Promoters of super luxury apartments in gated colonies may be taking you for a ride. By creating infrastructure of water tanks and soak pits only for 50% or less of the occupants on the presumption that occupancy will be less than 50%. You also have to check whether the proportion of the land on which the multi-storey building has come up is transferred to your name to ensure that you own both the roof and the ground. You would also be well advised to have the title checked to confirm that the builder has legal possession of the land on which the gated complex has been built…
THOUGH the Regional Plan 2021 has not yet been formally notified, the daily newspapers are full of advertisements for luxury apartments. Even the corporates have now got into the act with the Tata Group of Companies advertising their new apartment complex in port town Vasco da Gama very close to the airport with promises to transform “your chances to turn temporary escapes into a permanent getaway.” Goa’s experience with the Tata Group, at least in the construction industry, has not been very happy. It may be recalled that the Tata Group was accused of indulging in massive hill cutting to put up their Tata Housing complex on Betim hill across the river Mandovi, which still sticks out like a sour thumb on the once verdant hillside of Goa overlooking Panjim.
WE hope that major corporate groups like the Tata’s and Godrej’s will not take those who are planning to relocate in Goa, or just invest in a holiday home. An overwhelming majority of those who have invested their hard earned money in luxury apartments in gated colonies have had a very bitter experience. Ironically, it is the fact that most of these investors have bought apartments as a holiday home and do not stay in them the year around – they have been taken advantage of by unscrupulous builders.
LAND sharks base their diabolical conspiracies on the fact that large parts of the gated complex of 200 to 500 or even 1,500 luxury apartments will not be occupied most of the year. They know from their experience over the last decade when residents of Delhi chose to invest in a super luxury apartment in Goa, preferably facing the sea, to invest in a farm house in Mehrauli to acquire the status symbol of the bold and the beautiful and the rich and the powerful in the national capital. Similarly, Mumbaikars are increasingly opting for seaside apartments in Goa to farm houses in Alibaug or the outskirts of the city. The fact that the occupancy averages 50% or less for most of the year offered builders an opportunity to cut costs, increase their profit margin and take the investor for a royal ride.
ONLY SOAK PITS
UNLIKE in New Delhi or Mumbai, large parts of Goa, including Dona Paula which is among the most sought after area for holiday homes, do not have underground sewage systems. Instead, buildings in Goa including gated colonies offering luxury apartments have soak pits. These are underground sewage tanks into which the excretions of residents flow. These underground soak pits cost a considerable amount of money. Based on the presumption that the occupancy will be 50% or less, most builders resort to providing for soak pits for only 50% of the occupants of their gated colony. The result is that come Christmas and New Year or Diwali or even on long weekends, when the gated colony becomes house full, the soak pits start giving way and start overflowing to create a stinking mess. The whole complex is enveloped in a stink much to the shock of those who have spent crores on their super luxury apartment or row house in a premium gated colonies.
This is also true vis-à-vis water supply and water storage tanks provided by unscrupulous builders. The water storage tanks are built on the same presumption that occupancy will be 50% or less. Traditionally, there are underground tanks from which water is pumped up to overhead tanks for supplying water to various residences. This is true of gated complexes too but when the complex is house full, not surprisingly there is severe water shortage as the storage tanks built for hundred occupants cannot cope with 200 occupants.
THE cost cutting which translates into bigger margins for the builders does not stop at building water storage tanks much below what is required assuming 100% occupancy of the gated colony or apartment complex. Even the water pipelines are of a much narrower gauge than what would be required to provide adequate drinking water to the residents of the complex when there is full occupancy.
The Chairman of a co-operative society of a large gated complex with over 500 flats, each of which was sold for between Rs. 60 to Rs. 90 lakhs, discovered to his horror that the builder had short charged the residents. The residents of the complex had to spend large sums of money to expand the size of the water storage tanks and the water pipelines. Shockingly very few of the plush gated colonies have even provision for recycling water so that the waste water can be used for non-drinking purpose. As far as we know, the NIO Quarters in Dona Paula are the only complex of apartments which have made provision both for water harvesting and for recycling of water. Those who have been victims of unscrupulous builders are reduced to using the water in the swimming pool in the complex or paying huge amounts for water to be supplied in tankers to make up for the under capacity of the internal water pipes and storage tanks.
The builders of gated colonies with super luxury apartments promise water bodies, waterfalls, swimming pools and landscape lawns to woo buyers or investors. Never mind that they don’t make provisions even for adequate drinking water for the residents of these complexes who pay crores of rupees, lured by seductive marketing campaigns. Among other facilities guaranteed by builders are diesel generator backup in case of power failures or frequent power interruptions in Goa. When you read the small print or carefully scrutinize the agreement that you enter into with the builder, you are likely to discover that the diesel generator backup is only for the plush lobby areas and the common areas of the complex. In many of these super luxury gated colonies even all the lifts are not covered. If there are four lifts in a complex, the backup generation will be there only for two lifts. In very rare cases is there complete backup power for the entire apartment, all electronic gadgets ranging from microwave ovens to refrigerators and washing machines which are part of homes in these super luxury complexes.
MOST outsiders are not aware of the pathetic state of the power supply in the state of Goa. They are not aware that Goa does not have any captive power generation capacity. They are not aware that the overhead transmission lines and the transformers themselves have not been replaced for over two decades. So it very often comes as a shock for them to learn that every appliance that they install in the flat ranging from washing machine to microwave to air-conditioner to digital television sets…all have to be equipped with inverters to ensure that the wild fluctuations in power supply does not damage expensive equipment like sound systems. This is in sharp contrast to metropolitan cities where it is unheard of that every gadget has to be fitted with a inverter. In the over two decades I lived in Mumbai, I did not have to buy an inverter for any kitchen appliances, or the air conditioner or TV and sound systems, in my apartment.
