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Dream home or nightmare? buyers beware

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When we look at the why new first home buyers regret their purchase, the reasons given vary widely among people in different parts of the world. When it comes to home purchase, the ‘regret’ factor is quite intertwined with social values – a set of variables where no cookie-cutter approach can obviously apply. After all, what is considered important in Australia or Canada may not resonate very loudly in an Indian’s mindset. Nevertheless, it is possible to come up with a list of regrets which are common to everyone, regardless of geography or culture.

– Anil Pharande, Chairman – Pharande Spaces

Before we get into this, it is relevant to reflect on WHY people wind up making home purchase decisions that invite regret later on. Regardless of which part of the world we look at, the foremost reasons are impulsiveness and excessive focus on a low purchase price. While impulsiveness can have many reasons, being overly focused on getting a cheap deal needs to real further exploration. In real estate, when you buy cheap, you get cheap.

This means that what you get when you buy the cheapest possible property is definitely not optimal except perhaps in terms of cost price. Property prices are dictated by location, available civic and social infrastructure and the presence of good amenities and facilities. If one chooses the cheapest available property, there is bound to be a compromise on these very important factors – and it is these factors that lead to satisfaction with one’s home purchase in the first place. Regret with such a home purchase is inevitable, and usually, sets in even before one has moved into the new home.

Another common regret is winding up too far from one’s workplace. In a growing economy like India, the work factor is paramount and jobs literally dictate the life of 90% of the population, regardless of seniority and pay grade. Buying a home which adds anything over 20 minutes to one’s daily commute to work and back will have a telling effect on one’s quality of life, mental disposition and even finances. The negative effect of living too far from one’s workplace is especially felt by people who lived in rental accommodation before buying their home. Because of the relatively affordable rent structure in India, families can usually rent homes conveniently close to their income earners’ places of work.

While the pride of home ownership after years of living in rental homes is undeniable, this joy can be seriously diluted by the workplace distance factor. This is one of the primary reasons why integrated townships work so well in India. Such townships have commercial office spaces integrated into the project alongside residential spaces, thereby creating the perfect juxtaposition of residential and commercial catchments. A home in a township which also hosts one’s place of employment is the very definition of ‘dream home’ in India.

An associated homebuyer regret – lack of kindergartens and schools in the vicinity – is often a ‘hidden’ factor for newly-married couples that only rears its head when children are on the way. A home may be quite perfect in other respects, but non-availability of good play schools initially and primary schools thereafter can be a serious spoilsport. The lack of such facilities within reasonable driving distance can become a recurring nightmare of worry about their children’s wellbeing, comfort and safety for parents.

For closely related reasons, inadvertently buying a home in a neighbourhood with a high crime rate becomes a ground for huge regret. While even low-end housing projects usually have at least some level of security for residents, the world beyond its gates is beyond control. Safety and security have become a major issue whose severity keeps mounting in all Indian cities. Buying a cheap home invariably results in loss of peace of mind in many respects, but not least of all because of an undercurrent of fear for life and property.

Insufficient infrastructure is another major source of regret of inexperienced homebuyers. It is not unusual for people to make home purchase decisions largely based on misleading assurances by brokers, developers and previous owners with regards to the availability of water and electricity. Since the supply regularity of these highly important resources can often not be established on a single inspection – and, in India, even changes with the seasons – buyers can wind up regretting their purchase when it is too late. This particular source of regret is most common in areas outside the municipal limits of a city.

Now that the Real Estate Regulation Act (RERA) is in place, misleading assurances have become punishable by law, but only to the extent that there is documented evidence of them. In other words, it is now punishable by law to advertise or otherwise market properties in a misleading manner. However, verbal assurances can obviously not be tracked – and unfortunately, countless property buyers have had reason to regret taking too many verbal assurances at face value.

A lot of regrets can obviously be avoided by approaching a property purchase decision with sufficient personal research and pre-meditation. In that respect, the concept of due diligence must necessarily transcend the usual sense of ‘legal health check-up’ and go deeper. It makes sense for aspiring homebuyers to have a check-list of ‘must-have’ and ‘not acceptable’ features. This list should be compiled in consultation with others, not least of all both happy and unhappy homeowners within one’s acquaintance circle. This can go a long way towards ensuring that one’s dream home does not become a source of nightmares later on.

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