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50? Here's a house JUST for you
Vandana Gombar | May 06, 2006
They are not old-age homes. That is the first thing one needs to know about the senior citizen resorts that are coming up around the country, specifically designed for those who have crossed the 50-55-year threshold.
What we are talking about here is luxury-living aimed at the upper-middle and middle-class. The rich, I am told, can afford in their backyards all the things that these complexes offer - vast open and green spaces, chat and chaat areas, temples, meditation centres, card rooms, libraries, doctors/ambulance on-call, mess-like dining halls, the works.
Modelled on what has been developed in advanced countries like US and Australia, these houses are aimed at those senior citizens who are willing and able to lead an active life - that is swim, walk, play badminton, tennis, billiards or even board games - rather than those requiring serious long-term care.
For the senior citizens living in the national capital region, one upcoming option is Ashiana's Utsav, which claims to be India's first retirement resort spread across 15 acres "where 75 per cent of the area is to be left free for lawns, fountains, water bodies, flowers, sit-outs, wide roads and pathways".
Possession of a house in Utsav - which is part of the larger Ashiana Village complex that also houses villas and multi-storied apartments for all ages - will begin in October 2006.
The apartments seem reasonably priced (as compared to Gurgaon rates) starting at about Rs 15 lakh (Rs 1.5 million), but the catch is the distance. It took me about an hour and a half from south Delhi (Greater Kailash) to get to Bhiwadi in Rajasthan, crossing Gurgaon and Manesar on the way.
The good road helped, though the Rs 82.50 toll for use of that road, two-way, is not something that people will be comfortable paying on a daily basis. I am told that a monthly pass can be managed for Rs 250 for Bhiwadi residents.
The houses are spacious and most fittings, like grab-rails and anti-skid tiles in the kitchens and washrooms, arthritis friendly-taps and large switches, would be welcomed by the "young elderly". The corridors and doorways are also wheelchair-friendly.
Is there a demand for these houses? "Initially, we thought we would sell off the properties in five-to-six years. Almost 85 per cent of the houses have been sold off in the first year itself," claims Ayush Anand, manager (marketing) at Ashiana Housing. Advertising has been limited to print media and all selling has been done by the company (minus the brokers).
The house offtake story of a similar housing complex coming up nearer to Delhi, Icon Apartments at Greater Noida, is even more interesting.
Without any advertising, and with the same model of direct sales boosted by word-of-mouth promotions by initial buyers, almost half of the 250-odd houses in the complex have been sold.
At a starting price of Rs 30 lakh (Rs 3 million), they are pricier than the Utsav apartments, but are closer to Delhi. A 30-minute drive from Sarita Vihar will get you here, though you could also approach the property by using the eight-lane DND flyway connecting Delhi to Noida at Rs 18 per use.
Backed by the management resources of boutique real estate developer - the Stellar Group (the people behind the Stellar Gymkhana in Noida) - Icon Apartments is being built under the aegis of the cooperative housing society called Santushti Sahakari Awas Samiti. Possession is promised by March 2007 and "we always stick to the time commitment given", says SSAS chairman Ravi Mohan Sethi.
So who is buying? It is mostly professionals ranging from civil servants, doctors, chartered accountants, IITians, engineers and the Indians residing overseas. You could buy the apartment if you are below the 50-55 age bracket.
Utsav has even tied up with banks like HDFC, SBI and ICICI to facilitate loans but the resident of the apartment has to fulfil the age criteria. That is something, which could be difficult to implement, and one could imagine youngsters more than willing to take advantage of these facilities.
"The age criteria has been included in the buyer-seller agreement. There will be no dilution there," asserts Anand. The intention is to keep it niche since "we ultimately want to have exchange programmes with retirement resorts around the world", says Ashiana's young executive director, Ankur Gupta, who has done his masters with specialisation in senior housing from New York University.
Seeing the positive response to this project, Ashiana is ready to replicate the facility in Pune where work will begin shortly - and in Nagpur, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Kolkata thereafter.
Icon's Sethi, however, feels that it would not be easy to limit residentship to a particular age-group. "You cannot police each house," he says.
But that need not be such a bad thing. Many senior citizens would like to have younger neighbours instead of limiting company to other senior citizens.
The success of such projects would ultimately depend on the quality, and pricing, of the specialised services on offer, whether it is physiotherapy or a sauna. The charges per month could be Rs 2,000-2,500 at Icon, and are estimated at Rs 900-1,500 at Utsav.There are also likely to be additional charges for facilities use. If these are put-offish, here is an interesting statistic, which was thrown at me - a similar facility (plus services) in the booming Gurgaon market would cost a whopping Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million). Now that's a serious sales pitch.