Housing in Philippines

Are you building a house in Philippines? See sample house plans and contact me to design new house for you!

The Philippines is a beautiful country until we talk about living conditions and government. One of the poorest countries in the world, ruled by one of the most corrupted governments in the world. Corruption and geography isolation keep foreign investment away, good paying jobs are hard to be found, so about 10% of country population is working overseas, and build beautiful houses when they return home.

Chapters: statisticshousing reviewhousing typeshousing regulationsmore stufftransportation

Skyline of Makati City

Philippines have one of the highest income inequality of the world. They built an impressive business district in Makati City (above photo) and Fort Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, while half of population lives in poverty (less than $1.25 per day).

Population and housing statistics

Philippines population has grown from 27 million people at 1960 census to 60 million people at 1990 census.

2000: household population 76,332,470, number of households 15,275,046, average household size 5.0
2010: household population 92,097,715, number of households 20,171,899, average household size 4.6
2015: household population 100,573,715, number of households 22,975,630, average household size 4.4
Source: psa.gov.ph

Additionally, at least 12 millions filipinos are working overseas, according Wikipedia.

If in the past USA was preferred work destination, since 2000s most overseas workers went to Middle East, but you can find filipinos on every continent. I can tell this from my personal experience of architectural designer. I have been contacted by people from all over the world telling me that build houses in Philippines, and this even before writing this article. Actually half of my customers in Philippines contacted me from an IP located in another country.

I believe that the booming economy, lack of public housing programmes and too few large-scale private housing developments, made people to build houses themselves, browsing the internet for floor plans, find my international website and contact me for custom house design.

While many people from Philippines choose to emigrate or work overseas, Philippines is also a destination for foreign expats looking for a cheaper place to live. Many Americans are living in Philippines, I personally don’t understand (maybe someone can explain me?) why people from such developed country would move to a third world country where living conditions, education and health system are much worse and crime ratio is high. YouTube is full of videos about moving or against moving to Philippines. If you want to have same living conditions you had in United States, a big house, a car, have kids in private school, etc, the cost of living is not much cheaper than in United States.

(personally I considered Philippines a better country than it actually is, until local people who contacted me for house projects, also informed me about bad living conditions)

Manila skyline Manila aerial view

General review of housing

Philippines have beautiful architecture, there are a lot of beautiful, over-decorated houses, but this architecture style mask the fact that the they have one of the smallest houses in the world.

Filipinos are also one of the shortest people in the world, but I still see their homes ridiculously small. Bedroom around 6-7 sqm, making 3 bedroom houses to be about 50 sqm, size comparable with Hong Kong apartments despite of much larger country. Worse than this, most apartments are studios or 1 bedroom, compared with Hong Kong which is dominated by 2-3 bedrooms. In subdivisions built by major real estate developers, houses are usually 2-3 bedrooms.

If this was not worse enough, there are many people living in informal settlers (aka slums, squatters), of the rest who have legal land titles, many built houses that still looks like slums. In downtown Manila every unused piece of land get occupied by informal settlers, river beds are also heavily built, people living above highly polluted water and in danger of flooding. Even the 8-meter wide land between railways and nearby streets is the home for numerous poor families (cannot imagine how you can sleep as the trains horn continuously).

There are too many informal settlers for the government to take care about them. Government is trying to clear the slums from Philippines National Railway land and from danger areas such as river beds, and move them into socialized housing built at city outskirts, but people do not want to live there and move back to slums, which are conveniently located near workplace and amenities.

This is Forbes Park subdivision in Makati (average home price 5 million USD)…
Salcedo Village Forbes Park Forbes Park and Makati skyline

…and the typical Philippines houses from Metro Manila near Makati!
Pasay City slums Manila slums on river Village houses on water
Slums on Philippines National Railway Slums on Philippines National Railway

Happyland“, weird name for the biggest slum in Manila
Happyland, Manila Happyland, Manila

New housing estates (called subdivisions) are being built by private developers at city outskirts, less-dense developments, large open spaces, gated communities with guards, clubhouse and swimming pool.

The fastest developing cities are Dasmariñas, Bacoor and Inus (30 km south from downtown Manila, within Cavite province), here are the most subdivisions and most beautiful architecture, less slums and more wealthy people.

