March 6, 2016

FACT CHECK: Grace Poe’s “Luxurious Multi-million-dollar US Mansion“

 Does Grace Poe actually own a “luxurious multi-million-dollar US mansion”? Thinking Pinoy investigates.

Thinking Pinoy (TP) is a Filipino individual who has his own political beliefs. He personally supports his own presidential candidate. While scavenging for legitimate issues is something he is quite good at, he always backs all his claims with sufficient evidence.
For example, in the middle of the Wharton Issue and despite his personal dislike for Presidential Candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, TP personally requested and paid for a verification document from the University of Pennsylvania – Wharton School.
Thus, Thinking Pinoy thinks it proper to give Poe the same treatment, despite TP’s dislike for Grace Poe.
The Backstory
Referring to presidential candidate Grace Poe, celebrity Jim Paredes yesterday tweeted , “Why do you like comparing urself to OFWs?”

The tweet linked to an (OSI) article entitled “Exposed: Grace Poe’s Million Dollar Mansion in the US.”

Paredes is a staunch Liberal Party supporter.
The OSI article alleged two things:
  1. Grace Poe’s home in the US was “luxurious”, “multi-million dollar” mansion.
  2. The property is a 322 square meter (3,468 square foot) house located in 2809 Winter Oaks Way, in Herndon, a town in the Washington DC metropolitan area.
“Grace Poe keeps telling the electorate that she left the life of wealth, glamour and privilege in the Philippines to live a simple life in the United States. According to her official story, Grace Poe decided to leave the Philippines to work for a living and become independent,” OSI said.
OSI said they have “documentary proof” to back these allegations. These documents, however, are yet to be made public.
OSI included pics of the said property, one of which is shown below:

Grace Poe’s Home: Thinking Pinoy investigates
Because OSI has not released those “documents”, TP took the initiative to do his own fact-checking.
First, TP did a Google Streetview Search for “2809 Winter Oaks Way, Herndon”. The property’s appearance, shown below, is consistent with the information provided by OSI.

Second, TP did a quick Google Search on the address “2809 Winter Oaks Way, Herndon” as the search string.
Third, note that Washington DC Metropolitan area includes parts of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Thus, we may interchangeably use Virginia and DC but they will refer to the same general location.
TP was able to gather records from reputable real estate websites Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor, along with official records from Fairfax County, Virginia.
  1. Zillow is an online real estate database company founded in 2006 and created by Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink, former Microsoft executives and founders of Microsoft spin-off Expedia.
  2. Trulia is an online residential real estate site for home buyers, sellers, renters and real estate professionals in the United States.
  3. is an online real estate destination providing buyers, sellers and renters of homes with the information, tools and professional expertise they need to make informed decisions. It is owned by News Corp, which also owns the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and the book publisher HarperCollins.
“Multi-million dollar”
According to Zillow and's records on “2809 Winter Oaks Way, Herndon, VA 20171”:
Built in 1999, this property was last sold for $947,000 in 2006 and currently has an estimated value of $894,523. The median price for this area is $499,900.”
Trulia describes “2809 Winter Oaks Way” as “a single-family home… has 4 beds, 2 ½ baths, and approximately 3,468 square feet. The property has a lot size of 1 and was built in 1999. 2809 Winter Oaks Way is in the 20171 ZIP code in Herndon, VA.”
From this information, it’s easy to see that it is not a multi-million dollar home, as that would require the value to be over $2 million. However, this home is worth only $947,000 (Php 44 million) when it was sold in 2006 and its value has actually gone down by about $50,000 (Php 2 million) over the years.
Multi-million peso? Yes.
Multi-million dollar? No. Not at all.
Moreover, financing (using bank loans) is the norm when purchasing real estate in the United States. More likely than not, this home was purchased in 1999 in that manner.
Based on Fairfax County records, the property’s 1999 acquisition cost was just $450,090.
Using a mortgage calculator with typical parameters, monthly payments would be at around $1,650, or about $20,000 annually for a 30-year mortgage with 20% down-payment.

Now, the median (middle-class) household income for Washington DC is $109,200. Thus, $20,000 worth of annual mortgage payments is quite realistic for a middle class family.
When it was sold in 2006, it's reasonable to assume that Poe sold the house, kept the equity (the value of the house that Poe has already paid off), and used the rest of the money to pay for the remaining mortgage loan.
Nothing out of the ordinary here.
All the three databases (Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor) agree on the following property description:
  • Single Family Residential
  • 4 Bedrooms, 1 Partial Bathroom,2 Bathrooms
  • Built In 1999 in Fairfax County
  • Floor Area: 3,468 sq. ft. floor area; Lot Size: 9,916 sqft
  • Stories: 2 story with basement; Parking: Attached Garage; Parking Spaces: 2
This property is a typical suburban house. That is, it is a regular – a normal – middle class house in Virginia. This is hardly luxurious by Washington DC standards.
Luxurious by Philippine middle-class standards? Yes.
Luxurious by US middle-class standards? No.

Is it Grace Poe’s home to begin with?
Fairfax County’s official records indicate that the current property owner is a certain Richard H. Ginnett.
Checking the property’s sales history in the same website, it shows that:
  1. The property was bought in June 1999 by Teodoro V. Llamanzares III.
  2. Llamanzares sold the home toGinnett in May 2006.
Teodoro is “Niel”, Grace Poe’s Husband.
Was it Grace Poe’s House? Yes.
Is it still Grace Poe’s House? No.
The June 2006 sale is in line with Poe's sworn declaration that she started disposing US assets so she can move back to the Philippines.
Grace Poe’s Home: Conclusion
First, it is not a multi-million dollar home. It’s not even worth half a million dollars when the Poes bought it.
Second, it is an extremely regular, ordinary, middle-class suburban home by US standards. Yes, it’s luxurious if a Manila-based Filipino will look at it, but most average people in the US can afford such a home.
Third, and this is from personal first-hand knowledge:
A couple of years ago, Thinking Pinoy visited his aunt in the San Francisco Bay Area where the cost of living is similar, if not more expensive, than Washington DC’s.
My aunt lives in a 4-bedroom, 2 ½ bath suburban home in the North Bay Area. For all intents and purposes, my aunt’s house is extremely similar in terms of price and dimensions, and my aunt is just a charge nurse in a local SF hospital. She belongs to the US middle class.
I also visited a cousin in a Georgia suburb. Same story. The cousin is also a nurse (Pinoy eh, kaya puro nurse LOL).
So let’s not make a big deal out of it. If we want to criticize other candidates, let’s make sure that we use truthful data and that we perform due diligence. I do not want Grace Poe to win, but I do not want her to lose because of a lie, because that would make me no better than Mar Roxas and the  Liberal Party, and LP's cronies.
So, as a final note, I have a message for Mr. Jim Paredes:

Jim, stop drinking The Yellow Kool-aid. It's turning your brain into mush. 

(Thinking Pinoy)


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