For most property development firms, tapping Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and the expatriate community is a worthwhile investment. This is particularly true today, with the increasing value of the US dollar against the Philippine peso, since these niche markets have even more capacity to acquire properties in the country.

With more than 10 million Filipinos based overseas, OFWs represent a sizable segment of potential property buyers in the Philippines. The United States, for one, tops the list of countries that has the most number of property seekers looking for properties in the country, as revealed by Lamudi’s exclusive data, followed by Canada and Australia. OFWs in the said countries are most likely looking for properties in the Philippines either as a form of investment or in preparation for retirement.

Digital Property Seeker Series: The Market Outside the Philippines 1

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Given that more than a million OFWs leave the country annually, the bulk of which are bound for the oil-rich Middle Eastern nations of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Kuwait, Filipinos who belong to this segment of property seekers and potential buyers have the resources to realize their dreams of becoming property owners.

When it comes to long-term property rentals, the growing number of expatriate communities in the Philippines is a potential strong market for property developers. While a bulk of these expats are based in Metro Manila, particularly in Makati and Taguig, there are also a growing number expat communities in cities outside the metropolis such as Cebu, Davao, Angeles, and Baguio. Since many of these expats are now opting to stay in the Philippines for good, they are likewise seen as potential property owners.

Growing number of expatriates 

The growing number of expatriates living and working in the Philippines and the continued Filipino diaspora are some of the key factors that are contributing to the country’s changing property landscape. With this, property development firms are doubling efforts in developing projects, not just in the Greater Metro Manila Area, but also outside the metropolis as the demand for properties continue to grow. And as the  American dollar continues to soar high against the Philippine peso, many property firms are expecting to attract the expat community and OFWs into becoming property buyers.

From giant property firms to boutique real estate companies, property developers are targeting these segments of the market with a tailor-fit approach to suit the needs of these potential buyers and long-term renters. With more than 10 million Filipinos who are based overseas and an estimated one million leaving the country annually, it’s no wonder then that many property firms are hoping to cash in on the financial prowess of this segment of property buyers.

The same holds true for members of the expat community in the country as potential buyers. With a majority of them enjoying their stay in the country and finding it easy to integrate themselves into their respective communities, these expats are not only seen as long-term renters but also as potential owners of residential properties, especially those who plan to make the Philippines their permanent home. While many of them are based in Metro Manila, they are now slowly showing interest in bustling economic areas outside of the metropolis.

Expats

From country directors and start-up founders to business consultants and diplomats, majority of the expatriates in the Philippines find it easy to integrate into the local community. About 72 percent of expats in the Philippines who were surveyed in the 2018 Expat Explorer Survey of the HSBC Expat Country Guide have found it easy to assimilate in their communities, thanks to “the friendliness of the locals, a good selection of international schools in the country, a relatively inexpensive private healthcare as compared to other cities overseas, extensive travel opportunities that allow them to explore a variety of islands, as well as the country’s strategic location as a launch pad to neighboring Southeast Asian countries.”

However, there are no exact figures as to how big the group is. In 2011, the Bureau of Immigration pegged the number of foreigners who visited the country at 3.5 million. While it is hard to tell how many of those are expats, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority that the same year estimates the number of expats at about 220,000. American citizens continue to top the list in terms of the number of expats based in the Philippines although the number of Chinese expats is reportedly on an upswing and could even surpass the number of American expats in the country. This doesn’t include those who are from Taiwan or Hong Kong. Other large groups of expats who are based in the country are the Japanese, Koreans, Indians, and Europeans.

Majority of the expat communities are still based in Metro Manila, particularly in Makati, Taguig, Pasig, and in nearby cities south of the metropolis. The rest are based in metropolitan urban areas such as Cebu, Davao, and Baguio.

OFW

Hailed as the country’s unsung heroes, Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs continue to play a pivotal role in the country’s economy, largely through the billions of dollars worth of remittances that they send back home annually to their families. In 2017, figures from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas noted that OFW remittances amounted to $31.29 billion, accounting for about 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Overseas Filipinos also make up a sizeable number of the Philippine populace, with more than 10 million of them deployed in more than 170 countries across the globe. In fact, more than a million Filipinos leave for overseas work every year. That’s an average of about 4,000 Filipinos who leave the country every day to seek greener pastures overseas.

According to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, a government agency under the jurisdiction of the Department of Labor and Employment that was created to promote and protect the welfare and the rights of Filipino migrant workers, Saudi Arabia has the largest share of OFWs, with an estimated one million Filipinos deployed in the oil-rich kingdom in the Middle East. Other countries in the region such as United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Kuwait also host a large number of Filipino workers.

