Building a budget concrete house in the Philippines – conclusion
This will be the last page about building a house in the Philippines. There will be a few pictures of the house in nearly completed condition and storey I am going to try to outline a few difficulties that you might come across if you choose to build a place in this country.
In the house featured on these pages I did not take a big risk by investing a lot of money. We are located about 17 kilometers up in the mountains of Leyte near the geo-thermal plants near Lake Danao.
By building in remote locations you will save money on some things and other thinks will increase the costs. Factor in delivery charges and the endless commuting back and forth to town to get supplies. The labor costs are less if the local guys are looking to work and have the skills.
We were able to use some local coco lumber but it is not an ideal building material due to it’s susceptibility to infestation by boring insects and termites. We painted a mix of used motor oil and wood saver on all the wood.
The walls and floor are concrete, the roof corrugated metal, jealousy glass windows in aluminum frames, the electric pole is 10 meters away but I have not yet connected with Leyeco.
I was planning on spending 3,500 USD but the final cost will be closer to 7,500 USD. The lot was less than 100 USD and the ownership is not secure, but it should be ok for up there in the mountains. Doing things this way is not a good idea if you are trying to make an investment – this house is basically a gift and I accept that.
Kids cutting down a tree.
I ran into a temporary problem when my lead guy just disappeared last week. I was in Palawan for 2 weeks and left them with 5 cubic meters or sand and maybe 10 sacks of cement thinking that they would start to frame in the windows and start finishing the walls. They decided to work on the septic tank instead which was ok I guess but the project seemed to be grinding to a halt.
All the local kids wanted to help out.
Apparently the lead carpenter’s wife had “utanged” (took out a loan using her husbands labor as collateral) and they wanted to collect on the loan so he just buggered off. It opened a window for me to get things under control again so I hired a few guys an we are going full speed ahead right now.
I have a crew of 7 or 8 guys wrapping this project up right now – wages for a full day are 200 pesos and 100 pesos for a half day – this is for skilled masons with their own tools. (basically 5 USD a day) I have come to really like these guys in the mountains. They are willing to work hard and give you an honest days work for their money. The pace is different than some people would be able to deal with but you have to be flexible if you are going to try a project like this.
A lot of the kids in the pictures are the workers children who just want to watch their father build.
I usually bring snacks from the bakeshop and noted that often the workers would take the food and then quickly hand it to the kids when I wasn’t looking – or put it in their pocket to give to them later. One of the kids gave her father a hug and exclaimed “Thanks my Daddy”. with a big smile.
I am concerned for that guy because he has a nasty cough and I fear that he has tuberculosis. You have to be careful to know where to draw the line when helping people out but I hope to get this guy to go in for an x-ray and get on some medication. He just showed up claiming to need exercise and just started finishing the walls, but did such a good job and fast that I decided to keep him full time for the next two weeks. All of us have limited cash reserves so you have to be selective when helping people out.
I enjoy the clean air and water up there in the mountains but would probably weary of living up there full time. The view is great and the temperature is cooler than down in the lowlands. This house has some towering bamboo that provides shade and there is a creek that runs by behind the house which rages during the heavy rains but I don’t think that there will be any erosion problems.
Overall this has been a fun project but my advice is to use caution if you are a foreigner planning to build in the Philippines. You have no legal protection as far as land ownership goes and estimates will always be low balled – figuring that you will not pull out of the project once you are in too deep.
I brought about 400 kilos of rice up to the mountain since we began this project – 8 bags 1300 – 1500 pesos per 50 kilo sack. You have to have rice or things simply will not get done.
My hidden cost estimate is roughly 1000 USD. This is fish, chicken, bake shop goods, other snacks, and gas for my motorcycle. The project was started the last week of September and should be nearly completed by the third week of December.
We are camping out in the house until it is finished now. Basically all that is left to complete now is the glass, electricity and some doors. The project can go on forever if you let it.
Observations made while building this house
1) Everything will cost more than you are planning on spending. In my case the final costs were about double my estimate but we just kept coming up with new ideas and add ons. I really did not have a solid game plan at the beginning and allowed too much operation creep – you have to keep a close eye on what is going on. In this case we also had communication difficulties – my guys don’t speak English and my skill with the local languages is lacking as well. There were also subtle issues that I wasn’t able to pick up on which further complicated things.
2) Some jobs are best done by contract – providing the the guys really know what they are doing. For example – my neighbor was an installer for Ormoc Glass and offered to complete the window installation for 100 pesos per window. He had his own glass cutter, drill and had the skill to do the job quickly and professionally. Be advised that many workers will say that they have a handle on it but in reality don’t have a clue and you will have to have their work re-done. It can be cheaper to hire a more skilled worker in some cases.
3) Try not to be on western time. You can have very good workers but once they get paid they might have a late night and simply not show up the following morning. You can’t freak – it just happens and you don’t want to loose guys that are very good at what they do. Just make your plan for the day with the guys that do show up.
4) When we started off I paid the crew every Saturday night. Later I switched to paying every day. This way you can shrink down the crew anytime using the excuse – lack of materials, job finished, whatever…you don’t have to make the guy loose face because he simply is not up to the job at hand.
5) My feeling is that it would be very difficult to manage building a house in the Philippines from abroad. Even if you have a family member on site overseeing the job, there will be a lot of things that they just don’t see that will gobble up money as fast as you can shovel it their way. I hate to be cynical, but many locals in the Philippines feel obliged to “finish” the money as quickly as possible. They feel that the foreigner has endless cash reserves to exploit. Do not let anyone pressure you into spending needlessly. I have moved into this house
Building a budget house in the Philippines
Part 1 Finding the Right Clothing 1.