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The Homes of Zee

House Hunting in Cebu: What You Need To Know

You may have decided on getting your own place, but the question is—do you know where to start? Real estate broker Morgan Tornilla gives us a checklist on the things you need to consider before going ahead and taking the plunge.

Getting your own place is one of those milestone moments in your adult life. You have some money saved up, and you’ve decided that it’s time to make the move. Now what? With a booming property market like Cebu, there are so many options and things to consider that it can be a little overwhelming. As a real estate broker, it’s my job to figure all of this out and make what can sometimes be a stressful process, as easy for you as possible.

While the things that you look for in a home will vary considerably depending on your personal needs and lifestyle (a growing starter family is going to require significantly more space than a workaholic yuppie who mostly comes home just to sleep) there are certain things that everyone needs to keep in mind whn looking for a new home.

Understand that finding the perfect home for you will probably be a long process, involving back and forth and a certain amount of negotiation. But in the end, it’ll all be worth it. You may have to make a few compromises along the way, but as long as you keep some of these tips in mind, your search for your dream home should be a fulfilling and fruitful one.

Good Location

In layman’s terms, this would mean somewhere that isn’t too far from your work, and regular leisure hangouts.

As brokers we like to consider a few more things:

  • Accessible location—How far is it from the main road? How wide is the road leading to the property? Is it commute-friendly?
  • Proximity to important public spaces, like grocery stores, pharmacy and hospitals
  • The neighbors you’re going to have
  • How prone the area and its surroundings are to flooding during the rainy season

Solid Construction

After Yolanda and the earthquake in 2013, this has become an increasingly important factor for homebuyers. You can paint the walls whatever color you want, but it isn’t going to matter if the house isn’t built to standard.

If buying an older home, keep an eye out for:

  • Cracks in the columns and beams
  • Windowsills that aren’t level
  • Doors that are uncommonly narrow
  • Rusted-looking pipes
  • Wall sockets that look burnt

When buying a new home, always look into the track record of the construction company or developer. If you can, visit some of their older projects and ask the homeowner’s association if there’ve been any issues with the building upkeep.

Sensible Floor Plan

The ease with which you can move through the various rooms and spaces in your home can have a huge impact on your daily life. Uncomfortably narrow hallways and awkwardly shaped rooms make it hard for light, sound and air to flow and circulate throughout the space.

Whether or not you believe in feng shui and the flow of energy, you should believe in being able to navigate your way around your own home without bumping into things or feeling cramped, and all of that depends heavily on the floor plan.


As unsexy as it sounds, you need to have all your papers in order. This is rule number one for any broker worth their commission and is part of the due diligence that should be conducted on any prospective listing. This includes verifying the Land Title with the Registry of Deeds (fake titles are a real danger, particularly when dealing with properties in Mandaue and Mactan) and cross checking this against a copy of the property’s latest Tax Declaration. Any discrepancies are considered an immediate red flag.

Financing Options

It’s always imperative that you know how much you’re willing (and let’s face it, able) to invest in your new home and what financing options are available to make that happen. 

As a general rule of thumb:

  • Don’t spend more than 30% of your take-home pay on rent
  • If you’re buying, use the same amount as basis for your monthly amortization and work backwards from there to figure out your budget
  • Set aside an additional 2-3% if the sales price for closing costs and various processing fees



  • Cebu City – 1.3m to 14.5m
  • Lapu-Lapu City – 780k to 12m
  • Mandaue City – 1.1m to 13.9m
  • Outside Cebu City – 1.05m to 10m

House and Lot

  • Cebu City – 1.9m to 21m (for 3 bedroom)
  • Lapu-Lapu City – 970k to 10m (3 bdrm)
  • Mandaue City – 1.6 to 19m
  • Outside Cebu City – 800k to 11.5m


Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, February 2017


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The Homes of Zee

The Homes of Zee–Holiday Edition: Christmas House No. 12

Christmas House No. 12 – Heart-felt Holidays at the Hofers’

Check out why this holiday home is on our list of 12 Cebu homes this season. offers a glimpse of Cebu’s holiday homes from far and wide. Please follow our series as we bring you a different home in the next few days!

Nestled in Banilad, Cebu City, the George Hofer residence stands as testament to enduring elegance. Constructed in the late sixties to early seventies, the mansion exudes timeless charm with warm brown molave wood panels and pristine white marble floors.

