After living in Europe for nearly two decades, I came back to resettle in Manila three years ago. Manila is a city with a teeming population, relentless traffic, pollution way over the global norms, a city so built-up with hardly any public place left for nature to thrive.
There were lots of decisions to be made, which is always the case when you make radical changes in life. I spent a month of soul-searching, wondering, asking myself whether I could still call this place home.
Despite Manila’s external disadvantages, the feeling of belonging I got from moving back to the Philippines and being in my own culture was indescribable. That was the clincher that made me decide to make it my home again.
But where was home going to be exactly?
I thought of buying a place in Cebu where my family resides. Makati? I lived and worked in this city before I left the Philippines. But there were also other places that I considered like BGC, Rockwell, QC, and suburbs in the south of Manila.
This was my decision process.
1. Know Yourself
A mentor once told me that life was not complicated. He said,
“First, you need to know what you want.
Second, you need to organize your life so you get what you want.”
Easily said but difficult to execute, although after following this advice several times through the many major transitions in my life, I can safely say that I’ve gotten better with practice.
These were some questions I asked myself when I fleshed out what a dream home meant for me, considering everything from a broad perspective to the details:
- How was my life going to be in terms of work, private life, interests?
- Did I want to live in a condo or a house?
- How big a space did I want?
- How much could I afford?
- How soon did I want to move in?
- Did I have a social network in an area I was considering?
- What was the demographic profile of my potential neighbors?
- Other considerations were the water supply, power supply, flooding issues, accessibility to public transport, hospitals, and airport.
2. Talk to Family and Friends
Ask family and friends about their opinions. Ask them how they decided on such matters. Use them as a sounding board and see what they think about your own thought processes. I am lucky because I have a number of opinionated people in my life who I know care about me.
When I told my family that I was thinking of resettling in Cebu, my siblings including my dear mother, said in unison, “Why?” Then came a waterfall of “your friends are in Manila, your work is in Manila, you’ve lived more years in Manila than Cebu, what are you going to do here in Cebu…”
Thank God for a family that believes in plain-speaking and cariñong brutal, and who have my best interests at heart!
3. Location, Location, Location
Scanning through the places I was considering in Manila, I very quickly decided on Makati. I used to live here, and even though it has changed so much over the years, there are many familiar landmarks still. Even the Ayala Triangle which I now call the Ayala Trapezoid, is still recognizable.
Besides, I did not see myself braving the harrowing traffic situation day in, day out.
4. Decide on the Kind of Property that Fits Your Lifestyle
I did not consider living in a house for two reasons: 1) because I couldn’t afford it, and 2) because I did not want to be bothered about security and maintenance issues.
Surfing real estate platforms, I informed myself about what was available in the market and the price range of the condo of my dreams, adjusting those dreams if they were not realistic. I shortlisted those that I wanted to view, and then scheduled viewings with real estate agents.
These are some of the property websites that I trawled:
Of course, you can go straight to the developers themselves like Ayala Land, SM Development Corporation, Rockwell Land, Robinsons Land Corporation, Shang Properties, DMCI Homes, Megaworld Corporation, Federal Land, and Century Properties.
It’s always good to let people know about your plan to buy a condo, a sort of crowdsourcing. You can also ask your friends and acquaintances for references and leads. That’s what I did, and that’s how I found my dream home.
5. Taking a Closer Look at Your Kind of Property
My dream home was going to be a condo. But which one? I visited many, and these were the questions I wanted answered:
- Who is the developer?
- How old is the building?
- Where is it located?
- What does the neighborhood look like?
- What are the facilities in the building? Are they maintained well?
- What condo layout fit my lifestyle the best?
- How did the price in relation to square meter space compare to the other properties?
- How much were the monthly association dues?
It would help if you would be able to talk to someone who lives in that building. Chat with those people you see in the reception area. Or you could also talk to the people responsible for the management of the property.
6. Do the Math
There are many other expenses to consider, and not only the price of the property.
Once I decided which ones could be candidates for the dream home, I did my own calculations, not only for the purchase but also the recurring costs when I get to live in the condo. You need to know not only if you can afford to buy the condo, but if you can afford to live in it as well:
Costs of Registration – Documentary Stamp Tax, Transfer Tax, Registration Fees, incidental and miscellaneous expenses incurred during the registration process
Realty Tax on your condo + parking which you need to pay yearly
Condo Fees – association dues, membership fees, if applicable, share of realty tax on the land where your condo is constructed, and share of realty tax on common areas
Renovation Costs – If you want to renovate the property before moving in, get an architect or interior designer to give you a quote for the design and construction. Then you need to add 20% on top of that because chances are there will be construction budget overruns.
If you are taking out a bank loan, read the fine print of any document the bank gives you. Don’t be shy about asking questions. Don’t even bother thinking that your questions may make you look stupid. You are taking out a loan, and it is you and only you who will be responsible for paying it so UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE GETTING INTO.
7. Feel that Energy
I experienced moving five times in three different countries within three years. This does not count the many other moves I made during the other years of my life. So I do consider myself an expert in feeling the energy of a place.
What do I feel when I enter a space? This is something I ask myself when I consider changing my home.
I check myself from head to toe what it feels like to be in that space. This isn’t New Age; this is as ancient as Feng Shui, “a Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing everyone with the surrounding environment.” Everything is made of energy, including you. So try to feel if your vibe and that of the space work well together.
8. Make an Offer for your Dream Home: Don’t be Shy About Negotiating
I knew I was ready to make an offer because it worked out not only with the math, but also with the lightness I felt thinking about living in my chosen condo.
This is a huge investment you are about to make so you should take your time. Don’t be shy about asking the owner or his representative that you visit it more than once. You need to check it out during different times of the day so you will see what it looks like from morning to evening.
Negotiate the price and/or the conditions of the purchase. You should know the price per square meter of the property you are interested in if you did your research well, and use that as basis for your negotiations.
It would be good to know what the seller’s objectives and goals are, and to test that with yours. If there are commonalities, it would be easier to find a way forward to a creative solution that benefits both of you.
9. Celebrate Being a New Homeowner
When you are successful in buying your dream home, go out and celebrate with family, friends, and “angels” who have guided you and helped you on this journey. Celebrate because you are entering a new phase in life.
Take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the dreaming stage: How do you want your home to look like?