Modern housing developments in Cavite, Angeles and Mactan
St. Dominic Subdivision in Basak Mactan Timog Park Homes, Angeles City La Aldea Buena Homes, Mactan Cavite

Beautiful houses from Eastwood Greenview subdivision – Slums of the poor built on Philippines National Railway

I estimate average house size in legally-built developments at 30-50 sqm, but a significant amount of population lives in slums which their house size cannot be defined, some slums having just a small enclosed area for sleeping, and people spend whole day outdoor. Is common to see families of 10 people sleeping in a 5 sqm space.

While population was rising, cities did not expanded much horizontally but rather became denser and denser, in Metro Manila lots are over-subdivided by successive family generations and nowadays there are entire families squishing on lots small as 20 sqm.

What I do not understand yet, is why in smaller cities and countryside, where the land is cheap, people own large plots but still build extremely small houses. Living in tight spaces is part of Philippines culture?

Housing types

Subdivisions (aka Housing Complexes in other countries) became more common after year 2000. Rowhouses on plots small as 3.5 meters wide and 10 meters deep, with 24 meters between street axes, reaching densities of about 200 housing units per hectare, probably the densest housing development in the world (example: Ximena Mabalacatfloor plan).

Single detached = house surrounded by courtyard on all 4 sides, houses built at minimum 3 meters apart (1.5m setback for both houses).

Single attached = a definition that do not exists in any other country, with 1 or 2 firewalls (walls built at 0-lot boundary), built with same orientation so everyone is having windows facing to neighbor’s blank wall at 1.5m apart, giving the advantage of detached houses without shared walls. Sometimes the carport roof is attaching houses. They are VERY UGLY because on one side the roof is overhanging 700mm and on other side there is a blank wall that extend above roof.

Duplex = semi-detached, 2 houses symmetrical.

Rowhouse = synonym with british Terraced house or american Townhouse.

Bungalow = single-storey house, similar with American meaning. Unlike the rest of Asia where bungalow means a detached house regardless of number of floors.

Nipa hut = Philippines traditional houses found in rural areas, made by bamboo and other wood, they are so light that if you want to move somewhere else you can ask few villagers to carry your house on their shoulders, as seen in the below video, a practice called bayanihan. I do not understand the reason of moving since this type of move is limited by people’s walking distance.

Most common housing typologies in these subdivisions:

40 sqm 3-bedroom back-to-back terraces on 5×8 m land (example: Cedar Residencesfloor plan – I wonder how you can reach house door after parking, carport is 2.5 m wide and an average car 1.8 m wide will block the door).

50 sqm 2-bedroom terraces on 4×10 m land, (example Portville Mactan).

The subdivisions offer also bigger houses with 3 and 4 bedrooms but very few of them are over 100 sqm.

As 2014, prices of the 2-bedroom 40-50 sqm terraced bare houses vary from about 1 million PHP (22,000 USD) in Cavite to 3 million PHP in Metro Manila. 3-4 bedroom 100 sqm detached finished houses are 3 million to 10 million PHP.

Housing design regulations

In urban areas (non-subdivisions), according my study from satellite photos, most lots are within 4-10m wide and 10-16m long. Most plots vary from 40 sqm (minimum by law) to 120 sqm, very few lots are more than 120 sqm of land in urban areas. 80-120 sqm looks being average lot size. However, some people asked my help to design house plans for lots small as 20 sqm.

Philippines building code regulate habitable rooms at minimum 6 sqm and 2 meters wide, most houses are built at these minimum values, but corruption in real estate allow developers to build even smaller rooms, examples: Pioneer Woodlands bedrooms are less than 2m wide, Angeles, floorplan 25.5 sqm 2-bedroom home, bedrooms should be 1.9 x 2.4m internally.

For comparison, a nearby country Malaysia building code says 6.5 sqm bedroom and 9.3 sqm master bedroom, but these minimal sizes are rarely seen and only in public housing. I never seen any developer in Malaysia building anywhere closer to minimum requirements, they build usually 10-15 sqm common bedrooms and 15-25 sqm master bedroom.

House setback are 1.5m in front and sides, and 2m at rear. I never found a clear regulation about carport roofs and balconies within setbacks.

