Accommodation in the Philippines: scams you should look out for

Hi,

Committing to renting or buying accommodation when youíre new to or have not moved to the Philippines just yet is always a stressful endeavour. Would you like to help us in putting together a handbook of what to look out for when house hunting in the Philippines?

What are the most common scams in the Philippines?

What are the red flags to look out for when scanning through adverts?

Is there a list of registered or accredited landlords or real estate agencies in the Philippines?

What authorities should be sought should one come across an accommodation scam?

Please share your experience,

Bhavna

There seems to be no accountability here in Ormoc. Landlords can do whatever they like. It becomes a long and intricate story. There is also no central way to find a place for rent here.

I have not been scammed, however it can be difficult here because it seems any "agent" can list a property, and they will, to try and get a piece of the action. Frequently they have few actual credentials. So you will see multiple listings sometimes for the same property as you look through OLX, Lamudi or Property24, which are popular listing sites. I would suggest to try and rent from an agency, at least at first until you become familiar with how things are done here. Renting an individual unit directly from a local that you have no personal or professional relationship with, could result in misunderstandings.  And absolutely insist on a written contract.

I rented my first condo in Cebu through an agent who turned out to actually work for a property management company, which was fortunate, but my GF was the one who sorted it all out. They were good to deal with and we were there two years. We both have also rented homes individually on other islands, once from friends who were European in my case, and with her on another island from an American-Filipino couple. In both cases they were very nice to deal with, and did things properly.

On the other hand, I recently looked at another condo from a legitimate referral and 3 guys showed up, all with few English skills, and hard to determine who the actual agent was, not to mention the owner. My GF could at least communicate with them. They were asking way too much as it was run down, and when we tried to negotiate, calls were made but they wouldn't budge. We walked away.

My point with all of this is it helps to know people and if you don't, work through an agency, which will likely ensure the price is in line and have a track record. Make sure you understand the relationships. My personal preference is to always look for places that are secure - either in a good area with a guard, or in a gated community. I do prefer condos within larger cities, both for security and a quieter environment.

First and foremost DO NOT buy a home here if you are in another country and you are relying on a surrogate to handle things for you.
Property agents here will screw you over to no end! They show you a model home that looks quite nice but never disclose what accually comes with your home.
Here is what DOES NOT come with a pre-built home in most communities .
Cabinets, closets, enclosed shower, window coverings, insulation, light fixtures.
What you do get, one electrical outlet per room, none in the bathroom, single pained windows that don't fit, cheap doors that don't fit, the cheapest floor tile and counter tile known to man. {Plastic} walls between some of the rooms(not kidding)
These are only some of the biggest points.
Never, ever, buy a home here without seeing the finished unit first or building it yourself.
Homes here are almost 100% hollow block and they use the very cheapest material. You can actually pick one up in one hand and it will crumble before your very eyes.
I won't tell you who our builder is but they are the largest in all of the Philippines.
If anyone wants a deal on a great house please contact me. I will hook you up 😂.

I have learned that buying a property is a wild experience.

Many "agents" will show you a lot or house. The lot/house will be fine with a nice price. So one may want to buy.

Then the agent will not have the title or tax records (but they will say they have). The title and tax record will probably be hard to find. When they are located more than likely the person selling the house will not be the true owner.

There is a very good chance that the property/lot/house is part of a larger property that
may be waiting for government approval.

I talked to a guy just last week who has a huge lot and is trying to subdivide it, but he has been waiting for approval for more than 1 year. He told me that the surveyor needs to start spending some cash (bribing) if one wants the approval sooner.

******

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From my experience renting apartments I recommend avoiding online listings. They tend to be overpriced. Best bet is to travel through neighborhoods looking for signs or banners. Even better is know some locals who can refer or help you search. And once you find something a Filipino friend is best for haggling with the landlord/owner. And the best landlord I ever had was Korean, so if a foreigner is the property manager or owner even better. Be prepared for some unusual rental practices, such as no lightbulbs when you move in or delays in having your unit ready on the date you need it. Moving out can be sketchy, as many Filipino landlords think nothing of keeping your security deposit. For whatever reason. Good luck trying to get anything back, you're a stranger in a strange land.

I don't really recommend the Philippines because you really can't trust very many people,corporations,franchises, I keep my distance from most after finding most won't pay back or if you receive some payment, you have to chase after it, I went into the rooming business financing and some labor, the guy changed soon afterwords, doesn't know how to budget money,contracts don't mean anything,  I'll let you you know what they can do, have a lot of kids and usually out of wedlock, and if your talking beaches A plus as long as President Duterte orders them cleaned them up, short term plan, in a couple years Vietnam or Malaysia is looking better all the time.

Hi everyone,I you are planning to live in the Philippines and should consider a retirement plan then you gonna be good.BUT!!! be aware to scammer as you mentions .

