'Buying Philippines Property – Download a free sample chapter!

The Philippines property market is positioned to generate the strongest property price increases over the next 10 year thanks to ongoing economic and administrative reforms by the Arroyo government. The ASEAN countries have yet to exhibit the price gains of Western markets, which is just another sign that this super cycle is far from over. The current credit crunch will provide a great opportunity to profit from property foreclosures.

Buying Philippines Property 2010 - Download the table of contents or buy this 2-volume eBook at our online store for just $US19.95.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Girls struck by food poisoning

Several NZ girls were struck by food poisoning after eating in a ChangMai food market, in Thailand. One of them is already dead, and the other two are recovering in hospital. Food preparation standards are not high in Indo-China, so I suggest if you are eating in such markets in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam or Laos, you observe a high level of caution, and know exactly where your closest international hospital is because the doctors are idiots (in rural area particularly).
I ate at a local food store. It was owned by the parents of a girl I had met. I met with all their friends at their English school. I was concerned, but got food poisoning regardless. I broken into a bad sweat. I went to a local clinic, but no one spoke English, and the doctor seemed to have no idea. I thought I had some iodine difficiency because I had some discolouration on my skin, but that was just an old bruise :)
Anyway, I jumped on the first bus to Hanoi and went to the international hospital and was attended to by an American doctor. Problem resolved straight away.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Return of expatriates

There has been a 27% increase in the number of expatriates returing back to Australia. This will be a global phenomenon because of the loss of high-paid jobs in the UK, USA and Japan. The financial meltdown is likely to see a plethora of new job entrants in industries like finance, programming in particular, particularly in countries like Australia, NZ and the Philippines.

They are not however leaving their host countries at a bad time necessarily. The crisis is going to get worse on the job front so I would expect that these people might be the lucky ones. The good news is that they will be returning to weaker property markets. If they are cashed up, they can enter the foreclosed property market with some zeal.
Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com

Thursday, March 6, 2008

And the winner is Singapore ??? Sydney runner-up

Check out the latest results of a survey of Asian executives for the best cities to be based - see http://edition.cnn.com/2008/BUSINESS/03/05/singapore.life.ap/index.html. The winner was Singapore, followed closely by Sydney. Sydney trails because of its isolation from Asia. Well I would argue that there is a hell of a lot more to do in Sydney in terms of sport, arts, entertainment. But if you want to run home to family, yep ok Singapore wins.
Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Living in Australia

I think Australia would have to be one of the nicest places in the world to live. But like every country it has its strengths and weaknesses. Starting with the strengths:
1. Best beaches: Australia would have to have the best beaches in the world in terms of natural beauty. If you are looking for a more ‘cultured setting’, outside Sydney, this is hard to come by. Eg. Bondi and Manly are good.
2. Temperate: Australia has a very comfortable climate because of its warm sun, dry cool breezes. In Sydney, you need only wear heavier clothes for 1 month. Very mild, with a few humid days a year only. You don’t need aircon.
3. Space: Australia is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, so there is a lot of clean air, wilderness areas, and generally a lot of space
4. Quiet: Australia is a very harmonious society, people might be noisy, but there is plenty of space to express, so no problem
5. Support: Australian government offers good services, with libraries, public entertainment facilities, free access to a lot of recreation areas.
6. Scenic: Australia is a very scenic country due to well maintained parks and urban environments. Its relatively clean because of its sparse population, and general respect for the environment.
7. Relaxed: Australian people are very easy-going, so it’s a pretty friendly place, but they are not very curious, engaging, or broad-minded in their range of interests. They have very firm ideas about what they want, and are not easily swayed. Their social networks evolve around work and school. When they change jobs, they change (drinking) friends. Very deep!
8. Purchasing power: Australia is a little expensive in terms of purchasing power. It has deteriorated in recent years because of a lack of competition, easy monetary policy, though there is still a lot you can do for free. Telcos are not cheap, but otherwise utility costs are low.
9. Service culture: Australian service is ok, though deteriorates in rural areas, though it is improving as the urban influence spreads.
10. Clean: There is not so much pollution in Australia. A non-issue really because of the small industrial base, and its dispersed. Cars create a little pollution in the largest cities, but not problematic
11. Transport: Roads in Australia are very good, rail is slow and expensive. There is little traffic. You really need a car if you live outside the major cities.

