I Have An Apartment

I put a deposit on an apartment that will be available on Oct 5. I can think of three things to say about plopping my self down in one place for a while: 1) So What?, 2) Why I didn’t expect this to be easy, 3) What is the place like. Scroll down to the heading of the section you are interested in or humor me and read the whole thing.

So What?

I’m relieved. All along the plan has been to find a town and country which looked like it would meet my criteria then find a place to live. Living out of two suitcases had become something I’d had enough of. I want to stop learning and evaluating and put that knowledge to use.

I want a place for my stuff. It will be fun to how my stuff expands to the now larger space available as George Carlin once expounded on.

Having my own kitchen will be a relief. I’ve only been stomach sick twice but that’s twice too many. I’m sure I’ve eaten way more than the recommended amount of salt and MSG and less whole grains and veggies than I should be. Maybe I’ll put on some weight.

I am also contemplating the transition from being a traveler in an expat community to being a member. Dumaguete is the first place where the community was appealing enough that I wanted to do that.

Why I Didn’t Expect This To Be Easy.

It was easy. I researched by net, had an email exchange with the owner and then went to his bank to make the deposit while I was still in Cebu. Looked at the place my second day here, I liked it and him, he thought I would fit in and the deal was done.

What I expected to do will not make sense without understanding rental housing in the Phils. My understanding comes from reading expat forums for years and talking with guys who have settled here.

Houses are available, almost always unfurnished. In this country, unfurnished means the prior tenant or landlord may have striped the place of faucets, door locks, light fixtures and anything the could be removed.

Condos are usually high rises found in the larger towns and either unfurnished or startlingly expensive. Renting one requires a front. Foreigners walk around with targets on ourselves. A landlord would rather have a unit stay empty for months or years rather than let a foreigner have it at less then a bend-over-and-grab-your-ankles price. The usual procedure is have a Filipino front person check out the place and negotiate a price for you. At lease signing time the foreigner shows up with the front at which point the deal usually evaporates. Repeat until a compliant landlord is found or until one decides grabbing ankles isn’t that bad.

Just about anything called an Apartment will be unacceptable to foreigners with all but the lowest budgets. In the largest cities and in towns with many expats there are exceptions.

Finding a place to rent is the first step. Locals rent month to month. Most landlords expect foreigners to sign a one year lease and ask for outrageous deposits. The rule of thumb is to wave good bye to any deposit because you’ll never see it again no matter what happens. One must often continue to hunt for housing to find a lease term and deposit term that is acceptable.

But wait, there is more. A foreigner’s dwelling that is not a high rise condo will be watched and then burglarized once they figure out your pattern of coming and going. The place must be occupied 24/7 which is where live in maids factor in. There are exceptions, usually places that are a second or third building on a lot where there is 24/7 occupation. The presence of guards or gated & walled communities look nice, but the guys sleep and take bribes. So does your live in maid, so finding a good one means first establishing a good relationship with a local and finding one through her family.

I was not keen on doing all this but there isn’t much choice. In Dumaguete there are a couple of apartment buildings that are foreigner owned and operated (actually the wife owns it if you want to get technical) and all the residents are foreigners. Lease and deposit are reasonable or non existent. Enough workers live or work on the site that 24/7 presence is taken care of. I got lucky and snatched the last unit of a 10 unit (or is it 8?) apartment building before another guy could get to the bank to make a deposit in the owner’s account.

What is the Place Like?

Building was designed with an American apartment in mind but also with features from local architecture that are good in tropical climate and the lifestyle one’s live in girl friend or wife expects. For example, having a ‘Dirty Kitchen’ on the back porch and another kitchen inside. The kitchens are laid out like the Filipino houses I’ve been in, which makes sense because the Filipina of the house is going to decide if anyone but her is going to use it. It means lots of louvered windows on both sides of the building for flow through ventilation.

It’s furnished: Bed, table & chairs, fridge, counter top gas burners, AC, fan, computer table, TV, cable, WiFi and wired for a phone land line. On demand hot water in the shower.

There are two ways to look at the rent. If one wants to make zero commitment and leave with zero notice then the price is P 15,000 a month, or about $ 330, plus electricity, cooking gas and drinking water (fifty cents for a five gallon jug, delivered). Price includes sheets, towels, and a set of cookware, utensils, plates, cups, flatware, etc. There are a couple of girls who do laundry and clean if the tenant wishes to pay for it.

If one commits to 3 months and giving 30 days notice before leaving, the price drops to P 10,000 ($ 220). Sheets are the only items from the above list that are included.

To put this in perspective there is currently available three bedroom house on a big lot in a quiet area for P 7000 a month.

I have signed up for one month at the zero commitment price and expect to transition to the long term commitment status. I say ‘signed up’ but everything was done on a hand shake basis.

The building is located on one of the two lane arterial roads that lead away from the town into the surrounding barangays (the smallest political unit in the Phils) with regular public jeepney and trike traffic. Ride into town is about 10 minutes. The air smells like nature, not like town. I’d describe the neighbors as being part of the country’s small middle class. The only corrugated steel or bamboo buildings in sight are outlying buildings on larger lots. The help has to sleep somewhere.

These photos are from the landlord’s web page. They’re full size, so no need to click.

AptOutside

I will be on the second floor, last unit on the right.

AptLong

AptInsideKitchen

The inside kitchen. The dirty kitchen is out the back door. Has big sink, gas burners, lots of counter space, a hose and a trough for hosing things down into.

AptFrontDoor

AptBed

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