Buying a House – Tips and Paperwork

Rishab asked a few questions a couple of weeks ago regarding buying property and I will try my best to answer these as well as I can. I guess what I can safely say is to take as much advise as possible from friends, family, bankers, financial planners (if you have access to them) and of course, the internet. It is a great proud feeling to buy your pad (if buying for the first time) and it also involves us emotionally. Like hunting for jobs, this experience should be enjoyed and not feared or seen as a chore. We don’t hunt for jobs or houses every day, do we? Here are a few words of advise that I can suggest from my limited set of experiences so far. Caveat emptor.

1. Pre-Owned or Ready only – I would recommend that you purchase a house that is near complete or second hand only. There is too much economic uncertainty and too much of leverage on the books of real estate companies in India to share project risk with the developers. We have one life and most of us get one chance to pick up a house – we should be as risk averse as possible. With land prices in urban India being bid up higher and higher, property developers have to borrow to buy. If the interest rates rise in the future it will make the going quite though for the real estate companies. That is the reason why the business model of Godrej Properties (GPL) is so cool – they mostly lease property from owners, develop it and share the profits. And that’s one of the reasons why I consider my investment in Godrej Industries Ltd (part owner of GPL) to be a part of my core holdings. Inner core.

2. Documents to look for

The following documents are usually sought for when buying a second hand property:

– Agreement of sale between the builder and the first owners and all the subsequent agreements of sale thereupon.

– Papers that uniquely qualify a clear title to the land. Also known as the Conveyance Deed.

– Registration certificate of the housing society. It usually takes 1 – 2 years after posession is granted by the builder for society formation.

– No objection certificate from the society to transfer the flat in the prospective buyers’ name.

– Copy of share certificate of the society. Once the society formation is complete, it issues share certificates to its members. You should take a look at this.

– A draft agreement of purchase (between you and the seller)

– Copies of municipal tax paid by the society. This may be tough to get but you should try.

– Occupation certificate granted by the municipal corporation to the builder.

– No objection certificate from the society to mortgage the flat in the favour of the bank, along with a letter stating the lien (this is in case you want to avail a housing loan)

– Income tax clearance of the seller (for registration purposes only). Check that.

There are other sets of documents that would be required if A) buying a resale flat if the society is not formed or B) if you are buying a new flat from a builder. Let me know and I shall email these to you. It is prudent to ask for/be aware of these documents. Indeed some housing finance institutions may not ask for all of these (more on that later) and the builder/society might spin tales as to why some of these documents are really not required – if that happens just walk out of that meeting. When I was looking around for my first house, a particular builder just did not want to part with the architectural plans and other documents of a second hand, unlived flat that I had liked. Luckily for me, I did not have a penny on me (only a promise of future income) and therefore I did not have any option but to look to a bank for finance. Since the bank would not advance the loan if the architectural drawings were not made available I had called it quits.

3. Finance – I am really in no position to opine on which housing finance company you should take your loan from. This decision is not as straight forward as taking out term insurance – in that case you should simply head to the insurer that offers you the lowest premium. Most properties are on the ‘pre-approved’ list of many financers – which means that they have already completed most of the paperwork required. Buying property in such buildings from these banks reduces the risk of landing up with an unclear title as well as easing up the paper work. Public sector banks in India generally offer the most competitive rates but dealing with them may not be a smooth affair. They don’t give a rats ass whether you give them your business or not. On the other hand, private sector banks put stiff sales targets on their sales people and you really do not want an over zealous sales turk to finance what turns out to be a sand castle to you! Finally, interest rates may very well rise in the near future. Inflation is too big a monster for the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) not to do anything to the current rates. However, most banks offer only a 3 year fixed when they refer to fixed rates. I daresay that if someone is to buy a house next year, he/she should pick a floating rate – but it really depends on your view of the interest rates. 

4. CIBIL Credit Report – You should apply and procure your credit report from Credit Information Bureau India Limited (CIBIL). This is available for a nominal processing charge and is one of the things that banks look for when deciding on the grant of the loan. There are known instances where people have found errors in their CIBIL credit reports and while the RBI prescribes a time limit of 45 days for compliants to get resolved, you do not want to be running around clearing the errors in your credit report. Purchase opportunities do not last forever. In fact you should procure and check your credit report regardless of whether you intend to take a loan or not. Beware, if you are blacklisted or your credit score is very low, the chances are extremely high that your loan application will get bluntly rejected without a proper explanation. The onus will be on you to investigate and clear your name. Even if this is your first mortgage application, the fact that you might have had credit cards to your name – some of them you don’t even know if you own – will reflect in this report. Just get that report – home loan or not. My gut is that the public sector banks will be quite partisan to the credit report. At least the private banks might be inclined to help you work your way towards clearing your record (if tainted) since there are sales targets to meet.

4. Other considerations – Some other points that you might want to keep in mind (readers, please add on to this list if you can. I will keep adding as and when I get new insights):

– While the useful life of buildings is usually considered to be 70 – 80 years, do not buy a property that has had more than 2 past owners or is more than 15 years old. Maintenance expenses spike up around this point in the life of a building.

– Do not pay more than 1% as processing fees.

– Best to get a term insurance cover from the same institution to cover the quantum and tenure of the loan. Use this option to squeeze a better rate from the bank. Reveal this card only during the latter stage of rate negotiation.

