Owning property in the Philippines

What can I own and what are the conditions?

Expatriates are not able to own land in the Philippines but you can get around it by using long-leases.

What can an expat own?

The only property an expat can buy is a condo or high-rise apartment. Condos or condominiums are apartment blocks that are governed by rules, that as a community living there, everyone must abide by. Condominiums are increasingly common in all cities of the Philippines. A foreigner can buy a condo unit, but 60% of the total units in the building must be owned by Filipinos.

Foreigners can also buy houses but not the land they are built on. They can however long lease the land for 50 years. This lease can then be renewed for a further 25 years. This has a higher risk than buying a condo as there are many ways the lease can be challenged should the land owner change his or her mind.

How can an expat own property?

There is a visa called the Special Resident Retirement Visa (SRRV) that means you can own property. It costs around $1500 for the application and $400 a year to renew it. It gives you all the benefits of a resident meaning you can own a business and property. It is cheaper than living in the Philippines on a tourist visa and you get more benefits.

You do have to deposit money in a local bank account with the amount varying between $10,000 and $50,000. The exact amount depends on your age and your pension status, there are different types of SRRVs with differing conditions.

Expats can buy land or property through a company, providing the company is 60% owned by Filipinos.

The exceptions to the rule that only Filipinos or majority Filipino owned companies can own land are:

  • If the property was bought before the 1937 Constitution
  • If you are a legal heir to a Filipino person you can acquire their land when they die

The third option for foreigners is to put the property in the name of a Filipino spouse. There can obviously be problems if your marriage breaks down or your spouse dies, in which case the land is lost to the expat. If you chose this course you must always remember that legally your spouse owns the land and you will have no claim over it if your marriage breaks up.

You could also denounce your citizenship and become a Filipino citizen. To do this you have to have lived continuously in the Philippines for 10 years. This would mean you can buy property as you like. Though this may be a somewhat extreme step if you haven’t already considered it.

Further reading

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