Living in a Nipa Hut – Philippines
I have spent many years travelling through wide parts of SE Asia. If you have not already done so and you like an adventure, I recommend putting on a backpack, heading to the Philippines, get away from the cities and do some island hoping. With nearly 7,000 islands in the Philippine archipelago there are many places to see and explore.
In fact, you will find the islands of the Philippines completely different to the city centres, with their relaxed pace and extremely friendly ‘country’ people. And the waters as clear and blue as you can imagine.
One way I have found that the Philippines differs as a retirement destination compared to other SE Asian countries is how diverse in location expats choose to live. Sure, there are major areas such as Cebu, Subic Bay, and fast-growing Bohol to name a few where you will find larger quantities of expats.
But no matter where you go in the Philippines, you will inevitably run into an expat living a comfortable life on an island in the tropics.
I remember once I took a trip to the Romblon group of Islands – a not-so-well travelled region for tourism. In fact, in 6 days on the islands we saw only 5 other tourists.
One day we hired a local fisherman to take us out fishing for the day. We stopped off at an exceedingly small island for lunch only to be greeted by a French national living in a nipa hut near the only other inhabitants – about 20 local fishermen and their families.
The Frenchman’s life is a little too remote for me, I need a little more excitement and plumbing if I am to be honest. But my travels through the Philippines has left a mark on me. Now, when I think about my retirement (I am only 50 so not just yet), one thing I am contemplating is living in a nipa hut near tropical beaches in the Philippines.
What is a Nipa Hut?
A nipa hut is traditional to the Philippines. It is a light weight, typically easy to move stilt house that is well suited to the warm climate of the country. Although traditionally nipa huts are basic in structure, nowadays they come in all shapes and sizes and can be made to suit your personal tastes if required.
What is the cost to buy?
This is a little hard to answer. I mean how much can you build a house anywhere? It depends on size, materials, and many other factors. However, I have spoken with a couple of good nipa hut builders and the cost to build is typically between AUD$10,000 to AUD$15,000 for each 50 sq/m.
Costs will include delivery and installing the building on the land. Additional costs that will be incurred will be such things as plumbing and bathroom fit outs. But in the Philippines these costs are a fraction of costs back home.
Broadly speaking you can find yourself in a nice small to mid-size nipa hut such as the one below, with full plumbing with plenty of change for AUD$50,000.
Now where do I put it?
The short answer is ‘on any land that you can legally rent’. And if you want sewage, add ‘….and that you can connect sewage to’.
In the Philippines this is quite broad. Even though foreigners cannot own land, they can own the building on top of the land. Foreigners can legally lease land for up to 50 years with another maximum 25 years extension.
You can even structure the contract that you are able to sell the lease to a third party or even have it passed down through your Will on death.
If you were to vacate the lease, or the lease expires you can simply take the nipa hut away as they are easy to move. Or sell it to someone else and they can take it away.
A smart way to structure your retirement
What I have been seeing more of is a foreigner setting up a nice, livable nipa hut on land and taking a long lease (say 20+ years). When this lease expires the owner of the land receives ownership of everything on it, which includes the nipa hut.
As the landowner gets eventual ownership of the lot this is factored into the lease payments. Depending on the location and the value of the nipa hut and fixtures this can make the lease payments on the land incredibly low.
This option is clearly not for everyone. But for those that are considering retirement on a budget or looking for more traditional housing with the peace of mind of long-term ownership, then this could be for you.
To set something like this up you could budget typically for anywhere between AUD$30,000 to AUD$70,000. Plus, the cost to lease the land.
You can design the nipa hut to suit your personal wishes and to suit the land that it sits on. The builder will sit with you to draw the plans and will build the home to your specifications.
The Philippines is attracting a lot more retirees. In fact, the country has a stated goal of being the number one destination for foreign retirees in the world.
An ambitious plan yes. But to achieve this they make it easy for foreigners to settle into Philippine life. This includes setting up home.