More townships, boost in local investments seen to dominate headlines this 2015

By Amor Maclang

WE’RE already midway into the first month of 2015, and this early, property developers are expecting this year to open up more opportunities for businesses to flourish and development ideas to come to life from the blueprint to the ground.

I reached out to a couple of good friends from the real-estate sector to ask what they think would be some of the key property trends we can expect from industry players this year. Most of them were one in saying that integrated, master-planned communities—developments that offer a unique lifestyle and a unique set of culture that attracts like-minded individuals—will continue to sprout in various parts of the country, as more and more people look to save time and resources while balancing their lives at home, at work and at play.

“People will continue to patronize masterplanned, self-sustained developments,” Megaworld First Vice President Jericho Go said. “For one, traffic congestion is not improving, which means it’s not getting easier to travel from point A to point B wherever you are. Traveling around Metro Manila and other major cities has been eating up so much time, so people would prefer to live where they work and patronize nearby establishments.”

As we speak, Megaworld is focused on developing strategic areas of Bonifacio Global City—a key growth area where the company enjoys a status as the single largest land developer. Right now, Megaworld has four ongoing townships projects within BGC: Forbes Town Center, McKinley Hill, McKinley West and Uptown Bonifacio.

“Due to the continuous increase of globalization, cities are experiencing the impact of mass migration and rapid urbanization. With the increasing appreciation and demand for urban master-planning, leading developers now recognize the value of townships that offer complete communities—putting together live, work, play, learn and leisure components within walkable vicinities,” shared Noli Hernandez, Megaworld senior vice president for sales and marketing. “Townships, in effect, have changed people’s expectations for standards of living and heightened quality of life.”

Nurturing an investor’s mind-set

Meanwhile, Tom Mirasol, Ayala Land chief sales and marketing executive, also shared that the preferences of today’s homebuyers have become more inclined toward developments that offer greater living opportunities. “Consumers see the value in complete communities. Property in well-planned communities comes at a premium, but it’s well worth it given the benefits of a complete community.”

This kind of knowledge and behavior have paved the way toward homebuyers adopting an investor’s mind-set very early into their careers. “Nowadays, more Filipinos are steadily improving their income. Younger people have more disposable income and are more likely to delay marriage and parenthood to make way for more investments,” Brittany Corp. General Manager Trixie Dial shared. “As people start becoming financially mature—making a conscious effort to use their funds wisely—they adopt a more investment-inclined mindset, which is a very welcome development for industry players in the real-estate business.”

Growth outside of NCR and going “out of the box”

Another trend local developers are seeing today is the continued emergence of development hot spots outside of Metro Manila.

“Right now, we are seeing more developers focused on strengthening their respective geographical growths,” noted Iris Josef, vice president of the Business Development Group of Cebu Holdings Inc. (CHI).

“We expect more and more players to really reinforce their presence outside Metro Manila, especially as the market here increasingly becomes more crowded. This is growth toward provincial cities and even in the Asean region.”

Over the past few years Iris and her CHI team have focused on developing Cebu as the premier metropolitan hub of the southern Philippines. They have been responsible for the success of the Cebu Business Park, Ayala Land’s first geographic expansion project outside Luzon and the center of business and lifestyle in Cebu, as well as the Cebu IT Park, a mixed-used industrial business district, which is home to over 70 percent of Cebu’s business-process outsourcing players.

This renewed interest in industrial developments augurs very well for the Philippines, especially now that we are expected to gain so much from the effects of the Asean integration. “A lot of our Asian neighbors, like China, Vietnam and Thailand, are not becoming ‘cheap’ anymore,” said Go of Megaworld.

“A lot of foreign manufacturing firms would want to have places that are relatively more stable and have a more English-speaking labor force. And this is where the Philippines can really capitalize on attracting more investments and more employment opportunities for the local work force.”

Keeping an eye on risks

On the other hand, the debates, the confusion and the intrigues associated with the upcoming national elections is also one thing that makes developers very weary about the future. This, according to them, will be felt more prominently than ever this year.

“We are approaching the 2016 elections so there’s a huge risk of political bickering among those aiming for national office,” Go added. “The exposés against political figures make people so focused on what is happening in the political atmosphere, that things like public-private partnership projects might be neglected. Peace and order also poses a huge concern, as well as talks about an impending power crisis. If the country becomes more focused on things like these, then that’s a huge risk that may slow down growth for the property sector.”

Failure to capitalize on the opportunities produced by the Philippines’s current positive economic environment will mean a big loss of business interest for the property sector. “There has never been a better time to invest in real estate and contribute to the development of our nation than today,” Hernandez added.

All in all, it seems like the future looks very promising for the Philippines insofar as real-estate activity is concerned. As more players look to introduce a host of new brands and new concepts—with each becoming more aware of the risks they need to strategize and prepare for—this year is beginning to look like another exciting ride for the local property sector. Good times, indeed.


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