There are of course the negatives:
1. Regulated: Australia is a highly regulated society, and some of these regulations impose great costs or burdens on people. Despite the amount of land available, its expensive because of zoning (development) restrictions. You wouldn’t want to live in the cheap areas, eg. No roads, services or jobs, unless you can run an internet business.
2. Insular: Australia since WWII has lost its notion of community ‘voluntary’ services, particularly among the aged. The elderly are not as active as they once were, instead they appear very indulgent – in activities and diet.
3. Decadent: Australians are a little insular and soulless. I seldom have any interest in talking to them. They are easy-going, but not very interesting. Very superficial, decadent. Its just a very care-free place to live. It needs a war to inject some character into the place.
4. Dispersed: The country is so BIG it really is a hard place to get around and see. You can travel great distances and see very little – particularly there is a lack of cultural eye-candy.
5. Under serviced: The country is under-serviced for tourism. You might drive past a scenic spot, but you would never know because it hasn’t been developed. This can make the travel experience a little boring and shallow. Very predictable. If you like the outdoors though, you will not be disappointed.
6. Isolation: Australia is a little isolated from other places – though it is close to NZ
7. Dryness: Australia is desperately in need of water after years of drought. The average rainfall has been falling for the last 50 years. Hopefully it will turn around because its getting a little brown!

Expat Living in Japan

I lived in Japan for around 2 years at several locations in and around Tokyo in the last 4 years. Mostly I lived in apartments before finally buying my own house. My ex-girlfriend was Japanese, which made life easy, though on a previous occasion I lived in company accommodation for 9months. There are some huge challenges living in Japan, though these tend to be overcome within the first 3months. Mostly they relate to getting accommodation, cell phone service, etc. Anyway, let me start with the benefits:
1. Convenience: Japan must be one of the most convenient countries in the world. Its hard to find yourself too far from a 7-11 store (or equivalent), drink vending machine.
2. Beauty: Japan is an incredibly beautiful country, with its quaint village communities, tree-lined rivers, mountain scenery. Ignore what you hear about Japan being a concrete jungle, there is considerable wilderness, its just that Japanese people scarcely travel in their own country. Its expensive for them.
Japan Rail offers foreign tourist visa holders the opportunity to travel around on train services at subsidized rates.
3. Diet: Japan has a diet and grocery store selection very familiar to westerners. Whilst the range is not as good, and the prices very high, the servings small, you will not have trouble finding foods you like.
4. Transport: Japan has the best rail service in the world, though train services in the countryside, like other countries, is not as good, but its always on-time.
5. Peaceful: Japan is quiet and harmonious. With the exception of drunken old men, the place is very quiet – all the time, and that’s despite the high population density. It is quiet everywhere. The exceptions are places like Nerima or Shibuya, where you have fire or police sirens blaring, political and local government announcements.
6. Activities: There are a lot of activities you can do in Japan. My advice is find things you can do cheaply, eg. Biking, canoeing, hiking, and embrace the services of the local community centre, library, they are free. Japan is extremely bike friendly, whether it’s the cautionary vehicle drivers, the empty suburban streets or the plethora of good quality paving, its easy to get around. The blind corners do however limit the speed unless you are in a farming area, then it far better.

7. Safety: Japan is without a doubt the safest country in the world – never came close to danger, though I probably deserved a beating sometimes. People are very compliant. Never encountered any yakuza.
There are not so many public spaces in the cities, but the best place is along the rivers. Though these are very stale, homogenous environments.
8. Climate: The Japanese climate has a strong seasonal influence which makes for a refreshing change. Its not too cold in winter – though it snows in Tokyo
9. Infrastructure: Japan has the best infrastructure – in fact public projects are a source of corruption scandals. I have often wondered was it necessary for that highway to go out to sea, for there to be 3 bridges within 1km of each other, for a 20km tunnel when there is little traffic.
10. English friendly: Japan is an easy place to live as far as getting around. A lot of signs are in English. Some people are exceptionally friendly, most pretend not to understand....even your Japanese. Most people speak some English, though they are often too shy or uncomfortable using it.
11. Government support: Japan offers foreigners support through local government offices, though it very much depends on the prefecture, as often there are few foreigners. For technical or government assistance, expect some reluctance to deal with you. Businesses are generally very unhelpful, though this has created a thriving business in ‘gaijin service businesses’ and online support forums to help foreigners, eg. Japan Guide.
12. Expat support: Japan has a great expat community – a fun place to go out!

