Why I am Not Recommending SMDC to my Friends

So far, three friends already asked me if I recommend SMDC. My answer was neither positive nor discouraging. But for some reason, I felt relieved when I found out that they ended up buying a property from another developer.

That made me realized that I don’t really want to recommend SMDC to my friends after all.

It’s been over a year since I moved into my unit at MPlace, South Triangle. I have been blogging about my experiences, which is overall I’d say, also neither satisfied or unsatisfied.

In this post, I am writing a review about being a unit owner of an SMDC property.

What I like about SMDC

I wanted to be very fair in my assessment, so let me start by highlighting the things that I do appreciate about SMDC, or at least with MPlace.

1. Location

MPlace is just two blocks away from an MRT station. ABS-CBN is our neighbor, and we are sandwiched by two major roads – Timog and Quezon Avenue. Needless to say, I couldn’t ask for anything more in terms of location.

This is true for most, if not all, SMDC condominiums around Metro Manila. This is their biggest asset which I think even outweighs the fact that Sarah, Kim, and Anne are/were their celebrity endorsers.

2. Security

I work in the afternoon until early morning, and I would often be greeted by a sleepy security guard who would ask for my name and my unit number as I enter the building. That would go on for a week, will stop for awhile, and will happen again when a new guard is assigned on the night shift.

I find this annoying so I sent an email to the building administrator and explained my case; I attached my photo for their “reference”. I was never asked the same questions again.

Delivery guys are only allowed at the lobby. Whether a tenant likes it or not, they will need to pick up all deliveries at the reception. And we are required to meet and fetch our guests in the lobby too.

I understand the tight security, so while it is an inconvenience sometimes, I’d rather be safe than sorry.

3. Rules on Pool Usage

Only owners and registered tenants are allowed to use the pool for free. Guests will need to pay Php150 if they want to go swimming.

I find this to be ridiculous initially until I realized that Pinoys are fond of inviting guests to their homes. And by guests, we are talking about an entire clan, if not the whole Barangay.

Imagine them all jumping into the pool if it’s free.

The strict rules about the use of swimming pools are just and fair as there are also owners who don’t invite in guests regularly.

Before moving to the things that I don’t like. There are several others that I am 50-50 with:

Cheap Finish – my previous exposure in building construction and design, despite being far from extensive, gave me a critical eye towards substandard building materials. I understand that SMDC is not a high-end condo developer so I take that into consideration. Besides, most of their units are unfurnished and they now put emphasis on “bare finish”. This is to give buyers the impression that they could freely replace everything during interior renovations, as they wish.

Small Windows – I prefer big windows for an open and airy feel. But I figured, I am mostly asleep during the day, so I guess small windows work for me at the moment.

What I don’t like about SMDC

I’ve read all these horror stories in online forums and other blogs, and I never thought I would also experience them myself. When I did, I realized that SMDC is consistent when comes to not meeting their client’s expectations.

1. Delayed Turnover Schedule

I thought I was prepared for this as I did not really expect them to follow the original turnover date that they set.

True enough, it was rescheduled twice. And before they would send me the next rescheduling notice, I gave them a deadline. They complied because I started talking about the leaks on their ceilings.

2. Water Leaks on Ceilings

Yes, this is for real. And upon Googling “SMDC leaks”, it looks like this is already an SMDC trademark.

They kept on moving my turnover date because it turns out that the unit below mine has a defect. There’s a leak on their bathroom (supposedly coming from my bathroom), and Engineering thought that they should fix mine. The unit owner won’t sign the turnover papers unless the problem gets fixed.

Engineers visited my unit only twice in the span of three months. In the fourth month, the Admin texted me and asked when they could start the renovation. I demanded that they get me a unit or a hotel room to stay while the renovation is going on. They never contacted me again.

A few months later, I found out that the owners already moved in. I feel bad for them.

