Expats looking for accommodation in the Philippines will find a variety of options to choose from, depending on their budget and particular circumstances. From luxury condominiums, to free-standing houses, from metropolitan city living in Metro Manila to the tropical beaches of Palawan, every area of the Philippines has something unique to offer expats.

Most expats moving to the Philippines live in the Metro Manila area. The most popular expat area in Metro Manila is Makati City, which is home to many international corporations and is the heart of the Philippines diplomatic community.

Accommodation in the Philippines is relatively inexpensive; housing in the rural areas is cheaper than larger cities, although amenities are more limited. 

There is a large disparity between rich and poor in the Philippines, and beyond the expat-friendly areas there are many poor neighbourhoods. Expats are generally far removed from such areas, living in major cities in gated communities with full-time security and controlled access. Expat condos and gated communities often include amenities such as swimming pools, tennis courts and a club house, as well as a maid’s quarters.

Factors to consider when house-hunting in the Philippines

Expats looking for accommodation in the Philippines should consider proximity to their place of work and their children’s school. Another factor to consider is proximity to good shopping areas. Traffic is notoriously bad in large cities, particularly Manila, and this can affect commute times.

Few homes have air conditioning and many are not properly insulated; these factors should be considered given the extreme weather conditions in the Philippines. Expats may also find that some homes are lacking basic amenities, such as Western toilets; this is especially the case in more rural areas.

Home security is a factor that expats should keep in mind when looking for accommodation in the Philippines. Crime rates are high and homes that are left empty for long periods at a time are vulnerable to burglary. As such, many expats live in insular wealthy areas behind large security gates and in complexes that have controlled access.

Many expats in the Philippines can afford hiring a maid and a driver. If these are on a full-time basis, accommodation may need to be provided for these employees.

Renting property in the Philippines

Most expats rent accommodation in the Philippines, which is often organised through their employer. Short-term leases are sometimes available, although most are signed for a year. Many landlords prefer two-year leases. The full year is expected to be paid up front, along with a deposit equivalent to two to three months’ rent. 

For those looking for shorter-term accommodation, serviced apartments are often available in the larger cities.

Not all rental prices include utilities such as water and electricity, which are additional expenses for the expat’s account. Expats should document clearly any areas of the house that are in need of maintenance before moving in, as it’s not a given that any broken items or utilities will be repaired by the landlord before occupation. This should be agreed upon between the landlord and tenant.

Buying property in the Philippines

Foreigners can own a house or condo in the Philippines, but they cannot own the land on which it stands. Control of the land will generally be through a long-term lease agreement of about 50 years. Therefore, expats living in the Philippines generally don’t buy property. 

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