City's Apartment-owners Get Pricey

Mumbai, Dec 24 (mb): A senior lawyer was recently stunned when the owner of a sprawling Churchgate apartment jacked up the price by Rs 1 crore, minutes before they were to shake hands and conclude the transaction. The two parties had agreed to a price of Rs 10 crore, but the evening they were supposed to sew up the deal, the seller backtracked and demanded Rs 11 crore. The deal subsequently fell through.

The owner of a 1,400-sq-ft flat in a building on Altamount Road refuses to budge from her asking price of Rs 9.5 crore. Property experts say it will not fetch more than Rs 5 crore. Recently, the owner snubbed a potential buyer and told him not to even speak to her if his quotation is below her asking price.

At Jacob Circle, some people who had booked flats in an upcoming residential complex at the rockbottom rate of around Rs 5,000 a sq ft in 2004 are now demanding Rs 22,000 a sq ft. When a client from Dubai made an offer at the rate of Rs 20,500 a sq ft, one of the sellers flatly refused.

As expectations rise amid a couple of freak sales of high-end apartments, flat owners, particularly in south Mumbai, are demanding ridiculous amounts when prospective buyers come calling. As a result, there have been very few second sales of mainly luxurious apartments.

Property consultants attribute this to a mixture of greed and unusually high expectations that flat owners have when approached by buyers. "When the going is good, owners feel they can get away with anything. Just because one apartment sells for Rs 97,842 a sq ft in NCPA, does not mean that every flat will fetch such high rates," said experts.

Chetan Narain of property consultants Narains Corp said freak sales like the one at NCPA have created major problems. "It unnecessarily raises the hope of people that their flats too should fetch a high price. The seller should not get carried away and be unrealistic," he added. A two-bedroom flat on Altamount Road has still not found a buyer because the owner is quoting a hefty Rs 6 crore for it.

"The NCPA sale has sent heatwaves across old buildings on Marine Drive; people have started raising prices to unreasonable levels," he said.

Pranay Vakil, India chairman of global property consultant Knight Frank blamed the hype created by the media for the incredible demands made by flat owners. "It affects the psyche of the sellers and they start expecting unrealistic and untenable prices. The end result is that the number of transactions taking place is 40% less than what one generally records this time of the year," said Vakil.

A leading property consultant complained that whenever a purchaser asks the seller to close a transaction, the latter always tells him to wait. "The seller comes back and says he has changed his mind after consulting family members, who feel the property will fetch much more. Most of them go back on their commitments," he said.

Recently, a Khar-based family wanted to sell a flat at the rate of Rs 16,000 a sq ft. When they got a client who offered Rs 15,800 a sq ft, the seller was just not interested. "It is nothing but greed. They expect the market to go further up and keep hiking the price. As there is a dearth of good apartments, everyone wants his or her pound of flesh," the consultant observed.

As the demand for high-end apartments grows, owners keep upping the ante. 


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