Wednesday, July 25, 2012

C'mon Oprah, do some home work..

 I think its a valid question, how do Americans eat Pizzas, Hotdogs tacos, falafels? Also makes one wonder who is the Target Audience for this show ?

While there is a school of thought that even questions, should Indians worry about stereotyping ? Oh yes we do, we are one of the most sensitive people, probably second only to Conservative Muslims around the world asking for apologies for everything/every joke that is Indian..Had we not given the story importance, wonder if it would have been so much talked about..

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dark Knight Rises

Loved Dark Knight Rises ! Loved it. Deserves to be seen again. Background score was just amazing. I have been watching reruns of the prequels just in anticipation of this one..And please don't miss Mehrangargh Fort (JOD) even if for a glimpse..

Also the Meme's on Bane are super funny!

Friday, July 20, 2012

House interior decor

So congratulations, you have signed your new home..and if its a bare shell like most new apartments are, then you have quite some work on your hands.

Always looked at online portals/house magazines/bloggers and imagined your dream home ? Well here is the chance to make it a reality.

Things to remember :
  1. Decide your budget. Home decor/interiors have a way of going over budget no matter what.
  2. Choose an interior contractor either thro word of mouth or one whose work you liked say at a friends place/neighbours place etc.
  3. Make it a point to speak to the people where the work was done to find out if there were any issues and how they got addressed.
  4. If the work was done for some client who is not in India and got the work done by speaking to the contractor on the phone/emails etc, also a good idea to assume the contractor/interior decorator knows their job.
  5. You may choose to do the interiors at one shot or part by part. It has its own pros and cons.
      • Pros of doing the entire job at one shot.
        1. There is uniformity in the work you choose(all wood/etc done by the same set of workers/same materials etc)
        2. Buying in bulk may work out for cost optimisation esp when labour/carpenters are involved
        3. Its a one time headache.
        4. Getting a good contractor/Interior decorator might help to source all the jobs/labour at one shot.
      • Cons :
        1. Its gets quite intensive. And to keep one's attention on what every carpenter is doing really takes a lot out of you
        2. if the Contractor is not often onsite, and if their team tends to slack when the boss is not around, you have another issue of chasing.
        3. There is a possibility that no room is ready at the same time for you to "start living"
  6. Find out the rules and regulations of the Society/committee that you are about to move into. Some have time/hours for working and workers. Example no noise work between 1-3. and no Noise work post 19:00 hours etc. Find this out. Its very important to factor in the actual working hours so your contractor can manage staff and you can manage your leaving from the previous place of residence.
  7. An ideal time should be between 6-8 weeks if you are getting the whole house done.
  8. Dont try to custom make everything, as this can be very time consuming, Its ok to buy off the shelf at some of these home decor stores if it saves you time and if the wood/designs are what you expected. Maybe buy your Guest beds off the decor store, but your own can be custom built and so on.
  9. Avoid the urge to Fill each and every room/gap/space with something. Its your home, you have years to fill it with beautiful things that you find along the way. Bear in mind the clutter issues.
  10. Keep a part of the work like Exterior furniture(for balcony/terraces) and landscaping for a later date. This will you a little "less tired" of having workers in and out of your home all the time.

I must say we were very lucky to find Jyotika Baleri of Destination Designs to do up our entire home. She understood the brief, gave her feedback, kept us honest about our budgets, and did a good job with the end result. Lets just say she made our learning experience fun!

Monday, July 9, 2012

House hunting adventures in Bangalore - 3 (Documentation)

