Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lightning does strike twice

After Reddygate, I thought I had seen everything Bangalore real estate had to offer. Little did I know that, I was barely getting started. A friend said the Reddygate experience felt like a Bollywood movie. It was barely a trailer.

Once I walked out of Reddygate (that property hasn't sold yet, looks like they haven't found another loser yet), we kept looking around. We witnessed the enormous greed of Bangalore's flippers. People who don't consider a 250% return of their investment in an one year period a satisfactory return, for instance.

We zeroed in on another townhouse property, this time again by the same big name builders (if you remember from Reddygate, a tier 1 builder in Bangalore). This is an older property (~8 years old) and "BDA Approved", so I thought once we negotiate and settle on the price, things should settle down rather quickly.

We haggled on the price with the seller. We went back and forth for a while and settled on a fair price. We liked dealing with the sellers as well. They were pretty straight forward, "educated", would deal with "100% white money". Ideal match. We gave a token deposit and got the legal documents to start the legal vetting process. That's where the fun started.

You don't appreciate the genius of a real estate developer like this one until you see what methods they use to penny pinch the Government out of stamp duty and registration costs. Agreed, it is moronical to charge ~9% of the sale value as tax and stamp duty per sale. But the developers take it to a different level to beat it.

1) For properties under 1500 sq ft of area, the stamp duty is less. Over 1500 sq ft, it is a "luxury" property, so the stamp duty is more. Since this property was about 2500 sq ft, the developer came up with an ingenious plan.

They sold the two level "row house" as two different units. The ground floor was sold as a different unit and the first floor was sold as a different unit. Two sale agreements, two sale deeds, the full shebang.

This property was about 2500 Sq Ft built on 2200 Sq Ft of land. As equal opportunity provider, they split this as two different "villas" of 1250 Sq Ft constructions built on 1100 Sq Ft of land :).

This physical impossibility of building a structure more than the land allows in one level is missed completely. Enough people were greased along the way that this property was registered successfully.

2) This might be a good time to introduce my seller. My seller is a PhD and MS from IIT Delhi. He has a MBA from IIMB to boot. He is also the CEO of a top tier company. As smart and savvy you can get.

Remember the two sale deeds? That implies, he should have two "kathas" [a Kannada document that says this is your property] and thereby he has to pay two different property tax each year. But the seller has one katha and he has been paying one property tax. Apparently, there is a way to "merge" the two properties into one by a process called "amalgamation", which my seller says he isn't "aware" of and is what he has probably done.

3) The address in the property tax he pays is about two kilometers away from the actual property. The "villa" is in Deverbesarahalli and the property tax is paid for an address in Marathahalli, which is about two kilometeres away and is a different village ;).

This is just the beginning of the legal paperwork mess. This goes on and on and on. The seller hasn't given the most basic set of documents needed to my lawyer to inspect. The seller points to the realtor, the realtor points to the developer, the developer points to the home owner's association and the home owner's association says they don't have all the documents needed.

Basically, the critical documents that have the appropriate approval from the authorities have gone "missing". No one knows where the documents are.

My "broker" suggested gently that I should be using "his" lawyer, the same lawyer he used to buy the neighboring row house for his "gelf" customer. The "gelf" customer trusted the broker to "do the needful" and "make sure all documents are correct legally". So the broker asked "his" lawyer to "verify" and of course, all documents checked out correctly there. So I must be doing this wrong.

Now, this is where things get a tad bit more interesting. I had hired a lawyer to help me through this. Turns out the seller is also a client to the lawyer at his corporate day job. The chief legal consul of the parent megacorp where the seller works for, makes a "friendly" call to my lawyer "enquiring" what's going on with the legal difficulties with the property.

Around the same time, my seller calls me and says that based on his professional experience with my lawyer, my lawyer is too conservative and I shouldn't consider her words completely. After all, when he bought the home, he didn't hire a lawyer, nor did he verify all the documents. He took a 90% loan from HSBC bank who verified everything, so everything must be hunky dory, you see.

That, to me, sums up India's real estate woes. Really smart people, really intelligent people who run companies buy real estate on a whim, without doing the basic document checks and sanity checks needed. They assume and trust the wrong people.

The real estate developers, even the supposedly very good ones, find out ways to scam people and they get away every single time. At the end, the careless one who buys this last ends up at the end of this Ponzi scheme, with a piling dump of crap. Sad.

There are a few learnings with regards to Bangalore real estate, both as a seller and as a buyer. I will add them in a bit. For now, I am still looking for a property with clean titles.


This was originally posted in R2IClubForums.

I R2Ied 6 months ago. Immersed myself in the Bangalore Real Estate. Sold my land during the time period. Tried to invest it in a "villa" - twice so far. For good or for bad, both the villas were by the same builder, a tier 1 builder in Bangalore.

Here is my story, in 2 parts.

Price of Reddy 'Villa': Rs. 1.3 Crore
Advance paid to Reddy: Rs. 50,000
Legal documents in DVD: 1300 pages
Lawyer hours spent: 30+
Personal hours spent: 50+
Number of lawyers involved: 5
Sleepless nights: 12
Finding out how Reddy was going to screw you: Priceless

There were six Reddy sisters who owned the land who inherited it from their father Reddy who inherited it from his father Reddy who got it from some other Reddy who we don't know how he acquired the land. (Red flag 1).

The six Reddy sisters enter a joint development agreement with a big name builder to develop row houses. As part of the deal, the six Reddy sisters get 33% of the houses.

There are 58 villas in total. At 33%, those are 18 houses, so each Reddy sister gets 3 houses each.

Now, the eldest Reddy sister is selling one of her property. Her husband Seller Reddy is the one who is acting on her behalf. I interact with Seller Reddy.

The house I was supposed to be buy was #47 in the earlier plans. It was changed to #58 by swapping it with the other #58. There is no documentation or correction submitted to this regard to the Government. (Red flag 2).

The 33% sharing agreement lists what all houses each Reddy sister gets. My house #58 (old #47) is not in the list. The developer dodges the question as to how this happened. So I get all the people in a meeting, my lawyers, developer's lawyers and the Seller Reddy.

Turns out Seller Reddy got some more land after the fact and attached it to the community. As part of this he got 2200 Sq Ft of salable area assigned to him from the developer. When he did the contract, his wife Reddy and the developer unilaterally sign a document. That document is not counter signed by the other sister Reddys. (Red flag 3). The document just says 2200 sq ft of land and does not name the villa. (Red flag 4).

The house he is selling is 2700 Sq Ft + terrace and not 2200 Sq Ft (Red flag 5).

If you approach this as a con job, you will see that the renaming of the house was a slight of hand just to confuse the buyer. The house was in the original approval plan, so that should pass the checks. But the renumbering and making it house #58 of 58 provides them with an out. Even though this house was approved earlier, since the number changed, is it now approved or is it not approved? Why did you make the real last house you built as #47? (red flag 6).

Seller Reddy says he can do all supporting paperwork and get all sisters to sign off and so on. This just seems ripe for litigation. Not worth the fight.

tl;dr - Seller Reddy got cute. By-passed sister Reddys, got an extra house allocated for him, used slight of hand to confuse buyer.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Atleast one person can afford Mumbai real estate

Full marks to Sushil Kumar on winning 5 crores on the Kaun Banega Crorepati show. The builders have atleast one person who can afford to buy the priciest real estate in Mumbai or Delhi. If only there were more winners Mumbai realtors would use the KBC story to drive up prices to even more ridiculous levels