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[Photo of Guide to HomeOwnership]Armando Ang's guide to homeownership is your best defense against real estate agents and their tricks. He should know, he's a broker himself.

“Location, location, location” has been the mantra of real estate brokers ever since people have bought and sold land. Veteran broker Armando Ang says, however, that there is much more to owning a house than that.

His Guide to Homeownership is a voluminous book, and it really ought to be. Owning a home may be the Philippine dream, but nobody said that living the dream should be easy. Ang does his best to make it less difficult by helping buyers through the less glamorous side of owning a home: mortgages, property taxes and foreclosures.

Written in plain English, but peppered with cartoons and excerpts from relevant laws, Ang's guide exposes some tricks and traps that homeowners might walk into like sub-standard materials, hidden costs and amortization schemes that border on usury.

Perhaps to the chagrin of his colleagues, he warns the reader to always make an independent survey and inspection of a potential home. Getting the fair market value is one of the best tools a buyer can have, he says, and requires diligent research for information that brokers and developers may withhold.

The destruction during the recent flooding in Metro Manila shows how developers may neglect to fully inform buyers of potential risks to their life and property. Aside from flooding, buyers are warned to be on the look out for properties found on former industrial areas. Ang says that chemical residue may have seeped into the ground undetected, and could cause health problems later on.

He says, however, that dealing through a broker is always best. While buyers may think they're striking a good bargain by approaching a seller directly, he might end up paying a higher price without a broker's experience in spotting a bad deal. Sellers might only be pretending to be anxious to sell in order to jack up prices or to unload an otherwise unsellable property, he says.

Even if a condominium lifestyle is more your cup of tea, Ang's book will still be useful, devoting an entire section to buying condominiums and town houses. Career-oriented owners are advised to stick to amenities that they can both afford and use. Having a gym and a swimming pool in the building might just mean paying association dues for facilities that you don't have time to use, he warns.

He also warns against the lower-priced studio-type units offered by many developers. While perfect for students and bachelors, the smaller units will be cramped even for a small family of three, and will likely result in another, more expensive, purchase in just a few years.

Reading Ang's Guide to Homeownership gives one the impression that the Philippine real estate business is a cutthroat field populated by cheats and frauds, and that is all the more reason to get the book. After all, having a veteran on your side may just give you the home court advantage.

Print ed: 11/09


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