On leaving home – and making a new one – in 2022

My life for the past two months, only much less neat and with more paper and plastic bags. (Photo by Michal Balog on Unsplash)

‘Sup? Welcome to Very Online, issue #7.

Much has kept me busy and stressed out over the past few months. One of those things was moving homes.

This wasn’t exactly new for me; it was actually my eighth (!!!) relocation. And over time, moving has become much more complex than just sorting/packing up my belongings and unpacking somewhere else.

My biggest advantages this time were I now had a bit more of a cushion, savings-wise; and I now had (more) online options. I didn’t have to do everything on my own or the old-fashioned way. From administrative stuff like changing billing addresses to doing additional renovations, buying essential appliances and furniture, and signing up for utilities such as internet access, being very online opened me up to more choices and helped me with my time and energy.

People don’t always talk about the unseen aspects of relocation, though. I’m currently adjusting to yet another residential environment and community. It has been 14 years since my last major move, so this does feel like having the proverbial rug pulled out under me. This was my first move as a disabled person too, so I couldn’t do this the way I did when I was still able-bodied.

By the way, we still have a pandemic going on. I may have avoided COVID-19 for two years and change. But even if I am vaccinated and boosted, I can still get it from my new neighbors and the condominium staff.

Plus, the pandemic and external factors like the invasion of Ukraine have resulted in various economic pressures. The biggest of those is the rising prices for everything, including basic necessities and fuel (gasoline and diesel).

Oh. One more thing. My country has also elected the son of a dictator/plunderer and the daughter of a self-confessed murderer as President and Vice President, respectively. They will take power at the end of this month. So…

Even with the bad circumstances and timing, this home move is my most monumental. It has an air of finality to it: I am on my own for the most part (unlike before, when I always had assistance from kin), I am never coming back, and I had to take everything I own with me. There is no safety net this time, no Plan B of returning and swallowing once again my pride and self-worth.

On the bright side, I now have the opportunity to make and run a home that’s truly mine, one that I won’t be afraid to be in. I can do all the things I want to do in a proper home, and I can maintain it the way I see fit. That’s a big deal, too.

Step 1: Relocation

The most immediate concerns of anyone moving out are:

  1. Where to go, or go next?

  2. How much would rent/lease and moving cost in total, including security deposits? How about in a year? Two years?

I imagine that pre-internet, Filipinos found their homes and rentals/leases mainly through the classifieds and real estate agents and brokers. Or maybe they went to their neighborhood/city of budget-friendly choice and explored until they saw a For Sale or For Rent sign. Otherwise, they can always rely on those pesky brokers handing out pamphlets and flyers at malls – and block your path while trying to make their quotas. They are as permanent here in the Philippines as death and taxes.

Word-of-mouth is also reliable in this part of the world. Someone always knows someone looking to sell a lot or rent out a unit, and will spread the word. I actually prefer using referrals for almost everything, so I am more likely to listen first to the Mariteses in my friend groups.

Search here

In the year of your Lord 2022, the real estate industry has also gone online. Much like how I found temporary accommodations when backpacking in the ’00s (via Airbnb, hostel directories like Hostelworld and Lonely Planet, and resources like South East Asia Backpacker), now there are third-party platforms dedicated specifically to property rentals and sales.

Among the most well-known here in the Philippines for both purchases and rentals are Lamudi (which also owns MyProperty), Carousell, Dot Property, ZipMatch, Hoppler, RentPad, and Berenta. Over the years, these platforms have helped me see which areas of Metro Manila and what property types are in high demand, how much they sell for/rent out per city, what the usual amenities and inclusions are, and which developers are doing well. You can use them for research and arming yourself against sales talk.

Some agents and brokers have also made their own websites to promote their properties. I suppose it’s the same for them as for us freelancers – it’s nice to be everywhere, but you also need to have your own online home. This goes a long way toward looking professional.

Home page of a page for homes.

One example of this is Upside Philippines, run by Mitor and Kabbie Alipio. I like what they’ve done with their “place”. The website has a clean and neat design. Their listings are searchable and well-cataloged. And they’ve kept up with pandemic-era trends; Upside PH offers 360-degree virtual tours plus a YouTube channel, blog, and podcast.

(Also: I find myself checking out this Makati townhouse listing over and over again, even if I obviously don’t have the ₱43 million required. Libre lang po mangarap.)

Get on socials

Having your own website/platform is a big plus, but other agents/brokers will work with what they already have to save time and money.

That means maximizing their social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. The main draws here are they can leverage their personal networks to make money, and they can play with multiple free or paid media and marketing tools for virtual tours and customer service. Look at your Friends list; I’m sure you’ll find a minimum of five real-estate folks on it – and they likely have already tried selling to you at least once.

