Filipino buyers face eviction as Chinese move into condos
Developers and property managers clear entire floors of residential buildings to accommodate the request of Chinese buyers amid the influx of foreign nationals working for the so-called Philippine offshore gaming operators or Pogos. Condominium prices also escalated beyond the reach of ordinary Filipinos, with a 26-square-meter studio unit now being sold for more than P6 million in the Manila Bay Area. Most banks require a family to have a minimum monthly gross income of P90,000 to avail of a P4.8-million housing loan with a 20-year repayment period for a P6-million studio unit provided they have ready cash of P1.2-million representing the 20-percent downpayment. An inter-agency task force led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III found that some 138,000 foreign nationals were employed in Pogos, but others believe the actual number is much higher. Most of them live in residential towers. A real estate agent said a developer with existing projects in Manila and Mandaluyong City was offering units to Chinese buyers, although such units were already reserved by local buyers and overseas Filipino workers. The developer announced that the project was sold out two years ago, yet continues to talk to Chinese buyers to this day. The agent said OFWs were particularly finding it more difficult to comply with the requirements of the developer, forcing them to give up the units. The agent said OFWs were vulnerable because they could not suddenly return to the country to meet all the requirements prior to move-in such as the payment of miscellaneous charges amounting to more than P100,000 and excessive interest rates due to delays. Miscellaneous charges pertain to the cost of processing the documents and are on top of taxes. Developers subsequently face mounting complaints from homebuyers because of the delayed turnover of the units. A buyer who reserved a unit in a Manila project as early as 2014 claimed that after completing his downpayment, he learned that the unit was sold to another buyer. After he filed a complaint with the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, representatives of the developer did not attend the meeting, forcing him to consider a legal case against the developer. “I lost my money to this developer,” he said. A local buyer said in a Facebook post that she was being charged more than P200,000 in interest rates because of the delay in the turnover of her unit which was caused by the developer. Apparently, she was not alone. “They’re charging me for penalties and interests starting mid-2016. Really shady or otherwise very incompetent billing department. They are the ones who caused the delay, and we are the ones made to pay for the penalty,” another buyer said. Another buyer said: “It was a lot of headaches. There were charges that suddenly appeared related to the delay in the turnover, but it was they who caused the delay. We had a lot of queries, but they were difficult to talk to.” A buyer said in an online forum that the turnover of his unit was two years delayed and he was forced to file a complaint with HLURB. “We are now looking for a lawyer that can help us out,” he said. Other buyers, however, said nobody at HLURB was responding to their repeated calls to complain about the delay in the turnover of the units. Other participants in online fora dedicated to real estate projects said many developers were guilty of reneging on their promises. A cause of the delay in the turnover of the units to local buyers is when Chinese buyers come knocking at the door of the developer with a generous offer to buy whole floors of a condominium building at a certain premium. These Chinese buyers are usually businessmen who will rent out the units to Pogo workers. Such generous offers by Chinese buyers are driving condominium prices in Metro Manila to the roof, particularly in Pasay City, Parañaque City, Manila, and Makati City. Leechiu Property Consultants said mainland Chinese investors are now the top buyers of condominium units in Metro Manila. Such a strong demand is expected to continue for the long term with improved ties between Manila and Beijing, it said.