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How to Buy Land in the Philippines

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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 ex-pats 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 ex-pats 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 ex-pats 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 sight 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) needs to be 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 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):

how-to-buy-land-in-the-philippines

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.

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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

Question: Who will pay the capital gains tax and documentary stamp tax at the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR)?

Answer: Generally, the buyer will pay the capital gains tax and documentary stamp tax unless it is otherwise agreed upon and specified in the deed of sale.

Question: How can I verify that the title of some land in the Philippines is authentic?

Answer: The title should be stamped with an official government stamp and the title can be further verified by checking the number at the Register of Deeds.

Question: How are the payments made to the seller if the buyer is directly buying from the property owner via an agent?

Answer: The price you agree to pay for the property will generally include the agent's fee. As a side note, be sure to use a well-established agent that you can trust.

Question: Can you check the authenticity of the land or property title by requesting a copy from the Register of Deeds and making a comparison?

Answer: Yes. Requesting a copy of the title from the Register of Deeds and comparing it with the seller's title would be an appropriate way to assure authenticity.

Question: Who will pay to notarize the deed of sale, pay the transfer of property fee, and pay the transfer tax?

Answer: Generally, the buyer will pay to notarize the deed of sale (approximately 1% of the property price). The buyer also will pay the property fee and transfer tax unless specifically stated otherwise in the deed of sale. Agents are available to help with these processes but, as always, be sure to find one that is reputable and trustworthy.

Question: If the land or property is inherited from the parents of the seller (the wife inherited the property from her parents, for example), who will sign the deed of sale?

Answer: The title should be transferred into the name of the inheritor following the process here: https://www.lamudi.com.ph/journal/how-to-transfer-...

Then, the inheritor would rightfully be able to sign a deed of sale for the land or property.

Question: When will we need the help of a surveyor?

Answer: I would recommend getting the land surveyed prior to signing the Deed of Sale. Make sure the boundaries of the land are clearly marked and that there are no unexpected structures or other sources of dispute. This could save one from a lot of potential headaches and is relatively inexpensive (our survey costs approximately 5,000 pesos or less than $100 USD). For smaller or larger lots, prices may vary.

Question: Who will prepare the deed of sale when buying a home in the Philippines?

Answer: The deed of sale should be prepared by an attorney specializing in real estate. Either party can obtain a deed of sale document, but each party should have the document reviewed by an expert representing their interests (or a mutually trusted third party).

Question: If I sell half of my lot (400 square meters of 800 square meters, for example), do I need to provide the buyer with the title?

Answer: As this is a more complex transaction, I would advise you to contact an attorney. In the end, both parties will need a unique title as proof of ownership of their portion of the divided lot.

Question: Can a foreigner buy land in his Filipino son's name?

Answer: Assuming the Filipino son is a citizen of the Philippines, the son would be able to own land and lease it to the foreign parent. The land can be leased for 25 years with an option to renew for 25 more.

Question: Is a title transfer required before full payment is made for the land by the buyer or buyers attorney?

Answer: No. Transferring the title prior to making payment is not required. If an attorney advises this procedure, the details will need to be negotiated between the buyer/buyer's attorney and should be specified in the deed of sale (possibly by amendment to the existing deed of sale).

Question: If the buyer is already on step 5 (Register of Deeds), but is unable to obtain DAR clearance, can the seller buy the land back?

Answer: Optimally, the deed of sale would stipulate DAR clearance as a required part of the transaction (and delay payment until clearance is obtained or specify the return of any amount paid in case of complications). If this is not the case, the buyer should approach the seller regarding amending the deed of sale. Should the seller be unwilling to return the amount paid, the buyer may need to contact an attorney.

Question: What percent of property tax must I pay in the Philippines?

Answer: Property tax in the Philippines varies by municipality and province. It is a percentage of the assessed value (which is a percentage of the fair market value). More information can be found at https://www.foreclosurephilippines.com/real-proper...

Question: Did you hire a lawyer to help you with the process?

Answer: No. Fortunately, our process was fairly straight forward and the seller's daughter is a government official and was able to assist with the details.

Question: Is there a penalty for failure to pay the capital gain tax and documentary stamp tax within 30 days? If so, how much?

