What happens when at 27 your yet-to-be father-in-law expects you to own a house? If in love, you obviously get into ‘search mode’ to find one that not only suits your needs but also matches the expectations of your would-be and her extended family. And that’s when you realise love in the times of ‘property boom’ is no heartening scenario. I only realised it seeing a friend huffing and puffing up and down the Shima hills as he went around seeking a suitable property.
It has been six months since he started, and now it seems only a great ‘meltdown’ can come to his rescues. Such is the indifference of this once regal town, now coming down under its own weight. Or has my friend been a victim of his own expectations and not the steep climes he does daily, hunting for a house?
It may well be both. As usual, his search for a house began with newspaper advertisements, which, surprisingly, are rare in Shimla. Thanks to some localised Hindi newspapers, one does find few advertisements here and there, but what follows after that can shatter any determined soul. Calls made to property owners or ‘dealers’ can leave you quite bewildered as well as short of breath. The polite but uncomforting voice from the other end truly gives a deep insight into the ‘reality business’.
So while a 3-bedroom flat in New Shimla will be offered for Rs 26 lakh, a flat scheme claimed to be 10 minutes drive from the Mall Road starts at Rs 30 lakh, and here I must mention that vehicles cannot be taken to the Mall by one and all. A godforsaken one-room flat at the far end of the housing board colony in Kelston starts at Rs 7 lakh. This is the same price at which the owner bought the flat few years back, he claims. A quick check with HIMUDA, the government agency, surprises you even more. Their flats in Kasumpti region start at Rs 35 lakh. And someone told me that’s the amount being charged for a decent two-bedroom accommodation in Chandigarh, supposedly the most expensive city in north India. The real charm of living in Shimla is of course when you have a property right near the Mall Road. However, the last advertisement which I happened to see on an online property website quoted a price of more than a crore for a property near the mall.
If finding land or a flat with few hours of sunshine is not enough of a challenge, then dealing with property dealers certainly is. The major issue in finding the right property in Shimla is that there is no proper mechanism of price discovery. A property dealer remarked that one will get the best deal if property dealers are not involved. If a property dealer gets to hear of a deal which does not involve them they will ensure that the seller jacks up the price beyond the buyer’s capacity and the deals would never materialize, it is said. There are properties around the town which are waiting to be sold but the prices are too inflated. The haunted houses of Shimla are certainly growing in numbers, it may appear.
By the end of all this, one starts wondering is Shimla worth a place to shell out prices equivalent to housing schemes in say Faridabad, Ghaziabad, or any other property hub in the NCR region? After all, Shimla beyond the Mall Road is just a heap of garbage, most of it sinking under its own weight, dust looms large in the air belittling the town which is the capital of one of greenest states in the country. My friend, of course, by now is a split personality, especially after he saw long queues of people lined up at a SBI branch in Shimla to file applications for a DDA-launched housing scheme in Delhi.
Is the ‘Sankatmochan’ listening?