Settling in, my experiences getting a flat and school

#1 Jan 12th, 2009, 02:41
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  • ChrisHayes is offline
#1
I just thought I would share my experiences finding a flat in Kolkata.

I moved here from London 3 weeks back to join my wife and daughter who were here a couple of weeks before me. We were all staying in a guest house in Alipore which while nice is too far from my wifes office and daughters school.

Oh, schools. We selected the Calcuta International School as it kept our daughter in the type of system she is used to (has attended US international school and school in London) - in this case the UK system progressing currently to o and a levels. Tough personally it wouldn't surprise me if they switch to the IB system soon like everyone else. Fees are moderate but there is a total bill which about 15% is deposit of aprox. 200,000 rupees to enroll.

Oh and property agents. The commssion system is not explained by most, they seek I guess to ambush you at the end or simply assume you know. The agent if he finds you a place expects a fee of one months rent from both you and the landlord (though can be haggled). Giving no incentive to work for you. You have to sadly play one off against the other seeing who can get the best price, often over the same flat. These chaps can get quite animated if they incidentally think you are going behind their back to do a deal with the landlord directly. We experienced all this merryment for a week until the chap the company typical dealt with was available (Narendra Mohan Lakhotia - a fascinating man who has traveled the world as I think a consultant or in connection with his own business, which sadly hit the rocks forcing him to engage in a range of property/mutual fund/insurance consultancy roles - worth a natter if you happen to meet him and we thought an honest chap in his dealing with us) and had a far smoother experience subsequently.

We looked mainly along the EM Bypass with a budget of at most 25,000 rupees per month all in, not least because we have 2 mortgages to pay! We also checked out other residential areas elsewhere, including Salt Lake where for that amount it was possible to get a furnished 3 bedroom house or furnished/unfurnished flats for 15-20,000 (the latter in Salt Lake area).
Otherwise we concentrated on gated residential complex's with amenities like swimming pool, club, gym and so forth. Despite the somewhat negative press the social mix in these places gets they are secure to varying degrees and our 7 year old daughter will often sadly be without one parent or the other due to travel and we wanted to feel ok about her going off to play.

We checked out several complexes. By far the best looking we thought was Hiland Park. Active residents, loverly club, nice gardens, some ducks (ok that wasn't a factor). There were 4 common apartment layouts that kept cropping up and a few others we saw less of or were customised by tenants. The club incidentally was the best overall - Silver's might be fancier but couldn't match the 1000 rupees a month fee which is amasingly good for the wide range of facilities on offer. Silver City/Spring (name temporarily escapes me) is similar but it struck us as unfinished (undecorated halls, ongoing construction, not all fixtures in place) and less than half of the apartments are currently occupied. Bigger apartments and no doubt better when its finaly finished and full. Oh they really need though to spray more - I was mobbed by mosquetoes on every visit.
Both Hiland and Silver City have Judge Dred style housing blocks combining housing, shopping malls and cinema screens.
Our second choice behind Hiland was uidipur (am I getting the name right?). This had better air quality for whatever reasons and was comparable in every other regard, with bigger apartments to. However the average price was higher.

Prices. The range (in Hiland) centred around 18-22 un/semi furnished for 3 bedrooms and around 16 for 2. There was a duplex (two apartments built into one) for 30,000. Furnished ranged from 22 to 25 (a true oddity was for 40 - yes very nicely done in the latest MDF but I wish her well getting a tenant) depending on quality. This sometimes did or didn't include maintance which was around 2000 per month. The best balance was a very well done up furnished apartment - though somewhat dimmer than what I'm used to (you might like that in summer) - for 25 thousand plus maintance. That was ruled out though by the tenants deciding they weren't going to be able to leave until March and the final nail for my wife was the discovery the son had committed suicide by jumping out the window. This did explain why they were now so barred and dim however.

Instead we have gone for a furnished place for 23 including maintance (living room, kitchen opens onto it, 2 bath rooms, 3 other rooms currently bedrooms, probably 1200 square feet, can't remember offhand) but we will most likely have to buy a new king sized bed and maybe a few other pieces of furniture (and an oven - they aren't used it seems here!).

Hope this proves useful for anyone making a similar transition.

Next job - find a second hand car I won't cry over when it gets hit by another vehicle! Any suggestions (maybe I'll start a thread).
#2 Jan 12th, 2009, 03:27
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  • Nick-H is online now
#2
Thanks for an amazingly informative post
~
Life gets aadhar every day.
.
#3 Jan 13th, 2009, 11:53
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#3
Well, hopefully will be of help to others.
#4 Jan 15th, 2009, 19:38
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#4
Thanks - this was amazingly useful. My husband and I are moving to Kolkata from London in March and it was great to get an insight into your experience.

We came for a look just before Christmas and it felt like all the apartments we saw doubled in price as soon as we walked in the door! We will be looking in the Alipore area when we come in March. Any ideas what we should roughly expect to pay for a 3-4 bed apartment in a pleasant and well maintained block?
#5 Jan 16th, 2009, 00:26
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#5
Thanks for a very informative thread.