3. Malfunctioning Elevators

All four elevators in our building were in good condition when I moved in. I understand that maintenance is needed from time to time, but when the service elevator stopped working and was never fixed, I thought that confirms the management’s inability to address issues quickly.

Everyone can use all elevator cars including the service elevator. Now that only three of them are serving 28 floors, tenants would encounter long waiting lines at the elevator lobby. And yes, all of them can now be used as service elevators too.

4. Poorly Laid Hallway Tiles

This alone is more than enough reason for them to let go of their “5-star living” tagline.

Hearing a cracking sound when I step on the floor tiles in our hallway is rather amusing. They eventually replaced the tiles surprisingly in two batches, over six months apart.

5. Very Poor Customer Service

I have a lot to say about this because I was once a customer service representative myself. I understand why some SMDC clients are fuming mad about how bad the customer service is.

The answer is, most (NOT ALL) of these agents don’t really care about your problems. They are just there to answer calls or emails, not to fix leaks on your ceilings or process the title of your property. They simply are passing on your complaints to different “concerned departments” which probably are understaffed with tons of work to do.

This explains why you need to repeat yourself every time you call. And the agent for sure have already heard thousands of similar issues from other customers before, so they are so done empathizing and apologizing.

In the end, the poor customer service is still accounted for the fact that different departments across SMDC are seemingly inefficient at addressing their client’s concerns.

Conclusion

So, why am I not recommending SMDC to my friends? Simple – I do not want them to go through the nightmares that many buyers, including me, have experienced. Nonetheless, this is not to say that other developers are not causing their clients headaches too. I’m sure, none-SMDC condo owners have some horror stories to share as well.

Our building is being managed by a third party. Again, this is comparable to a company whose customer service is being handled by a call center (which is a third party).

All the company’s customers will be dealt with at the call center. Their grievances and complaints will be falling on the deaf ears of the call center agent on the other line. It is the call center’s job to limit escalations that will reach the management of the company itself. In short, it is their responsibility to “block” customers from directly contacting the company.

Hence, I won’t be surprised if the SMDC guys are not even aware of the details of their client’s complaints. Everything is being held in the Project Management Office, and SMDC is probably just receiving their reports in the form of charts and PowerPoint presentations. As in any business, their concern is only on the highs and lows of Php figures on those sales reports.

My advice? Don’t get a condo if at all possible, invest in a house and lot instead.

Saving on Condo Interior Design and Renovations – Part 1



While still looking for a condominium two years ago, I was already thinking of how the interior of my unit would look like. I even contacted my friend, and told him that I’ll be needing his help. He’s an Architect, and he laughed at the idea of designing the unit for me for we were classmates back in college. Yes, I didn’t pursue a career in design and construction despite earning the degree.

After the unit turnover, things didn’t go as planned and I moved in to my new place without doing any interior renovations. I am putting that off until I get to earn enough money to do it.

For a few months, I was thinking of hiring a professional and let them do all the works. I’ve seen several interior designers whose rates are reasonable, and their works are quite impressive. But six months later, it looks like I’d be going back to utilizing whatever is left of what I learned from studying Architecture for over five years.

Yes, hiring an interior designer is definitely advisable especially if you are not too sure about what you want to do with your space. However, I decided that I’ll be my own interior designer in order to save on professional fees. I will then look for a contractor to execute my design, and slowly start decorating and furnishing my unit from there.

Most of these contractors are experts on what they do. You show them the design, and you can be sure that they will be able to give you the finish product. The best part is, they pick and supervise their own workers themselves so that saves you a lot of time and headache too.

Aside from checking their sample works, one tip when looking for a contractor is to see if they have previous projects for spaces which are similar to yours. For me, I started looking for past renovation jobs done in our building, and that led me to finding several of them on Facebook. The fact that they have already experienced dealing with our building management means that I wouldn’t be needing to show or guide them about the process. In short, they’ll do all the paper works too!