1.this to remind you that there is an existing LAW in the land that foreigner is not allowed to owned a piece of  land UNLESS  your VISA has the privilege to inter into contract for property.

2.there are numbers of condominium units and housing you name it and it is available anywhere in the Philippines,to avoid to be SCAM do not try under the table transaction,once you did the arrangement at the beginning entering into fake contract then you are vulnerably to be cheated

3.thru adverts you cannot find fake unless you do the testing in case of condos and apartments make sure that there is a physical office and the establishments bearing DTI BUSINESS TAX and should have equivalent PERMITS from LOCAL GOVERNMENTS  where the business is situated to make sure you can do the ask information's as well if the name of company is duly registered to the mentioned line agency

4. in case you came to visit Philippines better find the tourism office to any PORT and Airports for more information's in choosing accommodations and for you safe journey  do the same safety as you were in your country of origin never trust as easy keep safe..and WELCOME TO PHILPPINES..

Yours is the most sensible reply to the subject of buying property in the Philippines.
Through my experience I have the following suggestion to any foreigner thinking of doing it:

DON'T DO IT.

Pure and simple.

I agree, why would you do it? Keep you money liquid and have more flexibility.

This is easy to answer. Never buy a house because you have no idea the condition of the house. Faulty wiring and dodgy windows and doors are something you will always find. Most houses are built for as cheap as possible so everything is sub standard from the walls and everything inside. I have been here for years and i would never buy a house here. I would rather pay to have my own built. When you ask a builder to build a house they will ask you what standard you want it from cheapest up what i would call a proper house. If your renting a house always get a written contract and ask as many questions as you can think of and ask about repairs if you see damage. Agents make loads of money here for selling anything to foriegners. Renting a condo is what alot of people do when they first come here. Normally they are in good condition with aircon and security downstairs that always help for a 20 peso tip. Condos are all normally in walking distance to supermarkets aswell. If you go to the local SM supermarkets your bound to find someone giving out leaflets for condos for sale. Everytime i leave the house i get atleast 2 leaflets selling condos lol. Land titles are a mess everything is on paper and easily forged. It almost seems every other day someone is wanted by police for faking land titles. Should you get scammed in any way you can go to the police headquarters for your area or go to the BI. The embassy quite often can advise you aswell or point you in the direction of someone that can. Basically unless you have been here for a while dont get involved in buying

Although renting a condo or apartment in countries like Canada has become more dicey as more and more semi-slum landlords are entering the field, but here in the Phils, it's much more so.
Renting.
You will likely experience two major landlord types here: pinoy or foreigner (expats).

Pinoy tend to cut corners to the extreme that often is more about basic dishonesty than any sense of responsibility to the comfort and security of the tenant. If the landlord (lessor) is only kuripot (cheap), you are likely renting a decent place. But throw in the pervasive elements of gross dishonesty and over-promising, and anything can happen in the first few weeks after you move in. All you can do is try to cut out the disappointments as much as possible beforehand by asking a lot of questions about noise (roosters, stray dogs and goats, loud motorbikes, children, late night parties, etc.), general dirtiness and garbage disposal, water access, community politics, and the local 'gang' that helps ensure the security of the barangay (barrio, local district).
In general, I've learned to steer clear of filipino landlords because in general what we take for granted in North America, Europe, and Downunder (Oz, NZ) likely won't even be in the vocabulary here. I've yet to get a competent, caring and honest pinoy landlord in the country, from Manila to Dumaguete to Iloilo over the course of 12 years here. As there are many fewer expat compounds here than in Duma, for instance, we've had to resort to filipino lodgings.
If you find yourself in such a situation, try to rent from chinoy (Chinese Filipino) as they tend to be more sophisticated, know more of western standards, and, if you are lucky, will only be subjected to over-promising. Do not expect things to happen when planned; after one late appt. or complete no-show without prior notification, just go about your business and have them accommodate themselves to you. Usually things work out in the end: our main job often is in exercising much patience for just about everything related to the unit.

'Foreigners' or expats in general are much better landlords, but the effort they often put into their compound facilities often means that your rent may be higher. Things like internet, physical security, laundry facilities, everything in working order, help with your move, barangay relationships,  compound staff, guards, repairs, etc., etc., are likely to be much better planned and operational!
For me, a major downside may be that some expat landlords are no more honest than the locals. So try to cover yourself with carefully-devised questions to get at how trustworthy the expat landlord really is. Current tenants are likely the best sources of info, but don't restrict yourself to only one source? Units mostly filled with long-term tenants may be a good indicator?

