It is the inevitable question every home buyer in Mumbai is faced with – Should I buy an apartment in a township that has a wide array of amenities or is it better to go for a standalone building? At a broad level the answer is a no-brainer.
Everyone would want to embark on a project that contains facilities like a gym, swimming pool, tennis court or even a school and a hospital.
Unfortunately, it is not as easy a choice. There are advantages and disadvantages with both segments. The broad argument in favour of townships are as follows:
Security: It is not an exaggeration to say that at least half the standalone buildings in Mumbai today have security that is a thief’s delight. CCTV cameras do not exist or are defunct. Security staff are overworked and thereby ineffective. In comparison, gated communities have better processes, systems and staff with regards to security.
Health: For a variety of reasons there is a shortage of green public spaces or footpaths for any physical activity in Mumbai today. Owners of standalone buildings have to look for the closest garden or explore the membership of a sports club. Buying an apartment in a township offers facilities that are convenient and easy.
Traffic: Given the traffic in Mumbai, there is a time consumption to make a visit to a sports club, hospital or school from a standalone building residence. Amenities in the place of residence remove any such barrier.
Social: In a standalone building residents rarely bump into each other. That means minimal social interaction among owners. With townships that provide a variety of amenities, the interactions between residents are spread across many activities. This creates and cultivates a healthy bond among members of a society.
On the other hand, the broad arguments in favour of standalone buildings (or against townships) are as follows:
Location: Projects that have amenities are largely located in areas that are not in proximity to the economic center of Mumbai. Hence the commute to a workplace can be longer. Standalone buildings dominate around the vibrant city center. One can reside in an apartment closer to office and save time on a commute. (It must be pointed out that Mumbai has now become so scattered that there are multiple city centers)
Price: There is no fixed percentage premium that can be concluded with any meaningful authority, but it is an undeniable fact that the cost to purchase an apartment in a township is more expensive than a standalone building in the same vicinity. Standalone buildings have a cost-benefit while making a purchase.
Maintenance Bill: For all the services that get provided to the members on a monthly basis, there is a maintenance bill charged to the resident. Irrespective of the usage, in most cases, the maintenance bill is fixed to the resident and is charged on the basis of the size of apartment. With regards to standalone buildings, the maintenance bill is often a fraction of that amount.
Quality of maintenance: One of the common features of most township projects is the mismanagement of the facilities and amenities by the society. In an effort to cut corners on costs, well-made facilities by the developer are subsequently severely compromised by the owners. On the contrary as there are no amenities to speak of in a standalone building, the challenge in maintenance is limited.
Density: It is naïve to look at the number and scale of amenities in isolation. Density matters and its importance is often underestimated by home buyers. The number of flats that have access to the facilities is the single biggest determinant on the experience of the amenities for an apartment owner. Even within the density it is important to have a project that has gentry of similar economic strata. An owner of a 1BHK and an owner of a 3BHK view maintenance and management of a project very differently.
TOWNSHIPS GAINING GROUND
To a Twitter poll I ran a few days back there was a preference for townships in the suburbs VS a standalone building in the city center. From a total of 1324 votes, 63.4% preferred to have their residence in a project with amenities in the suburbs. 36.6% favored staying in a standalone building in the city.
At a personal level, I must confess that my preference is for projects that have some elements of all. I am not a fan of projects that offer a vast array of amenities while providing smaller apartments – as is the rotten trend in recent years. Until I feel comfortable sleeping next to a swimming pool or a beach volleyball court, my preference will be a smaller township not too far from the city that provides a narrow and focused set of amenities but keeps the size (and maintenance bill) of an apartment at reasonable levels.Eventually there are no right or wrong answers on this. The choice one takes depends on numerous factors including family composition, financial strength, age, work location, surrounding social infrastructure etc. Townships are currently gaining in prominence and favour but the contest between township and standalone building will not end soon.