Money Matters

How We Bought A Condo Unit As Newlyweds

Buying a starter home doesn’t have to be nerve-wracking. Here are the secrets of a young writer and her husband.

Original Article: Anna Felipe Photography:

In 2012, my then-fiancé and I made a decision that up to this day, we consider one of our wisest moves: We agreed to use a big chunk of our wedding budget to make a down payment for a condo unit. While it was a challenge to lower our wedding expenses, we kept our eyes on the prize: starting our new life together in our very own home.

As young newlyweds, we were realistic with our expectations and kept our non-negotiables on finding the right condo to five: fits our budget, meets our timeline for moving in, developed by a reputable company, is in a mid-rise building, and is near our places of work. Every weekend, we’d talk to agents or visit showrooms. Weekdays were spent researching online. And while most of the time, it was a fun activity that made us more excited, there were days when it felt intimidating (“What are we doing?”), frustrating (“Why can’t we find the right one?”), or confusing (Should we just settle?”).

We knew the process wasn’t going to be easy. During the months of searching, we learned to communicate better, be open to the other’s preferences, and be more decisive. Together, we faced unexpected setbacks, the biggest of which was finding out that in the areas near our places of work, our budget could only afford us a pre-owned unit. This taught us to adjust. And this willingness gave us some of the best laughs during our journey, including being trapped in a creaky elevator in an old apartment building.

Half a year into our search, we finally found the one. It wasn’t in our original list of developments to check out, but after attending an open house, having a series of talks with the agent, and earnestly praying about it, purchasing the unit felt right. The condo is slightly farther from our preferred locations, but not out of the way from our places of work. We were able to buy a 40-sqm, two-bedroom unit—plus a parking slot—at pre-selling rates!

In the process, we’ve spent most of our life savings on completing the down payment and we’ve become more knowledgeable on the best bank loan rates and terms. We’ve gotten a system for our finances down pat: the monthly loan payment is auto-debited from my salary, all other living expenses and savings come from my husband’s. We’ve learned to split the chores (I cook, he washes the dishes; I clean the bathroom, he brings the trash out) and have created our own habits at home (my personal favorite: movie marathons in bed, complete with a glass of wine or a bag of chips).


And on days when independent living feels daunting, I always think back to our first night in the condo—all we had was a new bed, some appliances, and manila paper for curtains, but there was a feeling of joy, gratitude, and excitement. Finally, we were home.

Now if you think plunking down millions of pesos for a property seems close to impossible, don’t fear—with smart money moves, you can score that first home. Here are some tried-and-tested tips.

1. Do a credit check. Cash and good credit are essential to buying your first condo unit and keeping it. Before you go “shopping,” make sure you have the cash on hand for a down payment. Do your research on the best lender (a bank, the developer’s in-house financing, or the government’s Home Development Mutual Fund) that can give an affordable rate. Talk to reliable experts who’ve already bought their first home.

2. Be realistic about costs. No matter how big your paycheck is; it’s never a wise decision to buy a starter home that will gobble up most of your monthly income. Remember that aside from paying for your loan each month, you’ll also have to spend for utility bills, association dues, maintenance costs, insurance, and real estate taxes.

3. Sticking to a budget doesn’t have to mean sacrificing quality. Consider all the non-negotiables that you are willing to spend for. Value-for-your-money means purchasing a unit that’s well-made and well-maintained, and has amenities that suit your lifestyle and needs.

Read the original article ("Our First Big Purchase") in the Real Home Ideas 9: 25 Condo Makeovers book. Download your Real Living specials by logging on to for more details. 

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