29 November 2009

16.30% Complete

The bank decided to check the house construction progress a few weeks ago and sent us an email that stated, "16.30% complete". Well, this is what it looks like as of 28 November 2009:

29 September 2009

Land Ahoy!

As of 18 September 2009, they have finally started on the house. Unfortunately, Avida is way behind schedule considering that the house turnover is slated for the 4th quarter of 2009 (according to the contract). Uh, that's supposed to be now.

But at least they've started. They told me that the earliest completion date is January 2010 and the latest is February. I'm betting more on March...

Out of curiosity, I called the customer care department of Avida and pretended to be a prospective customer. Here were some of my questions:

Q1.) Once the 20% down payment has been paid, how long does it take to issue the "Notice to Construct"?
A1.) One week.

Q2.) After the "Notice to Construct" has been issued, how long before Avida starts building?
A2.) It will take one to two months for the permits and they'll start building as soon as the permits have been issued.

Q3.) How long will it take to build the house itself?
A3.) Four to six months.

Let's compare that with what is actually happening:

1.) Down payment paid in January 2009. "Notice to Construct" was issued in June - five months later.

2.) September is three months after June.

3.) We will have to wait and see on this one...

31 July 2009

No House in Sight

Our agent told us that Avida will start applying for the permits in April and this will take one to two months depending on how fast the government approves them. Then they will start building the house. By my calculation, they should have started building the house in June.

Last month, I called the Alabang office coordinator for an update and Raquel told us that there was already a "notice to construct" and that this means they have "started gathering the construction materials". So I'm thinking that by July, we would be able to visit the site and see their progress. Right?

Two weeks ago, I spoke to Rommel from the construction group and he informed me they have yet to start building... Huh? Apparently, the land management group has yet to turn over the lot as it has not yet passed the soil compaction test. He did say that the lot has been filled but they have to wait for the moisture in the soil to dry out before doing the test again.

Uh, it's been raining since that time so when will the soil dry out...? Another thing, it's currently the RAINY SEASON.

I asked Rommel how long the house will take to finish once the lot is turned over to their group. His answer? Six months. We're thinking that the stated turnover schedule (supposedly fourth quarter of this year) will definitely not push through.

But then again, this will give us more time to save for what will go in the house. So all is well.

11 July 2009


They sent the wrong book.

I ordered "Knack Organizing Your Home: Decluttering Solutions and Storage Ideas by Emily Wilska" through Books in the Balance (BITB), one of the Amazon Marketplace sellers. A few weeks later, I check with my aunt in the US and it turns out that BITB delivered "Knack Green Decorating & Remodeling: Design Ideas and Sources for a Beautiful Eco-Friendly Home by Heather Paper" instead.

Inconvenient but I wasn't too bothered because I knew that things would be fixed quickly. I sent them an email and after three days (and one follow-up), Amazon sent notification that they've given me a full refund ($9.46).

Now that bothered me - I wanted to return the book BITB delivered and get my actual order. But that was not to be since I asked them how I could give the book back and they sent an email telling me to "please keep it on us."

When I check online, the same book is now selling for $16.22 (inclusive of taxes). Sigh.

Well, I ordered it again despite the price increase which brought my total to four. Hmmm... Four books about storage? I must admit that's a little too much.

On the bright side, I now have a book on decorating that will help save the environment at the same time!

09 June 2009

I'm In Love with Amazon

I have ordered five more books from Amazon and I've made a vow that I will stop after this.

So far, my book collection has reached Php 8000! I don't usually buy books for myself so this is rather much. Granted that some of them were gifts from my husband, but still... As my sister once asked, "Instead of buying books about decorating, why don't you use the money to decorate the house?"

I must say though it has been rather fun - and makes me want to buy the other things Amazon is selling... Candy packages from the 50's anyone?

10 May 2009

The Wait is Over

The launch of the new model unit was finally done yesterday, May 9. We visited the site this morning and though it's a bit unfinished (i.e. the rooms did not have doors), it gave us a better idea of what could be done with the space.

It definitely looked much better - and somehow larger - than the original bare bones model unit.

25 April 2009

All That Negativity

My family thinks I am overly pessimistic - I like to think of it as being realistic. But I have to admit that my whining and complaining has reached new heights - greater than what even I thought was possible.

Then someone sent me a forwarded email about a carrot, an egg and coffee beans. The gist of the story is when all three are placed in boiling water, the hard and stiff carrot becomes soft and mushy. The egg yolk becomes hard and the coffee beans change the water completely.

In other words, once subjected to heat, was I going to wilt under the pressure, become hard and angry or turn into something good (at least for coffee lovers)?

We are not millionaires and no matter how much I want the SieMatic kitchen cabinets, we will not spend most of our money on just a tiny part of the house.

