Should one buy a Builder Floor or an Apartment (also called a condominium or Condo in short)? Many people find Luxury Apartments better than the Builder Floors in terms of facilities and living quality but still end up buying a Builder Floor or a House. Why is that? Which one is better?
There is no denying that both Builder Floors and Apartments in high rise gated-complex have unique benefits and their own limitations. There is no One-Size-Fits-All here. Let me take you through the pros and cons and let you be the judge. We are only going to discuss the luxury segment here, although one can work out the things applicable to even the simpler group housing projects for themselves. Also, we will not take up every applicable point, but only a few that are the most important.
Apartments (Condominiums/ Condos/ High Rises/ Gated complexes)
- Club House: The number one thing that stands out for Apartments is the availability of a Club with facilities like a Swimming Pool, Gym, Cafe, Restaurant, SPA, secured Children’s Play Area, Large Gardens and walking tracks etc. This one factor adds a lot of luxury to one’s living and this can simply not be achieved in Builder Floors due to a small land parcel involved. For example: if you live in South Delhi in a 1200 sq yds Builder Floor (largest size), you still don’t have these facilities. You could create a small Pool maybe on the terrace or basement, but they are going to be tiny and come with a lot of maintenance problems. Even if you own a bungalow worth Rs. 100 crores, you will find it hard to create all these above facilities.
- Management: The Apartment Complexes are maintained by professional agencies and they handle all day to day things. In a Builder Floor, there would usually be 4 owners and you have to coordinate with them in order to get anything done in the common areas. Also what if their staff sits in the parking area and doesn’t behave at times? You need to handle these issues yourself. In addition to that, few things are not sometimes properly defined (like parking) in the builder floors and there are sometimes areas which are open to debate, especially if you have to handle them yourself with other occupants/ owners. In an Apartment complex, most such things are already taken care of.
- Security: The security in these places is usually very good and all taken care of. 3 to 5 layers of security add to the peace of mind. Plus you don’t need to manage the hiring/ firing/ replacing of guards, the uniforms, the hours etc. etc.
- Gentry: The people living in a particular Luxury Condominium Complex are usually those who value the quality of living and are willing to pay for them. This automatically filters out the mindset which does not value the quality of living. End of the day, the people you are neighbours with, or the kids that play with your kids, have a very important effect on your quality of living. It is not about just rich or poor, it is about people having that mindset that values the quality of living. As we go on, I will show you how Builder Floors would make more economic sense if these factors of the quality of living don’t make much difference.
- More Usable Area: The biggest drawback of Apartments, and the biggest benefit of the Builder Floors, is the usable area of the property. See, the Club House is great, but it isn’t really free. The total area that you pay for in an apartment complex and the actual usable area may vary by as much as 40%. Sometimes the carpet area (balconies and walls also excluded) can be as less as 50%. So you may pay for 4000 sq ft and get a usable area of 2800 sq ft, and if you exclude the balconies etc. also it may go down to 2000 sq ft. In builder floors, the usable area is a lot higher. If one was to buy a 4000 sq ft Builder Floor, he/ she would probably still get around 3400 sq ft of usable area. Much more bang for the buck.
- Low Common Area Maintenance: All these facilities we looked at above, come with a cost. The monthly maintenance fee for maintaining the lawns, security, lifts, Club facilities etc all have to be paid collectively by all the occupants/ owners of the apartments. Even if you do not really use them, you still pay for them. In Builder Floors, the maintenance is usually very less compared to the Apartments. For example in DLF King’s Court, you pay Rs. 10.55 per sq ft (plus 18% GST). So for a 2400 sq ft apartment, you pay about Rs. 30,000/- and for a 5500 sq ft apartment you pay about Rs. 70,000/- per month as maintenance. True, it is worth it and that’s why people buy/ rent and live in these places, but the cost is not very cheap. Generally, it varies between Rs. 4 to Rs. 11 per sq ft for these apartments. Whereas in a builder floor it will be anywhere between Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 30,000/- depending on the size and fittings in the property.
- Fewer restrictions: Apartment Complexes have their own set of rules and regulations, and sometimes you may not like them. For example, in most Apartment Buildings you can not do any renovations during the day between 2 PM and 5 PM. Your visitors have to be registered. Most such rules are for the benefit of the residents, but still, some may find those restrictive to their style.
- More flexibility in layout/ exterior changes: In Apartment complexes, you can not change the facade of the building and any exterior work must not change the look of the building. Also while doing interiors you have to make sure those changes are allowed and have to take prior approvals. In Builder Floors, you have more flexibility in how you do your floor internally or externally. However, very odd changes to the facade may get objections from other occupants/ owners in Builder Floors also.
So there you have it. If you love the facilities like a swimming pool, cafe, gym and want everything managed without you having to take care of them, apartments are for you. But be willing to pay extra. That Club House is built in the area that you have to pay for indirectly when buying. But I guess that’s what luxury is all about.
If you are looking for more usable area and would rather get more living space for what you pay, Builder Floors may make more sense to you. Or even a bungalow.
I have clients who live in Bungalows and also own Apartments and Farm Houses. Some prefer Apartments because of the ease of maintenance and availability of everything more easily and have moved from bungalows or Builder Floors into Apartments.
If you were to look at South Delhi there are very few Apartments/ Gated Complexes. Some new ones have come up and a couple more are coming up but it is unlikely that Delhi will have many more due to the shortage of land here. I will be writing more on what all options are available in South Delhi in terms of Luxury Apartments.