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'My house hunt gave me sleepless nights'
Merril Diniz
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August 11, 2006

According to a recent survey by an international wealth management company, Mumbai is the world's second least expensive cities.

Er... did they forget house rent ? That abominable amount one has to cough up every month. Not to mention the fat deposit one has to part with at the start of a lease and license agreement.

Of course they didn't take into consideration house rent. In fact finding a decent place to rent in Mumbai city today, is like locating a pin in a haystack, the operative word being 'decent'.

And it doesn't help that big corporations are suddenly willing to shell out the abominable rent and and fat deposit for an employee's rented apartment, all courtesy the current boom in Mumbai's corporate world. This trend has made house rents go through the roof in the past one year alone.  

I moved to Mumbai around five years back. Since then I've shifted about six houses, all located at various ends of the city. Housing has been my single biggest problem. Adjusting to mad crowds, dirt, pollution and making friends from scratch in an alien city -- that's all cakewalk as compared to maintaining a roof over one's head (I've had sleepless nights over the latter). I'm sure many of those who live in rented apartments cringe as they read this.

Having stayed as a paying guest for a couple of years, I finally decided that enough was enough; I could no longer stomach someone rationing out the water (mysteriously it was always was in short supply) or keeping a tab on entries and exits.
I needed my private space, which I could redecorate to suit my aesthetic sense, come and go as I please, entertain friends or family and make my own rules. But such freedom comes at a pretty price.

At the start of my house-hunt, I was confident of a finding a cosy corner within my budget. But the more I looked the more disillusioned I became. My first house-hunting spree was a disaster; I saw some pretty awful, stuffy and small rooms in some very dilapidated-looking buildings. On reaching home, I drowned my sorrows in a cup of coffee, and almost resigned myself to a fate as a paying guest. But the brew was strong, my resolve stronger.

I began house hunting with a vengeance; I had about 15 days to find a roof over my head. I filled my black book with lots of phone numbers, not of potential dates but brokers. For those not in the know, brokers are touts who keep track of properties that are on sale or for lease. They charge you a brokerage, which is usually one month of rent. Anything more and you are getting ripped off. Every morning, I would fix up appointments with various brokers to see houses either at the crack of dawn or in the evening before the sunset. This is because some houses look liveable at night, but less enchanting in daylight.

I met some oddball landlords too. A few did not want non-vegetarian food to be cooked or eaten at home. Some wanted to know if I was Muslim, because the society did not permit Muslim tenants. One did not want any idols of gods to be placed in the house. I had still not found my dream house. I found it very difficult to concentrate on work and at times felt tempted to pack my bags and return to my hometown and stay in my parent's house (I can choose from two houses). Such thoughts haunt to me at least twice every year.

I would no doubt have to make amendments to my current budget; it had to be doubled. Secondly, I would have to explore a little beyond my ideal location to find something that fitted within my budget. An internal conflict was brewing like a tempest; I had lived in Bandra for the past couple of years, the queen of the suburbs, a lively, bustling place where restaurants, pubs, shopping, friends, the universe were just a stone's throwaway. And now I had to venture into the suburban wilderness.

However, 20 houses down the line I finally saw a house with potential. Located in a quiet colony, just a stone's throw away from Bandra, it was located on the ground floor, had a huge balcony, a garden and most importantly, I could walk quite a few feet without bumping into a wall. Now if I threw in some paint, nice furniture, soft lighting, bright curtains�hope still floats.

The landlord proved to be a soft-spoken elderly gentleman who's only request was to 'please maintain the house nicely'. We settled on a decent rent and deposit. The place was mine!

Now, one cherry red wall (with a matt finish) basks in the warm glow of tiny wooden lamp kept one corner of my room. Sigh! I'm finally home.

Do you live alone in an alien city, in a rented apartment? Share your house-hunting woes, experiences and  advice.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

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Number of User Comments: 7

Sub: Searching for a house

Friend Its the same in Bangalore also. Brokers are a pain here unlike in Hyderabad where there is no advance and no broker . I ...

Posted by Mahendra

Sub: Its still easier in Bombay ...

Its still easier in Bombay and India and affordable as well. ... we indians need to rome around in other countries to find out what ...

Posted by Maaz Khan

Sub: buying house has become nightmare

Last year at this time I was just wandering on streets of Thane like some nomadic tribe, in search of a house. After 2-3 months ...

Posted by Girish Thakur

Sub: House hunting : Very Nearly Trapped

House Hunting: Very Nearly Trapped by Owners & Brokers Bangalore is inarguably the most talked about city today. The IT being the main reason. Though ...

Posted by Venkatesh

Sub: Pretty much a norm today

I think with the professional geeks flocking to the relatively few nuclei available for opportunities to explore greener pastures, today the story is well reflected ...

Posted by Arpan


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