Property Ownership for Foreigners

Bini Island For Sale by Owner

in Polillo, Quezon, Philippines 


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Can Foreigners own real estate in the Philippines?

Generally, only Filipinos are allowed by Philippine laws to acquire by purchase, transfer or assignment any lands in the Philippines. However Foreigners may be able to acquire properties in the Philippines by any of the following:

  • Lease the Property -- You can lease public and private land for 25 years with an automatic renewal for 25 years, (just enough time for return on investments). This is also a cheap alternative, but it makes it difficult to make any sort of investment return on a property. However, it is ideal for those thinking of retiring here. Unlike many countries such as Thailand or Indonesia, a lease on property for a foreigner is a very easy and straightforward step to take in the Philippines. This is the easiest, least time-consuming, and safest way for a foreigner to purchase small areas of land within the Philippines. It can be done directly with the owner.
  • Through a Filipino Trustee or wife – Have a Filipino (you can trust) where you can put the title or ownership of property in his/her name. This is the most common way for small-scale investors to buy property here.
  • Purchase land as a Balikbayan – The Government of the Philippines has recently passed the Dual Citizenship Act which gives all former Filipinos the right to purchase land within the Philippines.
  • Buy A Condominium Unit -- You can own 100% of the unit but not more than 40% of the entire condominium project.
  • Form a Corporation – You can form a corporation with Filipino partners with the sharing of 40% foreign - 60% Filipino capital. This is the most iron-clad form of property ownership for foreign investors, and definitely the preferred form of property ownership for those thinking of establishing a resort, or tourism facility. In fact, the majority of existing resorts and businesses owned by foreigners are using this form of ownership.
  • Inherit the land if your Spouse dies: This simply means, when your Filipina wife dies, you as the compulsory heir, together with your children if you have any, will become the legal owners of her property.


Can I form my own Land Holding Corporation?

Yes, provided that the foreigner (you) shall own a maximum of 40% and give away the other 60% to Filipino incorporators.

What sort of land titles are used in the Philippines?

There are different kinds of evidences of title for lands in the Philippines. Titles under the Torrens System are absolute proof of ownership. Tax Declarations are proof of lawful possession and affords possessory rights under the law.

  • Tax Declared - “Tax Declared” Properties are owned by the State but you have the right to possess, use, develop and dispose of it. With proper Leasehold Agreement and/or Land Use Agreement with the Government you can pursue construction and development of this kind of properties. A Tax Declaration is granted by the Philippines Government in lieu of freehold land. This is similar to all lands sold in strategic waterfront properties in Sydney and Melbourne (Australia), also much of the land sold in England, particularly London. They cannot be rescinded by the Government except in (very rare) cases of National Interest. Tax Declarations cannot be used as loan instruments or collateral. While Tax Declarations do not provide the absolute security of indefeasible title provided by a Torrens Title, it is however, the next best thing. Tax Declarations are universally recognized in Philippine jurisprudence as evidence of possession.
  • Titled – The present land titling system of the Philippines was instituted just after the Americans colonized the Philippines in 1898. Act 496, or the “Land Registration Law of 1903” placed all public and private lands in the Philippines under the Torrens System. The law is almost a verbatim copy of the Massachusetts Land Registration Act of 1898, which, in turn, followed the principles and procedure of the Torrens System of registration formulated by Sir Robert Torrens who patterned it after the Merchant Shipping Acts in South Australia.

The Torrens System requires that the government issues an official certificate of title attesting to the fact that the person named is the owner of the property described therein, subject to such liens and encumbrances as thereon noted or the law warrants or reserves. The certificate of title is indefeasible and imprescriptible and all claims to the parcel of land are quieted upon issuance of said certificate.

If I buy a “Tax Declared” property can I get it “Titled or something to make me feel "safer"?

Yes. With the recent lifting of the moratorium on the disposition and granting of any title, concession, permit or lease on all small islands nationwide by virtue of Administrative Order No. 2003-06 of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, certain islands that are tax declared can now be titled for as long as they are classified as alienable and disposable. However, certain types of land may never be titled.

What are the disadvantages of a Tax Declared vs. Titled property?

Tax Declarations are proof of possession, but they are not deemed as desirable or 100% secure as a Titled property. That's because there exists the possibility of disputes of property boundaries and ownership with tax declarations, especially if the property is not held by a single owner, but by the “Heirs”. Because of this we extensively research our Tax Declared properties to ensure they are free of problems. It would be counter-productive for us to sell properties that later have troubles when the sale is taking place.

In general it is easier to commercially develop Titled properties than Tax Declared, but there is very little difference involved and not having title is no prohibition on development. It is simply that a bit more process must be completed to commercially develop a Tax Declared property. However, in the instance of the property being used to locate a residence there is virtually no difference between the two.

How can I be certain that these properties are legitimate?

Prior to your arrival we can send certified copies of title for any of the properties you inquire about.

Upon your arrival we can arrange you to have a meeting with our lawyer, and can also take you to an independent lawyer who specializes in real estate laws of the Philippines. We are registered Real Estate Agents, certified by the State, and can (if needed) supply contact details of happy clients who will verify their satisfaction with our service.

In the event of my death, can the property be transferred to my husband or children or both, who are all natural born American (or other) citizens?

Yes. Under Section 7, Article XII of the Philippine Constitution, foreigners can inherit land."

Are there limitations on hereditary succession?

No. There are no limitations on hereditary succession both with respect to citizenship and size of the property.

SEC. 7. "Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain." 


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