What could be better than owning a vacation home and earning rentals when you aren’t using it? Until recently, John Thomas with his Filipina wife from London, UK, owned a traditional vacation home, in Metro Manila, Philippines. But after a year away from the country — they arrived during the summer holidays to find the tenants that were renting the property had run away leaving the property abandoned and his caretaker, whom was no longer to be found, had pocketed the rent — he sold the house and bought two condo hotel units instead.
Now, Mr. Thomas and his family own Condotel Suites in Manila and Cebu, and expect to earn money when the rooms they own are rented out to other guests. Mr. Thomas, his wife April and their seven year-old daughter are planning to spend their 2007 Summer Vacation in their unit at the Lancaster Suites in Manila, Philippines, a 450-unit Condo Hotel built and managed by Pacific Concord Properties Inc under the Lancaster brand of Hotels.
Mr. Thomas says. “If Lancaster rents out the unit during 11 months of the year, I’ll make enough money to take my family on a second trip to the Philippines during the Christmas Holidays and go a long way to covering the mortgage payments”
Expectations like Thomas’s are driving the market for Condotels — condominiums you buy that can be rented out as hotel space — to new heights in the Philippines.
Owners of Lancaster Condotel units can arrange to stay in their units and they share 60% of any rental income. The Lancaster Atrium together with the soon completed Lancaster Suites Manila, one of the hottest real estate investments in the Philippines, will be the hub for Lancaster Condotels. The 42-story Lancaster Suites Manila, scheduled for operations next year, will feature studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom Condotel units, as well as penthouse suites. The units will be available for daily, weekly or monthly rental, Collingz said.
“Lancaster Atrium is going to have a property manager and will be operated as a four-star hotel.” The Condotel development will include the Lancaster mini mall with grocery and convenience stores, retail center, restaurants, business center, a private exclusive members only Businessman’s Club and spa on the site, she said. Prices range around 150 per square foot on up to 250 a square foot. Construction already commenced on the Atrium project, excavations, foundations, sub basements, 5-levels of basement parking and the lower ground floors are already in place. Construction of the superstructure will commence next year for completion from December 2009. Lancaster – The Atrium is also located in Shaw Boulevard, Metro Manila, Philippines, adjacent to the nearly complete Lancaster Suites.
Several new Condotel projects also are in the works on the other side of the country. Collingz said that a major condo hotel project is being considered by the Company with several investors in Cebu, Philippines next year. “We’ve got so many clients requesting for Luxury Condotel Suites in Cebu and other areas in the country,” she said. “It’s like a whole new era of Overseas Investments that are coming up — it’s not something that we’ve typically seen in the past. (These Investors) are all characteristically looking for a five star hotel resort, with all the features of a hotel that can be used for vacations and then rent out the units when not in use”.
There are new and exciting luxury five-star properties or high end developments planned in Cebu Philippines next year that will be sold by invitation only and may start in the 150,000 to 200,000 dollar range, but can go all the way up to 600,000 dollars for 2 bedroom Penthouse suites and 800,000 dollars for a Grand Penthouse. Of course, International gateways from Europe, South East Asian and the United States to Cebu-Mactan International Airport is within 10 minutes and, all units have sea views, beach toys and other lifestyle amenities such as spa and fine dining restaurants and will come fully furnished and finished to the highest European or US standards with fully fitted kitchens, fitted bedroom suites and every unit will be sold including all appliances, split type central unit air-conditioning, plasma TVs’ and state of the art condotel management systems. Units will be significantly larger in size than a typical hotel room yet still a much better value for money investment option than paying 800,000 dollars for a studio suite in maybe Dubai or Panama or a cool million dollars for a condo in Chicago.
The planned high end Lancaster Mactan Resort condotels will be near the new Cebu Convention Center and Cebu International Airport which is key, to good year-round occupancy numbers, she said. The square footage can range from 700 square feet to 1,800 square feet for one and two bedroom suites or more than 3,000 square feet split level penthouse suite. “Why can’t we build, and sell, a - Trump Quality Condotel - in the Philippines and get the same buyers that flock to invest in his lifestyle developments” enthuses Collingz.
A financing solution
Condotels started in the Philippines as well as in the US and Europe in the mid 1980s, but did not become popular until after the Asian Crisis of 1997 made it difficult for hotel developers to obtain conventional financing for new projects. They turned to the condotel concept, pre-selling rooms to individual investors, to raise equity.
In theory, the Condo Hotel meets two objectives — that of the developer to get a project built and that of the buyer whom, like Mr. Thomas, wants a hassle-free place to vacation and the chance to make a little money on the side. Baby boomers are becoming active vacation homebuyers, says Collingz. “If you buy a condo in Manila,” she says, “you’re not likely to use it more than 30 days a year. If you want to rent it out, you’ll have to hire a management company and take your chances.
The attraction of a Lancaster Condo Hotel suite is that you can own a unit in a hotel, enjoy first-class amenities and standards of maintenance, then let the hotel company arrange all rentals for a 40% share of the revenues”
Deciding whether Condo Hotel Suites meet your objectives is not so complicated. Condotels are a little more expensive, costing 10% to 20% more than traditional residential condominiums in most markets because of the nature of the income earning investment potential and generally more amenities and facilities than would be found in most residential condo buildings. Monthly maintenance costs, to pay your share of the hotel’s upkeep, run about $50/month for your 300-square-foot studio unit which is much the same as a typical residential condo. The “Win-Win” clincher is the 12-16% ROI expected through rental returns that residential condominiums will never yield because of the Condotel Rental Pool concept of the development.
Buying a Condotel unit makes you an investor in the hotel industry. Collingz says the Philippine hotel industry is currently hot. Shangri-La, Four Seasons, Marriott and other resort and hotel developers are in build with several new hotels in the country. “We have more heads than beds and the industry should remain healthy for many years to come because we don’t have a lot of new Hotel Condominium projects coming into the market.”
Mr. Thomas says he purchased the least expensive condotel units available in the Philippines. Spending less than $45,000 for his Lancaster Suites Manila studio unit and about $85,000 last November for a one bedroom unit, expected rental revenues from his Lancaster units will more than cover his new 15 year mortgage payments currently being offered by Banco de Oro for the soon to be completed development.