The new, confident Indian homeowner has discovered the joys of weekend
getaways. She works hard through the week and then wraps up to travel to a
fancy getaway in semi-rural surroundings to unwind and enjoy gourmet dinners
with friends. Khandala and Karjat, Chondi and Kashid, all boast designer homes
with every conceivable comfort.
Second homes are status symbols. The best designers, globally sourced interiors
& accessories and superb landscaping have become the norm for the rich and
famous. Stone finishes, rustic tiles, rough wood and lots of glass (to frame
great views) are standard. Barbecue pits, shaded verandahs, waterfalls, tennis
courts and children’s playgrounds are added attractions. An international
look – with Zen feel or spa ambience – is getting increasingly more popular and
includes plunge pools, reflecting pools, rain showers, pebbled courtyards and
candle niches as must-haves for the weekend experience. Most homes include
special guest spaces – Indians still need friends and family surrounding them!
Sometimes, this is an entire outhouse with a separate pool and pantry so that
everyone is assured of their own personal space. Private jets and speedboats
ensure quick accessibility to these getaways.
There is now a whole market that caters to only designing and furnishing of
weekend homes. Some homeowners prefer architects who have worked in a
particular precinct, since they know the existing conditions and constraints.
Local contractors are used for plumbing and electrical work and given annual
maintenance contracts while the finishes are ensured by using imported labour.
Stores sell rattan furniture and easy-to-maintain glass and rough wood pieces.
Stone benches, solid teakwood beds and flamed granite tables are all available.
Eclectic mixes of the traditional and the modern can add charm to the house.
There are some very well-designed homes – structures that use traditional
building methods to ensure ventilation and some that incorporate site features
at the core of the design. One home is built on black rock that forms the
flooring while another incorporates huge wrought-iron trusses to form a
shed-like structure. There is a lot of innovation and playfulness that is
evident in many of these homes. Most owners are very aware of design, since
they are well-travelled and often incorporate features that they have seen in,
say, Thailand or Spain into their homes.
Such luxury comes at a price. Land is extremely expensive when it is closer to
the city or better linked by expressways or catamaran connections that allow
urban dwellers to reach their suburban hideaways in one to three hours. Beach
plots and valley view sites are prohibitively expensive and often force
homeowners to strike complicated deals requiring multiple certificates to patch
together contiguous land owned by a number of locals. Stories of land value
doubling over a week abound.
One has to look beyond just the price of land –
exorbitant as it may be. Good construction will cost between Rs1,000 and
Rs2,500 per sq ft while the cost of interiors can go up to Rs5,000 per sq ft
for good, solid workmanship. There are many hidden costs too – travelling to
your second home is expensive. Tolls on the Mumbai-Pune expressway set you back
by Rs140 one way with the cost of petrol to be considered. A ticket from the
Gateway of India to the Mandwa jetty is Rs100 on the catamaran; most owners
maintain a second car on the shore across. The fuel for a private speedboat for
the same journey will cost Rs10,000 one way!
Maintaining your house is also expensive. A full-time caretaker with family
living on the premises eases your stress but stretches your pocket by Rs10,000
to Rs15,000 per month. You also pay their mobile bills so that you can reach
them anytime. At the same time, maintaining your home is obligatory – you
cannot simply land up every few weeks and expect to spend an idyllic weekend,
unless someone keeps the place operational for you. This includes regularly
cleaning the house, paying sundry bills and also establishing contacts with the
local electrician, plumber, vegetable vendor, gas supplier and other help on
call. Usually, the mobile phone is used extensively to contact and follow up
whenever there are problems. Drinking water has often to be purchased and
delivered to your home. The costs of maintaining a weekend retreat can start
from a basic Rs20,000 per month to anywhere, depending on how elaborate are the
arrangements you require.
Like the super-rich, the upwardly mobile middle-class person also wants a piece
of the action and has often settled for a wadi plot or row house, but the
demand for some weekend hubs has been so great that they have reached a
breaking point with over-development forcing a cheek-by-jowl existence with
neighbouring plot-owners. Often, it ends up re-creating a situation that most
owners want to escape from. On the other hand, building a stand-alone
bungalow on an isolated plot is an invitation to robbery and encroachment.
But those who have their heart set on a second home need not despair. Newer
options are opening up for the upwardly mobile middle class wanting to get away
from the hurly-burly of a metro existence without the maintenance factor
turning into a burden. The new townships coming up in Maharashtra and elsewhere
offer picturesque homes with common amenities such as clubhouses and swimming
pools with centrally managed maintenance and security. Amanora, the township
near Pune being developed by Aniruddha Deshpande, plans a hugely sophisticated
data centre to manage every need of the township’s inhabitants (see
MoneyLIFE, 5 June 2008). Lavasa, a hill station project also near Pune, whose
development Deshpande was overseeing earlier, has a similarly comprehensive
plan, while Satish Magar’s Magarpatta is already popular with senior
citizens because of its well-oiled township maintenance. These are turning out
to be great options as a first as well as a second home or even an investment
capable of generating rental income. (additional reporting by