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Late-comer Sta. Lucia proves timing perfect

Published on Wednesday, 01 May 2013 00:00  [ Malaya.com.ph ]
Written by IRMA ISIP
Sta. Lucia Land may have been late in selling to overseas-based Filipinos but its late timing proved perfect.
It started selling its project abroad in 2011 just when other companies had made inroads almost saturating the market.
Michelle Robles, corporate marketing director of Sta. Lucia Land, said  the company differed by giving buyers a variety of choices in acquiring properties in the Philippines either for their own use or for investment.
Liezel Magpoc, company senior vice president for international sales, said Sta. Lucia was the only developer offering products to suit the needs and budget of the market: either a lot, a house and lot package or investment in a condominium or a condotel.
Magpoc said another advantage of Sta. Lucia is that its development is all over the Philippines with 200 projects covering 10,000 hectares enabling it to offer projects in buyers’ hometown. Magpoc said that Sta Lucia in its roadshows abroad tries to convince Filipinos it is better to invest their hard-earned money in properties rather than keeping them in banks.
“Somebody who could only afford to part with P3,000 to P4,000 per month can initially buy a lot from us, then eventually Sta. Lucia can construct a house for him,” she said.
According to Magpoc, the income, profession and location of the overseas Filipinos have much to do with the salability of Sta. Lucia’s real estate products.
“For example, some parts of Italy have a large number of Filipinos who hail from Batangas who would naturally want to buy properties located in that province. In Spain, majority of our buyers come from Nueva Ecija and Ilocos. In London, since many Filipinos there work as nurses, they earn more. But surprisingly it is the domestics who can afford to buy Sta. Lucia condos because they don’t pay taxes,” Magpoc said.
“US and Canada-based Filipinos prefer condos because quite a number of our “kababayans”  no longer see themselves retiring here. They hold on to condos for their visits, as investment or for their relatives here,” Magpoc added.
Middle East and Singapore-based Filipinos get lots or house and lot packages since most of them return to live in the country, plus the fact that it is hard to own properties in those countries.
In general, she said, lots are more preferred by overseas Filipinos because they are more affordable. A piece of land is the first step to fulfilling every Filipino’s dream to own a home.
“It’s a wise choice because land values appreciate fast. One project we launched in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan in 2005 used to sell P3,500 per square meter. The value has nearly doubled to P6,800 per sq.m.,” Magpoc said. Sta. Lucia’s main product lines really are in subdivisions and horizontal developments.
“This is actually where Sta. Lucia started,” Magpoc said.
Leveraging on that strength, it has not been difficult for Sta. Lucia to build up its land banking through joint venture arrangements with locals in areas where there opportunities for development.
“That sets us apart from other developers because not everyone can afford a property in Makati. This also addresses the fact that overseas Filipios still prefer to own a property in their hometown. As a national brand, Sta. Lucia partners with the locals who know the community,” said Magpoc.
This also explains why Sta. Lucia is not present in the Makati CBD (Central Business Disrict) where there already is a heavy concentration of condos.
“A lot of condominium developments are so-called transit-oriented – where the buildings are near access to transportation. We believe otherwise. Once a community rises, the  transportation system soon follows the development which was our experience in Davao,” said Magpoc.
Magpoc said other developers which have gone much ahead abroad did not find it difficult to sell condos at the start because buyers have little choice.  The come-on had always been affordability.
“Imagine a P1.7 million 17-sq.m. condo unit at P10,000 per square meter is affordable. That’s very nice to hear but the buyer has no idea how small that 17-sq.m. unit actually is. For the same price, one can have a house and lot somewhere in Batangas,” Magpoc said.
Though competition is stiff, Magpoc said sales of the international operations are increasing every year “because we don’t stop in our developments.”
She said even before setting up abroad, 90 to 95 percent of Sta. Lucia’s buyers are OFWs but transactions are done here through their relatives and not direct to the buyers.
The fact that Sta. Lucia’s products are for end-users, the default rate averages 10 to 15 percent. The speculative behavior of the market since the Asian financial crisis seems to have disappeared.
Magpoc said Sta. Lucia also prides itself as the most reasonably-priced among the developers “because we don’t spend too much on advertising.”
“We only rely on our track record,” Magpoc added.
But despite establishing a niche in horizontal development, Sta. Lucia has not totally ignored condo development but under different tack.
According to Magpoc, Sta. Lucia focuses on tourist areas and not CBDs in building condos geared for investments through rental income
Sta Lucia’s condotel concept is similar to time-share, only better. Unlike time-share, condotel investors get to own a unit. Initially, the unit is pooled together with other units and leased out to the developer for a period of 15 years, renewable. The investor starts earning once full down payment is made, normally after three years which is also about the time the construction shall have been finished. In addition, the investor is entitled to use his unit, depending on the availability, for 30 room nights per year.
Once the property is turned over, the buyer begins earning dividends. In the end, the quarterly income would offset the payment after a certain period of time.
“We are pushing this condotel concept as this sets us apart from other condo developers,” Magpoc said.
Robles said the company has three operational condo/condotels: two in Mactan and one in Quezon City (La Breza).  Soto Grande in Mactan was the first to operate.
From 60 to 65 percent average last year, occupancy rate has been increasing since January, Magpoc said.
Sta. Lucia Land launched last year Tower 2 of Splendido Tagaytay, which is a condotel, after the success of its Tower One, a pure condo.
This year, Sta, Lucia will open one more condo/condotel in Mactan, two more in Quezon City and one each in Davao and in Iloilo.
Magpoc said Sta. Lucia has had success in selling condos/condotel units to foreigners, especially its Mactan properties. Surprisingly, these units have been selling well to Singaporeans.
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