Documentation is a very important part of the property you zero in on. 
  1. Property related :
        1. Check the documents thoroughly.Dont leave this to some two bit lawyer appointed by your agent. Be sure it is someone knowledgeable and indeed looks after your interest(preferably someone who is on YOUR payroll)
        2. Akrama-Sakrama factor. This means there are building complexes that are built with an extra floor or extra villa etc other than what is in the original approved plan. Its quite convenient for Sellers to leave out this info under "Buyer Beware"
        3. A Khata versus B khata. This is another factor that a good lawyer can give your details about how accurate your home papers are.
  2. Bank Related :
      1. If the Bank loan officer says the property papers are allright, dont just take their word for it. They are paid on commission for every loan they sign on and have been scammed for overlooking dubious papers. 
      2. Most often than not the loan officer will ask you to "just sign" and they will do the rest. Easier said than done. but with so many forms to sign it gets difficult to read it. 
      3. As one of the Bankers said, if we read everything on the terms and conditions, no sale would ever take place. 
      4. So yes, its like that check box in most internet sites "I have read the terms and conditions" scary but somethings we just leave to fate!
      5. The whole deal while working out a Bank loan involves a lot of paper work/details/copies/identity proof etc. Keep a set ready and handy all the time : copy and scan the following documents
          • Passport copy of name/address proof
          • Letter from your bank stating you live currently at so and so place
          • Letter from your office stating your address
          • Electricity bill from current place of residence
          • Rental agreement
          • Utilities bill
          • Bank Statements
          • Marriage certificate copy if required
          • Keep the above for both the person in whose name the loan is being taken and the person who is an addon(example spouse)
  3. Registration related :
        1. While registering the property just remember that most of these government offices open at 1030-11:00ish for business. So unlike our banker and our agent who knew that the office would open so late, we were asked to turn up with the seller at 08:30a.m.Quite an awkward place to be, esp since we are new to the act of registering but agents/Bank officers are not. One wonders why they add to the anxiety. 
        2. Keep your identification details with you as you will have to show that while signing the agreement.(something your agent/banker might conveniently forget to inform)
        3. Keep some cash on hand(10-20k or more as discussed with the agent) for "sundries" -dont expect a bill for it.
Good luck with the documentation. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

House hunting adventures in Bangalore - 2

In our search for our dream home, well we certainly saw a lot of places. Out of every 10 homes we saw in a fortnight, we probably liked 2. Dont despair, some people find a place and like it and sign it immediateley - Remember they are an exception and NOt the rule.

You might wonder if your agent have some quota of places he needs to show in a day and is that he is showing you a few crappy ones too. Be firm and state what you don't want to waste your time looking at stuff which is not in your criteria. 

As we dont have any HGTV in India, most apartments/houses are very very poorly staged. So its very important to like what you see because of what you think it can become in the future. Worst are places where current tenants maintain the home like a sewer!

  1. A few homes we saw and liked had some super master bedrooms but a galley like kitchen. In our homes we dont have maids to do the cooking. It is a joint activity. So our Kitchen criteria was something with a lot of work space. Say in case two women-(imagine that) are in the kitchen.
  2. Make a list of who all are going to stay in your apartment/house. If there are elderly, be sure NOT to choose too many split levels -as these are sure  traps for having a fall.
  3. Ensure the bathrooms are well lit/roomy/dry and elderly/child friendly too. Not all guests/visitors leave bathrooms dry like you might want to, so ensure that is taken care of in the guest/common bathroom.
  4. Look for places that dont require too much re-modelling. Sometimes one man's treasure is another man's trash. We were keen to buy an empty shell if the wood work was not up to the mark in most places. 
  5. Remember that most sellers who bought their place for investment, and have tenants currently, would have compromised on the interior work with some cheap woodwork. 
  6. Do a little home work around the society/gated community you are targeting. Are those sports/gym etc actually working? 
  7. What is the cost of maintenance?(some places have a higher maintenance charge)Dont forget to factor that in, as it will add to your monthly expense along with your EMIs.
  8. We made a mistake of making just some perfunctory queries thro our agent, who ill advised that some known tenant in the same property said "they had absolutely no problems". 
  9. What we overlooked was the gym had stuff which was not working, a swimming pool that was redundant, water issues that were being addressed by the committee and so on..
  10. Also a good idea is to figure out what are the rules of the committee,the charges etc. We for one had to struggle while doing up our interiors -as the rules of work timing/workers staying in property changed all the time. 
  11. These are things that might have become clear had we introduced ourselves to the committee instead of the builder.
  12. Find out the water situation, example we didnt know that after HAL there was no Kaveri drinking water. We have borewells that are treated with Reverse Osmosis.
  13. Check the common areas and how they are maintained. 
There are pros and cons with large apartment complexes. 
  1. Ask yourself if your kids need a larger play area, and more friends/people to hang out with - a larger apartment complex helps that. 
  2. Imagine in a smaller complex if you didn't get along with your  US returned, always-complaining-about-everything-neighbours, well you are stuck aren't you ? But the flip side is its also cosy and you get to know everyone intimately(Maybe a con for some)
  3. We zeroed in on an eco friendly building complex which was not ostentatious to look at, and had a very earthy feel to it. It also had fewer buildings/villas and thats why seemed less crowded. 
  4. A smaller apartment complex is good if you dont want the crowd and the whole beehive look of the residential property. 
  5. Selling and buying property in large complexes would be easier as they are differentiated on price and value addition done.
  6. Larger complexes have a good supply demand of work force and prices can be kept optimum esp for domestic help, gardeners, car washers, dog walkers etc..Might not have the same luxury in smaller residential areas.
  7. Do check proximity to markets, schools, public transport. Places that are away from the noise/well secluded have the issue of planning your outings/errands due to distance.
So choose whatever appeals to you and your family. Think long term. These are expensive decisions and cannot be changed overnight.  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

