S'porean couple goes from 'aiya, too soon lah' to BTO-ing just 4 months into relationship

For Cecilia and Yijian, taking this big step so early in their relationship was 80% love and 20% pragmatism.

Lean Jinghui | July 09, 2022, 12:21 PM

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PERSPECTIVE: Applying for a BTO as a new couple is a major commitment.

According to a survey by YouGov, an overwhelming majority of Singaporeans — 92 per cent — think that it's best for a new couple to wait at least a year before purchasing a home together.

However, one Singaporean couple, Cecilia and Yijian, decided to buy an HDB flat together in November 2020, just four months after becoming “official” in July that year.

They share how they knew they were ready to take the plunge, and why they have never regretted their decision to BTO early.

As told to Lean Jinghui, by Cecilia, 27, and Yijian, 29

How did you guys meet?

Cecilia and Yijian: We met via a dating app, OKCupid, in late March 2020.

Yijian: From there, we started sharing about our hobbies, interests, and I realised that we have very similar backgrounds.

Both Yijian and Cecilia share a love for badminton. In fact, that was how they first swiped right on each other - they both noticed the other party's references to badminton in their dating app profiles.

Cecilia: We only managed to have one official date before the circuit breaker hit.

During the circuit breaker period, we continued to get to know each other through Zoom and Netflix Party.

We finally got together in July 2020, after the circuit breaker was lifted. And after meeting in person again, I remember thinking “eh, 我真的喜欢他 eh” (I really do like him eh) (*laughs and looks at Yijian*).

Cecilia and Yijian on their second official date – Jul. 4, 2020.

How did your relationship progress to applying for a BTO in the next few months?

Cecilia: Honestly, it [applying for BTO] was because his dad kept asking if we were gonna BTO. Because in Singapore, you must plan ahead of time for it.

Yijian: Yeah, so after he mentioned it, we sat down and discussed our plan for the future.

Cecilia: At first, we were like “aiya, too soon lah”, and we didn’t consider it very seriously. But after discussing it one to two more times, we were like okay, since we’re both serious about this relationship, and we’re serious about settling down, why not we try to BTO?

It is normally not a one-shot wonder, so we thought we might not get it. If we don't get it, we can just try a few more times, and if still cannot, we can go for a resale.

We’d heard many stories from friends who applied several times, but never got it, so we didn’t expect to get the house at all.

How did you feel when you were applying for the BTO?

Cecilia: We applied for BTO in November 2020.

(*exclaims*) Woooooo! Haha it was quite exciting lah, because it felt like, “the next phase” in our relationship.

Applying for it did not feel like a very small matter.

Cecilia and Yijian: [In fact], we were together when we applied for it.

Yijian: I remember looking over at her, and asking, “Are you sure?”, as my finger hovered over the button (*they look at each other and laugh*).

There was a bit of nervousness, but definitely more of excitement.

Did it feel like a major milestone for you?

Cecilia: I think less so at the point of applying, but I did feel nervous, because this was just four months after we had gotten together.

I told a few close friends who were like “OMG, you applied so early, so soon”, and that added a little bit to the nerves.

I think for me, however, it felt more of a major milestone when we got the queue number, and it was like “EH, 100+ only eh?”

That meant that we would most likely get a unit that we would like and want, and that in turn then prompted further discussion on topics such as: “So now, are you really sure you want to continue?”, “Am I the person you want to be with?”, and “Are we moving forward with this plan?”

So, how did you both know you were ready to BTO?

Yijian: I think a large part of what made me certain, was that even in the dating phase, we would communicate a lot with each other, and I always felt like, “Okay, she’s someone I would like to spend the rest of my life with.”

Cecilia (smiling at Yijian): For me, it’s the same.

Beyond the good times, we also talked openly about less pleasant things. Like, if we have a bad day, we will always share with each other about all these emotions.

So it feels like he’s someone who’s not afraid to show me all the sides of himself, and also, accept all the different sides of me.

I think that helps to…(*pauses, thinking*)

Yijian: Assure you?

Cecilia: Yeah, assure me, that this is someone who I want to spend the rest of my life with.

From past relationships, you kinda understand the red flags you cannot put up with personally.

With Yijian, there are a lot of green flags; I love that we can communicate about everything - how our day went, hobbies, work, interests, life goals.

I think sometimes, people don’t talk about certain major things in a new relationship, like “I want to have two kids”, or “I’m looking for a serious relationship”, as they’re afraid that it’s gonna scare the other person away.

But right off the bat, we were quite open to talking about these topics, even during the virtual dating phase.

I see this guy who’s quite serious about relationships, and when we talk about these big topics, he doesn't avoid them.

So for me, it’s like, I found this person who I think we’re very compatible on many levels, and I am committed to this person and I want to make the relationship work. I choose to love and commit to this person.

