Category Archives: Real Estate

That’s Classified!

There is a new classified ad site for all things Philippines. Philippine Finder is the place to go for real estate, cars,  items anything that is up for sale for the expat or retiree. There is also a personals section where you can find friends, activity partners or seach for romance.  You can advertise there free of charge. Right now it is a little light on for ads, but so was the Yellow Pages the day the first telephone was installed! The more people who use it to advertise and respond to ads, the better a service it will become.

The Good Things

Some Of The Reasons We Live Here.

the good things

NOTE: I wrote this in September 2004.  It was how I felt at the time. I still believe what I felt then was true. What do you think?  Feel free to email me directly at or post a comment to this blog using the link included below.  Perry April 2008.

You could be forgiven in thinking that this country is a nightmare, badly run and full of people just waiting to rob you of every penny you have. Not true. The Philippines is the Philippines, simple as that.

This is a great country with many wonderful people and customs, its just very different from the USA, Canada, Australia,New Zealand, UK,and Europe. Very different. If it was identical then there would be no reason to come here, would there?

There are so many good things to living here, not just having your retirement or vacation dollar stretching farther. There is still a freedom to do as you wish that is being legislated out of all existence back home. I believe many well intentioned pieces of legislation have been amended well out of their original context and now add to the problems they were implemented to correct.

The Philippines is still growing and developing, finding its place in the modern world, eager to advance yet proud of her history and hero’s. Justly proud, I feel.

There is corruption, incompetence and ignorance in every aspect of life, but it is tempered with an approach to life and living that is simple and refreshing. It is a fact of life here so accept it and focus
on your own problems, don’t try and save the world or at least the Philippines from theirs.

As a foreigner you have the luxury of being able to leave any time you choose and go virtually anywhere you wish. Not so the Filipino. So if they seem unaware of the “failings” of their country, who can blame them? If your own country didn’t have failings then you wouldn’t be reading this now.

Living here is a humbling experience and  for me, an empowering one. It builds your self confidence and self respect, it makes you appreciate the simple things in life we have taken for granted for too long.  You will only get out of a trip here what you are willing to put in.

Keep your mind open to new ways of doing things. Just because it is done a certain way back home does not mean it is right for the Philippines or Filipinos. Far better than I can say it, the words of
Lord Curzon, Viscount of India, express the love I have for this country and its people, while often wondering why they do it the way they do!

‘We must remember that the ways of Orientals are not our ways, nor their  thoughts our thoughts.  Often when we think them backward and stupid, they think us meddlesome and absurd.  The loom of time moves slowly with them, and they care not for high pressure and the roaring of the wheels.  Our
system may be good for us; but it is neither equally, nor altogether good,  for them.  Satan found it better to reign in hell than serve in heaven; and the normal Asiatic would sooner be misgoverned by Asiatics than well governed by Europeans.’

Powerful words as true today about the Philippines as they were about India over a hundred years ago.  Manual Quezon himself said he would prefer a “Philippines” run like hell by Filipino’s than run like heaven by foreigners.  Cynics might argue he got his wish but at least their destiny is in their own hands, more or less.

I may be among the first to rail against the almost feudal system prevailing here but there is so much good to balance against the bad. Having spent three  months now away from my Cebu home and back amongst my own countrymen, I must admit I see things differently.  My time in the Philippines mellowed me in many ways, it changed my perspectives and altered what was once considered important to a status less imperative.

I look at my countrymen, striving to live the great “Aussie Dream” of owning their own home, having two cars in the driveway and sending the kids off to university. The reality is that the homes are getting bigger while the land they stand upon is shrinking.  Everyone wants MacMansions yet the cost of land is too high to leave any room for a garden for the kids to play in.  But then kids don’t play outside anymore, its all Nintendo and computers and cable tv and who has the time in their busy lives to keep a garden in shape?

As for the cars, the government slugs you coming and going with taxes and duties and fees and fines and yet you still need to have the latest model and lots of space.  By the time your kids get to university they will probably hold little regard for you other than contempt given the media, their peers and society as a whole.  You owe them everything for bringing them into this world and the world owes them the rest. That’s not how it is in the Philippines.

