Changing preferences
HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes (The Philippine Star) - September 26, 2020 - 12:00am

I like living in a condominium.

Aside from the fact that I like walking from my condo­minium unit to the department store, the supermarket, the movie house, in short, the amenities of city life, living in a small space means less to clean. So long as I have a re­liable and fast internet connection, a full refrigerator and cupboard, a working airconditioning unit, cable TV con­nection, I must say, I have everything I need.

The pandemic and the resulting quarantine, unfortu­nately, exposed the weaknesses of condominium living.

If you are sick, you cannot just leave your unit because the mo­ment the lobby guards find out that you have a fever, they might not let you back in. If someone in the building turns out to be infected with the coronavirus and opts for home isolation, that means every­one has to be extra careful. After all, common spaces like the lobby, the elevators are breeding ground for the virus.

If your airconditioning unit or any of your appliance stops work­ing, you cannot just let the repair guy into your unit. Obviously for health reasons, there was a time when repair personnel were not allowed inside the condominium premises. It was only when Metro Manila was placed under general community quarantine that they started allowing repairs.

The worst thing about condominium living nowadays is visitors are still not allowed. So unless your visitor has been previously registered as one of the residents, then chances are, they will not be allowed into your unit.

It is not surprising, therefore, that according to many surveys conducted by property consulting firms, house and lot properties are getting a lot of inquiries. But not just any house and lot property, it should be one that is near the supermarket, place of work, and the hospital. We all experienced how it was when mass public transportation came to a halt. Unless you have your own vehicle, how are you expected to buy the things you need or go to your place of work?

Has the pandemic, indeed, changed consumers’ prefer­ences in buying property?

A recent study conducted by Lamudi highlights new priorities for property seekers, and at the same time reveals factors that still remain important for buyers and renters with or without a health crisis.

For instance, despite experiencing dips during the en­hanced community quarantine, properties in central busi­ness districts continue to be popular as a real estate invest­ment.

Second, connectivity amenities will no longer be a want; instead, they are a need for work-from-home setups and extended stays indoors.

Before the pandemic, I really wanted to rent a unit at a condominium complex in Mandaluyong. Its location was perfect. It had world-class amenities. So I rented the unit for six months. I didn’t realize that I was going to be work­ing from home most of the time. Do you know how slow the download speed was the last time I did a speed test? Three Mbps. I can’t wait for my lease period to come to an end.

The study also revealed that the affordability of fore­closed properties contributed to its resilience amid the pandemic. Meanwhile, the strong performance of condo­miniums at the start of the year waned slightly during the strict community quarantines. The slight dip in inquiries, but still relatively stable interest may be due to property seekers holding on to cash amid uncertainties, it said.

The Lamudi study, likewise, noted the renewed interest in houses during the ECQ carried over to the MECQ.

In the same study, it was revealed that property seekers are looking for residential properties closer to their work­places, especially for those who are deemed as essential workers and are at higher risk to the virus.

Meanwhile, aside from connectivity amenities, prospec­tive buyers and renters prefer properties with balconies and common gym areas. Lamudi explained that balconies serve as an area for activities and hobbies which can be enjoyed while staying at home, while common gyms are good alternatives to the commercial gyms that have been closed during the quarantine.

We still do not know when things will go back to nor­mal. Many property owners still do not allow short-term leases. The office sector is likely to experience higher va­cancy rates as many POGOs or Philippine offshore gaming operators did not renew their office leases. Many buyers prefer to hold on to their cash and have postponed plans to purchase property. A number of developers have stopped construction activities due to lack of available construction workers.

But many are optimistic that things will start getting better before the end of the year and that a recovery is ex­pected in 2021. Let us hope for everyone’s sake that they are right.

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