What makes the relationship more comfortable as compared to past relationships?

Yijian: Green flags for me: Part of it was her cheerful personality.

While dating, I realised she’s someone who puts in a lot of effort too.

Previously, when I dated others, I felt a lot of pressure as the guy to always plan stuff to hang out together, and initiate.

I also had a past relationship, when we faced a situation, she did not help and it was me who had to handle it and find a solution.

What I appreciate about Cecilia, is that she will always try to help with a tough situation, like she won't try to avoid the problem lah.

Because of that, it feels like, if she can be there for me with a small problem, she can also be there for me with even bigger challenges down the line.

Cecilia: We’re both willing to give and take, like if I’m having a bad day, he will give me assurance, and vice versa.

I had one serious relationship before Yijian, and the way my ex and I handled disagreements was vastly different from how Yijian and I do it now.

We would avoid the problem after we had any arguments, but it builds up and causes more grief or unhappiness in the long run.

I think it helped that even before we ever had a fight, we [Yijian and I] also talked about the importance of knowing how to face conflict.

Now, we can disagree and be upset with each other, but not lash out at each other.

If we disagree, we normally let each other cool off first, then sit down later and talk to each other. We try not to go to bed angry.

Which is really very different from past relationships, so I appreciate that he is very mature.

Cecilia and Yijian celebrating their one-year anniversary.

Was there any pressure to settle down ASAP? Would you say your decision to BTO was more out of being in love, or being pragmatic?

Cecilia and Yijian: Not really, we did not take what our parents said as a “must do”.

Because if we rushed into it and didn’t actually want it, we would pay the price for it too.

Cecilia: At the point of applying, of course, I love him lah.

I guess the pragmatism comes in because it’s not confirmed that we will get it.

Yijian: Yeah, so I’d say 80 per cent love, and 20 per cent was planning for the future because we have to wait for a BTO.

Cecilia: But we were both ready to commit at that point also lah. (*Yijian nods*)

How did your family and friends react when you got the BTO on your first try?

Cecilia: Well, his dad was super excited.

I shared the news with some close friends, and they were very happy and excited for me too, as I’d shared about Yijian before and they know that he is a good guy.

But at the same time they did also say, like “Wah so soon [into the relationship], like cannot imagine," you know?

Did you ever consider cancelling the application after getting it?

Yijian: We definitely never considered cancelling the application.

So what first went through your head when you realised you’d gotten the BTO on the first try?

Cecilia and Yijian: We got our BTO at Tengah, and the proximity to his parents' place probably gave us that extra ballot chance.

Cecilia: I think we messaged each other that day. I checked the HDB website first, and was like “EH, omg we got a queue number!” (*grabs Yijian’s arm, both laugh*)

Yijian: I think our queue number was 110? At that point, it was just disbelief, but like in a "we’re so lucky, we got a good queue number already on our first try" way.

Then, that made me realise: “Wow, we are going to have a place together. A place that we will build our future together, it's not a dream!”

Cecilia and Yijian: We were mainly just really happy, and super excited.

After that, we kept eagerly waiting for HDB to inform us of when we could choose our unit, and we looked out for the email every day.

Cecilia and Yijian at HDB Hub on Dec. 29, 2021 to sign the agreement for lease for their BTO.

Did either of you ever have any regrets about committing to one another so early?

Cecilia and Yijian: No.

Cecilia: Actually, we just stare at the block every week now, because it’s opposite his parents' house, and we get all excited when we see it going up a few floors.

Yijian: Yeah, at the beginning, I would even take progression pics, but after a while I realised it’s not really moving, so I stopped. (*both laugh*)

Yijian's first picture of the BTO construction site, taken on Dec. 20, 2020, right after they applied for the BTO.

Yijian's most recent picture of the BTO site, taken on May. 29, 2022.

Do you feel that getting a BTO early has changed your relationship in any way?

Cecilia: For me, it's not exactly changed, but more of now that we have this commitment towards each other, and it is also a financial commitment, it kind of spurs us to –

Yijian: Learn more about each other, as we move on to the next milestone.

Cecilia: Yeah, like it’s something that is tying us together and tying us down in a sense. We always have to remember that we made this commitment to each other, and that it's not a flippant commitment.

We plan to build a life together, so something like, we must always treat each other with respect.

It strengthened the relationship.

What would you say to those who think getting a BTO early is rash or impulsive?

Cecilia: I think it’d be very specific to each couple.

Like – what are your life goals, what are your immediate plans, and what kind of relationship do you have?

If you don't talk about these big topics early on in the dating phase, then of course, you wouldn't BTO so soon.

But if you have talked about these things, then I don’t think there's any problem to BTO, or move on to the next milestone early.

It's fine as long as you are both comfortable with it.

Cecilia and Yijian getting engaged on Nov. 12, 2021.

All images via Cecilia and Yijian