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It's costly at thetop

You don't just pay astronomical sums of money to own a home in Mumbai. Maintenance charges (which brokers conveniently omit during a sales pitch) that you pay to avail the services of watchmen, liftmen and, if you're really wealthy swimming pools and gymnasiums in your building, can set you back by as much as Rs 15,000 a month. Revealed the maintenance charges of some of the island city's iconic buildings, and also why Mumbai's best homes might actually be the oldest

This New Year, are you planning to buy that dream house in South Mumbai that features in the top 10 costliest places in the world to live in? It's not just the astronomical price you'll have to pay for the home itself, but also maintenance charges, a little-talked-about, but important sum that a house owner has to pay towards the upkeep of the society and its amenities, that you'll have to contend with.



In simple terms, maintenance is defined as the monthly payment a house owner makes to a society. This includes payment towards the property tax of the building and the total area, as well as services like those of a watchman, a liftman, the man who switches on the water connection every morning, and so on. 

Maintenance charges depend on the amenities provided to residents -- clubhouse, swimming pool, gymnasium, etc. Therefore the more the amenities, the higher the maintenance, which is calculated per square foot. On this first day of the New Year, Sunday MiD DAY breaks down the maintenance charges that homeowners in South Mumbai pay to housing societies.

Byculla-Mahalaxmi
Maintenance: Rs 11-12 per square foot (pic of the building).
Amenities: Clubhouse, gymnasium, high-speed lifts
The area recently got a major makeover, thanks to big names, from the likes of Lodha Developers, to Godrej Properties and Lokhandwala infrastructure Ltd, setting up premium projects. Once famous for its old chawls, the Byculla to Mahalaxmi section of the island city now looks completely different. 



A resident of a 1,300 square foot house in Planet Godrej, an iconic 51 storey building located in Mahalaxmi, said, on the condition of anonymity, "We pay a maintenance of Rs 11 per sq ft every month (over Rs 14,000), which covers everything from the charges for our liftman to the security guard. However, nearly 50 per cent of this amount goes towards property tax." Pic/ Bipin Kokate

Cuffe Parade-Colaba
Maintenance fees: Not more than Rs 4 per square foot. 
Amenities: Clubhouse
It may sound strange, but the city's most exclusive, sought-after addresses, Cuffe Parade and Colaba, which give you easy access to the best sea view, the best night spots and open spaces, and also the best apartments, actually charge some of the least maintenance fees. 



Ajay Jain, secretary, Maker Towers at Cuffe Parade, a 23 storey building located, confirms, "Our maintenance is Rs 2.20 per square foot." Because many buildings in the area are old constructions, they spend less on property tax, while they make do with interest on society funds that have accumulated over the years. Pic/ Santosh Nagwekar

Nariman Point-Marine Drive-Marine Lines
Maintenance fees: Between Rs 5-7 per sq ft.  
Amenities: Panoramic sea view, Gym.
NCPA Apartments, that made history in 2007 for fetching the city's highest real estate price of Rs 97,000 per square foot is still one of the city's most-loved addresses, and houses the likes of Hindustan Construction Comany chairman Ajit Gulabchand, hospitality king Ravi Ghai and others. Ghai, however, refused to disclose the details of the exact maintenance amount. "The maintenance is expensive, but the amenities that we have are fabulous and everything is well-maintained." Refusing to disclose the actual amount, he added, "Our maintenance bill will be one and half times more than the most popular building in the adjacent area." A former resident of the building however told SMD, on the condition of anonymity, that he used to pay Rs 12,000 for a 3,500 square foot apartment seven years ago, which has now increased to above Rs 15,000. Another resident added, "The maintenance varies between Rs 4-5 per square foot."

Lower Parel-Parel
Maintenance: Rs 10-11 per square foot (pic of building and resident).
Amenities: Clubhouse, swimming pool, gymnasium with trainers, tennis court,  and cricket pitch on the terrace of the building.
The new business district that the Lower Parel and Parel area has now turned into, is occupied by some of the city's top-most executives. No wonder, then, that maintenance charges are high. Vijay Mukhi, a resident of Kalpataru Habitat, one of the first buildings that came up in Parel in 2003, says he pays Rs 10 per square foot, which works out to Rs 12,030 for a 1,200 sq foot flat. Mukhi doesn't mind, however. "The maintenance may sound high, but the amenities offered here are world class." Most new highrises in these areas are now charging about the same amount. Pics/ Dutta Kumbhar

Dadar-Prabhadevi Rs 14-15 per square foot.
Amenities: Clubhouse, swimming pool
Prabhadevi has always been sold by builders as a central location to live in, given its proximity to South Mumbai as well as the suburbs. No wonder then, that a flat in the area costs nearly Rs 38,000 per square foot.



According to Yashwant Dalal, President, Real Estate Agents Association of India, and Prabhadevi resident, the approximate maintenance rate in this area varies between Rs 13-15 per square foot. "Builders offer many amenities in these buildings. These days every place has at least a clubhouse and a pool," he says. Older buildings in the area have a maintenance charge that varies between Rs 7 and 10. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Worli-Malabar Hill-Peddar Road
Maintenance: Rs 1-2 per sq ft 
Amenities: Gymnasium, open space
Populated mostly by old buildings, this area has one of the city's lowest maintenance charges. A resident of Sterling Apartments at Peddar Road, said that the amount she pays towards maintenance is so negligible that she doesn't even remember the exact figure. On probing, she put it down to Rs 1 or 2. It's the same case with Viren Shah, who lives in Madhuli, a 14 storey building in Worli which is known to have a flat owned by scamster Harshad Mehta, which at one point of time, was one of the most sought-after addresses in the city. "I pay not more than Rs 4 per square foot towards maintenance charges. We have a small gymnasium and lots of open space. Ours is an old building and hence we don't spend much on property tax," he explains. 

More floors, more charges
Eminent housing lawyer Vinod Sampat, says, "Everyone likes to stay in a highrise, but builders never tell their buyers that the more stories a building has, the higher the maintenance charges." According to real estate expert Ajay Chaturvedi, paying high maintenance is "like staying in a rented house that you have bought. The maintenance charges are so high that people who stay in the house are forced to shell out the money equivalent to the amount that they would have paid on rent for the same house." That's the main reason many tenants, especially those that live in a slum rehabilitation project, demand that their buildings do not cross seven storeys, because it increases maintenance charges.
 
Realtors speak
Brokers rue high maintenance charges that kill several high profile deals. "Maintenance is a vital part of the deal between prospective owners and brokers or realtors," says realtor Prakash Rohera of Kkarma Realtors. "I once did a deal for a person who sold his previous house for nearly Rs 20 crore and wanted to buy a new one. His first criteria was that the house he buys should have low maintenance charges." Another broker who has lost a few important deals thanks to high maintenance said, "There are times when people like everything in the building but the moment they find out about the high maintenance, they opt out."

Old is gold
This phrase suits the maintenance story so well that one cannot refrain from saying it. Take the example of Maker Towers itself, where the maintenance is not above Rs 3. In fact, most old buildings in South Mumbai have maintenance charges of not more than Rs 4. Property tax is the biggest component in maintenance charges. Old buildings charge less because the property tax depends on the year in which the building was constructed and it is calculated on the basis of the rateable of the building at that time. Sampat puts it aptly, "At this point in time, the maintenance charges that a house owner in Borivli pays will be double of what someone staying in the upper crust of the city pays. All because those are old buildings and the property tax charged on them is less, whereas the buildings in the suburbs are comparatively new and therefore fall under higher property tax." 

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