Ceiling height should be minimum 2.4 m, and 2.7 m for first floor, but in most houses, all floors are 2.4 m.

Bad house design: as seen in floor plans provided by developers, living room is so small that you cannot place a sofa, TV and dining table in same time, or dining chairs once pushed out, block the way between kitchen and bedrooms.

Kitchen stuff (sink, stove, fridge, cabinets) are together only 2 meters long. Some low-cost houses do not even have kitchen inside, sink being placed outdoor (so you are bitten by mosquito while washing dishes?).

Carports are often designed 2.5 meter wide, minimum by law, the floor plans illustrate cars but insufficient space to open car door (so how you can get out of car?), or the car is blocking the way to house main door. No wonder why we see many people parking on roadside. The idiot architects don’t know that 2.5 meter wide is OK only for open carparks, garages or any parking space between walls should be 3 meters minimum width, today cars average 1.8 m width and you need 90 cm space on driver side and 30 cm on other side.

I need feedback from local people. I understand that a large part of population is poor so low-cost housing is needed, but are these houses big enough for people needs? Or people will extend it over courtyard and destroy the urban landscape, like in Mexico?

Good website: www.pinoyrealty.com, few dozens house models, all with floor plans shown on site.

More stuff

Anyone who know or find resources about building code regulations across history please contact me!

According hlurb.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/services/developer/rule1.pdf, the minimum lot areas and is rowhose 50 / 4m, duplex 80/attached sqm / 8 m, detached 100 sqm / 10/12 m (medium housing).
According hlurb.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/services/developer/rule1n2.pdf, the minimum lot areas and frontages are: rowhouse 32 sqm / 4 m, duplex/attached 48 sqm / 6 m, detached 64 sqm / 8 m (economic / socialized housing).
According hlurb.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/laws-issuances/board-resolutions/BR_824.pdf, the minimum lot areas and frontages are: rowhouse 36/28 sqm / 4/3.5m, duplex/attached 54/48 sqm / 6 m, detached 72/64 sqm / 8 m (economic / socialized housing).
Which is the truth??

http://grem.ph/realty-resources05.php specify different laws, setbacks 3 m at front, 2 m at back, 1 m at sides.

https://www.sheltercluster.org/Asia/Philippines/TropicalStormSendong2011/Documents/Revised%20implementing%20rules%20and%20regulations%20for%20BP%20220.pdf.
different laws again

More strange examples found during my study

Wallnut Grove, 22 sqm 1-bedroom house, 4m wide and 5.5m deep (smallest house ever?)
Gran Seville, 36 sqm single-floor 2-bedroom house.
Greeensbolough Dasmarinas, 40 sqm 3-bedroom house

M Place, block with apartments from 16 sqm studio to 40 sqm 2-bedroom
Cambridge Village, Condo with 2-bedroom apartments small as 30 sqm.
The Stratford Residences, 68-storey condo dominated by studio and 1-bedroom apartments. 3-bedroom apartments are only few on top 8 floors.

Note that all these horrible tiny houses are examples of LEGAL buildings, designed by architects and build with permit from government. Imagine that the slums are even worse!

Can’t find an empty plot of land? No problem, build OVER ROAD!
Bambang Barangay Hall build over road

Transportation

Manila Light Rail / Metro Rail was the first metro system in South Asia, opened 1984 but development was slow and presently it have only 3 lines totaling 51 km.

There are also modern buses, but most common means of transportation is the Jeepney, originally US Military vehicles which (few hundreds vehicles) were sold to locals when troops retired at end of World War II, locals converted them in buses by extending their wheelbases and installing roofs, and over-decorated, calling them Jeepney. Nowadays most Jeepneys are made 100% locally, resembling the shape of American Jeep but made 6-7 meters long, others are based on second-hand Japanese SUV, vans and trucks, still called Jeepneys despite being unrelated with American Jeep). About 50.000 Jeepneys are driving around Manila (according BBC).

These vehicles are over-decorated with various texts, religious messages and other bullshit, but not with their route (so how people know to pick the right one!?). They follow chaotic routes and stop anywhere even in middle of road, putting passengers in danger. In rural areas is common to see Jeepneys overcrowded with people sitting on their roofs, despite that it is an illegal practice (example video).

