Is your Building Earthquake-Resistant?

The earthquake that struck Nepal and surrounding regions on April 25th and May 12th, 2015 shook more than the earth’s surface. It shook the confidence of residents in earthquakehundreds of buildings all over the quake-affected region, across six nations. Buildings in this region, both modern and historic, collapsed or developed irreversible damage during the quakes.

Thanks to the quakes, buyers in India have become cautious and are evaluating a property for its earthquake resistance. The Bureau of Indian Standards has established several norms for earthquake resistant design of structures, in India.

As a prospective buyer, you can ask your builder to share information on whether these norms have been followed while building the structure. You can also engage the services of a structural engineer or professional agency and get an evaluation done.

In addition to this, there are several small details that you can notice, which have a bearing on the earthquake-resistant capacity of a structure.

  1. Shape of the building(s): The plan of a building should be ideally composite in shape like a square, rectangle, circle, or oval. Buildings in the shape of H, V, L, Y or U are less resistant to quakes.
  2. Fancy elements: Multiple structural elements that are not tightly integrated with the overall frame of the building are more prone to collapsing during a quake.
  3. Number of storeys: The load-bearing-wall method that was in vogue during the 70s is risky. While all high-rises use the column principle which is less risky, it’s good to consider low-rises (less than 3 storeys) only if they have been built using columns or framed structure.
  4. Size of openings in the wall: High-rises that have large openings in the walls for doors and entrances are more at risk.
  5. Staircases: Cantilever staircases and externally overhanging staircases are more at risk. All stairs must be horizontally integrated with the overall frame of the building.
  6. Information on the use of earthquake-resistant elements like horizontal seismic bands, vertical reinforcing bars, core shear walls, pile lengths in the rock, mass dampeners, base isolation techniques, etc.

With time, Indian cities will only get taller, so it becomes all the more imperative to follow earthquake-resistant design in construction. While evaluating a property for purchase, buyers must do their due diligence; else, the consequences can be grim and tragic.

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RBI eases norms for buying affordable homes

Affordable housing is emerging as the best thing to have happened to the Indian home buyer in the last 2 decades. Depending on the location, amenities provided, and construction technologies used, these homes are affordable to a larger cross-section of the working class than what exists today.

Now, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has eased norms for availing a home loan on an affordable home. Typically, stamp duty, registration and documentation charges add up to another 15% of the property value. Now, RBI has allowed Banks to include these chargesrbirate in the overall property value, while disbursing a loan, as long as the property value does not exceed Rs. 10 lakhs. RBI made this announcement in March 2015.

Last July, the RBI helped ease investment or bank lending in the affordable home sector. According to the RBI communiqué, home loans to individuals up to Rs 50 lakh (for houses of value up to Rs 65 lakh) in metros, and loans up to Rs 40 lakh (home value Rs 50 lakh) in Tier-2 or Tier-3 cities will be considered as affordable housing.

Thanks to this, banks can now float infrastructure bonds up to seven years. The money raised this way will not attract the typical requirements around CRR (cash reserve ratio) and SLR (statutory liquidity ratio). All this has a cascaded effect on increasing the availability of affordable homes.

Well, how does this affect you, if you are in a much higher affordability bracket? For one, you could buy one or more affordable homes as an investment option. Secondly, if you are a business owner, you could create policies that encourage your employees to buy an affordable home. This is a valuable perk that can go a long way in attracting and retaining talent.

Documents to examine before buying property

Purchasing property in India can be complex and unfortunately prone to fraud and deception quite often. That is why, the state and central governments, property experts, and lawyers specializing in Realty advise buyers to peruse all documents thoroughly with the help of a lawyer, before buying property.

