Allow me to talk about the expectations versus realities of condo living in the Philippines this time. For this topic, I will turn to SMDC since I am dealing with them first hand. Nonetheless, I think these are generally applicable to the all developers, and if you are a condo owner, you may have the same or better experiences than me. Let me list down a few points on the expectations and realities about buying and owning a condominium unit from SMDC.
1. Let’s start from the inquiry phase, always check for “other charges”.
To be fair with my agents, they were vocal about these charges from the very beginning. I am glad that this was upfront else, I would also be calling it a “hidden charge”. From the initial breakdown of fees, other charges, although not itemized, is already listed. Make sure to always ask about other fees when you do not see it in the initial or sample computation. You do not want to be surprised with these fees when they suddenly appear in your payment schedule later on.
2. The unit itself
Because the building was already built by the time I was making inquiries, my agent was able to arrange a viewing schedule within two days. I get to check the unit, and had a glimpse of the building amenities.
I am not using a photo of the model unit since I already know that that is not what the actual turnover unit will look like. The floor plan is pretty accurate although I was a bit disappointed that a huge part of columns and beam are exposed. If they say 30 square meters, do not expect to have a livable space of exactly 30 square meters. A good portion of that space is covered by walls, columns and beams.
3. Payment terms
My agent discussed the different payment terms and I opted for the 10% downpayment, and 90% bank financing offering. The 10% downpayment is payable in one year. I recommend that you start applying for bank financing way before the downpayment gets fully paid. In my case, I started submitting my home loan applications to different banks after six months. It was a good move for me as it took me awhile to get an approval due to a credit card issue which I discussed in this post:
How to Get a Bank Clearance for Your Credit Card
Payment terms are one of the things that agents talk about first when you inquire. If you are a serious buyer, your agent may be able to arrange a special term for you with his supervisor or manager.
Now, on to the stuff that you will never know during the inquiry and buying phase. You only deal with these as they happen, and it may need you to be very patient sometimes.
4. Unit turnover
I was initially promised of a turnover date not later than February 2017. It has been moved twice, and before they would contact me for another rescheduling, I made numerous phone calls and emails with my demands. I was eventually allowed to move-in in April 2017, already four months into paying my home loan amortization. In one of their letters, April is just the target unit completion date, not the actual turnover date.
This is probably the worst experience that I had with SMDC so far. Anyone who could relate?
5. Move-in fees
Prepare at least Php25,000 for the move-in fees. This will cover advance payment of monthly dues, and a few other requirements such as fire extinguishers, grease traps, vent, and curtains. Verify with your agent that the other fees I mentioned above already cover utility expenses (water and electricity installations), otherwise, you will be also be paying those separately. If that’s the case, Php25,000 will not be enough.
It’s been almost six months since I moved-in. In general, my expectations are being met so far. The two swimming pools get cleaned at least once a week, and conditions regarding the use of pools by guests are quite strict. I do not mind paying for my guests for pool usage for as long as everyone else does. This explains the almost empty swimming pools during weekdays, and only get crowded on weekends.
SMDC condominiums are a bit congested so I already had my expectations before I moved in. I am a bit surprised that there are not much elevator traffic which is great. The lobby is sometimes full of people lounging but not really a big deal for me. MPlace is probably the only SMDC development I know that doesn’t have a gym.
7. Admin and Staff
From what I see, most of the staff including house keeping and security personnel are courteous and polite. There are a few exemptions, such as the impatient lady at the building admin office but I don’t take that personally. I haven’t experienced or witnessed anything extreme happening.
8. Cleanliness and Maintenance
The lobby and other common areas get cleaned regularly. I don’t know how often they conduct pest control, but they’ve done it once in the past six months. I live in the top floor and I often notice water leaks from the ceiling at the middle of our hallway during heavy rains. In the past three months, I received visits from engineering due to yet another water leak in the unit below me which is supposedly coming from my bathroom. I am not sure if these have been fixed. Coincidentally, I have also heard similar stories from unit owners of other SMDC condos. Our office building is also owned by SMDC and water leaks from the rooftop and pipes have been a problem since we occupied the building in 2014. It took them over two years to fix those.
My educational background is Architecture, so I know a thing or two about design and construction. I understand that these are unavoidable, but the manner at which a developer or contractor respond and address the issue sets them apart from the others.
9. Your neighbors
We had a general assembly last July but I was not able to attend. It would have been a good opportunity to get to know other owners. Of course some people are just untidy, they would sweep strands of hair out of their rooms and leave them in-front of their units expecting the house keepers to pick them. There are also tenants who would leave their doors open while cooking, and would litter bits and pieces of onions at their front door. I’m glad the unit owners next to me don’t do that. Our floor is not that noisy except for a few occasions where interior constructions are being done, which I understand.
Pets are not allowed, in case you are wondering. I have a friend who wanted to inquire from SMDC but turned to other developers since she can’t be without her pets.
Visitors are required to sign the logbook and their hosts need to meet them at the lobby. While it is a bit of an inconvenience, I like the fact that all deliveries can not go beyond the lobby too. Nonetheless, tenants may request for especial arrangements such as when he or she is sick. A form needs to be signed and submitted for every piece of large furnitures and appliances that you bring in. The same is required when bringing them out. Some tenants feel that security is too tight, but I do not have any problems with that.
11. Free Wi-Fi?
Free Wi-Fi at the lobby. All I can say is, it is slower than the Wi-Fi signals at all SM Malls. I thought, it was due to multiple connections but I would try connecting when I arrive from work (which is always around 2AM or 3AM), but the speed is the same.
Overall, living in a condominium despite all the negative notions and opinions is actually good. Yes, it is not perfect and the realities are sometimes far from what you see in all those advertisements. But personally, the security and convenience are more than enough to convince me that I made the right decision. For someone who have been renting for over a decade, it is comforting to know that I am actually paying for my own property now. And every time I fill out a form that asks for my personal information, I can’t help but smile when I put a checkmark on the “owned” box instead of “rented” beside the Home Ownership field.
Do you have condo living experiences that you’d like to share? Feel free to comment; let’s help future condo buyers make their decisions.