Social media algorithms are key, too. YouTube and TikTok in particular can open them up to more viewers who may (or may not) have the connections, money, and bona fides needed for purchase or lease. I don’t just mean Boomer, Generation X, and Generation Y/Older Millennial buyers. Members of Generation Z, especially esports players and people doing play-to-earn/NFT games like Axie Infinity, have made headlines in the past few years for buying land and/or finished properties with their prize money. And TBH I don’t think they all went through the traditional route to buy or build their homes.

For consumers, all of these social media platforms are familiar and free to use. So while agents and brokers are posting their content, we consume them in our spare time without logging on somewhere else and learning a new interface.

I think going social media-heavy for property selling and renting works out well if you and the broker already know each other beforehand. If it’s a blind transaction… Well, I have my doubts.

Haul out

I did all my previous house moves via private transportation. But that always depends on how many boxes I can fit in the car trunk. I have control over the whole process, but it’s physically taxing and I have to move my belongings in batches.

A typical hauler in the Philippines. (Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash)

Today I can use services like Transportify or Lalamove for one-time, big-time hauling. With them, I can choose which vehicle type to rent and how much space I need given a certain number of hours and the distance to travel.

I used Lalamove a few weeks ago to send three large balikbayan boxes full of my old clothes, electronics, and books to Humble Sustainability for recycling and reuse. I got an MPV with a 300-kg total carrying capacity, and paid its kind and helpful driver around ₱350 during off-peak hours to load and transport my boxes to Humble Sustainability’s Mandaluyong warehouse. The whole thing was done in an hour. Not bad at all!

Transportify also got some of my new appliances to me at my new residence (more on that below). Someone else booked the delivery on my behalf, but with my time preference and location of choice in mind. Transportify’s delivery staff were punctual, courteous, and quick-thinking. Without me needing to give further instructions, they headed straight to my condo building’s back entrance (often used as staff entrance and an alternate route for large and big-ticket items) and already had a large trolley ready for me to use by the time I got downstairs.

If you want a link-up with traditional movers, online middlemen like Gawin.ph connect their users with lipat-bahay (house-moving) firms within Metro Manila. I selected Makati City as a sample location, and Gawin gave me the following terms:

  • A choice between a four-wheeler truck or a six-wheeler truck, with the former handling up to 2,000kg and the latter, up to 3 tons

  • Inclusions like having two helpers minimum per booking; and exclusions such as packaging, toll/parking fees, and 12% VAT

  • Service requests must be made at least three days beforehand.

After you file your service request, Gawin will send it directly to one of its verified vendors, with fixed pricing based on distance. Payment goes directly to the vendor and their staff.

I tested Gawin’s form, choosing a four-wheeler truck for an imaginary afternoon (after 12 PM) move within Makati in the afternoon that requires two assistants. Gawin calculated a lump-sum estimate of ₱3,540.00. That’s steep if you’re pinching pesos, but take it if you can for both convenience and peace of mind.

The ratings and reviews are encouraging, too, with the consensus being Gawin’s movers take care of their clients’ belongings and do their job well.

Kaodim (Gawin.ph’s parent company) announced that it’s ceasing operations in all of its markets, including the Philippines, on July 1, 2022.

I’m still looking for a good alternative to Gawin; will let you know if/when I find it. A friend suggested MyKuya, but it looks like a personalized shopping service now rather than a service platform.

Step 2: Renovation

I did send an actual service request via Gawin for another (major) concern.

Before I could actually move in, I had to install tiles on my kitchen counter and walls. It’s a studio unit, and oil and water stains will inevitably mark the walls – not good when I know I’m just one in a long line of people who will call this place home.

I wanted something like this demo kitchen at IKEA Philippines, which used Lysekil wall laminates for the backsplash. But my budget and available space were about 1/6 of this, so… Maybe next time. Like in a decade, dunno.

My original plan was to lay down cheap laminates from Lazada and call it a day. But both my landlord and the building engineer told me I must use actual heavy tiles to protect the wooden counter and concrete walls from water, moisture, and heat emitted by my appliances.

So I had to measure the work area and buy ceramic tiles, adhesives, grout, and chicken wire to cut project costs. Wilcon Depot saved my clueless ass by having everything in one place, online and offline.

Then I searched for a contractor with a team ready and willing to work for me for four days, max. Gawin sent me a fair hourly quote from a small construction company covering both the initial consult and measurements + the actual labor. But I wound up going offline and hiring a crew that worked for my landlord on past projects. My building’s engineering and security staff also know them already, which works out well for me.

It was a noisy affair. The crew brought their own tile cutters and equipment, dug into a concrete wall to rewire a switch, slathered thick adhesive everywhere, created small holes for my tiles to cling to, and cut them to specifications. The rush project also required me to file work permits and instruct the building staff to alert sensitive neighbors as a courtesy. Then I was there every day to supervise.