I want my wife to visit Australia and see my country.  Hopefully hang around just long enough to get over the WOW! Factor and pick up on the reality, then be happy to return to the Philippines.  I have little to no faith my retirement superannuation dollars will be around when I reach the age the government have decreed I can touch them.  Instead I will look to having as many rental properties in the Philippines to live off as I can acquire between now and then.  In other words, like the Filipino, I will be looking after Number One, and the immediate family.  Charity does start at home, and my home is in the Philippines.


We Live In Nature, It’s Not A Theme Park.

If we were truthful with ourselves then I am sure we would acknowledge that we live a pretty safe life compared to many others in the world and even more so when compared to our forefathers and ancestors.  Thereisn’t a war raging at the moment that really threatens our lives, despite what some vested interests may try and convince us of to the contrary.  Unless you are living in Iraq or on Basilan Island, the odds of you falling afoul of a war on terrorism related atrocity are pretty low.

However, we do live in a world where nature still rules supreme. Especially here in the Philippines.  In Cebu we are pretty lucky to be sheltered by the surrounding Visayan islands of Leyte, Samar, Negros
and Bohol.  Their protection means the typhoons that do strike this far south usually just produce a lot of rain and some wind and nothing like the maelstrom those up in Luzon often face.

The Philippines is a collection of islands, volcanic islands and we lie on the Pacific Rim Ring of Fire, according to the National Geograp documentary I saw last year.  Very dramatic but also very apt as anyone who witnessed Mt Pinatubo erupt can attest.  There are several active and numerous dormant (or allegedly dormant) volcanoes making up the very land upon which we stand.  The perfect cone of the Mayon Volcano in Bicol has been making noises for some time or late, and Mt Pinatubo is also giving hints she is restless.

On top of all that, there are earthquakes to consider and their oceanographic cousins, Tsunamis, or tidal waves.  Most of us live fairly close to the sea and so this is something to consider.  Can you
imagine a major earthquake hitting your barangay? The mind boggles how our local, antiquated and amateur fire department would cope.

Besides nature and her extremes, there are also the results of average weather events to think about.  Storms can lead to losing your roof, or land slides or flooding, even on a relatively minor scale.  Nothing lethal or life threatening most of the time, but at the very least disconcerting and annoying.  If you had to evacuate your home due to a flood, would you expect your possessions to be there when you return, albeit a little soggy?  I wouldn’t.

I will look at events involving human antagonists another time, like riots and so on.  This time, lets just focus on natural catastrophes and what we can do to prepare for them and live through them.  First of all, don’t get paranoid but don’t ignore the fact that nature does bite some times.  A simple storm could leave you without power for several hours or even several days, how will you cope?

Firstly there will be no light, no internet and no refrigeration. There may be no water if the local supply relies on being pumped andthe pump is on the same grid that is affected by the storm. Two years ago in Bogo we had a “brownout” that lasted for nearly three days. The local water supply was reliant on the electricity grid to power the pump to get it to our taps.  No power meant no water.  Nothing to drink, wash, launder or cook with.  After the first day in the heat and humidity the novelty wore off and bottled water supplies were already stretched as people bought up “gallons” wherever they could for drinking water.

The power and water came back on at one stage and I rushed around filling every container I could with water.  Others thought I was being silly, the power was back on, the water was flowing again, why fill all those containers? Well the power went out again after just forty minutes and didn’t come back for another two days.  Two more days of no fans, no aircon, no television, no karaoke (always a silver lining in any dark cloud) no cold drinks, no fresh food, no ice etc.

Most brownouts last only a few hours, often less.  This one was a three day mongrel.  I was fortunate in that I could afford to put my family in the Red Terror and drive them to Cebu, where we stayed at the Kiwi Lodge for a couple of days until friends rang to say the power was back on.  We could have survived the two more days with no power or water because we were prepared but with the Asawa pregnant there really was no reason not to find a solution such as staying at an hotel.  Of course, that solution may not always be available.

We keep at least three days water supply on hand at all times and regularly cycle through it. Our bottled water supplier brings three “gallons” every week but we use only two, so there is always one
there in case of an emergency.  I just line them up and go through them so the water is never more than a week “old” when drank. I also have another “gallon” kept in a cupboard out of direct sunlight which I swap with a fresh bottle every month or so as I remember to do so.