Old jeepney from 1950s Jeepney vs bus Jeepney overcrowded and overly-decorated

Another form of transportation unique in Philippines are Owner Type Jeep, hand-made vehicles resembling the US Jeep but in miniature, less than 3 meters long, most lacking seatbelts, windshield wipers, or other features standard for western cars since 1960s. Does anyone know what engine they have?

Philippines also have tricycles, common also in other South Asian countries, made from bicycles and motorcycles with a bench attached supported by a 3rd wheel, and roof. Some are even used as taxis. When you see a car, it looks giant compared to traditional vehicles!

Owner Type Jeep Trycicle waiting area

Philippines House Price Index vs Inflation
More charts with price index in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines on systemisbroken.blogspot.com

Page published for first time in 2012 and updated over next years with more information found by me or provided by visitors. Text written by me (Teoalida) and images taken from Wikipedia, Panoramio and other websites. Do you have useful information that worth adding? Did you found an error or have a contradictory opinion? Leave a comment!

84 thoughts on “Housing in Philippines

  1. Good day! I have a 4 x 16.7 meter lot, is it possible to build a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom 2-storey house with space out front to park my car?(The HOA prohibits street parking) how much is a complete plan worth?
    TIA

  2. THANKS FOR THE INFO ON THE WEB SITE, THIS MAKES ME MORE THAN CONFIDENT TO ASK YOU ON A SMALL HOUSING PLAN THAT WE ARE WORKING ON

    LAND SIZE IS APPROX 800 SQ MT AND IS IN A L SHAPED LAND DESIGN

    WHAT WE WANT TO DO IS MAKE LOW INCOME HOUSING APARTMENT 1BHK MINIMUM SIZE OF 40 TO 45 SQ MT FOR RENTAL WITH GROUND AND IST FLOOR

    ALMOST 3 SEPARATE ANNEX CAN BE MADE TO COVER THE AREA ON EACH SIDE

    IN ONE OR JOINING ANOTHER OF THE ANNEX WE PLAN TO HAVE OUR APARTMENT THAT SHOULD HAVE WINDOWS OVERLOOKING THE INSIDE OF THE PLOT AND CONSISTS OF A LARGE SITTING AREA, DINNING AREA, 3 BR WITH BATH AND A GUEST TOILET WITH SEPARATE WASH BASIN AND POWDER AREA , MAIN KITCHEN AND A DIRTY KITCHEN FOR OILY STUFF, A STORE ROOM , WASHING AND DRY AREA,

    1. Send me site plan so we can see exact dimensions.

      Do you need a simple floor plan (for ideas)… or also detailed floor plan, elevations, sections, electrical, plumbing drawings, structural calculation, bill of materials, 3D design (for submission to authorities)?

      Myself I retired from architecture but I have 2 partner architects in Philippines who can help you, I gave them your email address to contact you and you need to negotiate price with them.

  3. just want to know how much does it cost to build a 2story house of 4bedrooms, 3 bathrooms & the other areas of the house …approximately!

  4. Cost of construction is generally computed in two ways. First is through detailed estimating and second is through the area method.

    Detailed estimating refers to the process of deriving the total cost by computing the quantity of each item of work and their equivalent materials and labor cost. This process requires that a plan be prepared first before the estimate can proceed. It is the more accurate method of computation and usually arrived at lower cost than the area method. This method is preferable because it force the contractors or house builders to define all of the required construction details and prevent disagreements during the progress of construction work.

    Estimating through area method is the faster way to derived the cost of construction. The Contractors only need to get the required floor area and he can then derive the total cost of the building by multiplying it by a cost factor which may range from as low as P15,000/sq m and as high as P25,000/sq m for a decent livable building. The cost factor that the contractors will use depends on the specified requirements of the client and some other factors that he may consider as relevant in this costing method.. This method however, is arguably erroneous because it cannot accurately compute the cost impact of different factors such as the number of rooms, number of windows, number of toilet and bath, height of the structure, types of finishes, type of fixtures and other factors that affects the cost of house and building construction. Because of this limitations, construction contractors or house builders are forced to put a relevant mark-up to their estimate to ensure that the cost will be enough or higher than is actually required for the building construction and thus arriving at a higher cost compared to the first method. The area method is advisable to only be used to get a ballpark figure for budgeting purposes, using this method for contractual purposes is highly discourage because it may result to unresolvable disagreements during the progress of construction which may lead to abandonment or stoppage of the construction projects and may end up to legal battle.