Some of the things buyers must look out for:

  • Original Land Deed of Current Owner: Always insist on seeing the original title deed of the property to ascertain ownership details and rights to sell. Photocopies are not examinereliable as information on bank loans taken, or multiple ownership cannot be ascertained easily. A visit to the concerned sub-registrar’s office can help ensure titles are indeed in the name of the current owner who is the seller.
  • FIR of theft: In case seller gives the excuse that the originals have been stolen, ask for the FIR copy of complaint lodged. Once satisfied, place an ad in the newspaper mentioning the desire to purchase, to weed out objections from any quarters.
  • Release certificate from Bank in case of loans: In case loans have been procured in the past on the property, request for Release certificate from all the banks concerned and validate the same from the concerned bank(s).
  • An Encumbrance Certificate from the Sub-registrar’s office: This ensures no legal hassles or unpaid dues are involved in the property. This can be purchased from the concerned sub-registrar’s office.
  • Original property tax receipt for the plot, for the built property, as well as water and electricity bills paid must be provided to ensure there are no pending municipal dues which can become the liability of the buyer.

Remember, the Indian law provides adequate checks and controls to prevent fraudulent land deals. It’s the prerogative of the buyer to employ them and ensure a clean deal.

Integrated Townships or Independent Projects?

The concept of townships is as old as industrialization in India. Large corporate houses like Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis and JIndals built self-sustained colonies or townships around their plants.

In more recent times, Realty houses are promoting ‘integrated townships’ in a big way. townshipThese self-sustaining localities or satellite towns come with all the necessary amenities required for a good quality life. The Indian Government is also incentivizing Realty houses who would like to create townships, making it the most prominent trend in the years to come.

But what does it mean to an average home-buyer? Is buying a home in an integrated township a better option vis-à-vis an independent apartment / villa / villament / plotted development project?

Benefits of living in an Integrated Township

  1. Much better infrastructure like roads, power, water, and sewerage connections compared to the parent city.
  2. More standardization in construction, and hence better overall ambience in the township.
  3. Reduced need for transit to the parent city, as these townships are replete with schools, colleges, shopping and entertainment destinations.
  4. More cost-effective, as these townships are built on the peripheries of cities, where land-parcels are purchased in bulk, and development undertaken by a few builders only to keep costs low.
  5. Less crowding, and hence less traffic or pollution related issues

Downside to buying a home in a township

  1. Plot owners are bound by architectural restrictions while building their homes here
  2. Maintenance can be an expensive affair if the township’s Management maintains amenities like sewerage and street lights.
  3. Construction cycles are longer

Townships offer distinct advantages and are the ideal solution for India’s overcrowding and massive urban migration issues. As a buyer, one must choose the desired township after doing due diligence, if one must enjoy the dividends from investing in a township, for a long time.

5 things buyers can demand from their builder

Real Estate transactions are meant to be a win-win for the buyer and the seller (who is the builder). But in reality, it rarely happens that way. Home owners who are in a hurry to buy a property – or who are fixated on a particular property do not undertake a full due-diligence on the property, or the builder. And even if they do, they are willing to accommodate a few compromises along the way, which is where the trouble starts.negotiate

However, there are a few areas where a compromise is not required.

  1. Choice of Bank Loan: Do not be coerced into taking a loan from one or two banks recommended by the builder, and feel free to consider a bank of your choice.
  2. Frequent Updates on the project: Demand regular updates on the project by email or an online link, and cross check on them by visiting the project once in a while.
  3. Alterations and Customizations: There are several small customizations that the builder can accommodate without any extra charge, so feel free to exercise this option.
  4. Due diligence during the handover: The handover process can be a tricky one, and home buyers must have a clear checklist to ratify before taking possession.
  5. After-sales services: Since builders are supposed to maintain the project till an association is formed, check with other residents on the quality of the same provided.

Remember, end of the day, it’s your hard-earned money that is being invested in a dream home. One should be clear on why they are buying a particular property and must accept as few compromises as possible. This will add better value to your purchase and force the builder to provide better service in the days to come.

Buying a house – Villa or Apartment?

This is a question that bothers all those who looking to buy a new home, or property. While the answer to this can be driven apartmentby a complex set of reasons and desires, it’s good to know a few pointers that can help one make a decision better.

