Diary of a real estate journalist
The homebuyers sulk, protest, take to streets and even drag the builder into litigation. However, they are more often than not silenced and forced to succumb by the builders; even in the wake of delay in delivery, mismatch in promise & product or simply intentional cheating. Ravi Sinha shares his years of experiences in the property market to explain what empowers the builders and why homebuyers fail to fight.
In the Bollywood movie Kranti there is this punch line dialogue, “Kulhaadi mein agar lakdi ka dasta na hota toh lakdi ke katne ka rashta na hota”. It means a spade cannot cut a tree unless being supported by a piece of wood that originates from the same tree.
While this may be true in many other walks of life, but in the context of fight between the builder and the homebuyers it holds the value of a divine truth.
No builder, howsoever rich or powerful otherwise, can silence the buyers if the buyers in their collective spirit are standing for the common cause to fight against injustice. The façade of the might of the ruthless builder being surrounded by scores of musclemen bodyguards can be collapsed with a single weapon of the underdog – Courage of Upright.
Unfortunately, in the name of common cause the cause is seldom common even though prima facie it appears to be. As a matter of fact, every buyer has his own definition and set of interests to get into a fight with the builder. The legitimate fight that should ideally start with the ‘conviction of being upright’ often starts with suspicion, one-upmanship, or even worse, ulterior motive.
No! I am not just referring the limited understanding of buyers about each other as they suspect the intentions of those who take the lead. This is quite natural also as they mostly come from varied background, culture, and overall outlook towards life and living in society is different.
The real problem is with the intentional limited vision of the goal where what suits the self is the bottom line and a collective fight is the ladder to get elevated to a level where the builder is obliged to entertain to select few. Often it is the short term gains that lead to long term pains.
The buyers who maintain, at the face value, that they are not ready for a fight with the mighty builder and prefer to live peacefully with family and job being their priority might be the first & preferred choice of the builder.
Yet such homebuyers cannot be blamed to be cause spoilers since they do not raise the bar of expectations to sabotage it later. They are just self-centered group of people without any explicit harm to the buyers’ cause, even though it helps the builder tacitly.
The real sharks are those homebuyers who constantly live under the garb of common cause. They are normally preferred by majority of buyers as everyone needs a Samaritan to fight the battle on their behalf. This group of activists maintains their tough posture against the builder longer than those buyers who leave their shell at the first temptation.
A property buyer in Zirakpur who has dragged a builder in the court of law along with other victims does not find it shameless to admit, “Why will I refuse money if the builder offers me to be silent. If I have put in my head out and taken a risk, I deserve to be paid if the builder feels my silence will help his cause.”
Unfortunately, these kinds of buyers have no shame or remorse to sabotage a legitimate collective fight of underdogs against a mighty builder who has done a collective damage to all the property buyers.
I have come across five kinds of buyers in course of my now nearly a decade of experience as a real estate journalist. First group of buyers are builders’ own proxy among the buyers. The clever builder knows the advantages of selling his apartment at a lower price to a few close aides who would be used suitably in future.
It is not easy to identify this set of homebuyers. After all, they are the ones to keep fighting with the builder on behalf of the rest of buyers. It is a different matter that the façade of conflict turns out to be friendly fight and the agenda is settled in private. Some of their demands for society at large are also accepted by the builder to lend credence to these society warriors.
Mind you! If some other group of activists raise their heads in the society, these mercenaries would be willing party to join them. Once they infiltrate into the rebel buyers’ camp, they could easily assess the strength & weaknesses of the rest of the buyers. And thereafter it is easy to either silence them or play one against the other.
Second group of buyers who confront the developers are sheer blackmailers who take on the builders to arm twist. More often than not they prowl in groups to make their fight look collective and legitimate.
In some of the notorious markets like Noida, Ghaziabad and around, there are local professional blackmailers. The smart builder knows their identity and intent and does not fall into the trap of group booking. And those who fall into bulk booking trap, pay it later. This does not mean that unprofessional & unorganised blackmailer buyers do not exist. They do exist and often it is not easy to identify them either.