– One trick that many want to play is to play one bank against another when trying to drive a bargain for the best rate. I don’t feel it’s worth it – India is a growing economy. The mortgage to GDP ratio for rapidly urbanising India is a paltry 7% which is way, way behind the developed economies (60% – 70%). So, banks are not under too much pressure to run after you.

– If the seller of the house also has a mortgage, it’s advisable for you to take your loan from the same institution.  The process gets simplified. Unless of course some other instituion is offering you a much lower rate.

– Bargain with the seller like your life depended on it. In some ways, it does. At least your financial life does. Rehearse your speech and plan your tactics, even if it means you appear like a penny pinching moron.

– If you are married, buy property in joint name. Makes things easy later on.

– Try to see the locality during the peak of the monsoon season. You’ll get an idea of water logging, seepage etc.

– refer to my other post on Buying Property for some more ideas.

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Earth, Lights and Money

The night lights of the world, India and parts of Asia look like these (click images to enlarge):

I was surprised to see India pretty well lit up and not looking too bad on the world slate. I now know why the BJPs India Shining political campaign did not work on terra firma – since it you can see this only from extremely high altitudes and politics is all about keeping your ear to the ground. To me Japan looks the brighest and USA a very close second. Africa is truly the dark continent. Given what is now being said about Nigeria and Ghana, I guess they’ll light up in the decades to come. South Africa, as expected stands out and so does the Nile channel in Egypt. Western Europe, is aglow with the prosperous lumens that dissipate quickly as one moves eastward eventually following the path of the Trans Siberian Railway. If the natural earth glow is filtered out, I’d have missed Australia completely. And finally, China is well lit on its eastern side. The fact that the eastern sides of largish land masses are better lit than the western side is striking. The US east coast, China’s eastern provinces, Australia, the African continent, South America, the sliver of light that is Japan, UK, the Meditteranean Coast – all have brighter eastern sides. Why? The exception seems to be India. Its east side is darker.

From personal aerial experience I know for sure that Mumbai shines the brightest of all Indian cities. I guess it’s got to do with two factors – A) density of population in an area and B) the degree of urbanization. The latter is more important, I think since while Mumbai has the world’s largest slum, the slum lights will fade out if seen from such high an altitude. These are closely placed street lights (the streets lights in Hyderabad are not closely placed at all) and residential light fixtures. Highway lights again, would get too diffused, I think. But just take a look at the Indus basin. No wonder the rich alluvial soil and the 5 rivers spawned the Indus Valley Civilization 5000 years ago. The Punjab provinces (both Indian and Pakistani side) seem to be bathed in white! On the other hand, you just cannot make out the path of the Ganges at all. Beats me. Also, if you follow my eye, you can almost see the lights carving out the combined boundary of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. Leaving out Orrisa, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand in the dark. It’s almost as if the previous two states had dotted light beacons along their perimeters. Is there a correlation between insurgency and electricity consumption? The problem of naxalism seems to be hitting states that are darker at night. And therein lies the answer – light up these areas and the arms that hold the guns will pick up laptops instead. Alas! If wishes were horses, beggars would ride – read my latest tweet on our Government crazy Robin Hood logic. Agreed, that the income disparity amongst states needs to be reduced. But don’t do this by making the richer states poorer! The New Delhi think tank is tackling the problem of runaway food inflation in the agrarian states of India (Punjab, West Bengal, etc.) by increasing the procurement price of food stuff. Their logic is if food prices are increasing (it’s c20% in these states), lets give more money to the farmers so that they can afford to buy more. How can you fight inflation by increasing prices?

Leaving bumbling babus behind, I panned out to look at Asia and peg the two big neighbours against each other. The electricity consumption in India is quite less as compared to China. Now, while China has a much larger land mass, much of China is in its east. Also, the land masses of eastern China and India are almost equal in size. So what explains the fact that despite the higher consumption of electricity by China it does not appear brighter than India? China seems to consume 3,650 TWH of electrcity per annum (a neat 10 TWH per day!) as compared to just 568 TWH/yr for India. So, eastern China should appear 6 – 7 times as bright, right? I guess whats happening is that almost all of the incremental electricity (as compared to what India eats up) is being used to fire the foundries that line up the dragon’s belly.  This article from China Daily sheds some light on the issue. Are the Chinese producing too much too soon. Maybe they should slow down.

This sudden reading up on lights, lighting and night lights came about when I was contemplating a company called MIC Electronics – they’re the LED solutions company that’s lighting up stadia, streets, festival venues, the Commonwealth Games, village lanterns, railway coaches, airports etc. They’ve got a nice banner on their website and the spooky thing is that this company is also from Hyderabad! God knows whats wrong with me – Shakti Met Dor, Hyderabad Industries (contemplating) and now this! It’s a nice city ok, perhaps a bit sleepy but investing like this is crazy. I’ve taken up a small position in this company so that I don’t lose track of it and am reminded that I need to think more about it. I read a reseach report about it sometime back but as yet I am not fully convinced that it has the power to light up my portfolio. My first issue with this company is that it currently shows up at rank 33 when I search for “LED lighting india” in Google. Which is not that bad considering that A) they are largely B2B and that B) this website itself shows up at rank 58 in a google search on Kaushal! And no, I have not heard of search engine optimisation – but maybe the MIC guys have? Actually doesn’t matter since they largely sell to people like Indian Railways and other assorted organisations who don’t really need Google to find out about them.

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