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Expats can add the search for accommodation in India to the already extensive list of 'adventures' they're sure to have upon relocating.
From modern apartment complexes and quaint bungalows to large villas suitable for families, there is usually a home to suit every taste and budget.
Accommodation options vary greatly between areas, but those moving to cities including Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru can expect more competition in the housing market than in other locations. Unless expats plan on relocating to India for the long term, most people opt to rent property rather than buy.
There are a few general points to bear in mind while doing pre-trip research about housing in India. We recommend expats explore the types of properties available, the best ways to find accommodation and guidance on rental agreements.
Types of accommodation in India
Those relocating to India realise that the types of property available to them depend very much on the location. Most expats will find themselves in one of India's bustling cities where properties are constantly being built to meet the population’s demand.
In general, rental prices in India have been rising and adding to the cost of living, but affordability depends on the budget and neighbourhood. Still, many expats find that rental prices are reasonable, especially when compared to other major destinations.
A large factor determining the rental price is how furnished the property is. Unfurnished, semi-furnished and fully-furnished properties can be found across the country, and the more limited the furnishings, the lower the cost of accommodation. Some expats consider shipping household goods and furniture to India for a sense of home, but this comes with additional costs.
When looking for accommodation in India, expats will likely come across the BHK acronym, meaning bedroom, hall and kitchen. Seeing two or three (and so on) BHK means a three-bedroom property with a hall and a kitchen. Among the main types of accommodation available in India are apartments, independent floors, houses and gated complexes.
Apartments are one of the most popular types of property in India. Both low and high-rise apartment blocks can be found with options for a basic studio flat or a luxury penthouse.
Rather than renting out a unit in an apartment block, expats can rent an entire floor. Independent floors are popularly found in low-rise buildings and sometimes shared among large families who rent several floors and live together in the building but on separate storeys.
Expats can keep their eye out on the property market for freestanding houses to call home in India. The standards and prices of these vary. Bungalows and charming one-storey cottage homes are popular among families while those with a taste for luxury can look for large villas with a garden and swimming pool. Expats who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life can also find several options for farmhouses.
A fair share of gated communities can be found in and around India’s cities and are popular among wealthier expats and Indian residents. Housing complexes typically offer condominium-style accommodation with shared access to amenities, such as clubhouses, swimming pools and garden areas. High-end gated communities also offer gyms and sports facilities.
Finding accommodation in India
The demand for good quality, reasonably priced accommodation often outweighs the supply, so renting property in India can be challenging. The good news is that employers often help their expat employees find a place to stay, sometimes lining up a few options for them to choose from.
But many new arrivals aren't so lucky and have to go through the accommodation search themselves. Online property listings and real-estate portals are a good starting point, such as 99acres.com, makaan.com and Magicbricks. Social media pages and groups are another way to network and find property. Note that all prospective tenants, especially those who search online, should visit the properties they are interested in before signing any contract.
Many expats hire a local real-estate agent or enlist the services of a relocation company. Expats in this position will need to be explicit about their specifications and what their price range is. Real-estate agents can also help draw up rental agreements and register long-term leases.
Although English is widely spoken, expats who speak Hindi or a local Indian language may find it easier to find accommodation and deal with landlords.
Renting accommodation in India
Lease agreements in India can be tricky. To side step tax, landlords often prefer to rent to people informally, with no official lease in place. We strongly urge against accepting such an agreement: expats would have no legal protection as a tenant nor be able to provide proof of residence, which is needed for various administrative processes.
Prospective tenants should go through their rental and lease contract with a fine-tooth comb. Leases should cover all stipulations and clauses impacting the tenant and landlord, such as duration of the lease, deposits, monthly rent, rental increments, notice periods and so on.
Eleven-month lease agreements are common in India and are useful for expats staying short term. Shorter-term rental agreements may also be possible. For this contract to be official, a stamp duty charge must normally be paid.
Longer-term leases are also available; those valid for longer than 11 months must be formally registered with the relevant authorities, including registration costs and stamp duty charges.
There is no standardised law on security deposits in India and the amount requested generally differs across cities and states. The unsuspecting tenant may be in for a surprise: landlords will often ask for six or even 10 months worth of rent as a deposit, though in some cases, lower deposits can be negotiated. Bengaluru is known to charge the highest fee for deposits, followed by major cities including Chennai, Mumbai, Pune and Delhi.
Tenancy disputes over deposits are not uncommon, so we recommend clarifying what a deposit should cover and when and how it will be repaid.
Tenants normally cover the costs of utilities, including electricity, water and any maintenance charges. Be sure to negotiate this in the lease agreement.
Tenants and landlords must give and be given notice if either party wishes to terminate the lease early. Notice periods are normally at least 15 days, though longer periods may be stipulated in the rental agreement.