  • Historical preferences: Generally, people who have lived in independent houses or know more people that do so prefer villas, while people who have always lived in distant suburbs or farmhouses, with fewer neighbors, prefer the community culture of apartments.
  • Lifestyle aspirations: Villas stand for exclusivity and standing out, as well as the opportunity to live it up, whereas apartments are all about conveniences and hassle-free living. Where one is in their career, or age profile – will decide which of these lifestyles they prefer.
  • Family Type and Size: While larger families with two or more generations living together require the extra spaces available in a villa, while smaller and nuclear families will find an apartment adequate and cost-effective.
  • Transit and Proximity: Generally, apartments require lesser acreage and are found closer to commercial districts, while villas require more space and are farther off. If one’s priority is to stay close to the workplace, one is more likely to find a suitable apartment than villa for this.
  • Age and disability: Families with elders or those with disabilities will find the compact spaces of apartments more convenient. Whereas, the wide open spaces of a villa project can create hassles especially during an emergency.
  • Noise and Privacy: Large families, families with two or more children, elders with low tolerance for noise, and young couples who desire more privacy will find the space between two villas convenient. Whereas, families that enjoy a community lifestyle may find a villa environment cool and aloof.
  • Safety & Security: Working couples who follow different work timings, or where one of the partner is constantly traveling will find apartments safer and less risky. While large families or those who do not enjoy too much scrutiny will find a villa lifestyle heartening.
  • Amenities & Conveniences: In addition to the mandatory supermarket, gym and swimming pool, it’s quite common to see one or two crèches in most large apartment projects in Indian cities. This makes it convenient for working couples with a child.
  • Upgrade & Maintenance costs: Apartments are synonymous with economy of scale. Upgrade costs and maintenance costs are distributed amongst various houses which helps keep it small. It’s also easier to find volunteers who can manage the residents association and facilities, in apartments. While both of these factors are a challenge in villa projects.
  • Investment or Residency: Is one buying the property for living there or, merely as an investment? In case of the latter, one should know that because of their affordability, it’s easier to sell apartments quickly, while this is not always true of a villa.

These are some of the major factors that can influence one’s decision. End of the day, neither option is just perfect for anybody. Choose wisely and there will be fewer compromises and more benefits.

Indian Realty Goes Green

Eco-friendly homes, green buildings, environment friendly construction and sustainable habitats have become the new buzzwords in Indian realty. While the desire to do less harm to the environment is a prime factor motivating this new trend, the benefits of eco-friendly homes to the owner are too significant to be ignored.

  • Lower energy consumption
  • Lower water consumption
  • Reduced waste generation through more recycling and reuse
  • Lower air pollution

These benefits have triggered various measures by the Indian government to encourage green building norms. In this regard, the work done by monitoring agencies such as LEED-INDIA, IGBC, BEE and TERI are significant.

In 2007, TERI developed a rating system for green buildings which was endorsed by the Indian government. If these rating standards, called GRIHA, are adopted, green building owners can save 40%-60% in energy consumption and around 35%-55% in water consumption.

green realty

As one can expect, both Indian Corporates and Realty Companies are going all out for Green Building Norms. For corporates, in addition to the savings in operational costs, green buildings fit neatly into the company’s CSR agenda and are good for its image.

Infosys, the Indian IT bellwether is a pioneer in this area. All their campuses in Hyderabad, Mysore, Mangalore, Trivandrum and Pune are LEED-Platinum certified. Some upcoming commercial green projects include Godrej Genesis in Kolkata, J W Marriot Hotel in Mumbai, and IOC Building & Learning Centre in Panipat.

For Realty companies, the reduced cost of construction through use of inexpensive and eco-friendly material helps buttress their margins in a recessionary economy. Companies like Avani Residence in Hyderabad and BCIL in Bangalore are specialists in this area.

With State Governments, Municipal bodies and individual home-owners adopting GRIHA standards, the movement towards Green Construction in India will only get stronger with time.