A Foreigner’s Lost Real Estate Investment
A Sad Story that Could have Been Avoided
Last week I came across a foreigner’s lost real estate investment story that though sad, could have been avoided with some very simple foresight. I recount his story here as a warning to those foreigners out there that are looking at making an investment int real estate in the Philippines, that if you don’t take the proper care ahead of time, you might just be throwing your money away.
Our office was recently approached by an Australian man that wanted us to list his beachfront property in Oslob, Cebu and after being shown some pictures and being told the price he wanted, we were immediately interested. My initial assessment was that it was considerably undervalued and was the type of property that was in high market demand. A good opportunity? Not so fast! One of my first lessons in the real estate industry here in the Philippines was not to get too excited about a property until the full details were clear and this was a prime example of why.
Turns out, this man had purchased 2 properties, the one in question as well as a house in Cebu City. Those purchases were made with his own money but were put in the name of his wife without any thought that at some time in the future, the relationship may falter. Well it did and currently he is estranged from that wife. The very simple unalienable fact though is that his wife now owns those two properties. Though this was a situation I clearly know now to avoid , I decided that this opportunity was so good that a visit to the wife was warranted to see whether there was any way a deal could be worked out.
As I pulled into the property, I immediately knew that there was no hope. The house was being occupied by members of her obviously extensive Filipino family. Brothers, Sisters, Grandma, and cousins all had staked out their claim to portions of this impressive beachfront house and outbuildings and were enjoying the hell out of it. Having already made the trip, I did decide to at least get the ex’s feeling on the matter so sat down with her in what ended up being a very short discussion. Simply put, she felt jilted and harbored some serious resentments by the departure of her foreign husband. As an outsider, the deal he was offering whereby she would get to retain full ownership and rights to the house in Cebu while he would get the proceeds of a sale of the Oslob, certainly seemed fair and equitable, but the stark reality was that she was determined, and is completely protected by Filipino law in her stance, that she would now keep everything.
Now this Australian fella wants to hire an attorney and fight his estranged wife but from all accounts I have ever heard, that will just be an exercise in frustration which will just benefit the attorney’s bank account.
This of course is as mentioned earlier, a sad but true story that has been repeated over and over again by foreigners who have made an investment into property in the Philippines only to have that investment completely disappear. I could pour my heart out to this guy and and all those before him, and complain endlessly about the unfair restrictions on foreign ownership of land here in the Philippines but really that is pointless. I would rather use his story as an example of why, like in any other country, with any investment, the investor has the responsibility to do what is possible to protect his investment, before the money is spent.
The true facts are that, though their are restrictive foreigner ownership laws here in the Philippines, there are ample, absolutely legal ways to protect a real estate investment. These ways should be explored and implemented BEFORE an investment is made in the Philippines, whether it be for real estate or any other investment vehicle.