Ayala Land, the biggest property developer in the Philippines, is setting up a Dubai office to cater to expatriate Filipinos who want to buy property back home.
The company, part of the oldest corporation in the Philippines, plans to set up a permanent headquarters in Dubai for 50-60 agents and three full-time salaried staff to sell homes starting from Dh43,000 (US$11,700).
Ayala hopes the new Dubai base will help it to double its market share of the UAE's expat Filipino property market that currently is estimated to be about Dh180 million a year. "If you go to any hotel or restaurant in the UAE you probably have a 50/50 chance of being attended to by a Filipino," Thomas Mirasol, the president of Ayala Land told The National.
"The Middle East has always been a major destination for overseas Filipinos. And it has reached the point now that there are enough of them here and they have been able to build up enough of their own personal wealth that we're seeing a lot of them being able to buy property back home. It now makes sense for us to have operations here full-time." The developer estimates that in order to be able to afford its cheapest houses, potential buyers need a salary of just Dh3,000 a month. It predicts that pent-up demand from this type of buyer is set to produce a "sales surge."
"There are people here who, while they have the capability to make that investment, they have held off on it simply because it's a scary proposition to buy property halfway round the world," he added. "We think for these people we will be able to make a connection with them because we can tell them that we are here, we have a permanent office."
Money sent home by Filipinos overseas accounts for about 10 per cent of the Philippine economy. According to official data last year in the 10 months to October remittances grew 5.8 per cent compared with the same period a year earlier to $17.5 billion - the third highest level of foreign-exchange remittances in the world.
Increased remittances and business friendly economic policies from president Benigno Aquino's government helped to propel the country's stock exchange. House prices are thought to be growing at around 5 to 7 per cent a year. At a press conference in Dubai yesterday, Ayala said it planned to attract UAE-based Filipinos by offering them property management services. The company said rental yields averaged out at around 8 to 11 per cent.
"Filipino people are our major export as a country and our biggest dollar earner," Mr Mirasol said. "We have heard horror stories of overseas Filipinos all over the world who send money home on a regular basis for 10 or 15 years. And when you do get home you find out what happened to all the money you sent back. If you entrust it to relatives, especially in-laws, sometimes it doesn't work out the way you hoped it would."