13. Accommodation: Foreigners can experience discrimination when it comes to getting accommodation. If you face this, search for 'Gaijin Houses', as they offer cheap accommodation for short periods. They tend to be in the main cities only. Leo Palance is an option, but the conditions might put you off, and it might be difficult without a Japanese sponsor.

Now Japan also has its challenges, of which I found the following a particular burden:
1. Japanese traffic moves at a snails pace – glad I don’t drive
2. Architecture: Japan urban architecture is very boring – all the homes are the same kit home style. It appeals because its unfamiliar, but it’s the same everywhere in Japan.
3. Superiority: A lot of Japanese people are condescending, arrogant and distrustful of foreigners, whether its because of fear, resentment, ignorance or national pride. But then there are a good many kind-hearted, thoughtful people whom will go out of their way to help. These people tend to have had a meaningful or protracted ‘foreign experience’.
4. Service: Japanese service is generally good, though in certain instances its shockingly bad. If you need technical assistance, you will encounter sales staff (generally women) who have no idea. Westerners tend to be more fussy about capacities perhaps, or is it just me. But ask them non-standard questions, and they don’t know, but they will say ‘yes’ anyway, so always get a 2nd and 3rd opinion, and ask guys if you have a choice because they are generally more technical.
5. Rigidity: Japan is a highly regimented society. The bureaucracy is nightmarish close and fussy. Fortunately if you are sponsored to work there, you wont have to deal with them, so this is a Japanese problem.
6. Purchasing power: Japan is very expensive. Buying food at the supermarket is really pricey, the servings are small. Japanese have hollow cheeks until they eat overseas..wich is kinda nice. Best diet strategy I can recommend. Eating out can be expensive, so I mostly ate at izakayas (drinking venues). Eg. The Hub is good to meet expats. Utilities are another big expense – specifically the telephone and electricity.
7. Discrimination: Discrimination is ever-present, though it’s a little different from western-style discrimination. Firstly the government for political reasons creates the perceptions that foreigners are the cause of all crime, but there is a great deal of ignorance and fear in Japan because of the insularity. You might encounter discrimination entering a bar “No foreigners” or problems renting an apartment. Don’t expect a direct rejection. You might enter an empty restaurant and they will say no spare seats, or require you to have booked. If they are directly racist, it might be for the sake of their regular customers. Anyway I think they open themselves to more mocking with such signs. I always go in and make a scene anyway.

Living in a Philippines condo

Having lived in a Philippines condo, there are several positive and negative comments I can make about the experience. On the positive side:
1. They are cheap – in Manila you will generally pay P50,000-100,000 per m2 (USD1200-2400/m2) for a condo, plus another P0.4-0.6mil for a car space, sold separately.
2. Self contained – You live in a bubble, and the walls are generally thick enough that you will hear little of the neighbours

The problem with condos is:
1. Pollution: They are generally located in polluted cities. The exception is regional cities like Tagaytay and Baguio.
2. Shopping: You might think you are well serviced by a nearby shopping centre, but I have come to view Filipino shopping centres as really boring places. They are so generic, always the same franchises. Boring!!!

