Chapter 17: Finding Home

As we get closer to the wedding which is now a year and a month away, I have found myself losing interest in it. I have not been thinking much about the accessories I will pair with the simple white strapless dress I picked for the big day; whether the journal souvenirs will be yellow or cream or its pages lined or un-lined; not contemplating on which book-themed dishes to consider for the menu or whether the chocolate cake will come in a single or double tier. Not even the church requirements, previously a source of anxiety for me, bother me nowadays.

What is getting me excited (and anxious) is the beginning of house-hunting for me and Mark.

Soon, we'll be playing house for real.

For the past two weeks I have been poring over listings for real estate, both for rent and for sale. Although we have considered rent, we came to the conclusion that if we’re going to put out money anyway we may as well invest in property that we can earn passive income from later on.

The first two units we looked at in the Barrio Kapitolyo area of Pasig City–a very accessible area, my own brother and his family lives in this flood-free area which is very close to the Ortigas Center–wasn’t really worth it, in retrospect. At 28 square meters and 55 square meters and Php2.2 million and Php4.4 million respectively, these semi-furnished units, complete with a state-of-the-art security door, seemed attractive at first. I guess souped-up model units have that natural effect.

The second set of units we checked out is another Pasig development, but unlike Kapitolyo, this brand-new cluster of condominiums is located deeper into the suburbs. Unfortunately, on our way for the scheduled viewing with the agent on a wet Saturday afternoon, our car got hit and scratched by an already beat-up taxi, which shows just how “careful” the driver is. It was the first time ever I got hit by another vehicle and I was not even moving, which resulted to a sour mood for the rest of the afternoon. Thankfully, we ended up with a scratch while the cab received another dent to add to its collection of more dents and a broken, taped-up light. After 15 minutes, we continued our drive to the condo, through a long, heavily-trafficked road. I immediately thought, after getting used to living in areas that only took me 5-10 minutes to get to EDSA, the main highway,  I didn’t want to drive this far on my way home every day! Moreover, I got turned off by the unfriendly locals who would sometimes act as if they didn’t hear us when we tried to get help with directions. I hadn’t gotten to the development yet but I felt more than 50% decided that I disliked this neighborhood.

When we finally arrived at our destination, welcomed by the Asian-inspired exteriors, I felt a little relieved. The agent was a very accommodating lady who waited for us even as we were an hour late due to traffic (and the dratted taxi). The units, at 42sqm, 49sqm, 71sqm and 83sqm, where a little larger than the first condominium we checked out. The price was also fair enough, however I realized that more than just prize and location, we needed more space, as Mark and I both treat out current homes as offices as well (he uses his bedroom as a working area while I have a work desk in mine).

On that same day, Mark and I spoke to my brother who resides in Kapitolyo and he warned us that the condo we just viewed is surrounded by a flood-prone area. So much for those claims in real estate classified ads, ensuring buyers that their Php2.8 million investment won’t get affected by rising water levels, if not in the unit itself but on the immediate areas encircling it. With that, I decided that option 2 wasn’t even going to make it to my short list.

In the aftermath of the Ondoy floods of 2009, locations has become an even more significant factor in choosing where to live in Metro Manila. This concept house is designed to rise with flood levels and go back when the water recedes.

Furthermore, my parents suggested that we look at foreclosed property listings from banks. Any money saved from buying a brand new unit can go to other things like repairs for a fixer-upper or renovating of a new-old place.

And so the house-hunting continues…

But it was just a few months ago when Mark and I originally considered living in my parents’ condo during our first year of marriage in order to have more time to save money for a unit. Again, I have come to realize that there is a lot of emotional and physical space needed when starting a new life together.  Moving into a new place also stands for the cutting of the umbilical cord from our respective families–not that it’s a bad thing to live with them.

In the Filipino culture, it is not uncommon for extended families to live with the parents, and Tsi-noy (Chinese Filipino) families even traditionally require newlyweds to initially live with the husband’s family. However, personally, distance is something that I have been craving for some time now, both personal distance as well as enough breadth in order to build a new life under our own roof with our own rules. I suppose being the youngest member of my family, not to mention the only girl in a brood that includes four boys, has a lot to do with it, as this makes me the natural recipient of surely well-meaning, “protective behavior .” To a degree though, because sooner or later, little girls must grow up and learn to fend for themselves and that is something I am continuing to learn to do at nearly 28 years old.

For one, I am still learning the real estate process. Ironically, I come from a family that is involved in the industry: my mom is a consultant who gives advice to investors and my dad is in the architecture and construction business. On occasion, he would get involved in the real estate side of the family business by helping with the paperwork. A lot of the jargon that I have been hearing these past two decades of my life–authority to sell, special power of attorney, transfer of title, contract to sell, etc, etc–have been ringing in my ears like bees. I wish I didn’t have to deal with all this paperwork, because the looming unfamiliarity with the process makes me feel less confident. I wish I could have someone, like say, a lawyer, guide me through all the details so I don’t worry about getting gypped. The only thing I know for sure is how to figure out if a piece of property is worth it based on how much it costs per square meter and how prime or accessible it is.

It is this very corporate nature of real estate that makes the idea of buying property still feel like something that “our parents do” but the marriage process, with all its preparations and planning for the day after the big day, reminds me that yes, we are already at the age of responsibility. We are already doing what our parents have done. While I may sometimes wish to be young and responsibility-free again, I can’t honestly say that my teens were much more fun and carefree because I embrace the independence I have as an adult. I prefer it, in fact. Although, I must repeat, that I will always be seen as the little girl in the family therefore I need to be “shielded” from the harsh,unfair world.

But  that’s also how our angsty, young selves tend to see our lives. Back when we were teens, we found it harsh and unfair to be subjected to the rules, the dos and don’ts, the “be home by 1am” curfews and “no boys in the bedroom” mandate. As we got older, for as long as we still live under our parents’ roof and even though they may have become less strict with us, there are still regulations to abide by–and we find it harsh and unfair because we’re not “kids” anymore, we say. Even as we break free from our parents’ grip and go on to have jobs, start businesses and pay taxes, we still find it harsh and unfair to have to deal with the bureaucratic realm of enterprise and government.

But you know what, despite these, I still feel glad to have come to this part of my young life. Marriage and its many emotional challenges, work and the daily task of pleasing the clients, a real estate investment and its monthly amortizations, all takes its toll on us, but the reward of independence and the opportunity to train ourselves to become survivors in a yes, harsh and unfair world, is much greater.

That’s why we need a warm place to come home to, to break free from the corporate toil of an adult existence. Then we can become like children again, following our own crazy rules in a house we can call our own.

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Published in: on November 15, 2010 at 5:34 am  Comments (1)  
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