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There’s no place like home

By Senator Manny Villar

When I left the Senate in 2013 after 21 years of public service, I immediately plunged back to managing our business.

There was no transition phase. There was no adjustment period. I was very excited about returning as an entrepreneur.

One of the reasons for the exhilaration I felt was the fact that I was returning to an industry that was rapidly changing. The changing demographic landscape of our country was having a major impact on the real estate industry.

The rapid growth of the millennial population was one of the driving forces of this demographic shift. Millennials are generally understood as persons who were born in the 1980s to 2000. As such, most of them are now in their 20s and 30s. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), for instance, reported that the millennials now make up a third of the country’s population and almost half of our labor force.

And let us not forget our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who, according to the 2017 Survey on Overseas Filipinos of the PSA, are also getting younger. Forty two per cent (42%) of OFWs belong to the 25-34 age group.

In other words, they are the generation poised to take over. New generations bring with them new ways of thinking as well as new attitudes and behaviors. And it is important for society in general but businesses in particular to understand these changes in order to cater to their needs.

This demographic change is transpiring as the present government embarks on a massive infrastructure development program. The Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” is designed to spur regional development bringing growth to the countryside. This means more economic activities, more employment, more spending capacity and increase in the quality of life for our people.

This rapid transformation has a tremendous impact on the real estate industry. As construction surges and the population changes, we need to understand how we can keep up to the changing times.

A 2017 study by the online real estate platform Lamudi Philippines showed that majority of Filipinos—60%—searched online for houses and lots while millennials looked for condominiums.

This is probably because most millennials are in urban areas and prefer the convenience of condos near their workplace and other amenities that they need in their hyperactive lifestyle.

But we need to keep in mind that while initially young people are lured by the urban lifestyle, a number of Filipinos are looking for bigger homes outside the hustle and bustle of central business districts. To many of us, the dream of owning a house with a small lawn where you can play with your children is still alive.

I also think we should not underestimate the growth occurring in places outside Metropolitan Manila. The same Lamudi study for example revealed that while Quezon City and other NCR areas are very popular searches in terms of real estate, property searches for Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, and General Santos are on the rise.

One of the things I noticed when I came back to our business is the rapid development in city centers outside Metro Manila due in large part to the entry of many outsourcing companies in urban areas, leading to better jobs and more spending power for young workers and their families.

This is one of the important reasons for our very aggressive expansion in the provinces. We have a nationwide presence in 141 cities and municipalities in 47 provinces. And this is also the primary driver to the strengthening of our retail division — Star Mall, All Home, All Day, Coffee Project, and, more recently, Bake My Day.

For example, five years ago we launched All Home, a one-stop shop for home owner, contractors, and DIY buffs. As the economy expanded and home ownership rose, we realized the need for a full-line home center offering an extensive collection of construction materials, a wide variety of appliances and furniture, and a curated collection of decorative items not only for new home owners but also for the many who are renovating. We now have 17 All Home branches with another one soon to open in Naga City on June 11 this year.

This is the reason I love being an entrepreneur. The world is constantly changing. There is always something new to learn.