How to Buy Land in the Philippines

Updated on December 21, 2018
Eastward profile image

Eastward is a US citizen, MBA graduate, and former business and management lecturer relocating to Cebu, Philippines with his lovely wife.

Getting Started

First and foremost, there are ownership restrictions for foreigners in the Philippines. You can own a house or condo but not the land it rests on. However, you can obtain a long-term lease for land. Those 35+ can also obtain a retirement visa by putting $50,000 USD or the equivalent in a Philippine bank and then can use that money in government approved investments (including real estate).

In my case, I am married to a Filipina and we purchased our land in her name. My name is on the documents and I needed to provide personal information in addition to my wife's, however my rights are extremely limited. This is something that aspiring expats will also want to keep in mind and be sure they make any decisions thoughtfully.

Our plan is to build a house on the land that we own and lease that house long term to my American parents (who we will rent from). Of course, depending on your situation, you will need to come up with an agreement that all parties are comfortable with. Single expats looking for a house, condo, or long-term land lease in the Philippines would be well served with the assistance of a trusted Filipino friend, family member, or agent.

For expats with a trusted Filipino advocate, it may be best to stay out of the land purchasing process as much as possible. While most Filipinos are trustworthy, as with any country, there are those that are not. It is not unheard of for prices to rise at the site of a foreigner.

Step One: Check to be sure the land owner you are buying from has the original title

Sometimes land and residency agreements in the Philippines reach back for generations. Things are becoming more strict and organized but you may still run into situations where the title was never transferred to the seller in order to avoid the associated fees. This is a complex situation that you certainly want to avoid. If the seller does not possess the original title for the property, continue your search elsewhere.

Step Two: The deed of sale, signed and notarized

After you have found the land you desire and have agreed on a price with the seller, you'll need to read the deed of sale carefully and sign it in front of a notary public. The deed of sale should also state whether the buyer or seller is responsible for the capital gains tax and documentary stamp tax. Notaries set their own fees but a normal fee is around 1% of the purchase price.

The capital gains tax (6% of the purchase price) and documentary stamp tax (1% of the purchase price) need to paid to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) within the 30 days after the deed has been signed.

Step Three: Certificate of Authorizing Registration (CAR) and Tax Clearance (TCL) from the BIR

Once the capital gains tax and documentary stamp tax are paid, you need to process the CAR and TCL at the Bureau of Internal Revenue. These are prerequisites for a title transfer and there are small fees associated with these steps (around 150 Philippine pesos).

We ran into a an issue due to our lot being part of a subdivided property. We needed to follow up with BIR repeatedly until the arrangements between the seller and multiple buyers were clarified.

This CAR and TCL step took a few months to complete and required multiple visits to the BIR. My wife and her father were able to complete this step, however, there are "fixers" that will also handle this process for a fee.

Step Four: Pay the Transfer Fee on Property and Transfer Tax

With the CAR and TCL certificates in your possession, you then need to pay the transfer fee and tax at the provincial treasurer's office. This should be done ASAP as there is a fee applied for each day from the CAR certificate date to the date the transfer tax is paid.

In addition to the CAR and TCL, you will need to bring the following with you to the treasurer's office (may vary by province):

Step Five: The Register of Deeds

With your transfer fees and taxes paid, you are almost ready to get your title. The Register of Deeds will have some requirements you need to satisfy as well. You will need an affidavit of publication, affidavit as to the nationality of any owner (if not a citizen of the Philippines), and the owner's copy of the title.

There may be other requirements as well such as DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) clearance if the land is agricultural, approved subdivision plans if the land is part of a subdivision, etc.

Step Six: Celebrate

Congratulations! You will now have the title transferred to you and you are the proud owner of land in the Philippines. It has been a long and strenuous journey so take some time to relax and enjoy your own piece of paradise.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

© 2018 Eastward


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    • Eastward profile imageAUTHOR


      3 weeks ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      You're most welcome, Nhajo! Looking forward to hearing the good news!

    • profile image

      nhajo saguin 

      3 weeks ago

      Hi Eastward,

      Thank you so much for the information. I'll be posting something here once we got the title from the seller and move forward to getting the absolute deed of sale and get it notarize. Hoping to get it done very soon as the clock is ticking and don't want to waste anytime.

