Can Foreigners Own Property in the Philippines?
More and ever more “foreign” folks, such as myself, have an interest in buying property in the gorgeous Philippines. There are various factors as to why this is so:
– The tropical climate
– Investment opportunities (the land remains extremely cheap in general)
– A particularly cheap cost of living in comparison to Western nations (and it’s vastly more affordable than the likes of Hawaii and the Caribbean)
– It’s such a dam gorgeous place!
This question of land and home ownership has been on my mind relatively persistently of recent. Reason being that my Filipina partner resides in the Philippines, together with my young son, Josiah.
That’s all well and good but the problem arises due to the fact that I am British. And for foreigners to own property (land and house) in Asian countries in general can be either problematic or not possible to achieve.
Thus, even though I’ve briefly delved into the phenomena of buying some property in Asia, to date, I’ve not been especially serious in the endeavor of true ownership.
Well, that’s about to change. My Filipina partner has been on about the idea of investing in some land and then building a house in Minglanilla – a small town that rests about 15 miles or so from central Cebu City – the second city in the Phils after Manila.
And honestly, the thought of it does appeal to me. I could see myself in my retirement years sitting of an evening out on the verandah sipping my San Miguel and choking on cigar smoke, whilst being slaughtered by brigades of mosquitoes as they hone in on the white skinned gweilo/ ang mo thoroughly intent on passing on any diseases they may be hosting.
So, if I were to pour the necessary thousands of hard-earned into some land and the building of a house in the Philippines, could said property actually ever belong to me – be in my name?
The answer to that is “yes… and no.”
Yes, apparently I could own the home – the structure and its contents. However, I couldn’t own the land on which it rests. Huh? Go figure!
Filipino citizens are at liberty to buy Filipino land, but foreigners cannot. And although there have been many proposals proffered to alter this frustrating scenario, as of yet, the scenario remains as was and always has been since the time Ferdinand Magellan first arrived in 1541. Not literally, of course.
It is stated that the simplest way that a foreigner can own property in the Philippines is to purchase through a Filipina/ Filipino spouse. But then, that does not equate to having property in their own name, does it? What if something goes awry with the relationship, then where will the foreigner be? Left totally wanting, is the answer to that!
Nevertheless, let’s say you were married to a Filipino citizen. Let’s say you did acquire some property in the Philippines and you acquired in your spouse’s name. If you were the natural heir to their estate, then said property would then legally be yours.
And this same rule applies to children whether legitimate or otherwise. If the child’s father or mother is a naturalized Filipino/ Filipina, irrespective the child is not a citizen of the Philippines, they could still inherit the property.
And yes, you can, as a foreigner, purchase and own up to a 40 percent stake in a condominium project. A far more complex situation than merely having a desire to invest in some land and build a house thereupon.
Renting Land in the Philippines as a Foreigner
So, let’s presume that you, as a foreigner to the shores of the Philippines, still wished to own your own home there.
In which case, as stated, you could successfully do so. However, you cannot own the land on which the home sits – not in your own name, anyhow.
Therefore, you would have to rent the land over the long term, which is inclusive of an initial period of 50 years, and that becomes renewable on a 25-year basis upon conclusion of those first 50 years.
Legal ownership of the property on the rented land would indeed be to that of the foreign entity. But again, the land on which the property rests could only ever be rented by a foreigner.
So there you have it. As it stands right now, you can own a home in the Philippines as a foreign investor. But you cannot own the land that the home sits on, unless it passes to you on the death of your spouse.
Hmmm… Not sure about you, but to me, this plight is far from ideal.