I am looking forward to starting this project this year. I may not be able to afford a fully renovated and furnished unit by the end of the year, but I’ll start with the basics:

– I’ll have to design a floor plan of my unit, which I will be discussing with the contractor. I am no longer updated with building materials, so I will rely on their recommendations.
– This renovation will include: partition for one bedroom, ceiling design, customized closet and kitchen cabinets, countertop, kitchen tiles, bathroom renovation.
– Mirrors to create space.

– Lighting.
– Paint jobs.

I figured, it would save me money to settle for a basic finish and continue with the rest later on. I am going for an all-white finish, and work on this color by choosing the right pieces of furniture. If it won’t work, I could easily make changes with the help of wallpapers. There are many types of wallpapers available which anyone could DIY. Instead of the usual framed artworks, I am looking at printing photos from my photography archive and hang them on my walls. I have tons of photographs in my hard drives to choose from.

I wish the first IKEA branch in the Philippines will open this year. But according to the Facebook post by the Philippine Star, it will be opening in 2019. Last year (2017), IKEA announced that its first branch in the Philippines will open soon. News about its location were quick to spread, and lots of netizens were guessing that it will be in Cavite or Laguna. We’ll the first IKEA store will be built right next to the Mall of Asia Arena:
The parking lot between the MOA Arena and SMX Convention center will be developed to be the location of the first IKEA store in the Philippines, and the opening date will be in 2019. The second store is said to open in Fairview to serve #North residents.

How much does this interior renovation cost? I’ll update this post as soon as I have the complete breakdown. I’m excited to see how much I could save by designing the unit myself. I am hopeful that my contractor could execute the job well; I will be posting their contact details here too.

Cebu Pacific GetGo Debit Card by UnionBank Review

When my home loan from UnionBank was approved, I was required to open a savings account with them. My monthly amortization payment is to be automatically debited from the account; I thought this is more convenient instead of issuing checks, post dated or not.



At that time, they have just launched a new product called the Cebu Pacific GetGo Debit Card by UnionBank which the bank representative suggested. Instead of a savings account that requires an initial deposit and a maintaining balance of Php50,000, this option has no maintaining balance. This product is also tied-up with Cebu Pacific, so every point you earn from using the card automatically goes to your Cebu Pacific GetGo account.
Basically, you will get two cards – the Cebu Pacific GetGo card, and the UnionBank GetGo debit card itself. I am not really monitoring my GetGo points, but after over six months, I only earned 93 points. I’m guessing, auto-debit transactions are not counted.

Personally, I am only using the debit card for its initially intended purpose, but I just recently added it as a payment option to my Uber and Grab bookings.

Fast facts about the UnionBank GetGo Debit Card:

  • No maintaining balance, no initial deposit.
  • Unlike the BPI debit card which is only valid for two years, this one is valid for five years. There is an annual fee of Php500, I have yet to find out if this can be waived as my card is just 8 month olds (I will update this post by the end of 2017).
  • Your points are converted to Cebu Pacific GetGo points (Php88=1point).

On how to apply or to know more about this product, visit https://getgo.unionbankph.com.

Buying a Condo Unit: What You Need to Know

Unless you are filthy rich, buying a property in the Philippines, like a house and lot or a condominium unit is quite a big decision to make. You are putting your hard-earned money in to something which you hope and expect to be all worth it. You will then make countless inquiries, talk to agents, and look for information everywhere that may be of use to you.

I am 99% sure that that brought you in this page. You may have already read them all – tips about what to consider, what you should be looking for, the location, the developer, the building or development type. I am here to talk about the actual buying experience – from the day you made the deposit, to that big moment of being handed over with the keys to your unit.

I am not an expert in real estate. In fact, the only thing I could share are my experiences as a buyer. And as of this writing, I am still going through the process of getting past the “move-in” phase. For some, it probably went pretty well. I have several friends who didn’t have any big issues to deal with.