    • Eastward profile imageAUTHOR


      3 weeks ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Hi Nhajo, You're most welcome. 2 years of processing is a long time but we are making a point to try our best do do things "by the book". If you continue using your Filipino passport for all transactions related to the property, I don't see an issue with your dual citizenship (though that wasn't a concern for us). My wife did do all the processing in the Philippines and says the SPA should still be valid. Best of luck with the transfer of title and just let us know if there's anything else we can do to help!

    • profile image

      nhajo saguin 

      3 weeks ago

      Hi Eastward,

      Thank you for your response. Wow!! 2yrs. is longer than I thought. I am gonna be a US citizen by then. Will there be any problems if for example, that I bought the property when I am still Filipino Citizen? Then become US citizen or Dual citizen while the property is still in the process of transferring to my name (transfer of title)? Did your wife have to come back to PI for those process? I was thinking of going back once the paperwork is halfway done. But I'm not sure if the SPA that I gave to my mom and auntie will still be valid if did it myself but didn't finish the process and have to go back to US? Sorry, for so many questions. I just want to make sure I'm on the right path of doing this.

    • Eastward profile imageAUTHOR


      4 weeks ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Hi, nhajo. Thanks for the comment. Hiring a fixer can certainly make things faster and easier for you and your representative. However, it can be a challenge to find one that will work for a reasonable price (especially knowing that you are overseas). We had some price quotes that were pretty unreasonable, so my wife and father-in-law have handled the processing. Although, it takes a lot of time and likely will require multiple trips back and forth from the BIR and other government offices. While it can differ from case to case, without a fixer you should be prepared for the process to take over a year (possibly two years).

    • profile image

      nhajo saguin 

      4 weeks ago

      Hi Eastward,

      As I was browsing the website for some answers with my inquiries I found this thread. So recently, I just bought a property in PI (vacant lot). btw, I am a filipina from California. My husband and I bought this property to a teacher that happened to be the teacher of my mom. She's selling her lot because the lot was pawned in the bank, so she owed like P530k in the bank and we bought the property to her for P950k. We made a Memoramdum of Agreement with the seller, that we will pay her partially according to the conditions of the MOA we made, we want it to be legal and notarized. Unfortunately the attorney that looked the MOA that my husband made is saying that our MOA is like a Deed of sale so he was charging us P9,500 for the notarization of the MOA. So I told the seller and my representative ( SPA for my mom and aunt) to just not do the notarization of the moa if the atty. will charge us the same as deed of sale. We paid the 530k that the seller owed in the bank and we are just now waiting for the release of the title from the bank. And now, I am trying to find a real estate agent that will run as a fixer to do the process going to the bir, municipal hall to file everything. ( I don't know if it's worth it to hire an agent to help my representative run the paperworks FASTER and EASIER,so my mom doesn't have to keep going back to bir, etc. the agent will do that for them.) Or my representative can just it themselves to do all the paperworks. As soon as we get the title we will file the deed of sale and get notarize. So how long do you think it will take for the property to be under my name or how long will it take the process for the title to be mine? Thank you.

    • Eastward profile imageAUTHOR


      8 weeks ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Hi, Mary! Thanks for reading. I'm glad you found the article helpful. To answer your questions:

      1. You should get the tax declaration from the seller (it comes from the assessor in the municipality where the land is located).

      2. It will be the title in the seller's name.

      3. This will depend on who is responsible for processing the transfer of title and the payment details you specify in the deed of sale. The party responsible for the transfer of title will need to have an original copy.

    • profile image


      8 weeks ago

      Hi! Thanks for this very helplful article. I have a few questions that im confused about:

      1. Where do I get the Tax Declaration?

      2. On step 5, do you mean that I should bring an orignal copy of title or the actual title (still named with the seller)?

      3. I assume I pay the seller the moment I sign the deed of sale, once I paid and signed and have the DOS notarised, do I takr the original land title from the seller or the seller will get to keep it and i only need an original copy?

      Thank you!

    • Eastward profile imageAUTHOR


      5 months ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Thank you, Liz! We hope to follow-up with our experience of building a house here soon.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      5 months ago from UK

      This is a clear and helpful guide to buying land in the Philippines.


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