Questions about Philippines real estate and condos in Manila or Makati ranks among my most asked questions in my e-mail. That's good, because foreigners and balikbayans looking to retire here to the Philippines constitute a great deal of our economic future. So to get right to the point, I'll say that there are many ways to go about looking for real estate here in the Philippines. Much of what you can buy depends on your citizen status. If you are a foreigner, you cannot own land. For most people, this simply means that you only can buy condos. For most foreigners, this is a perfect fit. Most newer condominiums in Malate, Manila, or Makati are first class all the way. They are clean and secure, and are very close to malls, schools, business, nightlife, or whatever else you want to live nearby. Of course, there are many real estate developers from which to choose here in the Philippines. All have their own distinct styles of design. Some are small developers who are personally overseeing their building, while other real estate developers are part of large land-owning corporations such as Citiland, Megaworld, or Ayala Land. Personally I'm biased because I know people selling real estate in Manila/Malate. Their site is actually next to the Manila Bay so obviously you have the fresh air and the view of the water and Makati skyline. My sales pitch...if you are looking for a Philippines condominium, shoot me an e-mail and I'll do my best to help you out. I'm not a licensed broker, but I get a small referral commission from the developer. The developer draws up the contracts and does in-house financing to cut out the middle-men.
Real estate I deal less with in the Philippines is land or "house and lot" as we Filipinos say it. If you are a foreigner and male, you will need a Filipina wife to own the land. (If you are a gay couple, you can forget it...same sex marriages aren't allowed.) The trick here is that she cannot be a naturalized citizen of country other than the Philippines. Before you correct me, it's true that the Government here passed a bill allowing Filipinos who are citizens of another country re-apply for a condition that allows them to retain their Filipino citizenship. The thing is that you must apply for your dual citizenship. From what I understand, this can be done either in your current country of residence via the Philippine consulate or you can do it here in the Philippines upon your return. I'm currently looking into exactly how to get "right to own real estate paperwork" done since a few people have requested that I do it for them instead of paying a lawyer 10 times the price. In my experience, lawyers here are horribly lazy and are just as likely to mess up the paperwork or pass it off to an incompetent assistant who messes it up. What I mean by this is that you'll get a document back where your name is misspelled, your passport number will be wrong, home address wrong, etc, etc. The time I witnessed it there were so many mistakes that I wondered if the lawyer didn't do it deliberately. What will happen is that you will buy the house and lot, only to find out later that you need to pay a fine or a "fee to fix it" since all of your data is wrong, effectively making your title null and void.
The next pitfall in real estate is land disputes or title disputes. This is probably the biggest problem in the Philippines and the quickest way to get ripped off. Basically someone sells you a property. For awhile you believe it's yours, free and clear. Suddenly, one way or another, you'll come to find out that another individual has, years ago, laid claim to your property. You will suddenly find yourself in a land dispute that could literally go on for years. And during that time, obviously, the property must sit idle until the dispute is cleared. The quick solution is to always do a background check on any real estate here in the Philippines before you buy.
A few people have asked me if they can buy real estate such as a condominium and rent it out before they settle here for good. The answer is yes, and I believe that this is a good strategy here in the Philippines. While you are getting your affairs in order you can offset your monthly payments via your rent. I'll add more to this discussion later...probably talking about more specific areas of Manila and Makati in greater detail.