Once paid, compensated or obliged by the builder they change their tune with utter shamelessness and ‘one of the worst projects’ becomes ‘one of the best projects’ overnight. They suddenly turn out to be preachers of economic wisdom to tell others that the homebuyers in their collective wisdom only deserve this kind of project or amenities with this much of money.
Third are those who could easily be classified as ‘Emotional Fools’. Even though the product is less than desirable and promised, even though they suffer with poor maintenance, seepage and depreciation of property due to poor construction quality, they are still into the emotional trap of ‘no one should criticize my dream home’.
The smart builders know how to make use of the emotionally fool buyers who subscribe to the builders’ sermon that any criticism of the property will lead to depreciation. It is as if a poor construction & poor maintenance can also lead to appreciation, if only the gullible buyers are scared to be critical.
The fourth category of buyers are the ‘Gullible Souls’ who pick up the fight with all the noble intentions but fail to pick up the right associates. The crusaders or the society warriors whom they trust upon for the long term solutions for the general welfare turn out to be carriers of short term agenda. Once exposed with the reality of fellow fighters, such buyers prefer to buy out peace and leave the fight mid-way.
Thus, even after winning the initial battle against the builder these buyers lose the war. In the final analysis, the fellow homebuyers look down upon them, as they are more part of the problem than part of the solution.
The fifth category of buyers starts the fight against the builder with all the right intentions but without evaluating its natural & reactionary consequences. Once the cost & benefit of this confrontation is realized, they get into their shell. Of course, it is not easy for a common office going guy to fight the money & muscle power of a mighty builder.
The builder also understands the limitations of this set of buyers whose primary responsibility is to continue with the job and spend time with family. However, such spineless buyers have absolutely no answer to why they raise their hands for common cause and raise the bar of expectations on part of the fellow buyers. Are they not educated and socially conscious to understand their own limits and the larger consequences of fighting against the giant? These are the kind of rebel-turned-rat buyers who end up damaging the long-term prospects of the society.
Why will the builder easily give up the creamy business of running the maintenance of the apartment? Rather, the smart builder knows the art of conspiracy to make the group of activist buyers fight among themselves and suspect each other. Petty temptations of money and some other benefits, more often than not, work in such cases.
In majority of the instances, the builder manages to ‘Convince, Confuse or Corrupt’ the society crusaders. And when the builder fails to do so, there starts another round of ‘I will fix you’ session. With money & muscle power, the builder is quite capable of intimidating the buyers with defamation threat and other legal means.
I am also privy to a Noida-based builder Paras Buildtech, framing the buyers in fabricated criminal case with the connivance of the local police. Unfortunately, the double trap of judicial pressure and simultaneous maneuvering to buy peace works with a large number of homebuyers. While some of them surrender for job & family pressures, others find it hard to sustain a fight that they had thought to be a reward exercise (for self or society) in the guise of common cause.
The bottom line is quite clear: The homebuyers fail to fight in most of the cases for their own faults. It is not that there are no instances of the homebuyers fighting the mighty builder and making him lick the dust. But such cases are few and far between in a housing market where the builders get away even after constant deception with the buyers, while homebuyers fail to fight on most of the occasions.
Warning signal: Beware of the builders’ proxies among the homebuyers. Their friendly fight is to divert attention from the real problems
Warning signal: Volunteers who are over-enthusiastic to take up your personal grievances with the builder might be looking for legitimacy in the society
Warning signal: Check the preparedness of society warriors – financially, socially & legally – before committing for fighting common cause
Ravi Sinha @ravitrack2media
Track2Realty is an independent media group managed by a consortium of journalists. Starting as the first e-newspaper in the Indian real estate sector in 2011, the group has today evolved as a think-tank on the sector with specialized research reports and rating & ranking. We are editorially independent and free from commercial bias and/or influenced by investors or shareholders. Our editorial team has no clash of interest in practicing high quality journalism that is free, frank & fearless.
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