7 Useful Tips when Buying a Condo Unit

James Ryan Jonas

Here’s a list of things you should consider before buying your first condo unit. For most condominium unit buyers, price is definitely a major issue, but trust us when we say it should NOT be the only issue!

We’ve lived in several condos before — in Makati, Ortigas, Quezon City, and at The Fort BGC — and based on our experience, here are several factors you must consider before purchasing a condo unit.

Feel free to add your inputs to the list!

Seven (7) Things to Consider when Buying a Condo Unit

Tips when buying condo in the Philippines

1. Location, location, location

When buying real estate, condo units included, a major factor a potential buyer should consider is location, location, location. The location of the condo greatly affects, one, the potential of price appreciation and, two, access to conveniences.

The Makati area, for instance, being the business center of the Philippines, has always proven to be a good investment area. At The Fort BGC, meanwhile, prices of real estate have skyrocketed in the last few years.

Here’s an actual example. A friend paid P2.5 million for a condo located at McKinley Street inside The Fort BGC back in 2007. Just one year later, the going rate for the same unit is P3.5 million — a huge 40% price appreciation. Now, in 2017, similar units are being sold for P5 million. That’s a whopping 100% price increase!

The location also determines accessibility to needed comforts and conveniences. If you value convenience, get a condo unit that has easy access to restaurants, schools, banks, or hospitals.

Our previous condo in Buendia, Makati is strategically located with access to two restaurants, three fastfood chains, and four convenience stores. “Access” here means ability to go to those places by foot in under 10 minutes from the unit. Most of these establishments are open 24/7 which meant I had no problem if I needed to grab a bite at 2 a.m. The downside, however, is the traffic and noise because, during the day, the area is busy with cars and people.

Our new place at Bonifacio Global City (BGC), however, is quiet but away from all the conveniences. The nearest McDonald’s outlet is six blocks away and if I need to buy groceries, I’ll have to go to Market! Market! or SM Aura which is a 5-10-minute drive. But the good thing is, we’re far away from the annoying sounds of passing vehicles and the chaos of traffic.

2. Track Record and Reputation of the Developer

Tips when buying condominium in the PhilippinesFor condos that are still in pre-selling stage, the reputation of the developer matters a lot because it ultimately determines whether the condo will actually be completed. There have been cases of condo projects in the past that halted construction because the developer ran out of money. In such a case, it might be difficult to get your money back.

For condos that are already ready for occupancy (RFO), the reputation of the developer can tell you if they are committed to work with the condominium homeowners’ association to help manage the condo. Condo management means adoption of effective security measures, strict implementation of condo rules, and proper maintenance of the building.

This is not an endorsement but Ayala Land, Robinsons Land, Megaworld, Federal Land, Century Properties and DMCI, among others, have proven themselves to be reliable real estate developers in the Philippines based on their ability to turn over condo projects to homeowners within predetermined dates.

3. Parking

If you think condo units are expensive, wait till you hear how much parking spaces cost.

In our Makati condo, a 9-square-meter of parking slot costs P400,000 to P500,000. Yup, around half a million pesos for a tight parking space. In BGC, some parking slots sell for P600,000 to P1.5 million each. 

If you can afford it and if you really need to have one, get it. It could appreciate in value or provide additional income in the future if you lease it out, assuming you will no longer use it. But if you think the price is too much, renting a parking slot may be the next best thing. Rental rates for a parking slot normally range between P3,000 and P10,000 per month.

Inquire with your condo’s property office how to rent one or ask other condo residents if they are renting out their unused parking slot.

4. Noise

In a condo, you share everything with the residents — elevators, swimming pool, playground, garden, etc. That includes the noise as well.

When our new neighbors upstairs moved in, I could hear their footsteps almost everyday during the first week. One time I opened the windows, I was greeted by the screaming blast of karaoke from the residents below us. One Sunday morning, I was woken by the sound of the drilling machine in the unit next door.

The good thing is you can call the guards on duty to complain about these concerns but, honestly, it gets tiring if you’ll have to do it every time. If they will stubbornly continue despite repeated complaints, you’ll either have to live with the noise or file an official complaint against the unit owners with the homeowners association or the building administrator.

It only goes to show that living in a condo does not necessarily mean you can get away from the noise and bustle of the city.

5. Amenities and Population Density

A condo may be expensive because of the amenities it offers. Normal amenities include swimming pool, gym, children’s playground, function room, and the like. Assess whether the price you are paying corresponds to the value of the amenities available to you.

Tips when buying condominium in the Philippines

Be concerned about the population density of the condo. “Population density” refers to the number of people per available unit area. In a condo, this translates to the number of residents sharing amenities.

Of course, the more residents a condo has, the less space is available to you. For example, the swimming pool at our BGC condo can comfortably accommodate only eight people. Put some more and the pool will start to look like a can of sardines.

It also has four elevators and normally I wait 1-2 minutes before I can get on one. Two of the elevators broke down one day, and I had to wait more than 10 minutes because the working elevators stopped at every floor. 

Our gym only has two treadmills, so if I want to use one but both are not available, I’ll have to wait a few minutes until the other residents are done or choose to use other gym equipment instead.

In short, the more people living in a condo, the more inconvenient it gets because you’ll have to share the same amenities with more people.

6. Association Dues

Living in a condo means paying an additional expense every month: the association dues.

This represents your contribution to the shared costs incurred by all condo owners, such as electricity in common areas, water used in swimming pools and to water the plants, wages of security guards, janitors, and maintenance workers, among others.

The association dues are usually a fixed amount multiplied by the total floor area of your unit AND your parking slot, if you have one.

Our monthly dues at our Makati condo was P50.00 per floor area while at BGC, it is P80.00 per floor area. So for our 40-square meter Makati condo, association dues were P2,000 per month (that’s P50 x 40 sq.m.), while for our 40-square meter BGC condo, the association dues were P3,200 per month.

Make sure you pay these dues on time because like credit cards, the penalty interest rate for late payment ranges from 1-4% per month. That is a hefty price to pay for late payments.

7. Rules and Regulations

As a resident, you are bound by rules and regulations applicable to all residents and tenants of the condo building.

Some condominiums, for example, totally disallow pets and animals of all kinds. There are condos that forbid tearing down a part of your unit or changing the color of your wall. Some condos allow residents to use the swimming pool or the common area up to a certain time only. Parties inside residents’ units are allowed but normally have to end before 10 or 11 p.m. Know your condo rules prior to buying so you won’t be surprised by the regulations once you have moved in.

Again we reiterate, if you’re looking to buy a condo unit, don’t be concerned with price alone. Several things must be considered so you won’t feel shortchanged or disappointed with your purchase. The list above may not be exhaustive but we hope this gave you an idea on what to look for before buying a condo.

Happy condo living!

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James Ryan Jonas teaches business management, investments, and entrepreneurship at the University of the Philippines (UP). He is also the Executive Director of UP Provident Fund Inc., managing and investing P3.2 Billion ($56.4 Million) worth of retirement funds on behalf of thousands of UP employees.