The solution? I will tackle this project in the same manner that we dealt with the wedding plans. The challenge will be that I won't have a chat group about house suppliers to help me out. Unlike when we were planning for the wedding, the Weddings At Work chat group was extremely useful in vetting possible suppliers.

This is going to be exciting!

While Waiting...

The new Patrice model unit was supposed to be launched last April 19, 2009. I had been waiting for this with great anticipation for the following reasons:

Old Model Unit
- Floor area was three to four square meters less than what's stated on the contract.
- There were no interior partitions.
- Only one bathroom instead of the two that's supposed to come with the standard unit.

Basically, it's more or less how the property will be turned over had we bought the basic unit.

New Model Unit
- Floor area will be based on specifications (according to Mich, our sales agent).
- All interior partitions installed according to the floor plan described in the brochure and the website.
- New layout for the ground floor bathroom.
- Entire house will be furnished and decorated by an interior designer.

This means that we can get ideas on what the house can look like. Which is good as do not wish to pay for the fees asked by interior decorators.

But like most everything in the Philippines, the launch was postponed to sometime in May. When did they announce the delay? A day before the launch.

Actually, they didn't announce it as the April 19 launch date is still posted on their website. It was Raquel from Avida who informed me via text message. Well, what else is new? I cannot say I'm surprised. Though when she sent me a text message two days prior confirming the launch, I was thinking, "Wow, they're on time?"

01 April 2009

And the Winner Is...

Option 2.

We had a meeting with Avida coordinator Christine F and their architect Cathy L earlier this afternoon in their Makati office. Earl and I were also joined by architect Mario A (technically Uncle Mayong as he is Earl's uncle).

All in all it went well - better than I had envisioned (which involved flying chairs and tables). They did not agree to Option 1 (refer to House Model and Floor Plan) explaining that it would not be fair as they have turned down other requests. Fair enough.

Though if they had explained it that way in the first place instead of what I perceived to be a "take or leave it" attitude (see An Exercise in Frustration), this issue would have been resolved a long time ago. Also, since they already made up their minds way before the meeting, I think they could have saved us all time and sent the decision with the explanation in another email.

They did agree to not installing the maid's room partition - this area will now become the kitchen. Again, they will just give us the materials for us to with as we please.

They've also done a few more changes to the house structure which I think is for the better. One is that ground floor bathroom has a much better lay-out than the original. Two, the wall system they will use is no longer the tex block system. This means all the walls will have a smoother finish as the "joints" will no longer be sticking out.

I am starting to get really excited again. Not that I've ever stopped being excited but there was some apprehension over the lay-out of the house.

14 February 2009

An Exercise in Frustration

When we were inquiring about the house, we had a lot of questions as to what came with the structure and what we could do with it. The Avida agent's reply was usually, "You could request that subject to approval." Even our request to see the detailed floor plan had the same answer. He assured us though that Avida was not difficult to talk to.

Okay, so now we made a request to Avida via email and here's how it went (their answer in blue):

Hi Tin,

We would like to request that the back door and the back window on the ground floor be switched please (refer to attachment "Planned Lay-out 1"). This will allow for the kitchen to instantly become a little bit larger (as it's extremely tiny in it's present state).

- Construction of house units is based on standard house plans. As such, request for changes/revisions on the constructed house is not allowed until after the house has been turned over to you. After which, you may introduce the improvements you wish but this can affect the structural warranty of your unit.-

Is it just me or does this explanation not make sense? Here's my response to their reply in purple:

Why can't you just switch it? Anyway, you guys are creating two holes in the wall - one for the door and the other for the window - you just have to switch the locations. Our architect said that it's not complicated so it should not be a problem - again considering that you will create the holes to begin with.

If this is the case, then please do not install the interior partition and the door for the maid's room. Just give us the materials and we'll handle it ourselves. You know, I've been asking so many things regarding the house plan prior to making the reservation but I kept getting a vague "only until after the reservation fee / down payment has been paid can you make a request". THIS INFORMATION SHOULD HAVE BEEN AVAILABLE PRIOR TO US PAYING ANYTHING.

Heck, our agent didn't even know that the bathroom upstairs had two doors - I had to insist there was based on the brochure.

Yes, our agent does not know a lot of things. For example, he did not know that the house came with a septic tank. I was reading the Deed of Restrictions that came with the contract and there was a line about what type of septic tank to install. I asked our agent about it and he advised that all houses these days did not come with a septic tank so that we could have control over the size. He also informed us that it doesn't cost much - around Php 50,000 only.

I told him to double check with the head office. He then called back to tell me that they laughed at his question as all the houses already have a septic tank otherwise it will be a nightmare if the residents were left up to their own devices.

