How Property Development Has Changed Through the Years, According to the PropertyGuru Philippines Property Awards Chair

Get to know Cyndy Tan Jarabata, chairperson of this year's PropertyGuru Philippines Property Awards.

It's been 10 years since Manila started hosting the PropertyGuru Philippines Property Awards, which has become arguably the country’s most prestigious real estate awards program organized by PropertyGuru, a leading property platform in the region. The industry has changed a lot since then, from shifting buyer preferences to emerging markets in fringe cities and provinces outside Metro Manila.

And if there ever was someone who has actually seen these changes develop, it's TAJARA Leisure & Hospitality Group Inc. President Cyndy Tan Jarabata, who had chaired the awards when it debuted back in 2013 and has remained on the judging panel since. For the PropertyGuru Philippines Property Awards' 10th anniversary, she is once again serving as its chairperson.

"I didn't realize it was 10 years old already," Tan Jarabata quipped.

Considering that she's president of TAJARA, a company that specializes in the planning, development and management of successful hotel, asset management, and more in the Philippines, Tan Jarabata's transition to the real estate business was smooth. The two sectors, after all, are closely intertwined in many ways.

Tan Jarabata herself knows this. "Real Estate is a huge component of the hotel value," she says. "Even on the operation side and how we do even the branding of a hotel, it actually gets to be more sensitive to decisions that enhances real estate value."

Since she was 18, Tan Jarabata had always considered a career in the hospitality industry. In order to move her career forward, she felt she either had to be in hospitality or the airline industry. Tan Jarabata chose to go with the former because she thought the movement in the airlines business was a little too slow.


"I want the dynamism, so I went into the hotel business," she added.

She founded TAJARA after spending a couple of years in the hospitality sector, including stints with Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, Amanpulo Beach Resort, and Westin Philippine Plaza. She chaired for the Muntinlupa Investment Board, as well. "I was talking to chairperson veterans some time ago, and he was actually the one who gave me the idea," she said, talking about how she founded the startup.

In terms of bouncing back from pandemic woes, the two sectors have seen better days. Forecasts by real estate brokerage and consultancy firms like KMC Savills have, at the very least, pointed out that 2022 should be quite the bounce-back year for the industry, as the industrial and logistics sectors sustain growth.


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Another problem that the Philippines' property sector is facing is its own housing backlog. From 2011 to 2016, the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) estimated a total housing backlog of 5.7 million. "They rent but apparently they have the capacity to purchase their own so there's a backlog," she said.

Clearly there are underserved residential prospects looking for properties to purchase or invest in. The pandemic derailed growth, especially at the beginning, when demand from private developers nosedived. Towards the end of 2021 and early 2022 though, developers have slowly recovered, but not up to its pre-pandemic standards.

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Buyer preferences and needs have shifted, as well. Why live in the city where property prices can be up to 50 percent higher than those of comparable properties in fringe cities and provinces? These have nevertheless prompted developers to adapt to the changes in the market.

"One of the good parts is that the demographic has also changed," Tan Jarabata said. "I mean the millennials are buying real estate now and then the retirees who have big condo units are moving out of the city... So they've actually propelled also the movement of purchase of properties outside of the city."

Cyndy Tan Jarabata, the inaugural chairperson of the Philippines Property Awards, and now back as chairperson, on stage with PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards and Events General Manager Jules Kay.

Photo by PropertyGuru Philippines.

While she does think the real estate sector hasn't necessarily stabilized just yet, Tan Jabarat says that property, no matter how disruptive a pandemic can be, will always be a good investment and consumers know this. Real estate follows a cycle, after all, she noted. Rising interest rates are a factor, but developers have introduced better, friendlier payment plans for end-users as an answer. They have also taken notice of the "in-betweens" when it comes to developing properties.


"In areas where sometimes you would not think of developing because, again, it's an emerging city, or in its emerging area, it could be in-between,"Tan Jarabata said. "We've seen that developed in Sta. Rosa. And I guess it's all propelled because of higher land prices in key areas, so the ones in between are the ones that's actually also growing."

This trend is also driven by factors like traffic congestion and how more people are looking for "live, work, and play" environments in their properties. We can attribute the success of the awards program because of PropertyGuru's selection process. Through interviews, it is able to find the developers who have thoughtfully planned how each buyer would live in their properties. For the Awards' 2022 edition, it will hold both virtual and physical site inspections, too.

Tan Jarabata said she was pleased with the design and construction innovation she's seen in the real estate business, especially from boutique developers. These days, PropertyGuru also acknowledges developments for their eco-conscious practices and digital transformation.

The program has also added new categories for its 10th edition, including "Best Completed Condo Development," "Best Connectivity Condo Development," "Best Eco-Friendly Condo Development," "Best Integrated WFH (Work From Home) Development," and "Best Smart Building Development."

Tan Jarabata is also happy that the awards has done its part to be more inclusive over the years. PropertyGuru has long recognized the emergence of different developers in various regions. They don't just focus on major players, but the boutique players who are helping the industry grow.


"We have actually witnessed evolution of real estate in the past 10 years and in different capital markets," she said. "I'd like to believe that we've also taken a huge part in influencing the movement of developers, because you keep pushing design and construction innovation. And one thing that is so important to us is how you're able to develop your properties or even the entire development."

The deadline for entries to the PropertyGuru Philippines Property Awards is on August 5, 2022. Meanwhile, the gala dinner and awards ceremony will be held on October 7 at Fairmont Makati, Philippines. The 17th PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards final, on the other hand, will be on December 9 in Bangkok, Thailand. Interested developers may submit their entries here.

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Bryle B. Suralta
Assistant Section Editor
Bryle B. Suralta is the assistant section editor of Esquire Philippines.
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