MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – While the biggest obstacle to her presidential bid has been cleared – the Supreme Court on Tuesday, March 8, decided she is qualified to run – Grace Poe has got another issue to fend off.
Photos of her former house in Virginia in the United States are being circulated online, describing it as a “million-dollar” property.
While at this point nothing fishy can be attributed to the property – the exact location is at 2809 Winter Oaks, Herndon, Virginia – its value is being used to cast doubts on Poe’s campaign statements that she could relate to the hardships of millions of overseas Filipino workers because she had gone through difficulties too as a resident in the US.
Poe on Monday, March 7, addressed the questions about her supposed hardships in the US: "Sa ating mga kababayan: lahat naman tayo nangingibang bansa para bigyan ng marangal na pamumuhay ang ating pamilya. Hindi naman sa nakaw kinuha 'yon, pinagtrabahuhan naming mag-asawa.”
(To our country men: all of us who can go abroad, we do that to provide a decent living for our families. We built that house with hard-earned money, it’s not as if we stole it.)
She added: "'Yan nga ang gusto natin, na ang bawat Pilipino hindi na kailangang umalis ng bansa para magkaroon ng ganoon. Dapat dito rin sa atin kaya natin ‘yon."
(That’s what we want to happen here, that each Filipino would no longer need to go overseas to own something like that, for us to afford that even here.)
Poe said she could perfectly explain herself about this property, but is also dismayed that she is scrutinized more than other candidates who have committed worst offenses against the country.
"Pero nakakadismaya sapagkat 'yung mga ibang tumatakbo nga o 'yung isang [kandidato na] matindi ang kasalanan sa bayan…. Ito, nagsumikap, nagtrabaho nang marangal, gagawan pa nila ng istoryang ganyan. Wala naman akong dahilan para lokohin ang ating mga kababayan ukol diyan,” she said.
(But I’m dismayed because they aren’t this hard on others who are running or on one candidate who has sinned big against the country…. In my case, we worked hard, took on decent jobs, and they would still invent stories about us. I don’t have any reason to fool our countrymen over this.)
Before the limited information being passed around about the property get any more confusing or misleading, Rappler lists down what we know about Poe’s Virginia house, based on official documents we earlier obtained. The information has also been validated through various database sites in the United States.
1) The Llamanzareses were the first owners of the Winter Oaks house.
Grace Poe’s husband Teodoro “Neil” Llamanzares purchased 2809 Winter Oaks on May 28, 1999. Before this, the address associated with the couple in US public records was 129 Kingsley Road SW in Vienna, also in Virginia – a house owned by Neil’s mother Carolina.
In May 1999, Llamanzares took out a $230,000 (then equivalent to about P9.8 million)* loan from Columbia National Incorporated to purchase the Winter Oaks property (this was paid in February 2003). When he bought the house from Toll Land XV Limited Partnership, it was newly built.
He was the registered owner of the property until October 29, 2002, when he signed a quitclaim deed in Poe’s favor. On April 27, 2006, it was sold to a couple who remain as owners to date.
Poe told reporters on Monday that documents pertaining to the sale of the property were submitted to the Supreme Court as part of her evidence that she and her family returned to the Philippines for good in 2006 – or 10 years before the presidential election here.
2) The property was not worth $1 million at the beginning.
Neil Llamanzares bought the property for $450,090 (equivalent to P19.15 million in 1999). By the time he and Grace Poe sold the house to the couple 7 years later, its value had increased to $947,000 (about P48.59 million at 2006 conversion rates).**
3) The property is twice as large as what’s common in the neighborhood.
The Llamanzares’ single-family detached “patio house”, as one real property site describes it, had a living area of 3,468 square feet, sitting on a 9,916 square-foot lot.
It has only 4 bedrooms, but an initial report by a Philippine blog site was misinterpreted by some because it described the house as having “9 rooms.” That description is, however, used by some real property sites in the US to include the other parts of the house.
2809 Winter Oaks has, aside from the 4 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, 1 half bath, and a full basement of 561 square feet. It also has one fireplace, as well as an attached garage for two cars.
While it is usual for the houses in the neighborhood in Oaks Farm to have 4-5 bedrooms, many of these houses have living areas and lots only about half as big as 2809 Winter Oaks, which was sold for $947,000 in 2006 and is now valued at more than $800,000 (about P37.46 million at today's exchange rates).***
Recently, the median value of homes in Herndon city, where the Oak Farms subdivision is located, was at $499,000 (P60.82 million),*** while in the state of Virginia it was $216,000 (P10.1 million). Nearby neighborhoods’ median listing ranged from $260,000 to $402,000.
4) The Llamanzareses mortgaged the property at least 4 times.
The couple took out mortgages at least 4 times using their house and lot as security:
5) The property’s value has since dropped.
After Poe’s husband purchased the property for $450,090 in 1999, its value dropped to $393,330 the following year. It then picked up to $432,665 in 2001, but the value was still lower than when it was acquired. From 2002 to 2006, its value increased every other year, ranging from $540,830 to $852,480. The Llamanzareses were able to sell it for $947,000 at a time when its assessed value was $100,000 lower. Now, various listings estimate 2809 Winter Oaks’ value between $812,064 and $894,523. – Rappler.com
*In 1999, one US dollar was roughly equivalent to P42.55
**In 2006, $1 = P51.31
***$1 = P46.82
Editor's Note: We modified the original title of this story to emphasize to readers, who only read the headline and not the entire story, that the intent of the report is precisely to quell speculations about the property and trace its ownership. Everything reported here is based on records available to the public.