Stepping into this grand abode during the Christmas season unveils a journey into a beautifully storied past. This season, Molave wooden entance, intricately carved with the Hofer couple’s monogram, are adorned with opulent yuletide garlands. White velvet poinsettias and persimmon peonies alongside mother of pearl camellias are interspersed with pearlescent berries. Archangel Michael showers the guests with  blessings from above, while a macassar ebony wooden effigy of Saint George (slaying the dragon) pays homage to the house owner’s namesake.

Adjacent to a private elevator, a grandiose Christmas tree stands tall, welcoming guests into a sprawling waiting hall. Here, an angel in teal and gold lamé cloth grouped together with exotic blooms gracefully plays the lyre; seemingly entertaining those who await entry.

Further down the hall is an ecru grand piano, where the lady of the house, a skilled pianist, performs Monti’s Czardas, Schubert’s Ständchen, and other rhapsodies on special occasions. A commissioned portrait of George and Dulce hangs on a wall above a console table that separates the hall from the formal dining area.

The Hofer home exudes old-world elegance that is seldom found today, yet its true charm lies in the joyous laughter and warm greetings of the Hofers, who gather annually to share Christmas cheer and delightful yuletide stories in this vibrant space.

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The Homes of Zee

The Homes of Zee–Holiday Edition: Christmas House No. 11

Christmas House No. 11 – Christine Pelaez

Check out why this holiday home is on our list of 12 Cebu homes this season. offers a glimpse of Cebu’s holiday homes from far and wide. Please follow our series as we bring you a different home in the next few days!

Designed by the noted Cebu architect Teng Jacinto, this expansive residence stands as a testament to the artful curation of Jun Pelaez. Over the years, he has meticulously assembled a collection of artworks, transforming the home into a gallery that reflects his discerning taste and appreciation for the aesthetic.

As the holiday season graces the air, the residence undergoes a festive tone under the artful touch of Jun’s wife, Christine. Embracing tradition, she bathes the home in the classic Christmas palette of reds and greens, infusing each corner with warmth and seasonal charm. The interior becomes a canvas for the holiday spirit, adorned with wreaths, ornaments, and the timeless glow of twinkling lights.

However, the true heart of this home lies in its welcoming spirit. There are two dining rooms, with chairs adorned with red bows and festive centerpieces,  where family and friends converge for an equally sumptuous meal.

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The Homes of Zee

The Homes of Zee–Holiday Edition: Christmas House No. 10

Christmas House No. 10 – The Hudsons’ Christmas Chronicles

Check out why this holiday home is on our list of 12 Cebu homes this season. offers a glimpse of Cebu’s holiday homes from far and wide. Please follow our series as we bring you a different home in the next few days!

The Hudson’s household buzzes with enthusiasm each time the holiday season unfolds. The heart of their Tokyo home, the  Hudson Christmas tree, stands tall and proud, adorned with tinsel and cherished trimmings that span the years of their family’s growth. Each ornament tells a story, marking the arrival of a new family member with the annual addition of baubles bearing their names: Mary, George, Victoria and Charles.

Charles, the youngest Hudson at twelve, beams with joy as he proudly places the Christmas star atop the tree. No longer reliant on his father’s shoulders, Charles revels in his newfound height and the welcomed responsibility that comes with it.

In addition to the twinkling blue lights, the festive icons and the white-and-silvery ornaments, another cherished tradition had been completed at the beginning of the joyful season. The Hudson’s much-anticipated Christmas cards, an exciting accountof  the family’s adventures, had been creatively crafted by Rose and Karl. The lively narrative chronicles the milestones and quests of each family member, with Karl’s animated storytelling and Rose’s artistic touch bringing the tales to life.

Rose shares, “by mid-November we print two hundred post cards of the Hudson family chronicles. The entire family, from the oldest to the youngest, gathers around to sign each card. Envelopes are lovingly addressed, and the kids lend a hand in labeling.”

In a heartwarming shift of roles, the Hudson parents, Karl and Rose, prepare to pass the baton. The careful planning and distribution of the Christmas cards are soon to become the responsibility of the eager younger generation. 

With laughter, love, and a touch of adventure, the Hudson family embraces the season, creating and sharing memories that they and their friends treasure for life.

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