The kicker? This shit cost me an additional ₱17,000 for labor and materials. Still cheaper than IKEA in total, but man, inflation really sucks.

Now I know why people go nuts for turnkey properties. The DIY route can be cheaper, but it’s exhausting.

Step 3: Redecorating/Remaking

In contrast, redecorating or remaking the new space was the most “online” stage.

I don’t know whether to be happy about or curse out social media algorithms for this part. Click on one post on tiny homes, loft spaces, and solo living; home decorating and aesthetics; home tours; appliance demos; or full-on remodeling projects, and you’ll quickly drown in home-influencer content. Expect to be overwhelmed by bad/cheap content for a while.

The plus side is that the deluge helped me figure out what works for me and the super-small space I’m moving into. I basically have no problems compromising on something if it’s not budget-friendly or multipurpose, or nixing it altogether if it won’t serve me and my space 100%. In short, kailangan pwede siyang pang-harabas… Pero “aesthetic” pa rin kung kaya.

I’d like to thank my past addiction to shows like Tiny House Nation and content creators such as Never Too Small for great ideas on maximizing available spaces with what I already have, or stuff made specifically for tiny living.

This video is my absolute favorite from NTS so far! This home makeover is budget-friendly, realistic, and practical. Nothing overpriced or flashy. Get more of these via NTS’ YouTube channel.

In my case, that means getting multipurpose cookware; highly durable cutlery and plates; and really helpful contraptions like shelf inserts, utility carts, and compact water filtration systems. My bedsheets, pillows and cases, induction cooker, and household basics were also acquired via online ads or by simply roaming around home stores and taking advantage of promo packages and heavy-discount periods.

And I swear that IKEA, Mandaue Foam, True Value, and DXL are total time and money sinkholes. I mean, you’ll get everything you need, but you’d also literally spend more than you expect.

I’m quite happy with two particular online finds. Thanks to Maximus AppliancesInstagram account, I visited its Makati showroom and purchased its MAX-004M Mini Dishwasher and MAX-AO030S All-in-One Oven at a heavily discounted price with free consumables. Then both units were delivered to me (via Transportify) when I was in the final stages of moving. So far, both are working well and making cooking and cleaning much easier. I’ve yet to see their impact on my monthly electric bill, though.

Maximus also has great customer service. Its showroom staff didn’t ignore me or make me feel bad because I dressed like a hobo on the day I dropped by. I was accommodated and treated just like every other customer, and my post-sales messages get prompt responses. In Tagalog, hindi sila nangmamata.

Unforeseen circumstances

Besides the last-minute kitchen tiling project, I dealt with one more thing that I wasn’t actually supposed to.

Apparently, when PLDT customers don’t pay their bills and move out, PLDT blacklists the registered address, not the erring customer. Our previous tenant moved as soon as the Philippine lockdowns were lifted, and he and my landlord didn’t bother to cancel any of the utilities afterward.

So when I applied for internet and landline service in my own name, my PLDT agent told me my address was blacklisted. Aside from the installation fee, advance fee, and no-lock-in fee I had to pay for my own account, I settled the previous tenant’s arrears before anything can move forward. That’s a whopping ₱8,000 knocked out of my personal savings.

Having the landlord do his job would take too long, so I quickly paid up and let my agent handle the back-office work. But then PLDT also took its sweet time, because it can afford to. It has almost half of the market share for both landline and broadband services, so why rush?

I couldn’t apply to any other landline/broadband service in my building either because of existing exclusivity contracts. These are, by the way, illegal under the Philippine Competition Law.

TL;DR: PLDT doesn’t give a fuck about any one of us. Nor does your homeowners’ association (HOA).

The entire reconnection process took me a month: from contacting an agent to being informed of the arrears to paying up, and then waiting for them to fix their shit and send someone out to install my line and router.

The bottom line is that people suck, pandemic or no pandemic. And for all the convenience that the internet offers to home movers in the Philippines, sometimes things will just go haywire offline and be out of your control – and cost you much more than expected.

But my spoiled and privileged ass also says this:

And non-Filipinos wonder why we don’t move out before marriage and kids. Or even after that. Independence is fucking expensive!

About Filipinos and individual independence…

Basically, prices across the board have gone up. But wages have remained the same throughout the decades. That means zero improvements to quality of life, if at all.

Filipino parents can also be very controlling and narcissistic. Many insist on having their kids stay at home so they can serve as caretakers, surrogate parents, and/or breadwinners; or stay in properties they own so they still have some control over them.

So independence in this part of the world really is a question of capability and leverage + dictated by cultural norms and traditions. Oftentimes, the older generation wins, and the younger generations don’t have much of a choice.

Heyyy 👋

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