We have a battery back up and surge protector for the computer, it will give you about 15-20 minutes once the power goes out to save your work and switch off.  Then if it is dark a standing lamp also plugged in will carry on for about the same amount of time giving us light to see by as we get the candles and torches (flashlights) out.

My wife now realizes why I insist on keeping the torches in the same places around the house, along with spare batteries and strict instructions the kids are not allowed to play with any torch except the
one specifically designated as the “one the kids will play with and use up the batteries so it won’t work when you need it” torch.  Keeping them in the same places means they are easy to find in the sudden darkness of a brownout.  Keeping the spare batteries with them and insisting on a little discipline regarding their use pays off when the torch is needed in an emergency and is worth the extra effort required to instil on the average Fil-Am family. (Or Fil-Aus in our case).

We don’t store a lot of food for emergencies, although we do have a cupboard with tinned goods that I make an effort to rotate through every couple of months.  Since we live in the city now we don’t worry
quite as much as what was prudent when we were way up in the province.

My first aid kit, or kits as I have one in the car, one with my dive gear and two around the house, are checked every year or so specifically and given a cursory going over whenever they are used.  I always check these things just around my birthday.  It is an annual event I never forget and reminds me to check the things that may have lain dormant for most of the year and can do with a little attention.

The secret is to get into a routine and stick to it, take a few precautions and not get too carried away.  If I was in the province or felt the threat justified the action I would look at safe rooms in the house, firearms and communications with the outside world etc.  Living in Talisay we have a fire evacuation plan (this is important as many houses here have bars on the windows and doors) and two cell phones to supplement the landline.  Emergency phone numbers are stored in the phone memories and also handy to the landline on a card.

As far as firearms are concerned, my proactive approach to getting on with my neighbours should erase any need to keep a gun around for protection.  Besides which, enough of my friendly neighbours have their own guns so there’ll always be someone around to make noise if needed!

Don’t get paranoid, but don’t get lethargic.  I took the same precautions when I lived in metropolitan Sydney as I take here in Cebu, nature can come calling with an attitude anywhere, anytime.  Keep that
in mind and then get on with living the dream!

A New Lease On Life, Literally!

An Alternative To Buying A Property To Call Your Own.

Many of us expats who head over to the Philippines to settle down and live would love to own our own piece of paradise.  Except for condominiums, we can’t own land, simple as that!

If you have an asawa you trust, then you can always buy the land in her name.  For many, though, the reason they are in the PI is because a female of the species has taken them apart emotionally, financially and in virtually every other way possible.  How then to trust again?  For some it is getting too late in life to pay off another swag of debts from a divorce, start building the wealth again and see out the rest of ones days in comfort.

If you find you just can’t bring yourself to trust your loved one with the rest of your life’s savings, yet you still want more than a condo, what can you do?’  You can move to Panama where I believe you are able to buy land, or Sri Lanka or somewhere else.  But if you wish to remain in the Philippines then you actually have a few decent options you can explore.

Without going into complicated corporate holdings and offshore set ups, the simplest way for a foreigner to own land here is to lease it.

Leasing confers all the rights of ownership, but for a set period. The  maximum period currently allowed is fifty years, WITH A TWENTY FIVE YEAR OPTION TO EXTEND!  Like who is going to be around in 75 years?  If you are, lets be generous, 30 now, you will be 105 when the time comes to vacate the property!

That is the maximum period of lease, you can of course lease for much shorter periods.  Too short a period, say 1 to 5 years and you may as well just rent the property.  The difference between renting and leasing is one has you as a tenant and the other way a virtual owner for a set period of time.  I would say the ideal lease period would be ten to fifteen years with a further ten to fifteen year extension.

Say Jim is 50 and he’s taken an early retirement from moving widgets in Wisconsin.  If he takes out a 15/10 Lease, he will be 65 when it comes time to extend, and 75 when the lease runs out.  At that time he invokes the clause that has him reimbursed for the capital improvements on the land (perhaps he built a dream house?) and he shuffles off to a condo closer to his heart specialist.  Or maybe he negotiates a new lease.

