“Boss, you have to finalise it today.”
“I’ll tell you by tomorrow evening.”
“No, no, today.”
“But what if I don’t like any of them?”
“Don’t worry. I’ll keep showing you flats till you like one.”
“I will be able to decide only by tomorrow.”
“Then pay me 200 bucks now. If you finalise something tomorrow, you can deduct it from my brokerage.”
I am taken aback. Rs 200 just for seeing a flat? What if I didn’t finalise any? The answer is clear — I could kiss those 200 bucks goodbye. But that’s just how things work in New Ashok Nagar.
Well, if you can’t beat them, join them. So here I am, riding pillion with a boy who is probably still in his teens. It’s around 7.30 pm and I am looking for a 1 BHK for rent. Why here, you may ask. No, not because living on the border of Delhi and Noida has a mysterious door to Narnia, but because I work in Noida, Sector 2. Great job, decent salary and weekends off. But I need to find a house asap — I can’t spend four hours travelling every day from South Delhi!
I am currently paying Rs 7,500 a month, and there is no way I am spending more than Rs 10,000. Sharing a flat with a friend is always a great idea, but it seems my roommate has chosen this very month to switch jobs and may not be staying with me too long. And I am not a fan of strangers.
The bike stops in front of a narrow, three-storey building in one of the bylanes. I am ushered into a dingy-looking flat with no windows! As for a balcony, “use the staircase”, my broker helpfully tells me.
The next flat turns out worse. The bedroom can only accommodate a bed and an almirah. But this rathole is up for Rs 10,000! I glare at the boy. He seems to understand the deal won’t go through. Doesn’t give a fish, though, and brings up the 200 bucks again. I am done with New Ashok Nagar, I tell myself.
Mayur Vihar Phase I is my next stop. The drill is the same, but there is no Rs 200 charge. There is no bike either. We walk — a lot. Here, all 1 BHKs I am shown, except one, are on the third floor. Is it because I am a bachelor? My boss would joke about it later: Good for you! Wouldn’t someone your age prefer a flat on the third floor?
The rent is Rs 11,000 for a flat on the first floor. But there’s another problem. The Metro is not at a walkable distance. So Mayur Vihar doesn’t work for me either.
Noida, Sector 15, is where I head to next. It’s a well-planned residential area — but quality comes with a price tag. There is nothing here in my budget. The broker makes a last-ditch effort and shows me the “Janta” flats — tiny two-room sets with even tinier staircases. Even climbing up the stairs with luggage will be difficult, let alone navigating a fridge, or a bed. The rent here is between Rs 8,000 and Rs 10,000. Thanks, but no thanks.
By now I am exhausted. But I have to make a decision. I inwardly cringe. OK, one last try — New Ashok Nagar, I convince myself.
This time I look up 99acres. And find a post from a house owner. I call him up and show up at his door an hour later. The flat is spacious and — surprise! — has a balcony. Two, actually. There is no brokerage and I am able to negotiate for no water charges. Moreover, unlike other flats I’ve seen, this one doesn’t have a “sub-meter” to measure power units consumed (Rs 7- 8 per unit). This one’s turning out to be quite a find. The owner is asking for Rs 10,000 for the first floor, Rs 9,000 for the second and Rs 8,000 for the third. He won’t budge. I go for the first floor.
So what’s the takeaway from my experience? It’s better to negotiate with the landlord directly. Some landlords do post online.
In the neighbourhoods I searched in, except New Ashok Nagar, a decent 1 BHK comes at no less than Rs 14,000 to Rs 15,000 a month. So, if you don’t share my aversion to strangers, it’s a good idea to find a flatmate.
The “show charge”, as I call it, is specific to New Ashok Nagar so far, but is likely to spread to other neighbourhoods. Yes, I make it sound like a virus — and it probably is.
If you’re a bachelor, you will probably be shown flats on the higher floors. Crib internally all you will, but not out loud, because: “Bhaiyya, even girls don’t complain about these stairs. Apko itni problem ho rahi hai?!” It will be all you can do to roll your eyes.