Sunday, February 6, 2011

house-hunting

In the future, I'll be investing in real property. 

As a friend told me once, it wouldn't hurt to look around now even if I am not yet in the financial position to buy property; this is so I could get a feel of what I want in a house and in a community. So one day, Anna and I went out "house-hunting" with our aunt who wants to look at interiors of model houses. 

Since we were pressed for time, we only had a chance to visit two gated communities in Laguna. The first one, Madison South, developed by Excelsis Land, Inc., is located in Calamba City. The second one, Pramana Residential Park, developed by Greenfield Development Corporation, is located in Sta Rosa. 

Madison South
Located close to the Batino Exit of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), this gated community offers easy access to the industrial parks of Laguna. The developer offers to its clients their very own piece of the American suburban lifestyle. What I found, however, was quite different. 

The units he showed us are all built on 80-100 sq. m. lots. Because of the small lot sizes, these houses had to be built as two-floor buildings; the first floor features the living room, the dining area, and the kitchen; the second floor is reserved for the bedrooms and the bathroom. 

Frankly, these houses are all too small for me. One of the model units doesn't even have a spot for the garage. The ones that do have garages too narrow for my taste. There is a plus in some of these houses though: the balconies are really spacious and offer good views of the village. The tiniest of them all, however, charmed my sister because of the white picket fence and the way the decorators had arranged the interiors. If I may give a suggestion to the units' decorator, I would say that it might be best to do away with the bulky couches and dining sets. These enormous furniture may be popular with American suburban homeowners, but their houses are much larger, I'd imagine, than the houses on offer in Madison South. With such tiny rooms in the houses, sleek and modern furniture might be the ticket to give an illusion of space.

My verdict: For a little over P3,000,000, people can purchase the most spacious house and lot (floor area around 120 sq. m.) in the best part of the village. While Calamba City real estate property isn't cheap, buying a spot here is certainly more affordable than buying a tiny condominium unit in Metro Manila. The houses are ideal for those who'd rather start investing in a house rather than perpetually paying rent for apartment units. I think yuppies working in the industrial parks and with young families would be attracted to the price and to proximity to their work areas and to reputable schools. 

Would I buy property here if I had the capacity to? I have to think long and hard on that one. With house dimensions not to my liking, this place will not be one of my top picks. So perhaps I might venture on and find a more affordable area so I could get an even larger lot for the spacious house I'm dreaming of.

Pramana Residential Park
It aims to bring people closer to nature by giving residents clear views of Mount Makiling and the Tagaytay ridge. It emphasises green living by setting aside many spaces for parks and gardens. It advocates healthy lifestyles by putting in bike lanes and running paths. Located close to the Eton City exit of the SLEX, Pramana is another community strategically located near reputable schools, upscale shopping centres, and the industrial parks. Just one look at the venue, and I knew that this property caters to the upper classes. 

The model units are more to my liking in terms of size and design. Floor areas of 151-186 sq. m. are set on two levels with living room, kitchen, and dining area (some have the lanai as well) on the first floor and bedrooms, baths, and an office space on the second floor. The laundry area is also spacious, but it makes me wonder how clothes and fabrics will be dried out in this village if clotheslines aren't allowed to be set up. The sales agent assured us that homeowners can install low rods instead of clotheslines... but that doesn't address the drying of bed sheets, curtains, and tablecloths. Surely, an eco-friendly village such as this will not advocate frequent use of dryers which etch deep carbon footprints.

The overall architectural theme, if I understand it correctly, is modern Asian tropical. The spaces inside the houses feel more relaxed because of high ceilings, large windows, and uncluttered areas. All units have provisions for garages, a big plus point for me. The balcony area is small in units that have it, but that's hardly a bad point in a house where nature seems to be within reach from every window. Interior decorators who staged these model units have done a terrific job in simulating living spaces. My only issues, which can be tweaked if I buy property here (and that's a big if) are: (1) the common baths don't have windows (or if they do, they're too small) and (2) I don't remember seeing handrails by the stairs of any of the units. 

My verdict: This community is not for the faint-hearted or for the entry-level yuppie. Rather, the developers cater to more financially established clients. Case in point: the lot (no house yet) I like best in the pre-selling development (the Solen Residences) costs upwards of P2,500,000. In Pramana, which is the inhabitable community, the lot price is surely much higher. That doesn't come as a surprise, specially with the amenities the developer offers. Note that one of the perks of living in this vast community is the free shuttle service for the house help on market day (Yes, the developer has provisions for the house help. See how high-end this community is yet?). 

Would I buy property here if I had the capacity to? I would because it offers what I'm looking for in terms of house size, location, and proximity to greenery. The only consideration that will make me think twice once I've got the purchasing power is the practicality of buying here. Aren't there real estate developments with similar philosophies that don't cost as much?

After this exercise, all I can do is sigh. House-hunting is not as easy as it seems. My friend's advice is definitely a good one. I'm already looking forward to the next expedition!