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The right to own a real estate property in the Philippines

Thursday 25 March 2004, by catseye

Based on the standard Philippine law on acquiring a real estate property in the Philippines, Foreigners or non-Filipinos don’t have the right to own real estate properties in the Philippines. As an alternative, however, marrying a Filipino national is the easiest way for a foreigner to obtain real estate properties in the country. They may either share equal rights or the Filipino spouse owns 51% or more and the foreigner gets the rest. In this case, further information on special visas for foreigners who may request an entire ownership is necessary.

If the foreign owner desires to hold the title as an individual, the title usually falls under the Filipino spouse’s name and the foreign spouse’s name which was not indicated in the title at least appears on the contract as the buyer of the property. In case of death of the Filipino spouse, the foreign spouse is given a reasonable time to sell the property and collect the proceeds or else the property will be given to any Filipino heir and or relatives.

Foreigners are given the right to own houses or buildings for as long as they don’t own the land on which the house or building is built. Foreigners therefore may legally own their houses or buildings but lease the land on a long term contract. A foreign national and or corporation may enter into a lease agreement with Filipino landowners for an initial period of up to 50 years and renewable for another 25 years.

For foreigners to have 100% ownership of condominium and townhouse units, few qualifications are requested before buying the property. The buyer must be at least 35 years old and must meet the bank’s investment requirements. The amount of the deposit/investment and processing fee needed depends on whether or not the foreign buyer is married to a Filipino. Being married to a Filipino citizen of course allows almost all the investment privileges like those of Filipino citizens.

For land ownership, only Filipinos and corporations (at least 60% Philippine-owned) are permitted to obtain such property. Foreign acquisition however is tolerated on special cases:

• When the property was acquired before the 1935 constitution

• When the property was acquired thru inheritance

o This means that the foreign acquire is a legal or natural heir, which further means that when the Filipino spouse dies, the foreign spouse eventually becomes the legal owner of the property. This is as well applied to the children. Every natural child (legitimate or illegitimate, Filipino or non-Filipino) can inherit the property of his/her Filipino parent.

• Purchase of not more than 40% interest in a condominium project

• When the property was purchased by a former natural-born Filipino citizen subject to the limitations approved by law

o Former natural-born Filipino citizens, or commonly called "Balikbayans", are allowed to own a maximum of 1,000 sq. m. of residential land and one hectare of agricultural or farm land, a maximum of 5,000 square meters of urban land for business purposes or three hectares of rural land. Married couples, both or one of them may avail the privilege given; the total area acquired shall not exceed the maximum.

In the case of a transferee who is already owning an urban or rural land for business or other purposes, he/she remained a transferee provided that when added to those he owned shall not exceed the maximum.

• Filipinos who are married to foreign nationals and who retained their Filipino citizenship, unless by their act or omission, have given up their Filipino citizenship.

• Dual citizenship allows the citizenship holder full rights of ownership of Philippine real estate property, which further means having two citizenships and passports from two different countries. It is applied to individuals who are naturally born Filipino citizens, but have immigrated to another country and have obtained citizenship of that country.

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