Saturday, May 7, 2016

Philippines Vacation – Day 10: Checking Out a Condo in Cubao & Grab Car Rides

One Bedroom Specifications
Studio Specifications
The day after my visit to U.P., I had made an appointment to meet with a real estate agent in Cubao. Since everyone at home was working that day, they suggested that I try Grab Taxi or Grab Car which is an Uber or Lyft type service. I opted for the Grab Car since they charge a flat rate instead of the Grab Taxi where the regular taxi meter is used. Since I wasn’t familiar with the streets in the Philippines anymore, it was in my best interest to have the flat rate in case I got an unscrupulous taxi driver who might drive me around in circles. I downloaded the app and ordered a car to my location, it gave me the driver’s name, license plate number, and cell phone number. As soon as he arrived, we were off to Cubao. Since I was about an hour early, it gave me a chance to explore the surroundings and try to get my bearings. Cubao was a frequent hangout when I was still studying in U.P. I walked around Araneta Center and SM (Shoe Mart) before I got a call from the real estate agent whom I arranged to meet in front of Rustan’s Department Store across from the Kia Theater. Two of them showed up and they were going to take me to see two buildings but I said one was enough. We took a taxi and I was shown the building which was still being constructed, then we went some other place to look at the floor models. There I saw a bare studio, dressed up studio, a one bedroom, and a combined one bedroom and studio option. Well, the studio was so tiny that if you were claustrophobic, you would not even consider it. The one bedroom was slightly larger but the bed and sofa still had to be positioned flush against the wall to create more space. The combined one bedroom and studio was only about 2/3 the size on my current 1 bedroom condo in Long Beach. I took pictures and videos but since it’s one dimensional, it’s hard to really discern the smallness of the units. Next I found out that the price quoted was only for the condo unit and didn’t include a parking space. The realtor said the parking space costs almost as much as the condo itself. Nevertheless, we went to the business office to look at available units and do calculations on costs and amortizations. I had to keep using my calculator to convert pesos into dollars. I told the realtor that I would consult with my family later that day and decide whether it was feasible for me to buy a condo in the Philippines or not.
Studio Condo - bare and staged

One Bedroom Condo - staged

The two realtors brought me back to where we started from and upon getting my bearings, I walked towards the construction area of the condo building. It was only about half a mile at most from the Araneta Center and was close to a supermarket, eateries, entertainment areas, and most importantly, a gym, not to mention not too far from Larry and Ninette’s home. Cubao also has nice sidewalks to walk on which was a plus. It was also very close to the light rail system. Suffice it to say, I really liked the area.
Amaia Skies construction site
Over the next few hours, I kept on walking around and went in and out of several stores and malls. At SM, I even found pastillas candy which I had planned to taking back to the U.S. for presents. In the end, I bought a few bags of those plus a wallet for myself. I fired up the Grab Car app again and a car picked me up in front of the Kia Theater and drove me back to U.P. Professors Subdivision. The cost of the ride back home was cheaper because it was not peak time.
Grab Car ride
That evening, I told Larry and Ninette about the condo and discussed the pros and cons of buying one. The condo company required a reservation fee of about $300 after which I was supposed to make a down payment within 30 days. If I failed to make a down payment, the $300 would be lost forever. In recent years, I’ve always been cash poor since most of my savings are in retirement plans in which if I withdrew money before I turned 59 and a half, I would be penalized by paying a surcharge. Not only that, whatever I withdrew would be taxed. I had given this information to the realtors earlier too. If I decided to buy, I would also need to give Larry my Special Power of Attorney so he can sign papers for me and make payments on my behalf. There was also an added pressure of time. The condo company said that on April 1st, which was only two days away, the prices of the condos and possibly some other fees would be going up and they said this occurs every quarter of the year.
After so much consideration and in spite of liking the location of the condo which was going to be ready by 2017, the negatives outweighed the positives. I could not get over the terrible traffic, the heat, the mostly bad sidewalks in most places, and the lack of a parking space with the condo price. The added pressure of having to decide within two days didn’t help either because I don’t like to make rash judgments like that specially that costs a lot of money. I don’t think the Philippines is a cheap place to live in anymore if you want to live in an urban area. I spend much less here in the U.S. than what I would in the Philippines if I retired there. I already had second thoughts about retiring there when I wrote about it a year or so ago. Perhaps, I, like a lot of people have taken living in the U.S. for granted until we experience living somewhere else. It has made me appreciate my humble abode in a not so very good part of town more, where the sidewalks are much better and the drivers are mostly more disciplined and follow lane lines.

No comments: