This article originally appeared in BusinessWeek Mindanao March 2, 2015 issue in the business column Out of the Biz Box.
When it comes to choosing where to live (buy or rent doesn’t matter) I keep on assisting an apparently eternal debate between Condo and/or House/Lot. In Metro Manila, this debate has already evolved to a clear understanding about the indisputable advantages condos have compared to house and lot.
My neighbours, when I used to live in Manila, were actually from Cagayan de Oro. They were living in a gorgeous 3 bedroom unit at a higher floor and were overall a very nice couple with 3 kids. During one of our food and wine tasting evenings we used to have from time to time they shared with me reasons why they decided to buy in a condo rather than a house/lot. They explained to me that as a family the main reason was safety followed by ease of maintenance of the unit, the modern amenities and a very convenient location near to work. I realised that, compared to other parts of the world, decisions about location and type of accommodation is based on considerations that go beyond practicalities.
Interested in knowing more about people’s motivations, I started asking other Filipinos about their experiences and thoughts and so I discovered that many of those who decide to go for condos do so because they fear burglars frequently present in sub-divisions, the inconvenience of needing a car at all times even for buying a litre of milk, the damages caused by typhoons, flooding or other adverse weather conditions.
Especially those who actually live abroad like foreigners married to Filipinas or OFWs often feel abused by the continuous repairs and maintenance fund requests by their caretakers or relatives. Understandably a house has much more maintenance needs than a condo. I could relate to that since I did own houses in the past and I understand that there are water pumps that break, air-conditioning that don’t work, leakages from the roof, pipes that burst, plants that need to be watered and many more things that need continuous care and maintenance.
There was one time when I had just rented my family house in Dubai to an Arab tenant, when he rang me up complaining about the air-conditioning not working. So I sent in some repair guys and they had to replace two pumps. A week later he called again for the water pump. A week later he called again for a leakage in the bathroom. This went on for 3 or 4 months after which he even refused to pay rent until it was all replaced and fixed. It all sounded crazy to me but as the owner I had the responsibility to repair and replace defective parts. I spent nearly as much money in repairs as this guy was paying in rent. This incident convinced me that, unless I was living in the house, I would never again want to own one to rent it out to someone else. But this is only my personal experience and could have been only bad luck.
In fact there is a bright side to a house/lot though. I do miss those times where I was inviting my friends over for an outdoor BBQ party in my garden or where I enjoyed sitting outside and work looking at the palm trees, my baby banana tree and all the rest of the planted greenery. It felt nice but now, years on, I just enjoy closing the door of my condo unit behind me and relax, being able to live worry free for all the time I want to stay away. If I come back after 6 months or 1 year at least I am sure that all my things are still there and that there is no repairs and maintenance works to do. That’s just peace of mind. Priceless. On top of that most condo developers offer a property management service which could take care about the rental of the unit in my absence shall I wish to make some money while I am abroad. This is probably most convenient for OFWs or pure investors. These units are then rented out fully furnished and are completely looked after by a professional team.
Understandably everyone has different needs and dreams in life so personally I don’t have a prejudice between house/lot, condo or even hotel apartment. I can only talk about my personal experiences. It is clear though that a condo lifestyle has certain advantages and it is spreading more and more into the Filipino countryside, out of the main hubs of Manila, Cebu and Davao. Fortunately there are now additional options developers in secondary offer to its clients including in cities like Cagayan de Oro.