Apartments in Mylapore - Photo: Vinoth Chandar
Apartments in Mylapore – Photo: Vinoth Chandar

 

To make sure that your arrival in India is as smooth as it can possibly be, Asia Options has compiled you a guide on how to find accommodation in India. Securing the right lodgings in India is notoriously tricky, but if you go in armed with the right information, it doesn’t need to be a headache. Whether you are a relocating professional, temporary student, budding intern, volunteer or even just a traveller, this guide will help you make the most out of your time in India.

There is a myriad of accommodation options in every Indian city that will suit your budget, lifestyle and duration of stay. We talk you through the A-to-Z of finding an apartment or flat – from finding the right broker or real estate agent to sealing the deal – and provide you with tips on college hostel accommodation, homestays or even hotel options, including links to helpful websites and Facebook groups.

 

Finding your own apartment or flat in India

Finding an apartment or flat (flat is the most commonly used term in India and the one we’ll keep using here) shouldn’t be hard if you know what your options are. It certain is a confusing process at the start, like many things in India, but we’ve organised a clear list of steps for you to follow.

 

Step 1 – Broker or real estate agent?

When looking for a flat in India, most people hire a professional to do the hard yards for them. These could be real estate agents working through an agency, or private brokers.

Brokers and real estate agents both liaise with landlords on your behalf and it is with them that you will negotiate price. In either case the process is relatively similar. Real estate agents are marginally more expensive than brokers and have a greater sense of accountability, however, brokers often have access to a wider variety of apartments.

To find a real estate agent check out sites like MagicBricks.com where you can search properties by agency. Looking for a broker can be trickier and it is recommended to choose a broker that someone you know can vouch for. If you have any contacts in India it is almost certain that they, or someone they know, will have a broker that they trust and can recommend. If you don’t have any personal contacts it is worth contacting the organisation or institution you will be working with to see if they are able to put you in touch with a reliable broker.

Once those options have been exhausted it is often useful to place a post on a Facebook messageboard of one of the many city specific general information groups. See for example Delhi Helpost.

 

Step 2 – Looking for a flat

Once you have a broker or agent, explain your price range and what you are looking for and get them to organise a day of viewings. The price range for flats varies dramatically depending on where you are looking, whether its in a large city or regional town, and even from suburb to suburb in the same city, so it’s hard to give you an estimate on what price you should expect.

A good way to do this is to schedule a full day of viewing. Flats can often be some distance from each other and you want to be able to take your time to properly consider each option. The day before your scheduled viewing day, ring your broker/real estate agent to confirm the arrangements (mobile phone communication is critical for this process) and try to organise a number of viewings at once.

Important things to consider are location and whether the building has a backup generator and air-conditioning (without which life in an Indian summer can be intolerable). Indian flats are listed according to their size and you are likely to come across the acronym ‘BHK’, which stands for Bedroom, Hall and Kitchen. A two bedroom flat will be described as a 2BHK, and so on. Be aware that the broker may pressure you to take a flat that they are trying to unload and it is important that you hold your ground and don’t settle unless you are happy with the flat.

Do your research on the suburb you are looking at. Is it close to transport options and your place of work or study, remembering it can often take a lot of time to get across town India’s big cities. Also, some suburbs or blocks of flats are vegetarian-only, and it pays to be respectful.

 

Step 3 – Sealing the deal

Once you have found the flat of your dreams it’s time to agree on a price! Unfortunately with this part of the process, the structure can vary wildly. Brokers and agents can and will ask for between one and two month’s rent as a brokerage fee, a security deposit of usually one month’s rent as well as one or two month’s rent paid in advance. Different brokers/agents will ask for different configurations of the above costs and the demands may fluctuate wildly. Keep in mind a clear price of how much you are willing to pay and stay firm when negotiating.

The price of flats vary wildly as well, with sharp differences between larger cities and smaller towns. Don’t worry though because there is room for negotiating in every real estate transaction. For an idea of which Indian city is right for you check out our Best Indian Cities to Study, Work and Live. Once you have agreed on a price make sure you receive a copy of the lease agreement and keep it safe for future reference. Congratulations on your new rental flat!

 

Option B – Going solo

If you are not interested in paying any brokerage fees and would prefer the freedom of looking for a flat by yourself, don’t worry, we’ve also got you covered! There are basically two main ways you could go about doing this. The first only requires a good pair of walking shoes. Head down to the central market of an area you are interested in. Often in these central spots you will find advertisements on telephone poles and walls. You could also ask around to see if anyone knows a flat for rent. While this seems a little archaic, it is the way that many Indian landlords advertise their flats, so it is definitely worthwhile. It is a good idea perhaps to brush up on your Indian language skills. Check out Asia Options’ guide to learning Hindi online.

