At least 60% of first-time homebuyers prefer apartments over independent floors, plots or villas, according to a survey conducted last month by property portal Makaan.com. While plots and villas fall in a different category of properties, apartments are comparable with independent floors in terms of the living area and other specification.
Also known as row housing in some areas, independent/builder floors are low-rise houses, having a ground, first and second floors. An apartment, on the other hand, can have various floors, provided they are within the height prescribed by the local authority. Here, let’s assess how apartments and independent floors compare and what are the pros and cons of buying either.
What works for independent floors
Freedom to change design: Like an apartment, an independent floor is built on various sizes of plots. However, what makes a floor unique is the fact that it can be remodelled, provided the building layout is not disturbed. However, an apartment cannot be remodelled in this fashion.
People who own the topmost floor in a complex of independent floors, have the option to build another floor if the government permits them to do so.
Says Anand Nandan, executive director, consultancy services, Cushman and Wakefield, an international property consultant firm, “In a floor property, you have greater degree of freedom compared with an apartment. Here you can reconstruct a certain portion of your floor too.”
Sense of space: An independent floor, especially on the ground floor, gives you the sense of space, which is becoming scarce now. So if you are particularly fond of gardening and wouldn’t mind giving up a few benefits for that, independent floors may appeal to you. “People already living in floors often prefer to buy floor options. The trend is popular in cities such as Gurgaon and Delhi,” says Sandeep Reddy, co-founder, Groffr.com, a pan-India group buying portal.
What works for apartments
The cost: An independent floor is always priced high compared with an apartment of the same size and specifications and in the same location. Says Samarjit Singh, managing director, India Homes Pvt. Ltd, a pan-India brokerage firm, “Independent floors are priced high as for developers it is always expensive to build less number of floors.”
For example, in Gurgaon’s Palam Vihar area, apartments come for a basic selling price in the range of Rs 6,000-6,500 per sq. ft, whereas similar sized floor options come in the range of Rs 6,500-7,000 per sq. ft. In other areas, too, you will find this difference. “There is a clear premium of about 15-20% for builder floors over apartments,” adds Singh. The price difference may vary depending upon the requirement/demand and demography of a micro-market.
Moreover, a healthy supply in the apartments category gives you plenty of options to choose from. “In comparison to independent floor projects, there are more apartment projects,” adds Singh. It is for this reason that apartments are more saleable even in the resale market, he says.
Registration: Building bylaws relating to floors differ from one state to another. For example, in a move to maintain the equilibrium of population density and put an end to speculation in prices, about six months back the Ghaziabad Development Authority banned the registration of independent floors. In a similar move around two years back, the Haryana Urban Development Authority (Huda) stopped registering properties built floor-wise. In New Delhi, such registration is allowed.
Says Sunder Khatri, a New Delhi-based Supreme Court lawyer, “The ban from the government usually comes because most property owners after constructing extra start selling floors through power of attorneys and the new buyers are not able to register the floor in their name.” The prescribed population density norm of an area is thus flouted.
On the other hand, the Apartment Acts, which applies mostly to apartments, in most states are uniform. Under this, the apartment has to be registered at the time of possession. The Apartment Act in most states does not cover plotted developments and residential floors having a height less than 15 metres or four floors.
Maintenance: While power cuts are a regular phenomenon in most cities, managing a power back-up on your own or maintaining the surroundings of an independent floor without the help of an external agency could be a problem. “The residents would need to arrange for services such as electrician, internal cleaning and maintenance, and their own parking,” says Nandan.
In an apartment complex, a resident welfare association (RWA) or the developer takes care of these services.
Then the cost of maintenance is less in an apartment complex because of more number of residents. Says Deepak Srivastava, senior executive at a multinational information technology services firm, who bought his three-bedroom 1,600 sq. ft apartment in Ghaziabad last year, “When I visited some of the floor options, I realized that on an average, each resident is paying about Rs 2,000 a month on power back-up and maintenance. This is lower in an apartment, where for the same area, I have to pay just Rs 1,200 per month.”
For repair and maintenance of common areas such as stairs and parking, residents may not reach a consensus. “The repair may not happen if even one of the residents is not financially ready or may not agree to the plan,” says Delhi-based real estate consultant, Pradeep Mishra.
Security: An apartment complex has round-the-clock security; some even have intercom facility. Setting up such a security arrangement could be costly in a standalone floor complex. If a builder floor is located in a gated colony, it is cheaper to arrange for these. However, in case of old builder floors, where there is no fencing around the area, hiring a security agency could cost a significant amount.
Buying a property depends largely on your requirement and budget. If you are buying an independent floor, check with the developer if the same comes under the purview of the Apartment Act and meets the required bylaws. Checking the status of the registration is also advisable.