By Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson

PROPERTY developer Damosa Land, Inc. said that it sees growth in the office spaces segment this year, with business process outsourcing (BPO) companies looking to expand outside of the National Capital Region (NCR).

“Not to replace NCR, but to expand. We are starting to see that demand is coming in. If we look at the last major crisis we had, which was the financial crisis in 2008, right after that was when the BPO industry took off. I think the same thing is happening now,” Damosa Land President Ricardo F. Lagdameo said in a virtual interview.

“All of the companies abroad, especially in the United States, are looking to streamline and save on costs and we are probably one of the top two BPO destinations in the world. We hope that demand will continue to be the same,” he said.

This year, the property market in general will begin its recovery, Mr. Lagdameo said.

“Last year was not yet really the recovery year.  We do feel 2022 will be the start of a true, meaningful recovery,” he said.

“In 2021, we started to see that projects sold well, we had various inquiries from tenants, we had some new tenants that opened businesses with us. There were certain months that were good, certain months that were not so good. But looking at 2022, it’s going to be a lot more consistent,” he added.

He said that real estate sales for the first quarter of the year were offset by the surge of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

“January was, for everyone, a bit of a hiccup because of that Omicron surge. But if we look at the numbers in February, and even leading to March, it looks very promising. We hope to keep this momentum up,” he said.

“Real estate sales are good so far, the inquiries and BPOs and office tenants really picked up this year. This year, there were actual visits, so that was very encouraging. Also, business travel is starting to come back. Even international travelers coming back to the Davao region,” he added.

Mr. Lagdameo said that sales spiked in February and March, as mobility restrictions eased.

“When we look at the whole of the first quarter, despite having a lackluster January, we will still be able to hit our target,” he said.

“I think the demand came from several factors. The people have become more open to real estate investing especially over the pandemic, people were looking at the value of having your own home. There are so many good projects in the market that people have really taken to real estate as an investment. When people were allowed to go out, meet with brokers and developers, it seems they were ready to execute,” he added.

In February, Damosa Land launched its mixed-use development Bridgeport in Samal, Davao del Norte.

“It was our first major launch this year and we timed it when the economy started to open up. It also came at a time where people were looking for certain attributes in projects, such as open space, health and wellness facilities, proximity to the ocean — these are all things we put into this development,” Mr. Lagdameo said.

The project sold out about 60% of the first building and racked up half a billion in reservation sales so far.

Bridgeport is Damosa Land’s newest mixed-use development that features low-density condominium buildings, premium open lots, a condotel, commercial and dining areas, and an exclusive marina.

“Bridgeport envisions a work-life balance for the hard-working accomplished individual or family aspiring to live a quality life without compromising work and business,” Damosa Land said in a statement.

In May, the real estate company announced that it signed an office space venture partnership with International Workplace Group (IWG).

“This was one of the major milestones we achieved in 2021. We acquired our first franchise center around April. For this year, we hope to start construction of one more center within Davao and we’ll be rolling out one to two of these centers in the coming years. We do have an obligation to our franchise partner, but it will depend on the demand. If it does fantastically and people start coming back to the office, we can accelerate construction,” Mr. Lagdameo said.

The next IWG center is expected to be built in Damosa Diamond Tower in Davao City.

“Hopefully by next year or the following year, we will start looking at not just Davao City, but also Cagayan de Oro and General Santos,” he added.

Amid the pandemic, Damosa Land completed two residential projects, including the Damosa Fairlane subdivision and Seawind condominium project, among other projects.

“Now, when people are ready to take ownership of their unit, the project is completely done. That’s kind of how we prepared ourselves this year,” Mr. Lagdameo said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Damosa Land said it shifted to online operations to cope with the lack of mobility and adapt with the “new normal” setup.

“In terms of operations, we had to really go online and go digital very fast. It was probably [in] the middle of 2020 [when] we implemented a virtual tour for all the different projects we have. From marketing to sales, virtual tours to payment, to accepting your unit, we did online turnovers,” Mr. Lagdameo said.

“Even our property management services were done online as well. If you needed some kind of repair, you didn’t have to go to the property management office, you can do it digitally through an app. Those are all paths that I think will continue even post-pandemic, it’s very efficient and gives flexibility to us and our home owners,” he added.

For the coming year, Mr. Lagdameo said that the biggest challenge for the industry is the competition.

“One of the biggest challenges we might face, and are already facing, is that because we had almost two years of lost time, competition is fierce. Everyone is out there with very aggressive promotions, everyone is launching at the same time, everyone is trying to make up for lost key performance indicators this year. That’s why this year is not yet going to be the full recovery year, I would say it’s more of a survival year,” he added.

However, he said that demand will not be a problem despite the government’s proposed rate hike in the second half of the year.

“Buyers will still continue to obtain bank financing. Prior to the pandemic, in 2017 or 2018, interest rates were so high. If you were a homebuyer, you’d get 7% to 8% at that time. If buyers were willing to borrow at that rate, then they are willing now. I think it’s not a huge concern,” he added.

He said Damosa Land is ramping up for more growth for the rest of the year.

“This year is going to be critical because it’s the start of the recovery year, and I think [so far] we did quite well. Hopefully, there’s going to be no more hiccups. In 2021, we recovered very well and we are projecting an even better one in 2022,” he said.

“If I were to characterize the rest of the year, and we are hoping we can keep up this momentum… the way we positioned ourselves this year is we actually positioned our projects to absorb the demand right away for 2022,” he added.