As I said in the previous part, I don’t have money to buy an apartment. But even if I did would I have bought one? I doubt it. I don’t think I would ever buy an apartment in India because I get claustrophobic in apartment buildings among other things. These other things are taken from my perspective, not “refuting others claims” as in the first part. These include perks and flexibility one gets on renting an apartment as opposed to buying one, that awesome feeling of freedom one gets knowing that you have no EMIs to pay, the absence of headaches of many kinds, and of course, the futility of it all.
Buying an Apartment vs. Renting a House/Apartment
It is no accident that all the arguments above seem to gravitate in favor of renting an apartment instead of buying one (on loan). Putting side the “warm fuzzy feeling” that comes with living in a structure that has your name on the deed (conditions apply), I do not find any financial, material, spiritual or mental benefits that would come out of living in it. In fact, it only complicates things, making you tie yourself up in little knots. You lose your entire life and all the flexibility that comes with it. You will have to work until the end of your life like a bonded slave to pay off the loan. You have to keep yourself tied to employment with little choice of doing anything else thanks to mortgage payments. You have to calculate how you do just about everything including career choices. You can’t easily take up work somewhere far away or send your kids to another school and even if you do, you will just be wasting your life commuting. Apart from the financial benefits it brings, renting offers you infinitely more choices and provides you with lots more flexibility to decide your life, unless you have decided to grow into yourself and just live off your remaining days. But well, not buying an apartment will deprive you of the pleasure of making dramatic statements like “This house is the result of my sweat and blood!” Why would you want more strings attached to you?
Neighbours Pride, Owner’s Envy!
The importance we Indians put on material property is ruining us and our country. Those who acquire apartments and flashy cars (on bank money) early in their career or life are hailed as path-breakers, success stories and heroes, while those who rationally decide not follow the crowd are considered losers. We are a society of sheep who run to do things only because others did it. Examples are B.Tech, MBA, Software Engineers, Apartments, Samsung Galaxy phones. “Damn. All my classmates, friends and colleagues are buying apartments! So I will too!” The odd one who does not is put under immense pressure, making them write blog posts explaining why they are not buying flats. Adding fuel to the peer-pressure fire are the obnoxious “live life according to society norms” “questioners” who argue “Living in your own apartment is a matter of pride!” Yes, it is, when you have built it on your own land. Anyone with a decent income can easily get a home loan and buy an apartment in this country. What is there to be so “proud” about that and about living in a palace in the sky (മാനത്തെ കൊട്ടാരം) paying exorbitant rent to the bank to whom it really belongs? And this “pride” goes to the head of some people who turn into chest-thumping egomaniacs, some of who consider themselves as Gods for living in a “flat”, thinking it to be synonymous with being “upmarket”, “modern” and so on. I could never understand this. Another manifestation of this “Pride” is the “apartment associations” which seem to exist for the sole purpose for people to show how “important” they are as “house owners” as lords and masters of the Universe. Breaking News: No one gives a damn about you.
The “Investment Mania”
I believe apartments to be “intangible investments” or investment whose value is not decided on their own but on many “market” factors”, the value of the land it stands on being only one of them. Even a grocery shop opening nearby can cause apartment prices to shoot up. But things are getting ridiculous now. In Bangalore, most builders today are focused only on the ultra-premium segment costing 1 crore and upwards for an apartment, located in untenable locations far out beyond even the suburbs. And these houses are valued and sold mainly based on the “Lifestyle” and “show-off” value they offer, filled with fancy trinkets that have no real monetary value. A 3-Bedroom apartment in Rachenahalli, a dusty suburb of Bangalore behind Manyata Tech Park, Nagawara, Hebbal costs close to 75 Lakhs! Remember, this is a place with no running or underground water, sporadic electricity, barely driveable roads, no public transportation or no cinemas or any such conveniences nearby. But the “investment” mania is driving prices up to unrealistic levels. A flat for 4 crore? One can buy land and build a house on it for that money! Even in case the price of land goes down, it is still land and there are still ways to derive returns out of it. But if an apartment loses its value it just becomes a hunk of concrete not worth anything. The entire “apartment mania” feels just like a bubble thriving on hollow pomp and show with no substance and sense. And the bubble is now becoming frightfully inflated and thin.
Dare to Dream Beyond Apartment Walls
Thinking practically, given the land and property prices in Indian cities, it is no doubt impossible for 90% of our populace to even dream of an independent house built on their own land. So the only way to fulfill that dream and ultimate aim of their life of possessing a house that one “owns” is to buy an apartment. Nothing wrong in that, but as far as I am concerned, owning a house which is in reality only a set of walls beyond which you can’t lay any claim upon, built up on land that you cannot call your own and for which you pay exorbitant rent to banks for the rest of your life all seems a whole lot artificial, hollow and not real. What is a house which you don’t build on your own, without a little garden (no, potted plants on balconies don’t count), rooted firmly on your own land? Apartments come with fixed floor plans and layouts, built up by someone else, which is why I would never be able to identify with an apartment that was built by someone else, owned by some bank and where I would have to live according to someone else’s rules. And for the record, you really can do anything you want in your own standalone house, many things which you cannot do in a rented apartment. Buy a drumkit and practice on it in full volume for instance. And living in one of those complexes with 1500 apartments? You are living in a mini-city! Claustrophobic, if nothing else.
What is the Point?
What is the use of making money when you cannot enjoy the fruits of that money? I wouldn’t consider owning an apartment in Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi or anywhere else “fruit” of that money. I know many people who after having bought homes in distant suburbs of Bangalore spend four to five hours commuting to their workplace on the other end of the city (Kanakpura/Bannerghatta/Mysore Road to Hebbal, Tumkur Road to JP Nagar/E-City). Heights of irony – You buy a house to enjoy its comforts, but you are unable to do so because you have to spend that time in traffic getting to work so you can pay off the mortgage for the house. So, what is the point? The same thing goes for NRI types who blow all their money building palatial mansions in India and leave them to gather dust while they go back to living in cramped condos on the other side of the shore. More so than that, what is the point in buying a flat and sweating over it every waking moment of your life, forgetting that you bought it to “enjoy” it in the first place? But then again, to each his own. As @smitaprakash says here, “Dreams and hopes are built with sentiment, not bricks.” Sentiment is liked to the land, on to what you built up, and not to something that you bought readymade off the shelf.
I have nothing against people who buy apartments and live in them. Just that I will never want to live in one. I value my peace of mind and money more than showing off and vanity, thank you very much.