Updated and expanded on 19 Jun 2013. See also: Like a Kid in a Candy Store for another perspective on this path to disaster.
Here’s a cautionary tale I received from a kind reader just after my recent article on why you might want to think twice … or even three times … about building your house in the Philippines Build Your Philippine Home Now And Beat Inflation! . Especially by "remote control".
I tried building house by remote control when exchange was 56 to 1 thinking we would save instead of waiting until we retired and was on site to supervise.
I Am still paying for the mistake.
It Is Not As Simple as You Think.
It is way, way harder than the average person envisions to build a house and keep it in repair here in the Philippines. And it’s also very hard to keep control of your own property when you are not here.
I even paid about local wages figuring I would get better result. Since house was built, still sending money every month to fix problems and maintain.
Spending Big Won’t Make You The “Good Guy”.
Like water seeping through walls when it rains because was not sealed or not enough concrete used to fill cement blocks which I supposedly paid for. Water leaking from tile roof into attic and down into bedrooms.
Did noticed that every time we went back, the outlaws had upgraded their houses with new tiles, doors and windows.
Trying to be Cheap Won’t Win You Friends Either
My wife bought the lot from her aunt in 1985 because she needed the money and wanted my wife to have the lot.
It was titled in her aunts name, so my wife paid her outlaws to change name to hers after paying I don’t know how many thousand of peso’s and she ended up doing it herself when we were there.
Even though we had the original title and plot map they could not find it at the city hall or national gov.
Paid to have lot surveyed and retitled and paid off all outlaws who was claiming same before building.
Even now people show up every now and then claiming to be distant outlaws which the wife has never heard of wanting their share and I just tell them to take it to the courts.
After the aunt died, my wife let her brother live there with his ten children rent free without even paying property taxes.
The house was well taken care of when aunt was alive, had nice hardwood flooring and was livable even by stateside standards.
The brother died several years before we decided to build on the property and the ex sister in-law with children was still living there and the house was in bad shape because was not taken care of.
We paid her one hundred thousand peso’s and paid to have house torn down and moved to her choice of place.
This is just short version of problems of building a house in the Philippines.
I spent $120,000.00 dollars to build this house and am still putting money into it to repair problems and maintain same.
Turned out to just be a money pit, after the wife paid only 30,000 peso’s for same in 1985.
This story can be replicated thousands and thousands of times. Sad but true.
Let me add a couple things from personal experience as well.
This is not always a story of how the “Kano” gets taken advantage of.
A Filipina friend went to work as an OFW. She was making money and she wanted to have a house for her retirement. So she agreed on a plan, for a very nice house I might add, and a budget with an architect/engineer in the family.
She sent money, he supervised the house building.
Month by month, all was going well.
Finally the house was completed, pretty much on budget.
Until she moved in and found that here nice, American style kitchen, handsome cabinets, top quality granite countertops, really nice floor tiling, etc., was somehow so small that the door of her refrigerator wouldn’t open all the way … countertop in the way.
How could that happen?
Well the guy supervising the project for her ran into problems … inflation-based of course … and was in danger of having to ask her to send more money.
This would have been an embarrassment … a great “loss of hiya” (face) to him.
So, he kept the costs in line with the budget and to make things even out, he “shaved” about two feet in width off the kitchen.
Hey, good for him.
He didn’t steal any money.
He didn’t steal any materials.
He just stole a little space that hadn’t been built yet, and after all, what’s a foot or two off a kitchen the size of the one she was having built.
So much bigger than the average Filipino kitchen anyway, she’ll never miss it.
Except, of course when she opens her refrigerator door *sigh*.
I mean how often will she want her refrigerator door fully open? She could always buy a smaller ref, after all. “Filipinos don’t need that big of a refrigerator anyway, she got all those foreigner ideas when she worked abroad.”
This is something you will find often, even when not building a house. No one wants to be the bearer of bad news. So things will go wrong in the family and you won’t hear about them … often until there isn’t much that can be done about them.
The money you sent for lola’s medication got spent on something else, so no one will give the bad news, lola will go without her medication, and then, when she gets sick, you’ll find out she’s in the hospital and the bill is already P50,000.
There’s very little you can do about this issue except to expect it. It’s pretty much a fact of life.
I think the idea of building a house in the Philippines before you live in the Philippines is a very dangerous to your pocketbook and psychological well-being.
Yes, if you don’t build now, but build later, building materials and labor will cost more.
But paying that additional cost may well be far, far less than the costs, both dollar costs and hidden “ill-will” costs that can add u[ if you try to build by remote control. Or buy a house now, and leave it vacant, or occupied by a family member.
Dangerous as stumbling around in a minefield.
Be careful trying to save a buck (or a peso), or so Philly opines.