Planning to acquire the condo you want is important. You might think that the developers have international consultants. Maybe so, buy often the designs are so tight the space is not functional, and you might need to buy special mini-furniture to live in the space. Most condos are designed for a non-educated market. Some suggestions to make:
1. Living space: Its not nice living in a box. If that’s all its for, just a few odd nights, then fine, a studio is all you need. But for living, you really need higher ceilings or a loft style, at least 40m2. Preferably you want an outside area, like a podium. Eg. Oriental Gardens in Makati has an appealing one. Of course you want natural light.
2. Air conditioning: Most apartments come with aircon, or provision for it. Make sure there is also aircon in the public spaces, otherwise those spaces will get hot, particularly if there are inner condos venting waste air into the corridors. Other condos have an atrium, but no inner condos is good too.
3. Car parking: I think you definitely want to own a carspace, if not immediately, buy it later because it will add value to the condo. Why? There are not so many cars in the Philippines. But there will be more in future, so expect demand for those fixed spaces to rise.
4. Elevators: Make sure there are enough elevators, and determine which levels they service. Some condo buildings have elevators servicing different levels, say 2 running B,1,2, 17-35 and 2 running B, 1, 2, 3-16. Try to buy a condo in the middle. You don’t get street noise and you can use all 4 levels in peak usage periods. Understand that Filipinos often stack extra family in these condos, whether to pay for them, or as a gratuity, but the result is greater pressure on the condos than they were designed for.
5. Security: Ensure you live in a condo with security. They should be at the door, and patrol all levels occasionally. If someone breaks in, there should be cameras, and the neighbours should know to call security.
6. Fit out: Note that most condos are sold off the plan. If there is a model display you will note that the developers use mirrors and small furniture to make the condo look more specious than it actually is. When you visit, consider whether your furniture will fit. Also its preferable to buy without fittings because rest assured the fittings they provide will be poor quality.

Living in the Philippines

I have been living in the Philippines with my girlfriend for a year now. Living in a developing country is a bit of an adjustment, though its easier for me since the Philippines is English speaking, I have had the assistance of my girlfriend’s family and I am accustomed to living overseas, and traveling to developing countries. The Philippines offers some big positives:
1. Proximity: The Philippines is centrally located in Asia – if that’s where you want to be. It has a number of discount airlines providing cheap linkages. There are heaps of MTB trails and few fences to hinder exploration
2. Cheap: The cheaper cost of living and setting up a business
3. Good public transport: Cheap and convenient public transport – be it ferry, bus, jeepney or tricycle. Its very easy to get around. Out in the countryside, its easy to pick up a lift. My bike got a flat tire, a guy offered me a free ride home. The buses are pretty tidy, though have a shower after the trip to avoid skin diseases.
4. Good expat life: The Philippines has a good expat lifestyle, though that is true for most places outside your own country. The problem is most of the expats are dirty old men looking for a root before they die.
5. Culture: The live music is great in the Philippines. I’m sure the gay humour and the like would mean more if I spoke the local language. No chance of that. Access however is limited by bad traffic.
6. Fairly safe: Contrary to popular opinion – I don’t find the Philippines unsafe. Though I do worry if I pass a group of young, poor guys in the countryside when I go mountain biking alone. Particularly when they are carrying machetes to break open coconuts. Also walking around quiet areas at night, in poor shanty communities, unfamiliar neighborhoods, or when there are no people around. Some of these communities have drug and most have drinking problems financed by relatives overseas. You could argue its more dangerous in west Mindanao.
7. Respectful: Westerners are treated with more respect, though there is often mocking attached to it. Kind of like they see me as someone’s sucker. Eg. I regularly have McDonalds breakfast, and they often treat me with my own newspaper. Kind of feel like a king. Military people and security guards are very respectful.
8. Easy going: Filipinos are generally very affable, easy-going people, very tolerant

