Starting a life in the Philippines is wonderful once you find yourself a place to call home. But before you hand over the cash and sign papers, it's vital to understand the legal limitations set forth by the Government of the Philippines. Foreigners can legally acquire real estate in the Philippines, but it's necessary to understand the law or hire a quality lawyer. Do your research before you invest!
Before buying property in the Philippines, you should know your stuff. Read below to get started on your research.
The most direct option to foreign ownership is to purchase a condominium, which is a hybrid type of ownership that falls outside traditional legal structures - making it easier for expats to own property in Palawan.
With conventional property, you own the structure plus the land on which it sits. If you buy a condo however, you only own the condo unit itself – NOT the land beneath it. That's why some expats prefer to invest in condominiums, as there are typically less restrictions to ownership. The Philippines' Condominium Act specifies that foreigners can own condominium units, as long as 60% of the units in the building are owned by Filipinos.
Foreign nationals can legally own houses and other types of buildings in the Philippines but they are prohibited from owning the land on which it sits.
To work around this, you can buy any freestanding house - but you must lease the property from a Filipino. Under the Investor’s Lease Act of the Philippines, a foreign national can enter into a lease agreement with a Filipino landowner for a long-term lease with an initial period of up to 50 years. Under the Lease Act, there can be a one-time option to renew for 25 years.
Corporations can own land in the Philippines, provided Filipino citizens own at least 60% or more of the company. The rest can be owned by a foreign partner or a group of partners. Corporations that meet this equity stake requirement must first register with the Philippines Government Board of Investment (BOI) for permission to buy, sell, or act as an emissary in any legal transaction (not difficult to establish).
Corporations can own a variety of real estate investments such as commercial farms, tourism developments, residential investments, restaurant space, beachfront property, apartment units, lifestyle blocks, or subdivision blocks.
Real estate transactions always involve more than just the price tag. If you buy property in the Philippines, you can expect to pay several fees, including:
Capital Gains Tax – 6% of the residence's sales price, zonal value or fair market value, whichever is highest. This is normally paid by the seller, but it some instances the buyer pays it, or it ends up rolled into the sales price.
Documentary Stamp Tax – 1.5% of the sales price, zonal value or fair market value, whichever is highest.
Transfer Tax – 0.5% to 0.75% of the sales price, zonal value or fair market value, whichever is highest.
Title Registration Fee – varies according to a published registration fee table; generally around 0.25% of the sales price.
*fees and percentages may not be currently accurate - these things do change so it's always best to do your own research.
If you're a foreign-born national, there are several options for entry into the Philippines property market. We advise all buyers to invest in establishing a relationship with a trusted property lawyer
In summary, non-citizens can acquire property in the following ways:
Buy a condominium unit
Be married to a Philippines citizen
Buy a house and lease the land beneath it
Buy as part-owner of a corporation in the Philippines
Just lease a house, lot, or property up to 75 years