If he died during the lease, Maycelle his asawa and some 25 years his junior, decides she doesn’t want to remain there all alone and heads back to her family in the province.  Jim was smart enough to negotiate a lease that had money pumped in up front to cover the possibility of his bowing out early.  Maycelle was covered if she wanted to remain on the property but she also had the option to vacate.  Perhaps the improvements were left as payment for early termination, or maybe the lessor reimburses Jim’s widow a pro-rata amount for the house they built.  It is up to the parties at the time of negotiating the lease to agree on these things.

This is the beauty of leasing.  You can negotiate the terms to suit both parties.  Let’s look at an example.  Pete has a Lot up for lease.  It is 3000sqm, quite a big piece of dirt.  He offers it for lease but Jim doesn’t need all of it, so they agree on Jim leasing 1000sqm in the west corner. Lovely! If Pete was to sell his lot he could realise, say P200 per sqm (rural lot, nice and cheap!) The 1000sqm he is leasing to Jim is therefore worth P200,000 if he were to sell it.  If he leases it at P1000 per month over 20 years, he will earn P240,000; P40,000 more than if he sold it.

Of course by the time he receives the final payment that P240,000 won’t be worth then what P200,000 is worth now, but at least he still has the land.

A better plan for Pete is to lease the 1000sqm to Jim this way.  Jim pays P100,000 up front and has the first 12 months lease of the land free of further charges.  This keeps his cash flowing for the building of the house he wants to live in.  After the first 12 months he starts paying lease fees of P1000 per month for the next 14 years. At the end of the 15 years initial lease he has paid P100,000 in a lump initial payment and a total of P168,000 in monthly payments.  Pete was able to use the lump sum to buy some other property he had his eye on and the monthly fees kept his fridge full of beer.

Jim now has the option to extend a further 10 years.  If he does then he can either keep paying the P1000 a month lease fee (P120,000) or he pays nothing more and at the end of the lease vacates the land and leaves the house he built for Pete to take over, demolish or whatever. They had agreed on a basic standard of house when it was being built so Pete is happy with the improvements to the lot and Jim saves a lot of cash.  By the end of the lease he is pretty close to spending his days dozing in a hammock oblivious to the world and unable to even spell Alzheimers.

Pete gets his money, plus a little extra and a house he can now live in or rent out and Jim and his asawa have spent 25 of the best years of their lives together, the last 10 absolutely rent free which allowed him to save a fair amount of his retirement income each month.  Jim lived there happy in the knowledge that if he were to pass away, Maycelle was allowed to live on in the house for a further 2 years if she chose, rent free no matter where in the lease period they were when Jim died.  How come? Because Pete and Jim agreed on everything when they negotiated the lease, wrote it in plain English and had it notarised by a Notary Public at the local courthouse.  Simple and understood by all parties.

You can take advantage of the benefits of leasing over owning.  Anytime you see a Lot for Sale, consider asking if the vendor would like to keep hold of their property and negotiate a lease?  If you can offer close to the purchase price and then moderate monthly lease payments then there is every chance a vendor may prefer to lease you their land.

Leasing is a handy vehicle if you want to operate a resort. You lease the land as a foreigner, then sub-let it to a corporation put together to run the resort.  You hold 40% of the corporation and make sure at least another 40% is held by a Filipino you trust, or the other four incorporators hold 15% each only.  The corporation then operates the resort on the land it sub leases from you, using buildings you have built and therefore own.  If any of the Filipino partners in the corporation running the resort play funny games, you as the lease holder can terminate the contract to operate the resort with the corporation.  You would have it renewable year to year anyway to protect yourself.  You recover your 40% invested in the corporation but you retain the buildings and the lease on the land.  At the end of the lease period you are reimbursed for any improvements made to the land as provided by Philippine Law!

Leases can be a wonderful tool for a foreigner in the Philippines.  The trick is to negotiate up front all the clauses you need.  You can sub-let, so long as you include that in the original lease and the lessor agrees at that time  You can write anything in and it is binding so long as it isn’t illegal per se and the lessor agrees of their own free will.

