more than BND6,000 per month.
2. Financial assistance for home ownership
When you want to purchase a house and meet the requirements, the Government will give you financial assistance of a maximum of BND25,000 (basically free money). There are 2 scenarios which may play out:
- You’re married and get BND25,000, or
- You’re single and get BND12,500. You will be able to “top-up” the other half if you get married.
There are many criteria to meet to get this benefit. Come on, nothing worthwhile comes for free!
- Your income cannot be more than BND2,000 per month, OR your household income (you + spouse) cannot be more than BND4,000 per month. This applies to up to 24 months (2 years) from before your application.
- At least 25 years of age
- Do not have real estate under you or your spouse’s name
- Voluntarily contributed consistently for 48 months (4 years) to the fund
- Contributions are at least 5% of your income
- Never withdrawn from TAP using the Housing benefit
Maximising the benefits
There are some ways I’ve heard people maximised the housing fund scheme’s benefits. Some ways you can consider include:
3% is an amazing rate! Savings accounts in banks mostly give you 1.5% so use this to your advantage and get double the returns!
2. Applicable to Government Housing Scheme
If you’ve applied for the Government Housing Scheme, it usually takes around 10 years to reach “your turn”. So why not take advantage of contributing a bit towards much lower monthly payments?
One concern I have regarding this scheme is simply: Is it sustainable? We’re talking about 3% guaranteed returns per year and BND25,000 free money! These funds are also tied to TAP’s other withdrawal schemes. The fund manager needs to perform exceptionally well on the markets and investments for this to work smoothly.
Otherwise, this money is simply going to be tapped (hah) from the country’s already weakened economy and reserves. Nonetheless, most of us are not paid enough to think about this too much so enjoy the benefits while it’s around!
The Housing Fund Scheme is an awesome (almost too good to be true) plan for Bruneian citizens of the lower to middle income bracket planning to buy a house. The criteria are strict but if eligible, it’s best to take advantage of this vehicle. This is one of the perks that citizens really should thank His Majesty the Sultan and his Government for implementing; sustainability aside.
Sadly, I only found out about this scheme after I bought a house and I’m only a little bummed about it. It’s best not to think about it. :'(
Just get a bag and drop a dream in it, and you’ll be surprised what happens.
– Charles Nelson Reilly