There is, of course, the other risk that investors in luxury apartments run into when they fall for the marketing claims of real estate developers and builders. The fact that apartments or villas or row houses are advertised as “sea-facing” does not necessarily mean you will actually be able to see the sea. In most cases, you will have to turn your neck 360 degrees to catch a glimpse of the sea. Even if at the time you bought the villa, row house, plot or apartment in a gated colony, it had a full sea view — there is no guarantee that a high rise structure won’t come up in front of your villa to block your view of the sea for which you had paid a premium price. In Dona Paula, we have the example of a builder who sold luxury villas and row houses promising a sea view, and then he built a multi-storey building in front of the villas to block out the sea view of his earlier victims.
THE other risk that those who re-locate to Goa run is the fact that they cannot survive in Goa without their own transport. If they do not have their own vehicle, they will end up spending a fortune on taxi fares in a period of five years than the amount they spend on the flat. If they do have their own vehicle including fancy SUVs, they are asking for even more trouble. It is only when the super luxury building complex is completed that the victims will realize that the approach road to the property is only six metres wide, which means that more than one vehicle cannot ply at the same time. The 10 or 12-metre road in the plan that the builder shows you is likely to have shrunk to six metres. Our friendly builder probably never had any intention of fulfilling the promise of a 10-metre approach road. This is dramatized by the case of a housing complex sought to be built by the Raheja’s in Carmona where there is no approach road and there is also stiff opposition from locals who don’t want a 10-metre approach road to be built for sound reasons like they’re a village and their agricultural fields will be affected.
Even assuming best case scenarios wherein the builder has actually delivered on promises made and there is an adequately broad approach road, you will discover that you cannot find a driver at reasonable price. Most drivers available are young migrant wannabe drivers who may well think of damaging your fancy car.. Even assuming that you are going to be driving yourself, you will find it even more traumatic because most roads in Goa are dug up fully or partially or in shambles most of the time. Even if they are not dug up, the roads in the shopping areas are so narrow that you will not be able to find a safe parking spot. However many bridges which the former chief minister and present Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, may build, the ground reality is that Goa has reached the limits of its carrying capacity and there’s little room left for more migrating humans. Whether on the roads or the beaches or the sea front where new apartments may be built to fulfill your desire for a sea-facing flat.
THE biggest con is that many of builders project themselves as not just alternatives but better than five-star and seven-star hotels. Aware that most people are looking for a holiday home to save on the steep increase in the cost of hotel accommodation, builders promise all the amenities of a luxury hotel like a club house, lounges not just at the entrance of the building but every floor, 24 x 7 restaurant or pantry outlets to meet culinary needs, a swimming pool, children’s playing area and even a gymnasium and spa. When you actually occupy the apartment or villa for which you have paid an extortionate amount of money, you will probably find that all the services promised don’t exist. And even if they do exist, they do not function most of the time because unlike in the case of five-star and seven-star hotels or even four-star hotels, the luxury apartment gated colonies are built to service only 50 percent occupants of all those who have invested in apartments in the complex. The difference between hotels and super luxury apartments is that hotels have provisions right from the beginning based on the principle of 100% occupancy, unlike unscrupulous builders who will try to make a fast buck by providing infrastructure only for 50% or less of the capacity in the belief that his complex will be occupied only by 50% or less at any one time.
THERE are much greater risks of course in buying property in Goa. It is entirely possible that the property sold to you does not belong to the person from whom you purchased it. There have been any numbers of cases of conmen forging property document and selling property of first or second or third parties to unsuspecting buyers. The situation is complicated by the fact that, unlike the rest of the country Goa still follows the Old Portuguese time uniform civil code, under which all the heirs of a family have equal right of inheritance.
Under the uniform civil code, on the death of a property owner, 50% automatically goes to the spouse. The remaining has to be equally divided amongst the children, both daughters and sons. When daughters have a share in the property, it automatically implies that the sons-in-law will also have a stake in it. To be sure that the property you have bought is free from all encumbrances; you have to thoroughly check the title of the property going back at least three generations. The person you entrust with responsibility of checking the title will have to know Portuguese because all the pre-1961 documents are in Portuguese. The sale deed that you enter into is not worth the paper it is stamped on. This is because the registrar is not obliged to guarantee that the property belongs to the person who has sold it to you. It is for you to independently ensure the title is clear through an exhaustive inventory check.
You should not presume that because you have bought a four bedroom or a five bedroom 5,000 sq.ft. Apartment in a building complex, you need not worry about the title of the property. Goa does not have a tradition of co-operative societies. Even where there are co-operative societies, it is likely that the builder has not transferred the title of the property to the co-operative societies. Even as a flat owner, you are entitled to a proportionate share of the land on which the property has been built. You have to ensure that the builder has substituted the names of the original owners of the land with the name of the purchasers of the apartments. Otherwise you may end up discovering that you may be able to live in the flat but you do not own the ground on which it is built. There is also a risk that the builder may sell the land to a third party without transferring your proportion of the land to your name. We know of several Mumbaikars who have been fighting court cases for years because the builder who sold them apartments in a time share project sold the entire land including their proportionate share to a third party.
SO you are of course welcome to relocate in Goa or buy a holiday home. Even though it may prove very expensive for you to get to your holiday home during peak season, because airlines hike up their fares sky-high when demand is higher than supply. Do enjoy the fresh air and the green ambience of Goa as long as it lasts. But in your own interest check the fine print and whether the infrastructure delivered is commensurate with the infrastructure promised in the sale deed when you bought the flat. We would be happy to alert our readers against builders who have taken investors for a ride.
The Article Written by Rajan Narayan, Editor of Goan Observer
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