Ways foreigners can own real property in the Philippines

John Smith, a natural born US citizen of American descent, is thinking of retiring in the Philippines and wants to buy a house and lot in Cebu.

Can Smith and other foreigners like him acquire real property in the Philippines?

Generally, no, said Cesar E. Santos, a licensed realtor, appraiser, and consultant. Santos conducted a whole-day review for our class one Saturday last May on the possible questions to expect during the real estate licensure examination.

The Philippine Constitution, starting with the 1935 enactment, strictly limits ownership of land to Filipinos.

There are, however, certain exceptions to this rule, Santos added.

Foreigners like Smith and their legal heirs retain rights to real property in the Philippines that is acquired before the effectivity of the 1935 Constitution.

Hence, property bought by an American or any foreign national before 1935, when no prohibition was in effect, remains in his or her possession.

In case of death, the foreign national’s heirs continue to have ownership rights over the property. The second exception, therefore, is hereditary succession.

Also, Smith may purchase a condominium unit or units provided that the total controlling interest of foreigners in the condominium project does not exceed 40 percent.

Condominium owners have exclusive rights over the space “encompassed by the walls, ceilings, and floors” of their units but are only co-owners of the common areas, such as the hallways, lobbies, entrances and exits, and parking bays.

For acquisition of real property by former natural born Filipino citizens, a different law applies. More on that in later posts.

  • http://www.johnvill.com philippine real estate

    wow , this article is great , i learned something great here. thanks for posting this

  • pedro holkan

    i have heard there are ways a us citizen can buy and have complete control of a home in the philippines, through the use of a second contract that is kept with the title, showing that purchaser (not the filipinos appearing on the title, as required by law), actually has complete control of the property, eventhough he cannot technically own it. is there any truth to this tale, i have been told, or is it simply a fairytale some untrustworthy citizen of the philippines might tell an american to get him to pay for property, that they will infact be able to take away from him, in the end?

    thank you very much in advance for any information you can give me on this matter. sincerely, Pedro

  • http://www.bcphilippineslawyers.com/foreign-ownership-of-land-in-the-philippines/371/ Philippine Lawyer Real Property

    There are no legal ways for foreigners to own land in the Philippines. Anyone who tries to outmanuever the law will just lose his investment.


    Nice, I think it could be interesting to add some more entries following this one, and probably it’s not only me having this opinion. Cheers!

  • http://www.pahoahomes.com Lucena Nicolas

    Can a natural born filipina who is now a US citizen buy and own real estate as a fillipino citizen?

  • http://www.pahoahomes.com Lucena Nicolas

    I want to buy a property in the philippines but it is stated that it is not titled. What does that mean? If this is a problem, how can I go about fixing it? Please advice. thank you

  • eric

    Hi ,
    Im a foreigner from Singapore and is interested to invest in a Condo unit in Cebu .
    Please advise on buying and selling of condo units for foreigners and the terma and conditions that govens it