Buying land in The Philippines


It took me long time to start writing about how to buy piece of land in this lovely country, but number of enquiries motivated me finally. Sometimes I smile and think that if only I could get 5$ for each e-mail or question regarding this topic, I could retire and spent rest of my life in the hammock. Luckily my current occupation helped me to get mobilised, because I could collect most important experience and information I can share with you.

Lest start from this: all these articles describing how everything is cheap and beautiful in The Philippines are apparently well positioned in the internet. That’s why many people still believe they can buy wonderful piece of land on magical island and pay “Mickey Mouse” money for that.
First of all, please, come back to the real world… Those days have already gone. Today for small plot with sea access you will have to pay few millions pesos. And I’m not saying now about the land where you can build even small resort. I’m saying about land where you can build small house with tiny garden at the utmost. Of course there are still areas where land is relatively cheap, but in that case forget about gorgeous views or dinky neighbourhood.
Despite the well-known fact Filipinos are not rich, they have enough knowledge and their own business acumen. All of that define land prices. Land value depends obviously on water, electricity access as well as its general attractiveness (views, neighbourhood, roads etc.). So, if there is any real opportunity to buy attractive plot, be sure local businessmen will be first, before you even get to know there was such offer available. I have also one interesting observation – most of Poles, after only few weeks stay in Philippines, become real estate “specialist” and “experts” but in fact none of them even tried to start own business here not to mention buying land. And maybe that is not only Polish strange ailment…


Examine plot for sale

As mentioned before majority of special offers have already finished. Today, when Filipino is trying to convince you he has super attractive offer, only for you and you are the first informed and first one who can see the plot, don’t take him too seriously. Few times I personally went to see land for sale, which was offered for sale “literally yesterday”. One of recent one I saw was the property current owner was trying to sell for the last few years, which I learnt later.
In The Philippines there is another inconvenience Westerners may experience. Real estate agent is generally useless. Whenever you want to see land for sale, he can take you there if you pay to be able to enter and examine. Also, if only you are interested in demarcation of the plot you like you need to pay for that. That usually leads to many misunderstandings, because for Westerners that is weird if they have to cover costs, which should clearly stay on landowner’s side.


Price negotiations

Another challenge. In typical Western country when you are provided price, you know this is the price and you can only sometimes try to negotiate something to pay less. Not in The Philippines.
Not so long ago I witnessed situation when landowner offered 1.5 million pesos for his land. The buyer agreed and day before he visited bank to finalise transaction, landowner changed his mind and wanted 2 millions. And this is common practice in case of “local businessmen” who always want to earn extra money that way. Strange thinking because they loose clients, who usually do not want to discuss any longer and “businessmen” start to look for another victim. I was also told about the case when property owner insisted at the bank to be paid several million in cash, because he wanted to see real money, not only document confirming money were transferred to their bank account. Finally transaction took many hours – first bank had to collect proper amount of money, confirm in books cash withdraw from buyer account, count cash carefully, then, after the guy saw and touched his money, bank worker had to collect money back, count them again, confirm in books cash payment for landowner account and close transaction finally.


Who is the plot owner?

Well, with that topic you may get crazy. Few times I went with friend to examine lands for sale. Once owner demonstrated the whole area of his land. Next week it appeared his plot was even bigger than the one we saw, but we didn’t visit the proper one. Of course the wrong one was measured, all the paperwork was made, my friend invested time and money (as you remember, the owners here usually don’t do such things themselves). Good lesson. From that moment first things to ask are: document, which confirms ownership and accurate plot map. If landowner cannot show it to you, you can easily assume many troubles. The least problematic is when you pay for visiting the wrong plot, and later it appears the right one was that one round the corner. Worse if the proper one is in completely different place. And such situations happen often.
More problems you will have if it appears the owner is not the only heir of the land. Actualy you do not often meet owner, who has full property rights. Philippine families are usually very large and quite often family members live all around Philippines. It really complicates any transaction because you need to collect signatures from each heir. Sometimes really ridiculous situations happen when, for example, one of the heirs doesn’t want to sigh document because he or she wants more money for his part of the plot and you all get stuck, and other family members are not able to convince that one.


Buying land by company

This is one of the safest and most popular options. First you need to open own business with minimum 3 Filipinos as business partners. Your, foreigner shares cannot exceed 40% though. When you invite locals to the business it would be the best if they are not relatives and even do not know each other. That minimise risk they will vote collectively against your decisions. All of them had to have their individual tax evidence, which means they have to be legally hired and pay taxes or at least pay taxes from own business. That may be huge challenge on small island of course, because most people usually do not have regular jobs there.
Registering your company is not complicated. There are dedicated offices in every bigger city. They charge standard fee (about 120k pesos = about 11k PLN) but your investment will be obviously higher as you need to spend a lot of time and pay ferry tickets to be able to get to your future “business partners” to collect all their signatures etc.
Once your company is registered you need to open company bank account. This is usually quick one, takes a while in the bank. You will have to do once off payment on that account, an equivalent of 65k pesos, but you can take money back immediately. This is required to register real and serious bank operation on the company account. And that’s all.

Hope all above will help you with your investments plans. If only you have additional questions, please ask in comments or e-mail to:


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