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Real Estate Issues in the Philippines for Foreigners

Updated on March 26, 2024
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Having done a lot of research on this topic and visiting homes and condos in PH, hopefully, this information will help as you look also.

Typical home for sale, one of the nicer ones.
Typical home for sale, one of the nicer ones.

Visitors to the Philippines will find the food is cheaper and fresher. It is cheaper because of the exchange rate of currency, so you get more for less when you calculate the conversion to your home country's currency. For example, $1 USD = 56 peso. Most foreigners will always have a mental exercise when shopping or obtaining anything with money trying to convert the cost into currency they can understand. It can be deceptive. Something may cost you 5000 peso, and you will think, that seems like too much until to convert it. In the case of USD, this comes to about $90, which may not seem much to you for what you are purchasing.

Doing the currency conversion is always essential to help you with evaluating whether to or not to buy an item. If you think it is too much, bargain at a lower price. Many places there would rather sell at a lower amount than no sale at all!

This brings us to buying real estate (homes, condos, land). The ONLY thing foreigners can buy in the Philippines without being married to a Filipino citizen is a condo. However, there is an "if" to this. The "if" is regarding to the percentage of Filipinos who also own a condo in the same complex or high rise. As long as there are 50% or more residents who are Filipino in the condo complex, a foreigner can buy it. So, it is always good to ask the salesperson. No RE agent in the country will sell you a home or land unless you are married to a Filipino. If they do, it is a scam of some sort.

As a foreign buyer, you will quickly notice that RE in the country is expensive for what you get for it. For example, the cheapest new condos in a building begin around P1,000,000 to P2,000,000 ($18-36,000) if you are lucky and in a decent area. More likely, those types begin at P3,000,000 ($54,000) and much more. The most expensive ones are in better locations and are of better quality. It is not at all common to pay up to P6,000,000 ($107,000) for a very nice condo.

At this point, you are thinking, cheap, a full condo. Huh, not exactly. You can easily spend P6,000,000 for a condo with a size of 250-300 sq, ft.! If you don't understand, think a small studio room and inside this room is your bedroom, kitchen, living room and a tiny bathroom. Some two car garages in the US are 400 sq. ft.! This is what you are buying for $100K. Most of the time, you will also have to install your main kitchen appliances you want and wall AC unit (nearly all homes in the Philippines do not have central AC or heating like all American homes. This means, each room in a house has its own wall size AC unit). So, is this a good deal? Basically, if there is a motto involved it would be: You pay a lot for a little.

The same theme carries over to buying a house. In the Philippines, you have a house with no lot and a house with a lot. A house with no lot means that another house will be within 2-3 meters of another one in a long row of similar styles. If with a lot, like most American homes, your lot will still be rather small. As with condos, homes follow the same motto. Plan on spending at least P6,000,000 for a house similar to that in the US, but it will be smaller. Of course, like any RE purchases, you can find deals from more desperate buyers that you might be able to "flip" for a profit. But it is rare. By spending $110,000 for a house, the size might only 800-1000 sq. ft. It may have three small bedrooms and two bathrooms. It depends on location. Better deals can be found further away from the large, popular, urban areas and closer to more rural with smaller cities or towns. Buying a home or condo in a popular tourist destination means you pay a lot for something small.

When shopping for condos or homes in the Philippines, measurements are in square meters (sq.m), not square feet. So, you need to convert it to the measurement size you can relate to. So, a condo selling is 40 sq.m for $110,000. The size of the condo is just 430 sq.ft. The quick and easy way is to simply add a 0 to the whatever the square meter is. So, 40 square meter equals around 400 square feet. For land, they use "hectare" not "acre". So, 1 hectare is 2.47 acres.

Some have said that building a home in the Philippines is less expensive. Again, it depends on where and the cost of the land. Beach front property is insanely costly in dollars and building a quality home that you are accustomed to can be challenging due to poor construction. It may not be cheaper.

If you have only a specific budget for a condo or house, be prepared to spend a lot for not that much. Even a two bedroom condo could cost $160K that is only 500 sq. ft. While food, clothing, utilities, are cheap or about the same many times to your home country, real estate is costly.

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