Three months ago, I landed in Mumbai, the city of dreams with a suitcase full of dreams and twelve other suitcases bursting with clothes. I know that’s a lot for a girl my size, but I like my options. Options for everything, including a house. I had decided not to settle for anything less than perfect so I walked the length and breadth of Mumbai scouting through all my options and searching for the perfect cozy home to come back to.
However, within 2 weeks of house hunting, I gave up my dreams of finding a cozy house. I was desperate for a bare minimum habitable one. Not something in the middle of a slum, not something exorbitantly priced and not something with ridiculous restrictions and the usual no no’s Indian housing societies proudly boast of.
Mumbai is liberal and progressive I thought, but Oh boy! I was wrong. Though we are in the 21st century, house owners in Mumbai “prefer” married , vegetarians because unmarried, non vegetarians are pure outcast and deserve to live on the streets.
To make matters worse, this is my first job and hence my first taste of financial independence. Moreover, I work in the media field hence I get paid peanuts. So, getting a house that suited my budget was even harder. My only consolation was Shahrukh Khan’s anecdote on sleeping in Marine Drive during his initial days in Mumbai. It was a viable option and if SRK had done it, why not Lakshmi? My second backup was to pitch a tent facing Worli sea link (the view being my sole luxury). I had found the perfect spot too!
To make matters even worse, my friends in Bangalore used to brag about their luxurious, spacious 3bhks for which they pay 7K for single occupancy!!! I just couldn’t digest this bit and was rest assured clinical depression was on its way.
So, the whole point of this blog is to put together a checklist that can help newbies flocking into this city find a decent house. I have jotted these points down based on my personal experience and would like to share it so that you don’t make the same mistakes I did. I hope you find them useful and look into these pointers before finalizing a house.
- Keep away from MHADA and SRA buildings , especially girls – Maharashtra Housing and Development Authority( MHADA) and Slum Rehabilitation Authority(SRA) have constructed buildings to accommodate slum dwellers and give them a roof over their heads. Though this initiative is noble , the residents of these buildings are not exactly amicable (for obvious reasons). I was oblivious to the fact that MHADA and SRA buildings have such inhabitants , hence spent a lot of time looking at houses in these apartments as their rents fit my budget. Fun fact: Half the slum dwellers chose to live in slums and rent out the apartment allotted to them for additional income. So, the crowd staying in slum rehabilitation buildings are a mixed bunch, with 50% slum dwellers and 50% tenants who are looking at economic rents. Hence, if this situation makes you uneasy, clear it out upfront with your real estate agents and tell them that you do not want to see these buildings and save yourself time and energy. Apart from this, do not judge buildings in Mumbai by their exterior appearances. Most buildings look dingy and crammed (they are to an extent), but some blessed buildings have pretty interiors . So give it a chance, go up and see the flat. Do NOT freak out by the poor maintenance, lack of lifts, caged windows stuffed with age old clothes, cycles, furniture and lines of clothes hung out to dry and enhance the beauty of the building.
(Disclaimer: Not all MHADA, SRA buildings are bad but a wide majority are. If you are staying in a MHADA/SRA building I have no intention to demean it. These are my personal views and I wholeheartedly respect yours ).
- Look at options that have easily accessible public transport -Mumbai has a highly efficient and well connected public transport system in place. Leverage it. It may be hard, but look for a place within 1km radius of the closest railway station, bus stand, share auto stand. This will save you time( Mumbai traffic) and money(fare). Also, stay as close to work as possible. Mumbai rains are charming but a nightmare while commuting. Trains stop, roads are flooded hence, closer to work better the dreaded commute.
- Check , double check and triple check every nook and corner of the house – If your house is fully/semi furnished, peer into the minutest detail when you visit the house. In my first week, I had a drizzle for a shower, a door lock I wrestled with for 5 solid minutes , a tank that didn’t pump water because of god knows what, a fridge that reeked , water that tasted like the one in wave pool at Wonder La ( highly chlorinated) and last but not the least , tiny pests had taken over my kitchen . Though all these are fixable, the first few days in the house was a nightmare. So, check EVERYTHING. Shamelessly ask for a glass of water( if there are tenants ), turn on the shower, sniff the fridge, go wild on the switchboard( ON,OFF,ON,OFF), check whether there is a place to hang laundry( preferably within the 4 walls of the house or else you may have to give up on laundry during monsoon), open the washing machine and check if it functions fine and go to the extent of opening the bed trunk and seeing if they have a dead body in there. Point is, check it all. Anything is possible.
- Locality matters – In Mumbai, the world changes between two lanes. If you love late nights or have erratic work hours that involve walking in home at odd hours, staying in a locality with goons loitering around, people lodging on the footpath and shady bars with shady bouncers is not exactly safe. This shouldn’t be much of a concern because Mumbai as such is an extremely safe city and is thriving with people till wee hours of the morning, but nothing like a safe locality that lets you walk in and out confidently with no stares and drools. Also, keep a look out for basics like supermarket, medical store, ATMs in the vicinity which makes your life easy in the long run. Having to travel a mile to buy a packet of milk is not only a pain, but an added travel expense. You might just give up on drinking and eating, like me (I’m just being overly dramatic now).
- Meet the owners before finalizing – Real estate agents make everything sound hunky dory, but in reality, nothing is hunky dory. Have a chat with the owners and express your expectations right up to the T. Tell them outright that you are a normal human being with male/female friends who will come and visit you, that you eat non veg because its bloody delicious, that you listen to music because you have ears, that you are not married because you are 22(Feel free to cook up a nice reason to justify why you are not married to an unknown uncle in an unknown city whose society apparently likes only married people ), that you will be smoking and drinking simply because you can and that you do not want them creating an issue about any of this later on. These were my conditions and you may or may not have the same requirements but whatever it is, be explicit about it. Else be prepared to stay miserable for 6 months / 1 year as the lock in period is usually that long. So,speak out. If the owner is not conducive to your needs, move on. If your landlord is overly eager to settle the deal, take two steps back and go slow. There is definitely something wrong with that house. Mumbai is a BIG city. You can and will find a house eventually. Or else you can steal my backup plans – Marine drive or Worli Sea link facing tent( I personally like Marine drive more).
- Gauge the neighbors – Pammi aunty and Sharma uncle LOVE what’s happening in your house more than what’s happening in theirs. As much as we millennials love our privacy, they love prying into our personal space. If there are too many such characters in the society, walk away. You will spend your life justifying your skirt length and alcohol choices to these irrelevant people. Talk to the current tenants, or boldly knock the neighbors door and chat with them. Pandora’s box might spill open then and help you make an informed choice.
Though most of these points are regular things people consider before shifting into house, people who are hunting homes for the first time may lose direction. Biggest example, me. So, I hope this helps you make a wise choice and find a happy home you can come back to after a long tiring day. People often tell us not to have set expectations about our house , but I urge you to have expectations because that’s what keeps you going. Have expectations and strive till you find a place that ticks all the boxes and makes your heart flutter.
Now setting aside the negativity about houses in Mumbai , I would like to end on a happy note. I absolutely love this city. I chose to come here despite having other options because there is no other place in this world that gives me such tormenting experiences and still has me looking forward to the next day. I guess that’s Mumbai for you. It gives you the energy to start afresh daily. So, here’s to the million lessons this city has taught me in such a short span , to the fast paced life that breaks monotony time and again , to the Pani Puris and Bloody Marys, to the quaint people frolicking around the city, to the eye boggling architecture and last but not the least to the street side shopping that has my heart forever. Finding a house aside, Mumbai is perfect. Isn’t it?