Naturally, a smart investor would have the lease properly checked by a trusted attorney, unless they trust the lessor totally or more than they trust their attorney!  Keep everything written in plain English
and keep it simple and leasing should prove a viable alternative for those who really want their own block of dirt to do with as they wish, yet can’t legally own it.  Make sure the lease is fair to both parties and there is little chance of any dispute, even if it reached court, favouring one party over another purely because the lease itself is too heavily weighted in the other party’s favour.

For more information on real estate get our Philippines Property Primer e-guide

New Release from Streetwise Philippines

With over 20 years hands-on experience in the Philippines, Perry Gamsby is considered an authority on the facts of expatriate life in this fascinating archipelago.  As well as having a Filipina wife, four children and the requisite extended Filipino family, Perry is a teacher of Filipino Martial Arts and a former travel editor of the country’s leading map and travel atlas publisher. Five years ago he created Streetwise Philippines Inc. publishing eBook guides to the Philippines for expat readers.

His first book and to date, still the best seller, is “Philippine Dreams” (also sold in some markets as “StreetWise Philippines”). This comprehensive examination of the phenomenon of Filipinas, the Philippines and his own decision to move to the Philippines and pursue his dream of living in a tropical paradise strikes a chord with all who read it.  Written in an entertaining yet informative style, the eBook explores life and living in the Philippines in a special way: “This is what happens, this is why it happens, this is what you as an expat can do to understand what happens.” You can read more about Philippines Dreams at

“Philippine Dreams” created a demand for more information, especially about the four most important topics of the matrix:  meeting a Filipina, marrying and migrating a Filipina, putting a roof over your head if you decided to live in the Philippines and finding ways to pay for all of this!  The results were “Filipina 101-How To Meet The Filipina of Your Dreams” (co-written with his Filipina wife, Amelita) and “Filipina 202 – How To Marry And Migrate Your Dream Filipina”. These valuable guides dismiss the misinformation and stereotyping of the Filipina on the many online dating/matchmaking sites and provide a balanced and informative guide to men looking for Filipina wives.   You can read more about these guides at and

Perry has completed ‘Filipina 303 – Making The Magic Last’ although at this stage it has not been decided if the eBook will be released separately or as part of a three volume compilation of the ‘Filipina’ series.

Perry then released “The Philippines Property Primer – The StreetWise Guide to Buying, Renting or Leasing Property”.  This is a ‘first read’ real estate guide for anyone contemplating buying, renting or leasing property in the Philippines.  Over the years, as well as buying, leasing and renting several properties himself in the Philippines, Perry has observed many people lose large amounts of money in property here; most of the time because they are not dealing with legitimate sellers or they have not protected their investment by taking the simple precautions listed in the eBook.  The Philippines Property Primer has all of the basic information you need to assist you in making a more informed decision.  You can read more about The Philippines Property Primer at


Although the topic of how to make a living in the Philippines was covered in brief in “Philippine Dreams”, the response from readers was so insistent that a new, updated and more in depth guide on how to support yourself and your family in the Philippines has been released.  “MAKING A LIVING IN THE PHILIPPINES – The StreetWise Guide To Business, Employment and Investing”, will tell you what you need to know to operate a small business, get a job or invest in a tightly regulated, highly competitive and immensely volatile marketplace.  It has been written with the average guy in mind; the everyday guy without the big retirement income set-up or pre-arranged ‘fatcat’ expat job contract who wants to escape to the Philippines and live every day with the Filipina of his dreams but still needs to make a living!

You can read more about “Making A Living In The Philippines” at or check out all the Streetwise Philippines publications at The eBook, contains a wealth of information otherwise impossible to glean without having been there, done that.  In the safety of your own home you can learn first hand what is required to survive in a third world economy and be better equipped to decide if you should risk selling up and making that life changing move!

This E-Book will explain to you everything you need to know to start up a small business, get a job or invest in the Philippines!

The very latest publication is ‘Philippines Survival Handbook’ which takes a very holistic and comprehensive view of the things that can give you grief in the Philippines. From bent coppers to under-age girl scams, snakes and sea creatures to dangerous bus rides!