One of the biggest challenges for a new arrival in the Philippines is finding accommodation. But with a little research and support, exploring the various housing options and securing the perfect home away from home need not be a stressful endeavour.
House hunting in the Philippines can be an exciting step in an expat’s relocation. Thanks to the reasonable cost of living, expats can find rentals from luxury condominiums to simple 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.
Read on for guidance on the types of accommodation, how to find properties and essential info on renting in the Philippines.
Types of accommodation in the Philippines
Expats looking for accommodation in the Philippines will find a variety of options to choose from, depending on their budget and circumstances.
Expats can find freestanding houses available for rent in the Philippines. This is a great option for families with children who need a more spacious living environment than an apartment, and many plots will also have large gardens – some with fruit-bearing trees from mango to papaya.
Townhouses and duplexes
Other types of property in the Philippines include townhouses and duplexes. Semi-detached properties allow multiple tenants and families to rent a property while having entirely different living spaces.
Condos and gated communities
Condos are one of the most popular types of expat accommodation in the Philippines. Expat condos and gated communities often include amenities such as swimming pools, tennis courts and clubhouses, as well as living quarters for domestic workers such as maids.
The large disparity between rich and poor in the Philippines is undeniable, and beyond the expat-friendly areas, there are many poor neighbourhoods. However, gated communities are generally far removed from such areas, and have full-time security and controlled access.
Renting an apartment in the Philippines is a great low-maintenance housing option for new arrivals. Apartments often have full-time security, although likely won’t have access to the range of amenities offered in condos.
Luxury serviced apartments can be found in major cities which offer a host of services and come fully furnished with WiFi access.
Factors to consider when house hunting in the Philippines
When looking for a place to live, expats should consider the level of furnishing. Unfurnished and fully and semi-furnished properties are available. While fully-furnished accommodation may restrict a tenant’s capacity to decorate and may be more costly, it’s convenient for expats who are only staying on short-term stints.
We advise house hunters to ask about air conditioning and insulation of prospective properties. Expats may also find some homes lack 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. Given high crime rates in certain areas, many expats live in insular wealthy areas behind large security gates and in complexes which have controlled access. Many houses also have security bars on the windows.
Many expats in the Philippines can afford to hire a maid and a driver. If these are on a full-time basis, accommodation may need to be provided for these employees.
Finding accommodation in the Philippines
The internet is the best place to start the accommodation search. Online property portals and classifieds websites, such as Dot Property Philippines and Lamudi, allow house hunters to explore listings suited to their budget, location, property types and sizes.
We highly recommend enlisting the services of a real estate agent or relocation company which offers house-hunting services. These professionals will take the weight off a new arrival’s shoulders when looking for a new home and negotiating with landlords.
When looking for accommodation, location is a key consideration. Most expats moving to the Philippines live in the Metro Manila area, and Makati City is particularly popular as it is home to many international corporations and is the heart of the diplomatic community. Housing in the rural areas is cheaper than larger cities, although amenities are more limited.
Moreover, we advise that expats consider the proximity to their workplace, schools and shopping areas. Traffic is notoriously bad in large cities, particularly Manila, and this can affect commute times.
Renting accommodation in the Philippines
Most expats rent accommodation in the Philippines. In many cases, this is organised through the expat’s employer. If not, real estate agents can help guide the process.
Most leases are signed for one year, and the full year of rent may be expected to be paid upfront for luxury condos. Short-term leases are also available, mainly in serviced apartments in larger cities.
Deposits are often equivalent to two to three months’ rent.
Utilities such as water, electricity and WiFi are often excluded from the rental price. Expats should budget for this as an additional cost.
Expats should document any areas of the house which need maintenance before signing a lease and moving in. 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. It may be negotiated for the landlord to pay for supplies, such as paint, if the tenant pays for or does the physical labour themselves.
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 with a Filipino national. So, most expats living in the Philippines for only a short time don’t buy property.
Expats who do wish to buy property are advised to enlist professional real estate and legal services. House hunters can ask these professionals about the possibility for home renovations and building a new property on the land.
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Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Philippines. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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