A lot of readers of my various blogs write to me and ask about buying a house here in the Philippines. Be careful, though. If you are no a Filipino, you cannot own property in the Philippines. This is a provision in the Constitution of the Philippines. Unless you are a Philippine Citizen, or a Former Philippine Citizen (already naturalized in another country) you cannot buy land here, PERIOD. A couple of points to consider on this, though. First, if your wife is a Citizen of the Philippines, she can own property here but it cannot ever be yours or even part yours. For example, if your wife dies, you cannot inherit the property, it will go to one of her other legal heirs (children, siblings, etc.). A second consideration… if you or you spouse are former citizens, your property ownership rights are limited to only a small parcel of land.
Another thing that you can consider if you really want to own your home is that, as a foreigner, you can own a condominium. Condominium ownership is limited to 40% of a complex, though. In other words, if there are 10 condos in a development, only 4 can be owned by foreigners with the balance of 6 only saleable to Filipinos. So, the rules really limit foreigners from owning even condos.
One reason that I write about this is that you must be very careful about this. People here selling real estate will try to sell it to you, even though it is illegal. Then, if somebody files a complaint, you will lose everything. There are ways to monkey around with the system, but it always leaves the foreigner vulnerable. For example, dummy owners will be set up, where the foreigner puts up the money and some other name is put on the title. This is dangerous, don’t do it! If the lawyer or other person who set this up wants to, they can pull the property right out from under you. There is always a strong possibility that you will end up on the short end of the stick.
For me, I prefer to just rent the house where I live. While renting, I can easily move to a new location when I want to. Heck, if a reason ever comes up where I feel that I need to leave the country, I can just pack up and go without leaving a major investment behind. While I feel comfortable about living here, in any third world country, the political system can be unstable. Over the past 20 years or so, there have been dozens of coup plots here in the Philippines. So, who knows, the day may come when living here is not attractive. So, my advice – rent a nice place, kick back and enjoy your life in the Philippines. Leave the property ownership problems to your landlord!