I do not expect the agent to memorize the Deed of Restrictions but I think the septic tank is a major issue he cannot be ignorant about. Is it too much to expect the agents to know what they are selling?

The developers should train their employees regarding the details of the house. This should be standard but as per our recent experience, it isn't happening.

Another thing the developers should be doing is to let the clients agree to the rules first before they accept any form of payment. What they do is to just let you pay the non-refundable fees first and then they let you sign the contract stating that you agree to all their restrictions. What if you don't want to follow any of it? Will they give you a refund?

I will say this for our agent though, aside from being a nice and patient guy, he's much better trained than the agents we met from Crown Asia.

08 February 2009

Read the Large Print

We went to the bank last Friday to sign the loan. The lady assisting us (her name was Ming) advised what the loan amount was and the details corresponding to the loan.

She also advised that while they will take the developer's computation as is (meaning no appraisal needed and the appraisal fee is waived), they will round off the figure to the nearest thousand. So if there was say, Php 928 in small change, we would need to pay that amount directly to the developer.

Okay, no problem.

Later than night, I decided to double check the loanable amount as I was planning to pay the difference the next day. Lo and behold, the amount we signed for was different from the official computation given by Avida. It was Php 24,000 more.

The thing is, the miscellaneous fees were based on the loan amount. So basically, we overpaid.

This discovery then resulted in a late night phone call to our sales agent. His explanation? The bank probably took the first computation they gave. This was used to pre-qualify us for the loan as we wanted to know whether we would be approved before we gave the reservation fee.

The agent was right. Good thing I kept the earlier computations (they were attached to the official one). He promised to fix this on Monday so we'll see tomorrow.

Well, this teaches me yet again that if I want something done right, I had better check things myself. Assuming that everything is in order will result in wasted time.

26 January 2009

House Model and Floor Plan

Here's what the house will look like when built (only the color will be blue):

This is the original floor plan as given by the developer:

Below are the proposed floor plans subject to the approval of the developer:

Option 1

Option 2

24 January 2009

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Often Go Awry

The poet Robert Burns was right.

When we got married, I had planned on buying a house when we could afford to buy our second house first. I got this idea from the many personal finance books I've been reading.

My husband had other plans. He wanted to buy a house already and his mother-in-law agreed with him (along with his sister-in-law). I argued that parting with more than 60% of our savings would not be a good idea. Besides, what about what goes in the house? That will cost money too. It was three against one and the three won.

In March of 2008, we inquired with a local developer about house prices. We asked again a few months later in July and found out that the price for the same house type increased by Php 460,000. My husband pointed out that despite having a savings interest rate of 15% per annum tax free, we would not be able to save up that amount within four months. I still resisted.

Then in December, we asked again. The price in July for a 110 sqm house on a 207 sqm lot was Php 3.3M without interior partitions. The price in December for a 84 sqm house on a 165 sqm lot with interior partitions was Php 3.2M. Also, the house we wanted was no longer available according to the sales agent. Which was just as well as we would not have been able to afford it.

I keep asking myself why didn't we just buy the house in July and gotten something bigger? Of course I also know the answer - my husband was about to start a new job in August and buying a house when he wasn't even regularized was not our type of adventure. Also, with our salaries at the time, the only thing we could have paid for was the mortgage. Despite all this, I still get frustrated at an opportunity lost.

So here's what has happened so far:

Jan 12 - paid the reservation fee of Php 20,000
Jan 19 - loan application was approved by the bank
Jan 22 - gave a Jan 30 post dated check for the 20% spot down payment

My sister also complained that we have not looked around too much. She feels that we're settling.

Not really as I've been looking at houses way before I even got married. I've seen houses with a 30 sqm floor area, model units with the ceiling warped by rain water and about to fall off, and houses that our way off our budget. Interestingly enough, the dilapidated model unit had already been sold - I just wonder what the owner was thinking when he decided to buy it.

But I must admit to having fallen for the claims of the developer. So I basically had a one track mind when it came to where I wanted us to live. But time will tell whether or not there's truth in their advertising.

There are some good things that came out of having to wait until now to buy the house:

1.) My husband was regularized after three months on the job which also meant an increase in pay. We can now afford to pay for the mortgage and treat ourselves occasionally.

2.) A few weeks ago, the developer was accredited with the bank. This means that we no longer have to pay for the Php 3500 appraisal fee and that the bank will take the developer's price computation as is.

3.) The house available within our budget is the smallest one and the only one where the second floor bathroom can be accessed from the master's bedroom. The two bigger house models do not have this feature so you would need to go out to the hall in order to go to the bathroom. Basically, we would have had a dilemma which to get - bigger house or en suite bathroom. Thankfully, the decision was made by our wallets.
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