If this all sounds a bit exhausting, don’t worry because India’s netizens have worked out a way to make life easier. There a number of websites devoted to owner postings for rental flats where you can contact landlords directly. Beware though, these postings are often created by brokers who will look for a brokerage fee. Here is a brief list of roughly similar sites to check out:

 

Joining a sharehouse

If you don’t necessarily need a whole flat to yourself and are happy to join a sharehouse there are a number of online resources that can help you connect with room vacancies. The best place to start would be Flatchat, an app that helps connect potential renters with flatsharers. Beyond this it is worthwhile having a look at a website like EasyRommate.com or Facebook groups such as:

 

Additional tips when flat hunting

There are a number of factors that will shape your desirability as a tenant that may not be immediately obvious to people of a non-Indian background. For example, single men (bachelors) are viewed with suspicion. Landlords are worried they will be unclean and noisy. If you are a single man you may need to find an Indian family or respected contact that can vouch for you. Being married (or finding a friend to pretend to be married to) is a big plus for potential landlords. You may also be also be asked if you are a vegetarian as some flats will not rent out to people who will cook or eat meat within the premise.

 

Bengaluru living - photo: Nicolas Mirguet
Bengaluru living – photo: Nicolas Mirguet

  

Finding short-term rental in India

Does the sound of finding a flat in India stress you out? There are number of options for people who are looking for accommodation without the hassle. These options tend to be much more convenient and often have optional services like cleaning and laundry included. The downside is that they can be quite expensive, but all this means is that they are perhaps more suited to a short-term stay. Students, volunteers and contract professionals might find the following sites useful for their stays in India.

  • Trip Advisor: Trip Advisor is a great destination for vacation rentals. Search around this site to see what you come up with.
  • HomeAway.comA giant in the vacation rental space with properties featured in countries around the world.
  • AirbnbAirbnb has properties displayed in over 185 countries. You can often get some pretty good deals.

 

College hostel accommodation

If you are going to be studying in India, it is worthwhile considering hostel accommodation. Attached to individual universities, hostels are basically dormitories where students are provided with basic amenities and sometimes food. Hostels are popular not only because of their competitive prices, but also because they are considered more secure and social than rental accommodation. The hostel experience is one that is central to many students’ tertiary experience, with the experience of being constantly surrounded by your peers transformative for many.

Rooms and amenities are often shared and the hostels are usually located near campus. Campus life at Indian universities can be incredibly collegial. For many international students the friendships and connections they make by staying at a hostel are the highlight of their experience.

The process for hostel admission varies enormously. Some universities will allocate you a placement upon admission. Others have limited space and choose boarders based on academic merit. This process often involves multiple interview rounds. Generally speaking, when you apply to a university college you will also apply to one of their hostels. However, note that sometimes hostel applications are processed via separate websites from the university applications process. Therefore you may need to do some research to see which hostels are affiliated to which colleges. Prices can range anywhere from AUD$6 per month (at government subsidised universities) to AUD$600 per month. These prices again will also vary for international students.

To find out more, go to your prospective university’s admissions page where the application process can be explored. You might also like to contact admissions officers at the colleges and hostels you are interested in for more information. Remember calling a phone number is inestimably better than sending an email that may not be replied to.

 

Homestay in India

Another highly recommended option, which is particularly common in India, is a homestay, where you can stay as a paying guest with a family in their home. This kind of accommodation often comes with meals provided and a wealth of local knowledge not available at hotels. If you choose to stay in a homestay it can also be a fantastic way to make personal connections in India and improve your language skills, especially if the host family does not speak English. Each homestay is unique, so check the hosts and what they offer.

To get started, check out HomestayFinder.

 

Hotels

For a lot of visitors to India it is easier to stay in a hotel. Hotels are likely to be a more expensive option than homestays or finding an apartment. However they can be a good safe option if you are only staying for a short period of time, it’s your first time to India or as a base for the first week or so while you find your feet.

Hotels in India range from grimy cellblocks in outer Delhi to the uber-luxurious Taj or Oberoi hotels. This diversity means that there are really no set rules. If you are on a budget, you can find hotels to pay from AUD$10- $20 a night for a single room, but remember these options will be very basic. The next bracket up is between $20-$50. If you are traveling for business, you might want to look at options above $50 for a single room. Like all the accommodation options in India, prices will differ from city to city and it best to choose you hotel based on level of comfort, the facilities and the location that suit your needs.

Some good places to start for hotel accommodation are AgodaTripAdvisor and Lonely Planet.

For more detail on each specific cities, check out the best Indian cities to study work and live

 

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Felix Pal

Felix is completing his PhD in International, Political and Strategic Studies at the Australian National University. Since his first trip in 2008, Felix has travelled extensively through the region. Having studied both Hindi and Urdu, he regularly finds himself back in Delhi for work, research and travel.
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