Answer: Yes, there are penalties for late payment. The amount will depend on the variables of your particular situation. For more information, I would like to refer you to this capital gains tax article by Garry S. Pagaspas https://taxacctgcenter.ph/overview-of-capital-gain...

Question: Is it possible to transfer a title to a buyer who purchased a lot from his or her mother when the title is in the father's name?

Answer: Yes. In the Philippines, the property is considered to be jointly owned by both the mother and the father, so the title transfer is possible.

Question: After we've paid the existing tax and have the notarized deed of sale, what is the next step?

Answer: The next step would be to pay the capital gains tax at the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

Question: Can we purchase land and pay via installments?

Answer: It is possible to purchase land and pay via installments. The details should be outlined in the Deed of Sale.

Question: Is it possible for the owner to transfer the title to the buyer before the price of the lot is paid in full?

Answer: Yes. The method and time period for payments and transfer of title can be agreed upon in the deed of sale. You may want to have a legal professional review the deed of sale prior to finalizing the agreement.

Question: How can we transfer the title and determine what tax needs to be paid when we buy land?

Answer: Hello. To secure ownership of the land, you will need to process the title transfer at the Register of Deeds. You can negotiate who will be responsible for the taxes in the deed of sale (which you opt to have an attorney prepare).

Question: If a land seller in the Phillippeans is not communicating with buyers regarding the legal subdivision of a property, what options do the buyers have?

Answer: In this case, you have a few options. You can contact the barangay (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barangay) captain or chairperson for assistance. Aside from this, an attorney would be advisable.

Question: How can I find a reputable real estate company/agent in order to buy raw land in Leyte, Philippines?

Answer: You may begin by contacting agents from Lamudi (https://www.lamudi.com.ph/). When browsing Lamudi, please look for the green checkmark and indication that the agent or agency is a certified partner. After making initial contact, you can ask for additional references and testimonials.

Question: Can a Filipino landowner who became a European citizen legally sell their land in the Philippines?

Answer: Yes. In this case, constitutionally-defined natural-born Filipinos who lost their Filipino citizenship through naturalization or foreign citizenship can apply to regain citizenship according to the Dual Citizenship under Republic Act No. 9225 (RA 9225) https://www.philippineconsulatela.org/dual-citizen...

© 2018 Eastward

Comments

Eastward (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on September 08, 2020:

Hi, Tine. Thanks for the question. The amount of taxes and fees can vary depending on location. I'd recommend this article by James Ryan Jonas to give you a general idea of what those taxes and fees might be https://www.pinoymoneytalk.com/costs-taxes-buying-...

As he mentions, the Deed of Sale should contain detailed information about who shoulders the cost of all taxes and fees involved in the transaction. The DoS should also specify the amount of commission and how/when it should be paid--which would typically be in accordance with the terms of payment.

Tine Mae on September 08, 2020:

Approximately how many percent of the total amount will be deducted of the total taxes and fees. For example, It amounts to 100,000,000, and all expenses will be subtractes to this either on the seller/ buyer side. How many percent would it be. Another question, when will the agents usually get their comissions?

Eastward (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on September 04, 2020:

Hi, Bob. I would recommend that the buyer pay for the land survey to verify the actual property boundaries and other issues that may arise in connection with the lot. A surveyor you trust will have your interests in mind and the surveys are inexpensive. Alternately, you could request that the seller survey or re-survey of the land (in case markers are missing or removed, or structures have been constructed that encroach on the land, etc.) before you are willing to sign a deed of sale. If you do foresee complications, it would be best to work together with both an attorney and surveyor.

Bob Hillier on September 04, 2020:

Who pays for survey of land, buyer or seller?

Eastward (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on August 27, 2020:

Although holding only the tax declaration is a common occurrence in the Philippines, I would advise against buying a lot without a title. As the government doesn't require the taxpayer to be the owner, the declaration doesn't give you adequate proof of ownership. If you do wish to try and transfer the tax declaration and title the land, it would be necessary for you and the seller to work with an experienced attorney. Good luck!

Christine Mae on August 27, 2020:

Someone I know is selling her lot but no title only tax declaration. I'm interested on the lot Should I take?

Eastward (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on August 04, 2020:

You are most welcome, Es. I'm glad you found it helpful. Thanks for the comment.

Es on August 04, 2020: