Bottom Line: If only the builders involve homebuyers many grey areas borne out of lack of trust can be ironed out.
“Whenever I wished to visit my apartment in the under-construction project, I was not allowed by the security guards in the name of safety issues. The builder does not respond to my e-mails, not even to confirm the construction status of the project. On calling up the sales guys who booked the flat, all that they say is that only when my apartment is ready for fit-out period they will allow me access to the flat. Why can’t these builders involve the home buyers in the whole process?” questions a dejected home buyer, Rajneesh Pant in Mumbai.
This is an issue that is so irritating for most of the home buyers across the country. After having invested their lifetime savings, all that they are supposed to do is to wait. This was alright till the time the market was appreciating and most of the initial buyers were investors. But not anymore! Today’s end user buyers, who are any way conscious of the not-so-appreciating market, demand more involvement during the construction lifecycle of the project.
Buyers today wish to be part of the construction process. The question is to what extent it is feasible to bridge the trust deficit in the sector by involving the buyer. For example, a developer with plans of multi-city villa project has asked the home buyers to customize their requirements themselves on the developer’s website. The idea is to get the feedback of the end users’ needs and aspirations.
Buyers’ feeling of left out
Indian homebuyers demand involvement during the construction lifecycle of housing project
Buyers are not allowed to often visit the construction site and lack of update make them feel left out
There is no law/mandatory provision that can force the developers to involve homebuyers in housing projects
Developers fear opening up to buyers might lead to arm-twisting by the vested interests
But the developers in their collective consciousness are mostly living in denial. They maintain that already there are many ways through which buyers are made a part of the construction process. The developers are therefore linking up with construction-linked demand plan for the buyers.
According to them, Construction Link Plan (CLP) is the best way to make buyers aware of progress. After booking, remaining amount is linked with the plan where buyers have to pay as per slab completion. For example, one has to pay 10 per cent for plinth level construction, 5 per cent for 3rd slab, 5 per cent for 6th slab and so on.
There are other developers who maintain that by updating customers about the progress of the project with the images of the building, live videos that are shared with the buyers on regular intervals, specially with NRI customers, involvement is already there.
The fact remains that the Indian developers are not only living in denial but also way short of what is happening globally. An ideal eco system where the home buyers have a voice is a mirage in the Indian housing market.
Devang Trivedi, Managing Director of Progressive Group categorically rejects the theory of Indian developers taking a leaf out of what is happening worldwide. According to him, the Indian eco-system, including the approvals and other confidential issues do not allow the developers to come upfront. The idea is not to allow the element of arm-twisting or blackmailing in future.
“This is also the reason why the Indian developers prefer to have more of investors than end users as their first set of buyers. The developers anytime prefer an investor, as he will not bother you with as many questions as the end users. Moreover, his horizon is pretty clear with only the ROI (Return on Investment) and not with nitty-gritty detailing of an apartment,” says Trivedi.
JC Sharma, MD & VC of Sobha Ltd says they are making serious efforts towards deepening their customer relationships and creating urban living spaces. This goes a long way towards nation building and meeting the demand for homes.
“By engaging constantly with our customers, we try to understand change in customer requirements and act accordingly. We also provide a ‘Privilege Kit’ – to all our existing customers. This is an interesting referral program which accrues points that can be redeemed at branded stores like Amazon.com, Tanishq, Flipkart etc,” says Sharma.
Beyond the defence of the sector in its collective consciousness, the fact lies that the Indian home buyers by and large carry a feeling of being left out in the housing market. They feel that in a sellers’ market they have limited options. Involving the buyers can change their outlook towards the housing market and the developers.
A handful of developers who have taken the lead to involve the buyers, though only for the limited purposes, do understand the benefits of the relationship management with the buyers. In the age of consumer activism, often to the extent of blackmailing, involving the buyers might appear to be fraught with danger, it nevertheless helps more than hurts the cause of the sector.