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Can I buy a home?

The answer to the question: if you’re under 35, unmarried and not working for a multinational firm: “Most probably not, not in Delhi”. That, anyway, is what realtors and real estate consultants of Delhi-NCR say. They haven’t come across a single, single individual wanting to buy a home. All echoed a spouse’s income as paramount to being able to afford a home.

Sunil Pandey, partner at a real estate consultancy firm dealing with projects in Noida, Greater Noida, Yamuna Expressway and Indirapuram, says they may have dealt with 2-3% unmarried people, but all of them were on the verge of getting hitched, and would be managing the down payment from their parents or in-laws. Married couples from the ages of 35 to 45 were the largest group buying homes.

Diane Ponnukannu, an IT sector employee, wants to invest in a home but is currently unable to as she can’t shell out the money for the down payment. And then there’s the commitment to repay the loan over 15 years, which she says would impact her budget.

How do young home-buyers manage the down payment? She believes are those who can do so are “from a well-off background, like many of my friends who have bought flats with the help from their families”. Many of us don’t have that kind of backup and some don’t have such generous parents. She currently lives in a two-bedroom home paying a rent of Rs 16,000 per month. The flat’s market price is around Rs 55 lakh, and those who can afford such flats, according to Ponnukannu, are those with spousal support. Else people have to look for cheaper options, which do not come with the best amenities and location.

Aren’t there plenty of affordable homes being offered in advertisements? There is a burgeoning of properties in the NCR region which are projected as affordable homes with good infrastructure and amenities. Properties in Noida Extension, especially, have been calling out to people with flats under construction being sold for Rs 3,500-3,800 per square foot. Gaursons properties, which has a massive reign on the infrastructure of the area, sells homes at an even lower rate, for Rs 3,200-3,500 per sq ft.

Pandey says that Gaursons has already delivered 25,000 homes! And in Noida Extension to Greater Noida there are already 18,000 families registered. He estimates that this year end, almost one lakh homes will be ready. But are people moving in at that rate? Or are homes just lying vacant?

Pandey’s dealings make him believe that people are moving in herds to the suburbs. This has also had a great effect on rental prices which have gone down by 20%, in Noida and Indirapuram. This means good times for those living on rent. Now, a two-bedroom flat can be rented for anywhere between Rs 8,000 and 14,000 per month. It sounds like the perfect reason for someone to continue staying on rent.

Like Saurav Barua, who works in advertising, and doesn’t feel the need to buy a home. Giving a long-drawn argument, he says he doesn’t have to pay maintenance cost, and while a two-bedroom house in south Delhi would cost him Rs 20,000 to rent, it would be a whopping Rs 1 crore to buy. But, “It’ll be paying only Rs 20 lakh in rent over 10 years and Rs 96 lakh over 40 years,” he adds, with such precision that it’s clear he’s done these calculations before.

When reminded that the market rates in that span of time would not stay the same, he comes up with another reason. “If you keep Rs 1 crore for eight years in a savings scheme, it’ll become Rs 2 crore. In 16 years, it’ll become Rs 4 crore and in 24…”. What he might do with the money is anyone’s guess, but many unlike him do believe in the security that your own home provides.

Take married couple Kuldeep Soreng and Pompi Sangma, who live in a two-bedroom apartment in Malviya Nagar. They think about buying a home every single day. Soreng admits that it didn’t make sense to them, shelling out Rs 20,000 every month for rent when they could be paying this amount as EMI for their own home. But unable to pay the lump sum down payment which would be about Rs 5-6 lakh, they’ve had to live in their “tiny place, which costs a lot due to its location”.

In South Delhi’s Khanpur, a two BHK flat is available for Rs 26 lakh on 99acres.com. This was the cheapest find on the home selling website, then one in Mehrauli for a little over Rs 26 lakh and a home in Chhatarpur for Rs 33 lakh. They are pretty basic and more importantly, in unauthorised colonies, for which legal registry cannot be done and loans are barred by banks.

Soreng and Sangma know that NCR would have cheaper options for them — he gives the example of his friend who bought a two-bedroom home for just Rs 24 lakh, in a place called Mandi Gaon in the outskirts of Gurugram – but the security aspect is uncertain.

Locations in the city of Gurugram are predictably priced much higher. Raj Arora, a property dealer, said that most of the flats he has sold in the DLF area were to those moving from Delhi, working in corporate offices of Gurugram.

A flat in the city’s Golf Course Road would cost approximately 10,000-30,000 per sq ft. While in the Golf Course Extension, area he says a flat can be bought for Rs 8,000-9,000 per sq ft.

A better option for younger people would perhaps then be Sohna Road area which has ready-to- move-in apartments at Rs 6,500 per sq ft. Vivek Gupta, another property dealer, says he has flats available for sale in the Sohna Road area starting from Rs 80 lakh for two bedrooms and Rs 1.4 crore for three bedrooms. In the same locations, the rentals are Rs 25,000-30,000 for a two-bedroom home to Rs 35,000 for a three-bedroom home. But the road is in dire need of traffic management, with huge jams a daily affair after 6 pm.

The sub-city of Dwarka, which has a steadily climbing population, doesn’t come too cheap either. But many do prefer living here and being inside Delhi than venturing into Noida or Gurugram. Group housing society flats are available for Rs 1 crore onwards.

It is clear that in the entire NCR region, homes are being built by the score, and there are certainly many who can inhabit them with our city bursting at the seams. But are people willing to move to places that are not as secure as their inner city neighbourhoods? And does owning a home seem something tangible for all, with the growing disproportionate wealth amongst citizens?