Social media offers a unique space to look for new apartments or rooms when you are shifting within Indian metros. It can help you avoid unreasonable brokerage, and you can even check pictures and shortlist a few places from your phone, without much hassle.
However, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Despite the obvious conveniences offered by social media, you still need to keep your wits about you before finalizing the place you’re going to be spending a lot of time in over the next year or more.
We got in touch with a few people in Delhi, who have used groups on Facebook, including Flat and Flatmates (South Delhi Chapter) and Flat and flatmates (Gurgaon Chapter) multiple times and with considerable success. Most of their tips pointed towards one general direction: Be alert. And ask questions.
If you’re using FB or Twitter to find your next house, we’ve curated some commonsense advice here that can hopefully make your search faster and safer.
It’s not necessary to exchange numbers
Undoubtedly, it is important to communicate with fellow group members when you are searching for a house. Make sure, however, that you do not share your personal number with strangers on the group. The Messenger app or Facebook chat is a good enough platform to communicate from. Many users admitted that sharing their numbers online was a big mistake as the person at the other end was often an impostor, or a creep
Deepika Chugh, a Gurgaon-based resident said, “I zeroed down on a few houses as I was looking for a room in a two-BHK or three-BHK. I shared my number with around four people to take things further. To my horror, one of the persons who posed as a resident occupying a house turned out to be a broker and kept repeatedly calling me. I had to block his number.”
Sharing a similar incident, IT-professional Rupa Nath said, “I want a two-room apartment in South Delhi. Initially, I shared my number with one of the persons who said that she, which later happened to be he, was the tenant. He turned out to be a creep. The rest you can imagine. I blocked his number and alerted the group administrator as well. Now, I am very careful.”
Avoid solo visits
Although you might be in a hurry and want to finalize a house, make sure that you do not visit an apartment alone, especially when you are going for the first time. We have no intention of freaking you out, but as they say, better safe than sorry.
A few others also suggested that having friends to give you company is also useful as they can also give their opinion when you are confused.
“I do not have many friends in the capital. I went out alone to see apartments. Honestly, I did not face any serious problem. But, during one of the visits, the house had a dark and shady staircase and the owner was really strange and it totally freaked me out! I called a friend and asked him to remain on the line till I came out of the building,” Rupa said.
Pictures can lie
WhatsApp and Facebook have made photo sharing very easy. In fact, most of the posts on the various groups on Facebook are coupled with pictures. In case there aren’t any, the pictures are often later shared on Facebook chat if you show interest. But, on many occasions the pictures look much better and the house turns out to be a real disaster!
Narrating a funny instance, 26-year-old graphic designer Ankit Malhotra said, “I really liked an apartment (in pictures). When I went to see the house in Lajpat Nagar, I realised that it is one-BHK. While chatting, the person had said that it was a two-BHK. Even while I was standing there, he kept referring to the living room as the other bedroom. It did not even have a door!”
Sometimes, if you’re one of the lucky ones, you may be surprised to find a nice and bright apartment, which looks far better than its pictures. But, don’t count on it. Also, always insist on images of the washroom before trudging all the way up to the house. They’re usually a good indicator of the general maintenance standards of the property.
Utilities, agreements, and the fine print
“I have been living on my own since the past six years in Mumbai. I have shifted three times to stay closer to my college, and later, office. Facebook is a real saviour. However, I always make sure to get the details of the agreement and expenses of utilities before moving in,” marketing professional Arpit Bhatia said.
“Once, a few years ago, I shifted to this apartment and realised that the electricity did not have a separate meter and I had to share it with the tenant. It lead to complications initially,” he added.
Generally, besides the rent, electricity, water and the house help’s charges are separate. In case, you have a car, you might have to pay an amount for the parking also. Besides, there’s also internet charges in most houses that you’ll need to split with your flatmates. In a few cases, you might have to pay separate brokerage charges.
Remember, all this may not be mentioned in the sunny, cheery Facebook post, and the tenants might not bring it up on their own once you do meet. No matter how friendly and chilled out your potential flatmates seem, always insist of having these details sorted and preferably recorded on your rent clause.
For those who want a solo apartment, it is important to meet and interact with the house owner at least once and gauge his or her general temperament. Even if you are sharing a place with others, it helps to know the ombudsman in case you need to report any problems with the house later.
Some owners come with their own set of rules and can often act more like hostel wardens! Delhi-based resident Garima Pathak said, “I stay with three other girls in a two-BHK and they are very co-operative. But before zeroing down on this house, I met this landlady who said that ‘please make sure that your friends leave the house by 11’ . There was another owner who had a big issue with my night shifts.”
Putting in some timely effort BEFORE you move in with bag and baggage is going to save you a lot of heartache and money later on. Use social media to your advantage, but be cautious and always ask questions. Happy house hunting!