Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A whole lot going on at year's end

I know there is a lot going on at home. Real estate developers want a bailout because so much debt is coming due. Thacher Proffitt, a firm I worked with a few times on CMBS deals, is dissolving, and that's sad. And there's so much more going on, even at Christmas -- to much to write about. But I am 14 time zones away, safely ensconced in Manila, where you walk outside and you feel like you are in a steam bath.

If you have never been to Manila, I recommend it for many reasons. First, if you are a dirt junkie, you will be amazed at the amount of real estate development going on, small, large or otherwise. Some projects look like they haven't changed in five years, while others are going up like kudzu on a tree in the South. Tons of condos and condotels, malls that make their US counterparts look tiny, and yes, an office building here and there, often for call centers such as the one across the street and complete with a 24/7 McDonald's and Jolibee. You can get some flavor of it all at the awesome SkyscraperPage Forum.

One common format I have seen is a mixed-use building, with a lobby and shops on the first two floors (or even a mall, a la Water Tower Place), offices above that, followed by a hotel and maybe private condos to boot up top. I assume they vertically subdivide these like you might in the US, but land titles are much more complicated in the Philippines, because you have registered (Torrens) land, unregistered land, squatters and adverse possessors and – you got it – no title insurance here. My late father-in-law was, as I understand, somewhat expert at this in his capacity as an attorney and judge here.