Filipinos' home ownership dreams still alive despite COVID-19 pandemic

Warren de Guzman, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 31 2021 06:54 PM

MANILA - Property specialist Melani Macabalang has been working toward buying her own home. But like the many here in the Philippines, her dream was put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the new year coming, Melani is hopeful of finally making her dream a reality.

She believes things have turned a corner, and it shows in her own real estate sales. 

“Gumaganda naman tayo ngayon kasi open naman po ngayon, hindi masyadong katulad last year na masyadong complicated ang panahon, ngayon ok siya ngayon," Macabalang said. 

(Sales are doing pretty well because it's open these days. Not like last year where it was too complicated. It's better these days.) 

Macabalang said more affordable and easy to avail loans and multiple promotions launched by developers have helped boost demand. She added, prices were affordable, especially when compared to prices before the pandemic. 

“Nag-a-advise lang ako sa mga gusto mag avail, wag tayo matakot, hangga't mababa kumuha tayo. At hindi naman natin kailangan i-cash," Macabalang said. "Marami ho tayong pwedeng pagkakuhanan through bank, Pag-IBIG, meron in-house.“ 

(I advise those who want to avail a home that they should not be scared of getting one while prices are low. And we don't need to pay in cash. There are many sources of financing--through banks, Pag-IBIG, and in-house.)

Though the prices of single, detached and duplex houses are going down, the recently released Residential Real Estate Property index of the Philippine Central Bank showed prices have actually increased by an average of over 6 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021. The price indices for condominiums and townhouses are rising, with townhouses in particular becoming much more expensive.

Prices in the National Capital Region also remain higher compared to properties in the rest of the country.

Part of the reason for the increase in prices is a surge in demand, as more buyers look to take advantage of cheap loans and developer promos. BSP data show loan availments have also risen in the third quarter of 2021.

Real estate firm Colliers said they expect demand for property to recover in step with the reopening of the economy. In a research note the company released earlier in December, they projected rising demand in Northern and Central Luzon, thanks to large government infrastructure projects.

"In the next 12 to 36 months, we see the completion of major infrastructure projects such as the NLEX-SLEX Connector, North-South Commuter Railway, and the Central Luzon Link Expressway (CLLEX) likely benefitting key provinces in Northern-Central Luzon, including Pampanga and Bulacan," Colliers said. 

"These will be complemented by the completion of Bulacan International Airport and expansion of Clark International Airport. Aside from improving connectivity, these infrastructure projects should also raise land values outside the capital region.”

The forecast however is dependent on a successful reopening of the Philippine economy. This is currently under threat due to the recent surge in new COVID-18 cases, and the arrival of the omicron variant in the country.

Melani said it was very difficult for her and for her prospective clients to even focus on buying real estate during the worst times of the last two years. 

“Maraming nawalan ng trabaho, di tayo makapag labas kaagad. Sa halip na makapag trabaho, nakakaipon tayo, nag stop.” 

(Many people lost their jobs, and we couldn't get out immediately. Instead of working and saving money, everything stopped.)

Unemployment and underemployment also remain high, and insufficient income is a big problem for aspiring home owners like Joji Moises and Eddie Rivera. They both work as couriers -- an industry that has benefitted from pandemic lockdowns and mobility restrictions. But they are still having a hard time saving cash for their dream homes.

Joji is very optimistic and hard working, but he has to provide for his four siblings and his child. He also wants to buy a home inside Quezon City, which is on the expensive side. 

“Ang plano ko talaga mag ibang bansa ako. Yan ang balak ko para matugunan ko ang lahat ng pangangaliangan ng kapatid ko tsaka anak ko po,” He said. 

(I ultimately plan to work in another country. That's what I plan to do so I can take care of the needs of my siblings and my child.) 

Eddie, meanwhile, has three children and a stay-at-home wife. But aside from taking care of their daily needs, Eddie has a more urgent need to relocate them to a safer place. 

“Malayo kasi ang inuuwian namin, ang inuuwian namin nababaha, tulad ng Bagyong Ulysses, lubog ang bahay namin kaya gusto po namin lumipat sa iba.” 

(Our home is far away and gets flooded. Like during Typhoon Ulysses, our house was flooded so we wanted to move somewhere else.) 

The Duterte administration's pandemic recovery plan is centered on the safe reopening of the economy. That is pretty much the same plan for many Filipino families as they strive for homes to call their own. 

Data suggest a strong economic recovery would also result in higher real estate prices. But if the pandemic persists, it will be just as hard for home buyers to realize their dreams.