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.
Am still paying for the mistake.
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.As Americans we often think it’s all about money. And, of course, to some extent it is. But Filipinos are much less motivated by money than the average American is, in my experience, anyway.Paying a lot is not a way to build loyalty. In fact, it’s often something Filipinos will ridicule in private … evidence that Americans are "rich" (which we are in terms of a huge percentage of the population here in the Philippines) as well as proof that "If he has the money, why not put it to good use? It’s not the "51st State" here, guys and gals.
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.In addition to the fact workmanship problems can happen, most Americans fail to realize that the Philippines attitude toward water in the home is often a bit bizarre to my mind.I well remember a few years back meeting a fellow American in the department store appliance department. He was buying a refrigerator, washing machine and a couple other small appliances."New here", I asked?"Well actually, no, I’ve been here six months ago so and bought all this stuff once already. But our house was flooded out last week. The first time I experienced a flood. Turns out our rental house floods every year or so. My wife knew this, but never bothered to say anything, because, as she puts it, "It’s the way things are here" … frankly, I’m exasperated."Would YOU rent a house that’s known to flood once or twice a year? Likely not, but to many Filipinos it’s just the way things are. Living here is about SO much more than just the cost of things.
Did noticed that every time we went back, the outlaws had upgraded their houses with new tiles, doors and windows.Do you think there could be any connection between the new windows and the money you sent?I do know one thing … asking/accusing any family member of ‘skimming’ materials would be a recipe for a disastrous relationship.Once you send money, it’s ‘spent”. You may not like how it was used, but especially with family around, you can not afford to get into a “Urinary Olympiad about how it was spent.This is even true legally. Unless you have a written contract, written to be enforceable in the Philippines and signed in front of a notary by all parties, you don’t have a prayer of legal help to recover money spent.“But I gave specific instructions that money was to fix the roof” means nothing, legally. You sent, you spent.Remote control building has occurrences like this all the time.Here, on PhilFAQS.com , where I try to answer the Frequently Asked Questions about living in the Philippines, I don’t sugar coat living in the Philippines. I try to tell it as it is, and many people don’t want to hear about it. Others write me "nastygrams" about how I shamelessly promote living in the Philippines, somehow for my personal gain. No way. Sad.
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.Exactly. Even when you have a clear, legal right to the property, it’s a "given" that you are going to have to pay to get "Informal Settlers" out of what you already own. And what do you do when someone dies and the widow and flock of children are living in the house. Of course you have a legal right to toss them out, but will you? Can you? How many bitter enemies will you make in the family if you do throw your nieces and nephews out on the street just because of a piece of paper you hold in your hand?.It is a true definition of a “no win” situation .. which never would have/could have happened if you didn’t own a house in the Philippines while you lived abroad.An empty house is a huge invitation to occupancy. In my view, it can be far more damaging to you pocketbook (and you family harmony) than the costs of inflation.
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 afoot 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.