buying or renting

buying or renting a house

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I’m writing today about buying or renting a house to live in.
Moving to the Philippines requires a lot of things to take care for. One of the very important things is where you are going to live.

If you are a millionaire like Bill Gates, you don’t have to worry about all this. You just buy a nice place somewhere in Makati or Alabang where all the other very rich people live. In that case you don’t have to read this blog further.
If you are NOT a millionaire, and you have to budget your money like me, then this might be something for you to read and think about it, maybe it’s useful.

Buying or renting a house when you arrive in the Philippines,

that’s a difficult decision. It depends on a lot of things:

  • First there is your financial situation
  • Your family situation (with or without children)
  • The number of years you intend to live here
  • The type of house you like to live in
  • The town or region you intend to live
  • How secure you like the place
  • And many others

My advise to you is to rent a place for the first year, maybe two. During this time you have the opportunity to look around, get familiar with the place and get to know the neighborhood. Aside from that you will know after a year or already earlier if you like it in the Philippines and if you are going to stay here for a longer time or even permanently.

Immediately after arriving it would be best to stay in a (cheap) hotel for a few weeks, so you can look around for a place to rent. That is: if you do not have family or friends where you can stay for a few weeks. There are many hotels, appartels and Inn’s all over the country in almost every town and city. As long as this hotel has a good bed, is safe to stay and has easy access to public transport, it will do. There are restaurants all over the country, so the hotel room doesn’t need to have cooking facilities, although it might be handy to be able to boil some water for coffee and a fridge is always welcome on a hotel room.

Real estate brokers like we have in Europe and America you will not find that easily, though there are a lot of people who call themselves broker, they are usually just agent trying to sell to get a provision from the seller. And if you find one they are focused on foreigners and their prices are as well. Aside from that they like to sell but don’t do renting. So you are practically on your own in this.
Try to ask friends or relatives if they know a house for rent and ask even the neighbors of your friends and family. Don’t forget to tell them what kind of house you want. They will soon come up with something they have found or heard. That’s the best way to find a nice and affordable place.

Still in your home country you can do a lot in finding places. You’ll get an idea of the type of houses which are available, sizes, prices and so on.
Make a small list what you want or need in a house: how many bedrooms, number of bathrooms and so on. Also if you like to have a garden is important. Better to many points then forgetting that you also need a garage or something like that.
On Internet you can find many places to rent. Try to put the following search words in Google or any other search machine: ‘house +rent +Philippines +[eventual location where you want to rent]’. Long lists of adds will appear, but you have to remember this:
In most adds you will only find a telephone number (which is almost always a cell phone). If you inquire by email (if there is any given in the add) you seldom get an answer and/or pictures of the place. The people who are advertising those properties on internet are not removing the adds when rented or sold, or they simply don’t check their email regarding the add. So if you like a place you need to call or send a text message.
Don’t be surprised if they don’t answer your text messages or answer the phone. Sometimes the number just doesn’t exist anymore. (country code Philippines: +63; cell phone numbers start with 09, but dialing from abroad you have to forget the 0).
But do not rely too much on the internet. In the Philippines only limited people have access to Internet. So it is not as widely used for this kind of information as we are used to in Europe or America. Filipinos, who are using the internet often, only do that for their Facebook or play games.

It’s best to know already in what region or city you would like to live and find a hotel near by. It would help if you know somebody who’s living there and whom you can trust to help you in this matter. They know the local situation: if it’s going to be flooded in heavy rainfall, if there’s a lot of criminality and so on. Some houses are furnished, but others are not. Some have air conditioners, others don’t. A renovated house often just has some new paint. And some Filipinos think that the meaning of a furnished house, is one which is well painted inside and outside.
Always check and see the house yourself before signing any contract, and ask around if the place is being flooded during heavy rain (and also if the road going there is flooded). It is best to see the place a few times on different times of the day (also during evening and weekend). Ask also if the water supply is good and if there is garbage collection regularly. Look around you in the streets and on open lots if you see garbage or trash. Check also if there’s a lot of street dogs, and not unimportant: if you see people having one or more roosters in a small cage in their property or you can hear them in the street: You will not have a nice sleep at night. If in a subdivision ask also about the regulations of the home owners association. In some subdivisions there are NO rules at all, in others there is strict rules regarding receiving visitors, security and guards, entering cars, keeping pets, etc. Eventually you can get a lot of general information at the ‘barangay hall’.

An average house in a reasonable subdivision in the outskirts of Manila cost between 10,000 and 15,000 pesos. If the place is well furnished prices may be higher. But lower or higher renting prices are no exception. It all depends on the quality of the place, the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, available garage or carport, total number of square meters living area etc. and of course how much are you willing to pay for that place. Remember that you usually get a contract for 12 months, read it well and have it changed if you don’t like it. And remember: There’s always an other house if they don’t want to listen to your objections. Bargaining is very common in the Philippines, also in renting or buying a house. So make use of it.

Do not expect to find many ‘big’ houses for small prices. A Filipino house in general is small, compared to Western standards. Bedrooms are small and bathrooms even much smaller. Check if the water is running and if it comes through a water-company of a local pump.

One important thing in renting or buying a house is the following: Newly renovated usually just means it has some new paint here and there. It is important to check if the toilets are flushing well, all faucets are functioning properly etcetera. The same for electricity. Check the installation well. Many Filipinos have the habit to just nail a wire over the ceiling or a wall to make an extra outlet.

If you finally find a nice place and it looks good to you, that’s the time to negotiate about the price. You have to know that Filipinos always put a much higher price for everything for foreigners ( we call that: white skin tax). Sometimes even 50% more than they would count on local people. Therefore: if possible your Filipino wife or girlfriend can have a look at the place first and ask for the bottom price. If the place looks good to her, you can go too for a visit and eventually start the negotiations.

For all these reasons I’m advising you to stay in a hotel or so for a few weeks, so there’s a chance to look around and compare quality and prices. Like this you will find a nice temporarily place to stay. Don’t rush, take your time and compare places as much as possible.
Once you are renting, you have all the time to look around if you like to buy a place or keep on renting. I really hope that you find this information useful and that it will help you to find YOUR place in the Philippines.

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