Owning your own home in the Philippines.
(last updated 18 May, 2017)
- 0.1 How Very True.
- 0.2 Some Things ARE Cheaper in the Provinces
- 0.3 Some Things Aren’t
- 0.4 Security and Basic Services
- 0.5 Expat Community Support
- 0.6 Me Too — It’s Been A Great Decision For Me
- 1 Related Posts
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A very interesting and cogent comment came in from reader Spike during this latest serial “blast” of articles about owning your own home.
There was so much good information in Spike’s comment I decided to publish it and add some comments and amplification.
Spike’s words are in blue.
(Incidentally, for those of you who don’t know it, Spike also publishes his own excellent blog centered around living in the Philippines and his experiences working here in the Philippines with a “real” job. Recommended.)
A few other notes that may be relevant.
First, I chose to stay in the Metro Manila area. I know it’s more expensive here than out in the provinces. But I still need to work, and I’m a city boy and enjoy what big cities have to offer. At some point in the future I may be able to retire and may choose to move further away – but at that point I think I would still choose a relatively “major” area such as Tagaytay, Angeles or Olongapo. I see too many posts from expats moaning about how they can’t find this or that where they live, too many posts about horrible medical care or other services. Those are not issues where I am.
How Very True.
I don’t know how many times I have heard the same comments and complaints from other fellow expats. There is an almost continual “murmuring” or undertone in most every expats conversation about “living in the provinces Is Cheaper”. What do they call that droning, repetitious chanting in the Buddhist religion … a “Mantra”?
Yeah that’s it (I just looked it up). The Mantra of people moving to the Philippines. “living in the province is always cheaper, Ummm, living in the province is always cheaper, Ummm’ ,,,
Keep repeating that, over and over, and after a while you’re going to believe it, regardless if it is true or not.
Some Things ARE Cheaper in the Provinces
Such as rent for very basic houses, local food in local open, un-refrigerated “wet” markets, rides on local transport services (How many here know what habal habal is?), etc. But some things are way more expensive or not even available at all. I mean like little “luxury” items, like an ambulance or an emergency room at a hospital that has basic life support equipment like a defibrillator or n x-ray machine.
“Oh I don’t need to worry about things like that, I’m in good health”. Friends you don’t know how many times I have heard that phrase from otherwise intelligent people. Everybody gravely ill or even dying today was “in good health”, until they weren’t.
Some Things Aren’t
Let’s just talk about very simple administrative things. What if you need to conduct business at the US Embassy. For example,the only legally accepted US notarization of a document will have to come from the US Embassy, Manila. How much will it cost you to travel from you “costs less” provincial home to the Embassy, maybe even having to stay overnight because of plane schedules and such? It’s not always cheaper, guys and gals, you can trust me on that.
Another expat friend recently had to make three trips from his “economical provincial home” to the Philippine Bureau of Immigration in Manila. A couple thousand pesos each day for a van and driver, as well as 6 or 8 hours on the road for each trip. Ouch. (
I also found out that this fellow pays about 6 times as much in property taxes than I do with my “near-metro Manila” home, but compared to the USA, property taxes anywhere in the Philippines are trivial … we pay about $20USD per Year!)
Security and Basic Services
Second, the house we purchased is within a subdivision that is gated and guarded (at the entry gates and with roaming patrols). I told my wife there would be no way that I would even consider a house in an “open” area, and I even went so far as to choose a house that’s in the middle of the subdivision rather than near one of the external walls. Our neighbors are vigilant and vocal about security. On the other hand, our subdivision is atrociously managed, as one might expect. As a matter of fact, we currently have two “management boards” that are at war with each other, almost literally. I keep my mouth shut. The street lights work, the garbage gets collected regularly, I stay out of it.
Bonus – as it turns out, my subdivision is so large that it spans three cities. The entry gate is in Metro Manila but my house is not! And that means insanely low property taxes (at least by U.S. standards) and management fees.
In my case, our home, just a few kilometers from the actual borer of Metro Manila, is in an open subdivision. We have a guard service at night, roving barangay patrols and frequent patrols by the Philippine National Police, but no gates controlling coming and going.
Bonus 2 – I’m not the only foreigner living in this subdivision, there are a handful of others. Some have been here longer than me, others are more recent arrivals. We all know each other, have a regular meet-up spot, and help each other in every possible way. I didn’t plan it this way but very happy that’s how it worked out. Having a local support group with the same cultural values is a huge help.
Expat Community Support
There are other foreigners living all around my little town, and I seldom go to the local mall without seeing other foreigners. Sad to say though, I have only a few foreigner friends here in the Philippines and almost none here in my town. I expect that’s due to my standoffish nature or something like that. For what it’s worth though, the only time I have ever been swindled out of money here in the Philippines has been from fellow foreigners, though, so you can see why I am very cautious about making friends.
That being said, a group of like-minded folks who meet and exchange notes, tips and yeah, gripes and complaints, could be very useful. I’m just not into organizing one.
What does all this mean? I was traveling to and working in Manila for 18 years before we bought a house here. (And my wife and I were together for ten years before we did this). I’m not someone who saw some videos on YouTube, dropped everything and moved here in expectation of arriving in paradise.
I knew exactly what I was getting into – and two and a half years later things have worked out almost exactly as I expected. Which doesn’t mean it has all been gravy. There are challenges to living – and thriving – here, but I knew what those challenges were in advance, I was prepared, and I don’t regret my decision to come here.
Me Too — It’s Been A Great Decision For Me
No decision anyone makes is ever perfect. And I’ve had my ups and downs as probably everyone has. But moving here to the Philippines has been a great choice for me, and building our own home had been a great blessing for my wife and I.
Spike (and others) thanks again for reading and for sharing your thoughts. And for anyone with further questions, just let me know what you need to know about Owning your own home in the Philippines.