November 17, 2008
For those of us who are young and have moved away from our families to work in different cities, the challenges are frequent and many. All the things we used to take for granted at home are suddenly huge hurdles that have to be overcome. Food, rent, transport, finances...the list is endless.
And looking for a house takes topmost priority. With real estate prices touching the sky, it's not always easy to acquire the sort of place you dreamt of. Add to that the lack of good apartments and brokers alike and you've got yourself a mountain to scale. Formidable, but not impossible.
If you are looking for rented accommodation or are contemplating a move to another city, read on.
- I have just spent three weeks looking for a pad for myself and the experience has been long and tedious. It all starts with looking for a broker. If you don't have personal recommendations from friends, you can usually find pretty reliable ones off the Internet. Sites like indiaproperties.com, makaan.com, and 99acres.com are some of the sites you could check out. Select some brokers who operate in the area you are looking at and call them. You will need to provide them with information like your budget, preferred location and any specific preferences.
Once that is done, make sure you follow up with them time and again, because real estate agents have so many customers that it won't take them long to forget about you unless you take it upon yourself to keep reminding them.
Also read: What you MUST know about HRA
Then comes the endless list of houses to check out. Your broker will soon find you dozens of places that he thinks are just right for you, some of which won't be even remotely what you'd hoped for. Go see the apartments, but don't be in a hurry to settle for anything right away. Take your time and weigh all the pros and cons. Remember, you're paying the broker for this service and you have to be happy with the house you finally choose. So give it some thought and take an informed decision. I myself looked at close to 15 apartments before I chose one to make my home for the next year.
Don't be afraid to contact as many brokers are you want to. There is no etiquette about restricting yourself to one broker or agency. Spread yourself across as many as you are comfortable with -- your priority is finding yourself a good home, and the more people know about it, the higher your chances of hearing about something that works for you. I contacted as many as seven to eight brokers, of which two or three turned out to be highly efficient.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. You have every right to know what parking charges are in the building, what the other residents do for a living, and even, in communally sensitive areas, what religion your landlord belongs to. It's imperative to have all the information and then make an informed choice. I even ask brokers if the landlord stays in the same building, since I value my privacy highly and don't want surprise visits.
Be sure about whether you want a furnished or unfurnished place. If you don't have a stick of furniture to your name, it might be a better idea to pay a slightly higher rent for a furnished apartment, instead of buying everything from scratch. Furniture can be rather expensive and you might find that you ended up spending more money on furniture than you saved on rent! On the other hand, you could opt for rented furniture. At rates like Rs 300-500 per item, it might work out cheaper than a furnished pad.
Clarify what exactly the landlord is willing to do for you before you make an offer. Will he get those peeling walls painted before you move in? Will he leave the furniture for you to use or will he be removing any of it? What about installation of a geyser? Are electricity charges extra, over and above the rent? Once you know exactly what you're getting, you'll be able to calculate whether you'll need to spend any money on the apartment yourself and figure out how much your offer should be.
Once you have zeroed in on a place, always haggle over the rent. Very few landlords expect to get what their asking price is. Look at the apartment, ask the broker how much he thinks the landlord will settle for and accordingly make an offer. If your offer is rejected and you are still keen on the apartment, increase your offer by a little. In most cases, deals can be struck by negotiating either the monthly rent or the security deposit. Think of various permutations and combinations that would work for both parties. For instance, my landlord was very insistent on advance payment for the whole year. Since I couldn't give him that, I offered him post-dated cheques that he could deposit each month.Make sure you read your agreement thoroughly before getting it registered at a registration office. Don't get pressurised into signing anything until you've given it a once-over. Make sure you are in agreement with every clause; else you might find yourself in a legal jam later on. I always check for clauses that state my security deposit will be returned peacefully, and that the tenant is entitled to decorate the premises according to his/ her tastes. Also, hand over cheques only when the papers are signed.
Chances are that your broker found you your apartment through another broker. The network is quite complicated and sometimes a multitude of people is involved. Be clear about who your brokers are, which agency (if any) you went through and how much brokerage you are expected to pay. The norm is usually a month's rent, but some brokers will ask for two. Here you should haggle and settle at either one month or one and a half month's rent.
It is also important to be clear about which brokers helped you find/finalise the deal, in order to prevent complications later. I am currently caught in the middle of five fighting brokers who are not allowing me to pay the others, because they are all claiming that the brokerage is rightfully theirs. Avoid getting into these situations by being absolutely clear and keeping all the involved brokers in the loop of each other's activities. Don't assume that they communicate without your help, and don't assume that they will peacefully share the spoils amongst themselves without trying to bilk each other.
Have you ever had to look for rented accommodation? What were the troubles you faced? Were there any specific clauses/ agreements between you and your landlord? Is there anything you learnt that you would like to share with us? What would be your advice to those setting out to look for rented accommodation in another city?
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