    Factors the affect the Cost of House and Building Construction. Location is the first thing that will affect the cost of your construction. Construction at provinces around metro manila is cheaper compared within metro manila itself. But if you go too far out, accessibility and availability of construction materials may become a problem which may add up cost to your project. If your property is inside a high-end subdivision, then a higher cost is to be expected because of their strict construction regulations.

    Height of the structure also impacts the construction cost greatly. The higher the floor height or ceiling height of the building, the more elegant and spacious it looks. But additional height force the structural elements of the building to be sturdier and also adds the quantity for the wall materials and finishes which in turn leads to a higher cost.

    Number of rooms and number of toilet and baths in your house will obviously also impact cost of construction.

    Glass is more expensive than masonry wall, as such, the cost goes up when more windows are added to the building. The cost difference is further amplified if specialized glass such as tempered and laminated glass is used instead of an ordinary glass.

    Types of Structural system such as precast panels, load bearing chb, cast-in-place wall panels and reinforced concrete frame differ in cost greatly and will influence the total cost in a major way. Cast-in-place wall panels is the most expensive type but reinforced concrete frame is the universally accepted practice and have been subject to different international studies and tests, as such, this is considered the most safe and structurally sound system.

    Types of materials used such as pipes and wires also put impact on the total cost. Branded materials which is expected to be of higher quality is also expected to be higher in cost. Interior walls can also differ based on materials used, such as concrete-hollow-block or fiber-cement board.

    Types of finishes and fixtures are those that are seen by the eyes after the project is completed. Cost will vary greatly depending on the type and brand of finishes used. Method of installation and warranty period for each item may also affects the cost.

    House classification. Cost of house construction depends on the types of finishes used and the location of the property. In the Philippines, houses are usually classified into four categories namely basic, standard, semi-elegant, and elegant. Each of these classifications has its own set of specifications and cost range.

    It is best to know how much you can afford for the your dream home before talking to your contractor. Using area method, luxury houses can cost as much as P30,000/sqm while if you have a tight budget, a decent affordable house can cost as low as P12,000/sqm

    1. Good write up. Interesring details abt housing in the philippines.

      I am in the process of building a house. And i kept on hearing 25k/sqm is ideal but it is a little too steep for me. This price is excluding osm i suppose? Owner supplied materials such as finishing fixture lighting etc and so on.

      Now i was wondering if itll be good as for estimate purposes if i go and find a contractor that does it for 16k/sqm excluding osm. Or do i find a contractor and negotiate with them to do it at 16k rather than their common practice of say 20k -25k/sqm. I have very little building experience in the philippines as i have never practiced there. Was wondering if you can advise. House will be built in a private subdivision in parañaque btw .

      Thanks a lot!

    2. Sorry for the late reply.

      It is best to have an architect go thru your design. Ultimately, you will be in constant discussion with him and everything will be laid down for you in detail. From what you want to the materials you need and how much it would cost.

      An architect can also help you in screening contractors and supervise the work in your behalf.

      You definitely need one to draw and cone up with a plan for you

  5. We moved into a rental house just outside of Metro Manila. It looks really nice on the outside, but on the inside the walls are a total nightmare. Being not-square or plumb. The plumbing is of low quality and it seems like builders don’t know how to fit in the sink right. Also, like you mentioned, the kitchen, living and dining area make no sense whatsoever. Even an SM condo unit has some sort of deeper thought in the design.

    From what a resident told me here it’s called “pwede-na” attitude, or how I translated “good-enough”. After having built a couple of homes in the USA, that attitude seems appalling to me. I need things to be plumb and square and not curved and crooked. So if I have a house built, I will be supervising everything, using a USA designed house plan modified by Filipino engineers and architects (from wood to more concrete and mortar building standards) so the living, dining and kitchen spaces make more sense.

    Also, what happened to garage doors in the Philippines? What they call garages are more like car-ports with gates.

  6. Hi,

    Can someone guide me where to look about rulings re: slum area cannot build a house beside the gated community where their house is higher than the wall

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