Buying property in PH? Here’s a guide for overseas Filipinos

As someone who was an overseas Filipino worker a decade ago, I realized the need to invest my hard-earned money, so my family and I would be able to see the fruits of our labor and sacrifices.  

As a professional, I invest in real estate, since owning a property is not only a form of wealth creation/accumulation, it also addresses the basic need for better shelter for my family, and eventually use it to hedge against reduced income and inflation when we decide to retire.

Thus, the search for that lot, house and lot, or condominium unit that can regularly and reasonably be paid from our savings.

Doing it from outside the Philippines, however, is both difficult and time consuming. The search, or should I say—research, was not as easy as it seemed, despite my long years of working for a real estate development company.  

Don’t get me wrong. It was not that I did not like my previous company’s projects. Rather, there were numerous considerations that I needed to look into, understand, and decide on, before I was able to make a final determination on which property to purchase and or invest in. 

Unlike shopping for retail commodities, buying property requires extensive understanding and expanded commitments. Thus, having a template of questions can help make the process less stressful.  

Below are guide questions to consider when making your choices. Hopefully, a better appreciation of what you want and need to know can simplify and allow you to improve your chances of deciding on that property  faster.

Choose the right developer and seller

Why are you buying a property – it is for your own use or for investment? 

With numerous developments to choose from, should you start with trusted developers, especially those who have been in the industry for years, if not decades? Are you talking to accredited agents and sellers?  Are you provided with a copy of their project’s License-to-Sell certificate, to ensure you are only entertaining government-approved projects.

If you are an environmentally conscious buyer, inquire about their ecologically sustainable projects and programs. For example, what energy and water saving features will they provide in the unit and project? 

Ask how long it will take for the documents to be forwarded to you, for review and signature. Are the titles readily available or will they be ready after the units are expected to be turned over to you?

Select the right property

Are you considering buying a lot, so you can design and build your own house? Would you rather leave those issues to a developer, and just move into a completed house or condominium unit? 

When do you need to move into your unit? Can you wait for an extended period of time before transferring or do you want your family to move into the unit in the shortest possible time? 

How big a property should you be buying? Are you after a brand-new unit? Are you fine with purchasing a pre-owned unit?  

Where should the property be located? Are you after the convenience of your family, e.g. short travel distance to work and school? Would you prefer to live outside the metropolis, where there are opportunities to grow within a bigger lot, and enjoy the comforts of a peri-urban environment? 

Commit to additional financial obligations

What are your current obligations? How much can you afford? Can you sustain a long financial commitment, with current and adjusted future monthly amortization?

How long will it take for you to pay the down payment? How long do you need to complete the full payment? Does your financial credit rating allow your bank and other financial institutions to consider lending you that required amount?

What do you need to do to pay off the remaining balance? Will your early return to the country affect your capacity to pay that amount? How much longer do you need to pay to say that the property is truly yours and not mortgaged? 

What other costs do you have to incur once the unit has been turned over? How much do you habitually have to allocate to ensure your house or condo is regularly maintained and that the taxes, due and fees are paid, and other expenses are covered?

Addressing these questions may take some time. Be clear with your goals, objectives, and answers.  Do not get in, without clearly understanding what you want, need and are obligated to do.  Make sure that you will have the corresponding funds to meet your desired choice.  

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Henry L. Yap is an architect and fellow in both environmental planning and real estate management. He is one of the undersecretaries of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development.