And so, if you are a condo buyer-to-be, I hope that what I am sharing would help. Note that this is based from my personal experiences alone, and is certainly not the same for everybody. Let’s start with:

1. Pag-IBIG or Bank Financing?Again, unless you are buying the condominium unit in cold cash, you will be relying on the help of banks or Pag-IBIG to finance your home. Some developers are tied-up with Pag-IBIG, which means they will do all the paper works for you. The big ones, like SMDC and Robinsons, are not. I tried to transact with Pag-IBIG and I got overwhelmed with their list of requirements. Nonetheless, it would be helpful to inquire from them in advance to see how much you could borrow; this will all depend on how much your monthly income is.

Related Article:
Pag-IBIG Housing Loan: How Much Can You Borrow?
Buying a Condominium in the Philippines: In-House or Bank Financing?

Banks have lesser requirements, but your monthly income is of course still the biggest factor. Google “home loan calculator + name of your preferred bank”, and you will get links to the bank’s home loan calculator. Almost all banks have this in their websites. From there, you could get an idea of how much you could borrow and how big your monthly amortization be. Those are just estimates but not very far from the actual figures.



2. Credit HistoryBanks definitely check your banking and credit history. Pag-IBIG also do the same, but probably not as rigid as banks. Do you have unpaid or deferred credit cards? I did. It has caused me huge trouble but thankfully, I was able to fix it. CLICK HERE to find out how I cleared my credit card balance with HSBC.

Unfortunately, no bank will approve your home loan application if you have an unsettled credit card balance or other unpaid loans (with any bank). The good news is, they will honor a Certificate of Full Payment or “bank clearance”, you will find more details about this in the above link.

3. Co-borrower/s

When BPI approved my home loan application, they offered me Php1.7M. This is the maximum amount they could lend me based on my monthly salary. It was Php900,000 short as I needed to borrow Php2.6M. For some reason, they did not consider my sister as a co-borrower so her salary was not factored-in in the computation.

I submitted my application to UnionBank and they accepted my sister’s documents so she became my co-borrower. Since my sister is married, her husband’s signature was also needed in all the forms. Thankfully, he was cooperative enough, that is upon reassuring him that we will not hold him responsible of anything (although legally, he actually is).

Related Article:
What is a Consularized Special Power of Attorney?

So, unless your salary is big enough to cover everything, you may need a co-borrower to get approved of the total amount that you need. If you are not married, your parents and your siblings are the best and recommended options.

4. Processing Time and Move-in ScheduleSo your bank already approved your application, congratulations! The processing time from the day you signed the bank forms will take a month, or more, depending on how quick your developer responds and transmits your papers to your bank. Your first monthly amortization also normally starts a month from the day you signed the documents. Therefore, if your unit is advertised as ready for move-in, you should already be talking with the developer about your move-in date before you start paying the bank.

Related Article:
Buying a Condo Unit: What You Need to Know
Condo Living: Expectation vs Reality

In my case, my first monthly amortization is on December 29th. SMDC contacted me in January the following year targeting end of February as the turnover date. Come February, they contacted me again saying they are moving it to March. Imagine how furious I was when I received another letter in March stating that the turnover date was changed to April! I started calling them everyday trying not to be irate. I was at my wits when their contact center agent revealed that it has been rescheduled to May.

After several emails and phone calls, they eventually agreed to let me move-in in April 26. Yes, I had to make threats.

5. Move-in Fees and RequirementsYou will be paying a move-in fee which is often the three-month equivalent of your monthly dues. This is not an advance payment so you will still continue paying the monthly dues on your first month. Depending on the developer, you may also need to install the basics – grease trap, range hood, fire extinguisher and white curtains before you are cleared to occupy the unit. I talked about all the fees that you will encounter when buying a condo in this post:

All the Costs You Need to Know Before Buying a Condo

Are you also looking for a condo? Which developer? I hope you find these information helpful.