Buying.
As a rule of thumb here in the Phils, and as for renting, don't get any of your expectations too high if you want to buy a property. That way when you are let down - and that may happen many times over many issues or the same concern - you might prevent some frustration in negotiating life here. if something works out well, then be pleasantly surprised, or patiently wait to see if some wrinkle will show up in due course?
In general, buying a property means you have to deal with the lands offices and other government agencies to ensure that you will be the owner instead of some fall guy who had his or her money stolen. Sure helps to be married to a trustworthy filipina (or filipino), for then the property may be transferred within 6 months of application. For example, I've a French friend married to a non-filipino Chinese woman, and he's been waiting around a year now to have his papers pass through the land registry according to local laws. Is tough, but if you trust your filipino partner, should be okay to put everything in her name. If the relationship is rocky, however, better hold off or you could lose all of your investment.
Lot of factors play into owning, leasing or otherwise arranging to 'own' a property here, and I think each case is very much unique in a country where laws are often not followed or differ from one community to another, unless money is involved. As someone else stated, it usually does pay to grease some palms along the way for the key decision points. I don't do that because it can lead to greater demands in the future. Better to remain patient...

Overall, always here a key factor is not to lose your cool, especially in front of government officials. I've known of many cases when foreigners don't adjust to this culture, and never get a license or title deed in their hands because someone's feelings were hurt in some government office. News gets around Phil communities fast!
I know an arrogant expat who made enemies of many city officials and businesses who could take no more abuse and banned him from doing business with them. In fact, many of us who came to know him are surprised that he's still alive, but he does spend a lot of time in his compound sheltered by 16' high walls with spikes on top of them.
So smile, be patient, and be respectful, even when that's hard to maintain! Yes, pinoy are human beings with feelings just like ours, and once ruffled, their response may not be mature or flexible: to put any one off usually means you no longer are dealing with just one official, but a whole system! And that may mean the family, the barangay, a government office, or the community at large. Be bold, but not offensive or denigrating. Cloaking your annoyance with humor works.

A lot more here could be added, but experience will teach you. Just be prepared to adjust a lot, and if you can't hack it, leave for a different country and culture. Or go back home where simple things like mutual respect, community peace and quietness, etc. are norms, but which may never be achievable here.

Remedy is not the answer, AVOIDANCE is.

In buying a Condominium, dealing with a major developer is no assurance. Sleaze comes in all sizes. In my case, I bought a prestigious Condominium unit in a building where the developer was operating other units as part of a hotel with restaurants and several floors for parking. In other words, these were areas that were owned by the developer and were used by said developer for commerce. Yet, with the connivance of a government agency charged with regulating Condominiums, the so called Master Deed (Usually hidden from the prospective buyer or owner) which was approved by said agency, designated these said areas as "Common Areas" presumably commonly owned by the Condominium  Association and therefore subject to the collection of dues from the unit owners such as myself. These said areas are income producing  for the developer, where we gain no beneficial use thereof, yet we are paying the dues inasmuch as these were designated as Common Areas in the Master Deed. Further, the taxes for said areas as well as for the hotel equipment, e.g. emergency generator (Exclusively for the hotel), carts, etc., are also charged to the Unit Owners. Watch out for scams, they are as plentiful, big reputable developers or not.

Seems like there are a lots to share on this topic. I will not repeat what other has mentioned. Will just share my own experience. 2 years ago I was renting in Makati, rental price has been rocketing there due to an influx of chinese expats working in online gambling companies, so I moved out. After moving out, I had to follow up continuously for the return of my security deposit. Phones and emails just did not work since I received no response, so I had to go to the building admin office myself and demanded to speak with the owner. After all the drama in a month, I got my security deposit back thanks to multiple on-site follow up (because they dont answer my phone or email).

I think they have pulled this off many times, especially to foreigners who need to leave the Philippines urgently. Because they cannot stay just to wait for the security deposit return (there was no even a promised date for me at that time).

My suggestion: security deposits are usually 2 months here, you can negotiate for 1 months security deposits and pay in-advance 3-4 months. In that way, when you need to move out, don't pay the last month. Find some reason to delay until your move out date. Then upon your move out date, tell the owner to check the unit and consider the 1 month security deposit is your payment for the last month, so they can keep it. Less hassle for you.

Personally, I would look at literally everything here as a “potential” scam.

Use your head and think long and hard about any and every transaction here.
It seems that everything from trikes, to taxi’s, to food, to housing, to land, etc. suddenly goes up when a foreigner is involved.

There are some very nice people here but, there are also a lot of snakes curled up waiting to strike their next victim. Western thinking isn’t even remotely practiced here so you def. have to watch your butt.

I had one built from scratch and am still trying to fix the Phuck ups, as out here in the province they do not have a clue on plumbing, laying tiles, sealing the roof. They do not take any pride in what they are doing, just hands out for money and drop the bottom lip when they take two hours for lunch and you want them back to work.
Once again my advice to anyone thinking of doing it :-

DONT

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