Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Househunting, Delhi style

My yogic bliss, posted about last, did not come easily. Prior to that was many weeks of soul-destroying househunting, which saw me shed kilos as I hauled myself up numerous sets of stairs in the midday, 40+ heat, to view yet another unspeakable wreck of a flat.

Househunting in Delhi - perhaps in all of India - is not for the fainthearted. It is also very different to househunting in Melbourne or Sydney. There, you make a shortlist of potentials off a website and go to the open houses, usually on a weekend. Prices are rarely negotiable, only depending upon the market. Here, you engage a wily, shifty broker to drive you from place to place. When you decide on an apartment you have tea with the owner and are expected to haggle their price down. Your usually slick broker stays strangely silent during this process; his fee is up to one month's rent, so it is in his interests for the price to be on the higher side.

I hooked up with a bunch of brokers. I told them my price limit. They promptly showed me places double that, and told me, "it's all negotiable, madam."

All up, we saw about 30 places; many of them unsuitable because of our insistence upon things like, oh I don't know, having the fridge in the kitchen, or a bathroom we could actuallly fit inside.

Here are some highlights:

This place had the strangest layout: four rooms, all leading into each other. The asking price? 55K (rs) per month:

This place was actually in our price range, in a decent area, and was fully furnished. Bingo. Until we saw the kitchen:

What's that strange greenish tinge? Why, that's natural light filtered through this poor excuse for a ceiling:

This one looks pretty great, doesn't it? Spacious, good kitchen, overlooking a park....

Then I went outside and saw next door:

"It's no problem, madam," said the owner and the broker. "It's a very well-respected doctor. And look, there are no builders there even now!"

The fact that it was midday on a weekday did not fill me with hope that this was a project nearing its end stages.

The next place the same broker took me to was here:

It was brand new and as slick and sleek as an apartment out of Entourage. I was mentally arranging our furniture and about to ask to meet the landlord when I glanced out of a side window. There, I saw an empty space that had been dug out, preparing for foundations. Another building site. When I pointed it out to the brokers they looked at their shoes and were silent. They did not even bother to redress the issue by pointing out the marble flooring.

This final one is my favourite: it's how I imagine Saddam's underground lair might have looked like. And yes, that is a gold sofa:

Sadly I was unable, because there were too many people hanging about, to take photos of the flat that was undoubtedly inspired by Gaza: complete with wires hanging from crumbling cement walls and a bombed-out looking car across the road.

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