A mother’s retirement wish, “Son, buy me a condo”

by Steve Van Derodar

In a society where family relationships are so strong like the Philippines, buying a property for a loved one is considered common and “taking care for someone” is ingrained in our culture. Although, to the privileged, buying as a gift to someone comes with a substantial price as a condo is a real property that serves its purpose, intents, and use.

I remember about 11 years ago when a mother and client from New York, asked her son in Manila to buy her a studio condo property that can serve as her retirement habitat whenever she is in Manila. I was in my third year in Ayala Land International Sales assigned to New York and New Jersey. The transaction took a few days of project info exchanges but when it came to payment decisions, took only a series of quick phone calls. Though it sounded easy, it gave her butterflies in her stomach. She was emotional about the whole idea and feared the what ifs. To her, it is an uncompromising choice. She intends only to use it when she is in town, more so, it’s going to be her permanent address in Manila as her original “big house” before she immigrated to the United States had long been sold off.

She said her son is incredibly lucky to have become the executive that he is now. “He can buy what he wants and am immensely proud of his financial successes. I will ask him to buy it for me. I know he will give it to me. It has been 15 years or so that we have not seen each other after he finished his schooling here in the U.S. My boy is now a family man. Now, I wish for my own place. I can convince him to make it an investment for him. I can’t wait to retire anytime soon, I miss Manila,” she quipped with confidence.

Surprised by the fact, I was even more amazed to know that the son was willing to grant his mom’s wishes and paid the property in cash. The condo property located in New Manila was named to the mother and since she is already past 65 years old., she could only buy the property through cash.

“For many Filipino families, buying a property brings families closer, cultivates family ties, aside from constant gatherings and family events. For some retirement is best spent with family members due to our “extended family” culture.”

For many Filipino families, buying a property brings families closer, cultivates family ties, aside from constant gatherings and family events. For some retirement is best spent with family members due to our “extended family” culture. As most immigrants are easily assimilated to the American way of life, Filipino ties remain strong and a distinguishing characteristic among Fil-Am families. The mother seemed all content with her son’s family life and so is she, her profound independence, after having worked in federal government. But despite all that she has, she longed for a place to call her own outside of New York City where she can relive being more Filipino at least half of the year or whenever possible and witness her grandkids grow up.

Retirement is such a precious stage of life where one enjoys quiet times from years of active, workforce-oriented lifestyle. But it is also filled with fear, loneliness, and social accessibility needs. To many it is a phase of refinement. For our subject, retirement means all about family in the Philippines and looks forward to every bit of it. She is just one of those dual citizen retirees who have emigrated to the United States, gone through the process of alien residency and naturalization, lived in the United States for a while and have moved back to the Philippines. On another hand, the country offers the Special Resident Retiree’s Visa (SRRV), a special non-immigrant visa for foreign nationals who would like to make the Philippines their second home or investment destination.

For many of those interested, the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) cites requirements to permanent retirement in the Philippines. This includes having an investment or a property worth. PRA is mandated to develop and promote the Philippines as a retirement haven as a means of accelerating the social and economic development of the country, strengthening its foreign exchange position at the same time providing further best quality of life to the targeted retirees in a most attractive package. In 2020, the government agency targets a total of 80,000 foreign retirees on SRRV.

“For many of those interested, the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) cites requirements to permanent retirement in the Philippines. This includes having an investment or a property worth.”

At one point I visited the PRA office in 2008 in Salcedo Village, a walking distance from Ayala Triangle, just for me to know more of the opportunities to offer properties in the agency. I became interested in pursuing some talks. I thought that I could make connections with my associate membership. Believably, a portion of property investments in the country come from a retiree investment particularly the purchase of condominium units with a minimum value at $50,000.00 or long-term lease of house & lot.

The Philippines enjoys being “home” for many retirees because of the weather, cost of living and flourishing medical tourism. In general, there is just no place like home. Also, a recent survey by property consultant Knight Frank’s prime team has identified a global trend for expats to look to buy in their homeland. It means people gravitate to homecoming directions. “Sixty-four per cent of Knight Frank offices polled are reporting the lockdown had influenced expats’ decision to buy a property in their home country, which has led to a significant uptick in residential enquiries since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Ray Palmer-Smith, Director of New Homes for Ireland at Knight Frank.

For a Filipino-American retiree like my client, having a place of her own is a security blanket, yet equally important for her is her freedom, her own sense of time while the family and obsequious aides are within reach. To her words “I was once a powerful entrepreneur so I am used to being the boss.”

“One’s retirement wish could be to reconnect and build memories of the lost times. What matters most for others is their sense of security and to be with family.”

Blessed are those who live in relationships that are giving, caring for each other and respectful of one’s independence. Retirement comes with varying considerations and is distinct to individuals. Marcellini et al 2007 summarizes retirement as: “For some, it is a way of being free from daily routine, making it possible for the persons to dedicate him- or herself to more satisfying activities linked to personal interest. For others, instead, it is a difficult period of line in which (they) feel deprived of a social role, and problems regarding finances, health, and loneliness can arise. For everyone, though, it is a period of great change in which lifestyle must be restructured in many ways.”

One’s retirement wish could be to reconnect and build memories of the lost times. What matters most for others is their sense of security and to be with family. She is extremely content with her life in the US except that she acknowledges how much she misses the Philippines and her grandkids. To her, there is nothing more that she could ask for but to have just a place she can call her own and spend priceless moments with her grandkids.

Ending this article with a few lines from W.H. Murray, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too…Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

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(Stevenson’s experience in Philippine Real Estate spans more than 15 years. He has been involved in horizontal, vertical, vacation and commercial properties. He has worked as an International Property Specialist to markets in Asia, Europe and North America with Ayala Land, Federal Land and Century Properties. Through PhilHouseHunters, he offers real estate investment opportunities, marketing, and consultancy with a key focus to Metro Manila and Mega Cebu areas. Visit www.philhousehunters.com. Email at derodarsales@gmail.com.)

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