In other parts of Asia, a sizable number of Filipino workers could be found in Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. In Europe, the bulk of overseas Filipino workers could be found in Italy, although there are also a large number of Filipinos in other parts of Europe. North America, particularly the United States, hosts the most number of Filipinos overseas, with many of them classified as immigrants instead of OFWs.

Demographics

According to exclusive data of Lamudi on property seekers based outside of the Philippines, female property seekers who search for properties in the country slightly outnumber their male counterparts, soaking up 52.2 percent of the inquiries and 55.2 percent of the page views of the website.

In terms of age, those who are in the 25- to 34-year-old bracket generated the most traffic and inquiries, followed by those in the 35- to 44-year-old bracket and the 45- to 54-year-old age group. Probably the most tech savvy when it comes to using the real estate portal to search for properties, the 25 to 34-year-old millennials outnumber the other age groups when it comes to inquiries and page views since many of them are at that stage in their life when they are hoping to establish permanent residencies and start their own families.

The 35- to 44-year-old and 45 to 54-year-old age groups, who are likely to be more financially stable as compared to their younger counterparts, represent a sizable portion of potential real estate buyers and renters if both groups are to be combined. Many of those who belong to these age brackets could be looking for properties that are bigger in land and floor areas since they would most likely have bigger families and more financial resources.

While those in the 55- to 64-year-old, 65-years-old and above, and 18- to 24-year-old age groups might not figure prominently in terms of page views and inquiries in Lamudi’s database, they are nonetheless important and represent a segment of the property market that developers should still pay attention to. Many of these property seekers are probably looking to invest their money on properties that could either generate additional income or to be left to their children. On the other end, those who belong to the youngest age group are likely seeking rental properties on a short-term basis.

Behavior

Properties that are priced between Php1 million and Php7 million pesos make up the bulk of those that were searched for property. Among these, properties priced from Php3 million to Php5 million generate the most number of page views and inquiries, followed closely by those properties that priced between Php1 million and Php2 million.

In terms of properties for rent, those that are being rented out at less than 10 thousand pesos generated the most number of page views and inquiries. This was followed by properties whose monthly rent is pegged between 20 thousand pesos and 30 thousand pesos; those properties that have a monthly rent that range from 10 thousand pesos to 15 thousand pesos; and those being rented out for a monthly fee that range from 15 thousand pesos to 20 thousand pesos.

In Metro Manila, the most search for properties are those located in Quezon City, followed by those in Makati, Taguig, Paranaque, Manila, Pasig, and Las Pinas. These cities play host to a number of business establishments such as BPO firms and offer an array of lifestyle and recreational hubs, including an array of restaurants and bars, as well as malls and fitness centers. For properties that are located outside Metro Manila, Cebu topped the list in terms of page views and inquiries, followed by Davao, Angeles, Tagaytay, and Baguio. These vibrant and metropolitan towns make an excellent alternative for those who want to escape Metro Manila without sacrificing the comforts of city living.

Houses are most commonly searched for, which continues to reflect the common perception of every Filipino family’s dream of becoming homeowners. This is followed by condominiums, whose numbers have been growing exponentially due to the scarcity of land in the metropolis and accompanying rise in the price of land. Residential lots came in as the third most searched for property type.

According to a 2017 survey on Overseas Filipino Workers commissioned by the Philippine Statistics Authority, the bulk of OFWs are deployed in Saudi Arabia and in other parts of Middle East such as United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Qatar. There are also a sizeable number of Filipinos in Hong Kong, Singapore, and other parts of Asia. Collectively, those in the Middle East and Asia make up 85 percent of documented overseas Filipinos, followed by those based in North and South America then those who are in Europe and in Australia.

However, Lamudi data show that property seekers residing in the US make up the bulk of property seekers looking for properties, capturing 27.4 percent of the page views and 23 percent of the inquiries in the property portal. Those who are based in Singapore came in a distant second, followed by those who are in United Arab Emirates, Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Japan, United Kingdom, Qatar, and Hong Kong.

Property seekers in the US are most likely made up of Filipino immigrants who have settled there and are looking for properties in the Philippines either as a form of investment or as a place of retirement. Although there are also OFWs in the US, majority of which are in the medical profession, many overseas property seekers are based in Singapore, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. These countries host a sizable share of Filipinos who have left the country in hopes to provide better lives for their families back home, one of the most important of which is a residential property that could serve as a backbone for financial stability. Majority of property seekers from Canada and Australia would most likely similar to those found in the United States—Filipino immigrants who are looking at Philippine properties either as a form of investment or a retirement place.