Real Estate

Applying for a Building Permit? Don’t Make The Mistake My Neighbor Did.

Getting building permit requirements for house construction in the Philippines is not as difficult as one might think. But there are some mistakes that you should avoid to make sure everything goes smoothly and nothing gets delayed. My neighbor recently had an unpleasant experience with building permits for her new home and I want to share the lessons that may save you from making the same mistake. building permit requirements for house construction Philippines

In the Construction Industry, a single mistake costs $$$

Before I transitioned into a full-time copywriter, I worked in the construction industry for four years and saw firsthand what one mistake would cost. Aside from delayed construction and expensive monetary loss, there’s also a risk that puts everyone in danger.

Construction mistakes arise for a variety of reasons, including poor planning and lack of supervision. And for most cases, it’s because of budget tightening. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being budget-conscious as long as it won’t compromise the quality and safety of the building.

But if you think losses can only occur during the construction of the building itself, you’re wrong. Being too frugal without thinking much about the repercussions can also lead to building permit mistakes.

My Neighbor’s Inquiry

Around June 2020, my neighbor asked how much it would cost to make house plans. That time, she got herself a subdivision lot and is planning to build her house in a few months. I told her it would be around 20k-30k Pesos as a package, which already includes architectural, structural, plumbing, and electrical plans, as well as signs and seals of the engineers, and revisions if necessary. This package is ready for submission at the Office of the Building Official (OBO).

Another option would be plans alone, which costs around 10k Pesos, and she’ll be the one to look for the architect/engineers that would sign and seal the plan. The costs I’ve mentioned are the average costs of paying for a house plan.

Honestly, I had no interest in taking that project. I know how to make those plans but it’s very time-consuming. And considering I have a full-time day job, making the whole house plan would take me around 3 months (a safe estimate).

But I know a few colleagues who specialize in this area and since most of them already have templates, the house plans would be ready in just weeks.

I referred her to some of my friends but she insisted that she has a cousin that could make the whole package for 6k Pesos. Her cousin is in Mindanao. We’re in Cebu.

Honestly, I was stunned that time and told her she might have missed something on their deal. The signs and seals of the professionals alone would cost at least 5k overall or 500 pesos per page. Consider the cost of printing the plans and that would leave her cousin’s effort to TY (Thank you 😊).

But well, offering services to relatives for FREE is not a rare case here in the Philippines. So our discussion ended there.

My Neighbor Asked for Help

It was December 2020. Six months have already passed but she didn’t receive the house plans yet. She said he’s making up so many reasons that caused the delay of the plans. But I know for sure how huge the monetary factor was. Her cousin must have given up knowing how effortful it is to make house plans and all his efforts will just go to TY.

Her cousin asked for another 6k and the plans would be delivered without signs and seals. And because of frustration, she gave in and had the plans and signed and sealed herself.

When the plans arrived, I had a look at them and told her I was in doubt. It lacked some important details. Worse, her cousin would not cooperate. He didn’t give the editable file and wouldn’t want to, so any revision would cost another money… and time.

But my neighbor still persisted with the plans, pushed through with the revisions, but still ended up OBO’s disapproval. Imagine the hassle and the frustration of going through the process.

Long story short, I helped her negotiate at the OBO office, but her case was helpless.

Why?

She didn’t send any sketch plan to her cousin. And she didn’t realize how important it was. Her cousin didn’t ask for it either.

What he did is he made up his own sketch plan without taking a look at the actual lot.

If you’re wondering what a sketch plan is, it’s a drawing that shows your lot survey and where it is located. This is very important since the lot’s size and form will dictate the size, form, and boundaries of the house.

Building Permit Requirements for House Construction Philippines: Sketch Plan Sample
Sketch Plan sample



And as you guessed it, the whole plan her cousin made is useless. Because of the missed sketch plan, the whole house plan needs to be revised since it doesn’t fit right into the actual lot. Also, the dimensions and house design aren’t aligned with the building code. My neighbor wanted to give up since she already spent around 30k for the whole thing. Damn.

But I stood still, trying to think of other options. Mind you, I never received a single cent for this so this was all charity work lol. But I was really willing to help so I talked with the OBO head and he said the only way would be to revise the whole plan.

I asked if he can refer us to a draftsman/engineer who already did some house plans in the same subdivision my neighbor’s lot was situated. And he happily obliged.

I told my neighbor that she has an option to let her cousin revise the whole thing (and wait for another months) or save herself from all the stress and let the drafter connected to the OBO’s municipality do all the work. She chose the latter. I’m glad she did.

Again, long story short, the plans were done in less than two weeks and she paid 20k for the whole package. In no time, her building permit was approved by the Office of the Building Official.

In total, my neighbor spent 50k for what was otherwise just have to be 20k. Not to mention the stress as well as the waste of time and effort.

Long story, I know. But my neighbor’s misfortune could serve valuable lessons to someone who wants to build their own house in the future. As a civil engineer, I learned a lot from this experience as well.

And if you’re planning to build your own home or knows someone who is about to, these tips may come in handy:

  1. The cheapest option doesn’t always mean the “best” option. Need I say more?

  2. If you can afford it, opt to buy a house and lot instead of a subdivision lot alone. I tell you, it could save you soo much time, energy, and peace of mind.

Tip: You can save more in pre-selling compared to RFO (ready for occupancy) properties. The disadvantage in pre-selling is you have to wait a year or two for the unit turnover.

the Philippine real estate marketplace
via: Zipmatch, Philippine real estate marketplace


3. If you’re looking for someone to draft your house plan, choose the one who has a proven record in making those plans.

4. House and building rules differ from one municipality to the other. Try to look for a drafter/engineer within the municipality you’re building your house since they’re already an expert in that area.

5. Be sure to submit your sketch plan to your draftsman.

6. Ask OBO in your municipality if they have a pre-approval process. It’s a process where you can send the soft copy of plans (without the signs and seals) to OBO and ask if there are necessary revisions needed before printing the whole set of plans.

7. Save yourself from all the stresses and choose the package option with professionals’ signs and seals.

Final Thoughts

One of the most important things I want to stress out in this post is: whatever you want in life, you have to FAIRLY pay for it. It can be a form of money, time, energy, attention, or another kind of payment. But this isn’t just about building a house or paying fair professional fees. It’s also about building your wealth or your character or acquiring something you wish for.

Life is a game of trade-offs. Whatever you want in life, there’s always an opportunity cost to consider. And if you always looking for ways to pay less, the interest will eventually come due at some point down the road and cause even higher costs later on.

Sheila is a civil engineer by profession but has switched careers to become a copywriter. She loves making sales through stories that are relatable to the average person. She's also a sucker for memes and thinks she’s the funniest person in the world (even though she knows that’s not true). Her favorite drink is Kopiko Brown coffee, but she'll also take tea or beer if it's offered.

8 Comments

  • Jojisilia Villamor

    Thanks, Miss Sheila for the advice. Yes, it is true you need to spend a fair amount of money to build a house. The subdivision I’m in was developed by Aboitiz. Their employees were given privilege of being among the first to choose lots to purchase at a good price. My mom had to let go of adjacent lot for her planned vegetable /fruit garden so she would have enough money to build a decent house.

  • Armie

    Thank you for your advice, Sheila. While reading your post, I was reminded of one of the issues our family had to deal with two months ago. I can’t go into full details to respect some parties involved, but yes, your tips will surely come in handy. 🙂

  • carlo olano

    It was actually crazy that she let someone who didn’t even see the lot do it especially when the person was offering a service so cheap.

    Yep, many times when we go cheap, we also get cheap service. That’s the usual consequence but her case it became an expensive mistake.

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