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The cost of buying a unit in a project with a variety of amenities, is much higher than the cost in one with a limited number of amenities. Moreover, the monthly maintenance bills will also be higher, in case of a housing society with many amenities. Even though amenities in housing complexes will continue to serve as USPs and buyers will continue to make their purchase decisions based on these facilities, the importance of some of these amenities is likely to change, following the Coronavirus pandemic. Consequently, the importance of hygiene and open spaces, is likely to grow manifold. In this context, we discuss the amenities that a buyer must look for in a housing project.
Basic amenities in housing projects
There is no standard definition of what constitutes ‘basic amenities’. What might be a basic amenity for housing projects in Gurgaon, for example, may not be the case in housing societies in Mumbai. Every city, based on its features, has housing projects with a wide variety of amenities which may or may not include:
Power back-up facility
In cities like Gurugram and Noida where power outages are common, all residents (barring those who live on the ground floor) in a housing society without power back-up, would have to take the stairs when the elevator is not working. In the absence of a power back-up facility, the common areas would also be in darkness during an outage, even if you have an inverter to keep your unit well-lit.
“A majority of old housing societies in Delhi do not have any power back-up facility. This primarily has to do with the fact that most of them are four-floor constructions, where living without the power back-up, although problematic, is still manageable. However, one cannot imagine living in a high-rise, say on the 17th floor, without a power back-up in the housing complex,” says Sanoj Kumar, an east Delhi-based real estate broker.
Word of caution: Even though this is a basic facility, do note that the average per unit charge for every unit of diesel-run back-up systems, would be higher than the average electricity rate. According to Riti Singh, 35, who lives in a luxury housing society in Noida’s Sector 56, her family has to pay four times the average rate for each unit of power-back-up electricity supply.
Even though infrastructure projects are being developed in most cities, to provide public transport, large housing societies in the suburbs typically rely on private vehicle ownership. Consequently, almost all members in such a housing complex would own at least one automobile. If you are buying a house in a small housing society, clarify about the parking spot. Buyers should check the building plan approval, to find out the number of parking spaces available in the complex, as approved by the authorities.
Word of caution: According to the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (RERA), all parking facilities are counted among the common facilities in housing societies. This is also stated in the laws governing apartment construction across states. This means parking spaces belong to every stakeholder in a housing society and the developer has no right to sell the same.
Almost all housing societies have some sort of security in place. Besides guards, security cameras also help housing societies track movement within the housing society. In new apartment complexes, hi-end digital security systems are enforced, to capture all entry/exit data, digitally. Residents have visual access to the security gate and can make sure no outsider has access to the complex, without prior permission from one of the residents.
Online security systems and applications used by housing complexes these days help residents to get instant notifications on their mobile phones, whenever a visitor checks in against their flat. They can even pre-approve their guest list, allowing them easy access. Using the app, residents can alert family members, neighbours and security guards, in case of an emergency. The data thus collected helps the RWAs to make sure all security related protocols are being followed.
Word of caution: Security is a particular advantage that villas and independent homes do not offer. So, it is important to check that a good security system is in place in the apartment or township of your choice. However, the high-end facilities that you are provided with, would reflect in your monthly maintenance bill. Moreover, when all your personal information is lying with private security apps, you run the risk of it being misused. In June 2020, rival tech-enabled visitor and community management system companies NoBroker and MyGate took legal action against each other, alleging data theft.
Children’s play area
Housing complexes are mostly occupied by families and it is necessary they have dedicated playing areas meant for the children. This is another basic facility, without which the basic purpose of community living would have little meaning. In case of working parents, the children get only limited time to engage in physical activity. They do need a playground outside, for their overall mental, emotional and physical well-being, apart from forming social ties.
Word of caution: Your young children should never be allowed to play unattended. Also, follow the restrictions put in place to avoid overcrowding. Sick children should not be allowed to come to the playground since other children run the risk of catching their infection. This becomes extremely important after COVID-19.
Open, green spaces
As there is limited space within the home, it is necessary for the residents to have access to open spaces filled with greenery, to have mental peace and physical clam. Even if there are balconies and terraces available, to give you some semblance of the outdoors feeling, it is not the same as open spaces dotted with green trees.
Apart from the above mentioned amenities, buyers must also check for the arrangement the housing society has put in place, vis-à-vis:
- Cleaning protocols
- Air purification systems
- Water filtration systems
Other desirable amenities
A housing society could be viewed more favourably by buyers, if it also offered the below-mentioned facilities, especially in the backdrop of the Coronavirus spread and its lasting impact on our lives:
Medical store and diagnostic centres: This can prove to be a useful feature and most big housing societies already have them.
Emergency rooms: Not many housing societies planned for a Coronavirus-like situation while planning for emergencies. An Emergency room, could become a sought-after feature in societies now.
Grocery stores: Almost all big housing societies in the suburbs have several grocery stores within the complex. This, however, is not true of small housing societies in city centres such as Delhi and Mumbai, where residents have to rely on outside vendors, to buy daily items.
ATMs: Again, all big housing societies in the suburbs have automated teller machines within the complex and residents do not have to venture out, to withdraw cash. This means they have less chance of getting exposed, during the pandemic.
Milk vending machines: Even though grocery stores do provide packed milk, milk vending outlets are more ideal for Indian families. This also means those who need to buy fresh milk every day don’t actually have to visit the grocery shop.
Amenities that may fall out of favour, post-COVID-19
Many developers are already making changes to their under-construction projects following the COVID-19 outbreak, to leave out amenities that may not find favour with buyers and are incorporating ones that would be part of the new norm. Earlier, developers used some of these amenities to highlight the luxury quotient of their project. However, with the renewed focus of health and hygiene, the below-mentioned facilities might fall out of favour. Buyers may refuse to pay a premium for such facilities, precisely for the reason that these could act as hotspots for the spread of the virus. These amenities include:
- Swimming pools
- Bars, lounges and cafeterias
“Even though buyers may once again expect these facilities at a later stage, when a cure to the Coronavirus is finally found, these are going to remain out of favour for the short-to-medium term,” says Kumar.
What amenities will become popular in housing societies, post-COVID-19?
As social distancing norms come into picture, availability of healthcare and related services would be seen as a USP for housing projects. The same is true of cleanliness maintenance protocols.
Will property prices crash in India post COVID-19?
While some correction cannot be ruled out, a crash is not possible, considering that builders have shown a general unwillingness to take haircuts, because of the cash crunch.
What amenities will buyers avoid in housing projects, post-COVID-19?
Buyers are likely to avoid amenities that encourage people to gather in an area, such as swimming pools, clubhouses, gyms and bars.