On the negative side:
1. Unhealthy meals: Its difficult to buy restaurant meals with vegetables, poor variety
2. Poor variety: Supermarkets have food familiar to westerners, however the range is narrow, and the imported foods which foreigners prefer, are not cheap. You pay a premium for good looking vegetables. There are few healthy dietary products of any merit.
3. Bland shopping: Shopping malls are bland, dominated by the same franchises, 70% of them serving fried chicken with no vegetables.
4. Traffic congestion: The traffic is terrible, long delays, and I wouldn’t think of driving here – except maybe in the countryside. Too scared to hit people, and nobody sticks to their lanes, and they routinely overtake
5. Food poisoning: I often seem to be getting food poisoning. Had two bouts of diahorrea in the last 4months.
6. Pitiful service: The owners of the dept stores think that if staff greet you every 10secs - that that is service. McDonalds and city areas tend to be better. Service in boutique, upmarket stores and restaurants is good.
7. Power outages - we can have outages that last 4-8hrs outside Manila. Paying your bill requires you to go to head office. Some outages are just 15 minutes.
8. Disconnections: Telcos have a monopoly, so dont expect good service. I often seem to be loosing my internet connection whether I’m in the countryside or Manila.
9. Noisy: The noisy is terrible in suburban areas, whether its trucks, jeepneys or tricycles on the roads, barking dogs, kids playing, families singing karaoke or roosters crowing at 1,2,3,5,7,9AM, or your neighbours running a noisy cheese factory, you will be lucky to escape noise. At Xmas you can expect a ‘chorus’ of poor kids singing Xmas carols – and they don’t top until you pay them off. That’s where apartments are better, but they are mostly only in the polluted city. This is all made possible because Filipinos are very tolerant of such things, they just accept it. There are no by-laws governing noise levels, though I do have limited recourse to the Homeowners President and the Barangay Chief. But really there is no protection. If I complained, there would likely be retribution because I am surrounded by the landlord’s relatives.
10. No public green spaces: There are few public spaces to escape to in the Philippines. Basically if you see a green space, its a future condominium site, owned by the top 100 wealthy people. You’d think that all land is privately owned. Lack of planning or development zoning regulations means that all sealed roads have urban development along them. Strangely the natural agricultural areas are hard to get access to in areas bcause all road arteries are congested by local family traffic on tricycles. The only development-free roads are the tollways and they are poorly maintained. The only green spaces in Metro Manila are around Intermuros, plus 5 private golf courses and the University of the Philippines. There is the odd vacant lot around the airport, but they will be developed in time.
11. Bad pollution: The trucks, jeepneys and tricycles are very polluting, so street level pollution is very bad, even if its low ambient pollution in the countryside.
12. Poor Infrastructure: Few areas actually have good roads, paths, even the national highway from Manila to Batangas is potholed and swerves ceaselessly. The road from Manila to Subic has just been upgraded by the Japanese. Though the road floods at EDSA North after rain.
13. Smelly: There are a range of smells in the Philippines, whether its the outtake air of aircons, sewerage, split garbage on the streets, dog shit everywhere, the squalour of slum areas. People burn their household rubbish in their backyards, so the smoke causes eye irritation.
14. Purchasing power: One of the benefits is cheapness, but then living here you might wonder because everyone expects a tip from you, and they charge you accordingly. Eating foreign foods is as expensive as eating in the west. Rent and transport are cheap.
15. Humidity: This can be a bother in certain areas – but there are cooler places like Tagaytay, Antipolo, Lipa City and Baguio City.
16. Work ethic: Filipinos can be counted among the least productive workers in the world. They are not terribly ambitious, they tend to place more emphasis on socializing and have a strong sense of entitlement that the employer’s role is to take care of them. They will ask for loans to support sick parents, take days off without notice, and if you don’t have a trusted manager, they might give in to such demands.

Its interesting to ponder whether this needs to be the case. You might well find that perfect place as I did, but then it only takes a neighbour to undermine your personal harmony. The problem is the lack of institutional protection, which is based on weak cultural values. I dare say if you are wealthy or committed to living here a long time, you can buy a 2500m2 property and build a 3m high fence wall around it. The fence will cost you $30,000, the house $40,000. Not bad, though buy your own materials, and get local advice, otherwise they will scavenge off your exposed carcass.
This is what happens in developing countries. I realized this is the case because:
1. There is no service culture
2. There is no planning
3. There is a tolerance for corruption and a poor personal ethic that is allowed to permeate all government agencies
4. Governments have supported certain business interests or crony friends in big business who support them. Therefore you wont see a local biz selling out to a foreign company. But foreigners will help them for marginal gain, or because they rely on them for network backups.
5. Poor people live close together – that undermines harmony
6. Poor people are less considerate because its generally their recreation or job which would be lost if they couldn’t work from home
At the end of the day, you can always pay more to get what you want, but that is no guarantee. Of course the world isnt perfect. The question is what would get you closer? What ethic would people have?

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