How its easy to live in Dipolog
by Nolds



The houses are cheap, the taxes low, the climate heavenly. Retirement South of the Philippines sounds too good to be true -- but it isn't, as long as you resist the impulse to rush.

I should have entitled this long awaited article "All You Wanted to Know About Living in Dipolog City" but I have decided to focus on a much better point of view where retirees should be able to analyze the facts and figures of living in the wonderful City of Dipolog for they seamlessly deserve to live here. Just read on in, and you could learn all about buying or renting property in the Orchid City. So I rushed to the streets to gather the truth, which was spectacularly breathtaking that changes from the busy Rizal Avenue to the exceptionally clean Dipolog Public Market within a five-block-walk, and into a continuing exhibition of beauty and culture as I went forward to smell the cool sea breeze in the Breakwater of Barangay Barra where the magnificent golden sunset opposite the Top Plaza Hotel is comfortably situated.

Mediatrix Homes Inc. eventually started a real estate business that is now, by their reckoning, one of the few agencies in town that will do good business in Dipolog. 

Arlou Elumba, Sales Marketing Supervisor of Mediatrix tells us, very quickly, that Dipolog City real estate has appreciated greatly in a few years and that the central historic district remains the focus of attention for most people. The amount of development in recent years, however, has led to a slowdown, but it may, she says, be a buying opportunity for worthy and deserving people who work relentlessly for their hard-earned money.

Mediatrix Home Site

After a clear and succinct interview, she asked me to spend some time to check out their Mediatrix Hills Subdivision site at Barangay Turno, which is still scheduled to officially open on October 6, 2001. The subdivision, as she describes it, “an ideal place for retirees” -- those ranging, say, from the very lowest cost to no more than Php 2 Million. We spent the late afternoon visiting 4 models of houses, all having an average lot size of 300 square meters, the Khristian, Raymond, Ralph and Henrich that are in the last stages of completion. I learned that I could buy a 195 square meter Khristian or Henrich dream house with 3 bedrooms and 3 baths for about Php 3 Million. The cost also varies if I plan to purchase a Raymond fantasy home that has an area of 210 square meters, or buy a slightly large and desirable scenic lot for about Php 4,200 per square meter. Get a little fancy and you can get an elegant  Ralph model house, still at Php 12,000 per square meter, with magnificent views from a large attic room, which all models have by the way, in a prime location in the subdivision.

Khristian.JPG (217628 bytes)
195 sq.m (2,106 sq. ft.)
Khristian or Henrich 3 bedrooms and 3 baths for about Php 3 Million. ($60,000.00)
Ralph.JPG (190742 bytes)Raymond.JPG (205853 bytes)
210 sq.m. (2,304 sq.ft.) Raymond or Ralph
three-bedroom and four-bathroom
Mediatrix Model Homes

And, of course, it is always possible to spend much, much more.

As she said, Mediatrix, with a spectacular view of the Linabo Mountain and located two hundred twenty (220) meters away from the National Highway, is not cheap. No mansions for the proverbial song.

But add the views, the beauty, the stone, brick and tile work -- not to mention the incredible climate -- and these houses would cost far, far more in Metro Manila, Cebu or even in the United States.

Linabo Peak


Lugdungan Hanging Footbridge across Dipolog river

Buy for cash and then live cheap

The arguable advantage of price, however, isn't the end of the story. The real benefit of housing in Dipolog is in the details.

Like it or not, you probably won't have a mortgage because most houses are sold for cash. So if you've got the money to buy, you won't have a monthly payment. This also works to make a more solid market -- you'll never be surrounded by foreclosures.

Taxes are very low. While most houses in Metro Manila are taxed based on values that approximate the market, appraisers here value houses. Their valuation is significantly below recent market prices. As a consequence, tax bills of 2% or 1% for the basic or government fund plus 1% goes to the especial education fund is all you have to pay in a year of the total market value of a residential property as stated by  Mr. Sancen D. Caroro of the City Treasurer’s Office.

Operating expenses are very low. With a year-round temperate climate, Dipolog City has a handful of homes that could withstand such weather. People in the city doesn’t use gas logs in their fireplace – which is not very common but still gas and electric bills are low. Water bills are also low. And insurance bills, if any, are small because fire hazards are limited and people aren't as litigious as in the United States.

Scenes across the river

Add all the costs, including a part-time or full-time maid, and a typical house can be run for around Php 3,000 a month. The cost of operating a house is a fraction of the cost of operating the same house in the United States, even though it includes something that very few Dipolognons can afford -- household help.

Don't be afraid to rent

The caveat side of the story is just as powerful.

Establishing reasonable measures of value isn't as easy in Dipolog as it is in the Metro Manila because there are no multiple listing services. With no pooled market of properties, it takes longer to discern values. I think this puts a real "due diligence" monkey on any buyer. It means that you need to read and check out local newspaper advertisements and click through as many Web sites as possible. (Community Website of Dipolog City and The Daily Dipolognon, Interactive News Website of Dipolog City, has plenty of rental and sales listings compared to any other websites, and you can see quite a number of houses for sale or rent on other locally published newspapers.)

In a short visit to Dipolog City, so many people fall in love with the city and buy a house in a matter of days that property is regularly for sale simply because the buyers' plans have changed or their infatuation has faded. In a week of looking I found houses that had been owned for less than a year and occupied for still less.

Which brings us to the rental market.

Unlike most cities in Metro Manila, Dipolog City has moderately developed market of houses and apartments. Rents start around Php 3,000 a month, frequently include all utilities and often you have the option to acquire maid service. It is also possible to do long-term rentals of partially-furnished houses which often include a refrigerator and sala set. What is striking about the rentals is that the monthly cost is significantly lower than you would expect from the purchase price. I found one two-bedroom apartment in a complex for instance, that could be rented for Php 3,000 to Php 4,500 a month.

Few rental-to-sale-price "spreads" are that dramatic, but the message is very clear: This is a buyer's market all the way down. No one needs to "panic buy" a house in Dipolog, because you can rent when you want for as long as you want. Nothing bad will happen to your money while you are renting. Indeed, if you are thinking of becoming the ultimate tourist and traveling to Dipolog for the festival months only, renting makes more sense than buying.

Finally, there is the rest of Dipolog. It's probably cheaper in other areas of the city, which means you have a lot of exploring to do because there are still a lot of properties where costs are lower and the climate, I am told, is even better.

Bottom line? Go slow. But go.

TO BE  Food and Restaurant cost
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