New Delhi: Indian homebuyers are now browsing through online protest forums to make choices about property.
Tina Goyal, an IT professional working in Gurgaon on the outskirts of New Delhi, decided against buying an apartment in Omaxe Ltd’s Nile project based on what she read about it on the Internet.
Online buyer forums have been set up mostly by disgruntled buyers trying to bring pressure to bear on developers to return their money. While they haven’t always been able to succeed, they have managed to keep others from making the same mistake.
Status report: DLF’s Belaire project in Gurgaon. Prospective customers are looking online to check which projects are being delayed. Rajkumar/Mint
The groups came into being over the past year as developers started to delay deliveries because of a credit squeeze. In most cases, buyers had made substantial payments and were awaiting possession.
Goyal eventually bought a three-bedroom apartment in Unitech Ltd’s Fresco project in Gurgaon for around Rs69 lakh although she was aware that it was delayed. Even that decision was taken after online feedback. “In April-May, Unitech was in a bad shape, but then things changed,” she says. “Buyers kept updating on the progress in construction on forums.”
Unitech has also faced the ire of groups that have taken their virtual protests to the real world. Members of an online buyer forum for its Habitat project in Greater Noida recently staged a protest in front of the company’s corporate headquarters in Gurgaon.
“Since we believed in Unitech’s track record, we had agreed to a time-linked payment plan,” says Devesh Wadhwa, a Habitat forum member. “But the project has been stalled and there has been no construction for a year.” The firm didn’t respond to the demand for a refund, says Wadhwa.
Unitech declined comment on Habitat. Omaxe officials were unavailable for comment.
DLF Ltd has been more responsive to protests. In April, around 150 buyers of DLF’s New Town Heights and Express Greens projects in Gurgaon, brought together by an online forum, protested against delays. Those who cancelled their New Town bookings have been promised refunds.
Buyers who formed an online buyer forum to protest against the delay in construction at DLF’s Garden City project in Chennai were also given a refund of their booking amount. “We like genuine end-users to stay with us,” DLF group executive director Rajiv Talwar said.
Some of the brokers say online complaints are making an impact. “There have been instances where buyers have searched online about a developer or a project and when they found something negative, they changed their decision to buy such properties,” says Sanjay Sharma, a Gurgaon-based property dealer.