House hunting adventures in Bangalore

It all started when we decided that it may be time to move into our own place after having lived in a rented accommodation for two years.

A few things we added to our "must have" and "nice to have" list.  

Must have list 
  1. Right price within budget
  2. Bearing in mind that my husband and in laws are quite tall,  a factor to be included i.e. higher ceilings. Some homes in Bangalore have low ceilings at the most inopportune  places
  3. Another "must have" was Privacy. Rooms situated in such a way that there is enough privacy for everyone. 
  4. We prefer rooms that are NOT dotting the living room, guests/visitors needn't know where every room is.
  5. Good light/air
  6. My family is quite loud, so hopefully no ground floor where one probably shouts out to each other, "where did you keep my purse" and so on..the neighbours hear everything. 
  7. Also ground floor usually meant less light, or having curtains drawn all the time, another no no.
  8. Proximity to place of work. 
The "nice to have list" was quite long as you can imagine. So I will leave that out now. 

Online searching and Agentinvolvement
The search criteria was set up in some of the realty portals : magic Bricks,,indiaproperty and so on.

While we did line up a few places from the search, having an agent or two on the task helps. Their network is way larger and they can line up more places to your liking on a specified day.

Our agent was an old time friend, so there are pluses(lots of hard work and personal involvement) and minuses in such a relationship - one that takes the other for granted 
  1. Give your agent a Budget criteria. If your budget is say 30 Lakhs, be sure most Indian agents will start showing you places for Rs. 50 Lakhs. 
  2. Most would say "your budget is not enough". It never is "enough" for them. Even at Rs. 2 Crores, agents are known to say they have only property for Rs. 4 Crores. Dont get swayed by it. 
  3. The higher the budget, the higher their commission. Ideally most agents like working for big ticket budgets. But dont let that bother you. They are also sensing how far you will stretch your budget.
  4. Stick to your budget. Imagine if you said your budget is 20L, your agent will start showing you something for 30L. Get the drift ? See a few. and then decide what is your actual budget and what you are NOT ready to budge from.
  5. Fix your walk-away price after that, since you get a glimpse of what work the agent can do and what are the properties in his kitty. 
We took a good 6-8 months in our search. At times in a job market like ours, sometimes a possible long term overseas posting etc might put the brakes on your house search, so be transparent with your agent and seller about it.

A piece of advice while house/apartment hunting :
  1. Check the property in daylight. Which rooms have enough light and air, would be easily visible.
  2. Check for quality of doors and windows. These soon become big ticket items if you were change or repair everything
  3. See walls for dampness or for water stains. Address Seepage problems with builder/seller if possible
  4. Check floors for stains. possible water logging(example in balconies/bathrooms etc)
  5. Quick check the plumbing. Are the flush/taps working
  6. If there is wood work done, check for wood borer problems. if its an empty place even better. 
  7. Check balconies to see if there is a proper sunshade or so to divert the water from rains. 
A good idea will be to sign some of these off with the seller/builder before closing a deal.

Remember you are a buyer/customer and therefore can make a few demands like asking the seller to include some stuff if required in the agreed price and so on. 

Watch out for sellers/and seller's agents who put on an act like they are doing you "a favour"(in case you come off as someone who loved the place too much) you might end up seeming needy and agreeing to most of the seller's demands! This is a buyer's market so please know you can push a little. 

A fact :
You will never know what a "good price" for a property is untill you check around enough to know what "VALUE" it has for you right now and in case you decide to upgrade and sell this in the future.