I am in the early stages of negotiating a move to Kolkata, I have never been there before, I have been to Mumbai and Goa many times.
What would be a good area for housing (I will be working at the Airport)
What sort of costs for a fully furnished 2/3 bed appt or house? Shared block or house with pool would be great? Long term rental.
Do you have a housekeeper come in? What would I expect to pay per day/week? Owing to me being lazy and hate shopping I would want them to do this and washing!
Rather than buy a car, I would use Taxis is this a cost effective way to get around?
Thanks in advance
Thank you

Ian.
#6 Jan 21st, 2009, 06:08
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#6
The guesthouse we were staying in in Alipore was in a ok block. There a 3 bedroom flat was around 20,000 I recall. Prices vary hugely though. Luckily the things I value (lots of natural light being a key one!) aren't the same as locals, so the 'best' places aren't always the most expensive. The upside of Alipore is its far more central and there are a lot less mosquetoes than the suburbs. The downside is its more polluted air wise, can be a lot more noisy and you probably won't get the intergrated club (gym and similar) that can be quite handy when you are feeling lazy!. Also it seems only the newly built places (sometimes) have double glazing so if you find somewhere otherwise ideal might be an idea to get it glazed yourself if you are going to be here for any amount of time.
If you drop me a line when you come I can give you the name of the one property agent was thought was worth anything.
#7 Jan 21st, 2009, 06:28
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#7
I have discovered so far a complete lack of a-z's. So no idea what is the area near the airport! I know from my bit though it takes 40 minutes to an hour to get there along the bypass. Once I get a better internet connection google earth will hopefully be my friend!

I would have prefered an independant house personally, however Kolkata doesn't seem to have complexs of them with centralised generators and the like, and fear power cuts in summer after being stuck in Dhaka for so long. We were finding houses furnished to an ok standard for 25,000, though you would wanting no doubt to add a few things yourself.
Long term rental seems to make no difference, indeed based on whether or not you think rantal prices will be falling you might not want a long contract. Certainly this flat I am in now went for 2000 a month less than the previous tenants paid according to the contract I found whilst cleaning.

Housekeepers seem to cost up to 2500 a month depending on duties (and no doubt cost more if you would like them to speak English). Aso there are options of 'live in' maids which can cost more or less depending on their own costs and whether they interpret this as a burden or a bonus for you. Currently everyone I talk to would like to stay here (they don't realise the flats TV isn't plugged in or going to be connected I bet) when really I'd prefer that they didn't. Since I'm white everyone keeps asking for more (despite me being currently unemployed and wife working for an Indian company). I have no problem paying more incidentally but would like it tied to performance and ability to work competently without supervision rather than be what was expected. Not sure if this idea is to revolutionary though. I do have the number somewhere of a maid agency that I'll try if the people affiliated to this complex are not good enough.

Taxis so far have struck me as a pricey way of moving around, costing 200 or so an hour. Also the desire to use meters decreases dramatically at night or in residential areas (where they can be scarce). Hiring a car and driver for a day was better for use if we expected to be making a lot of journeys. Certainly buying a car seems a lot cheaper, though I would prefer a second hand one so I don't have to worry about crashing it.
Also it seems part of your tax bill (if you are paying tax in India) can be spent on things like drivers (who cost more than maids for what seems to me to be a far easier job) which gives a slight discount in a way, though I'm personally not keen on one.
#8 Jan 21st, 2009, 08:41
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#8
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisHayes View Post Taxis so far have struck me as a pricey way of moving around, costing 200 or so an hour. Also the desire to use meters decreases dramatically at night or in residential areas (where they can be scarce). Hiring a car and driver for a day was better for use if we expected to be making a lot of journeys.
Taxis are better if you travel shorter to medium distances. I usually hire a car if I have to travel longer distances around the city. A non-AC Amby is often cheaper than cabs for longish intra-city travel: Rs 400 for 6hrs/60kms, and Rs 6.5 a km/Rs 65 per hour thereafter...
Bhole Baba Paar Karega!!
#9 Jan 21st, 2009, 19:00
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stungan View Post Taxis are better if you travel shorter to medium distances. I usually hire a car if I have to travel longer distances around the city. A non-AC Amby is often cheaper than cabs for longish intra-city travel: Rs 400 for 6hrs/60kms, and Rs 6.5 a km/Rs 65 per hour thereafter...

Chris: Thats very helpful, Thanks very much.
Stungan: Again helpful and I will keep a record for future reference.

I am still not sure if I want to drive over there? Could I afford and would I want to pay up for a minor knock that was not my fault? I think not and to save a lot of hassles for me, a driver is going to be the answer?
#10 Jan 21st, 2009, 20:19
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#10
Well a driver won't nessecerily avoid knocks. Indeed some are extremely passive aggressive I've driven in worse places and in general drive following best practice and every accident will be the other guys fault. You would still probably have to pay out for damage (there is nothing like 3rd party insurance here) from your pocket or from your insurance.
Still ask the company what hire car outfit they use and enquire as to the cost of a monthly/yearly rental then compare witht he costs of a new car, second hand car, both with or without driver and attendant hassles, add in hassle factor and go with what you think is best!
Besides telling angry drivers who are at fault is good arguement practice!
#11 Jan 21st, 2009, 20:48
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#11
Thanks Chris

We witnessed some of the amazing antics after an amazingly small bump when out with an ex pat in Goa
The car we were driving in was clipped by a car, who failed to stop at a side street, our friend paid 500Rups to the other guy he said it was easier that way
But thanks for those ideas, I will ask questions of my employer and get some figures down and have a little play,before deciding?
Theres so much to be thinking about before you even decide to move over there? Hopefully I will get to hear about the job early next week?

Thanks again
Ian
#12 Jan 21st, 2009, 21:39
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Yes... if you plan properly. We went for an ad hoc approach, moved into a company guesthouse then figured everything out in situ! What has surprised me is a lot of electricals and electronics seem more expensive here than in London, so might pick some up when I go back for a couple of weeks in Febuary.
As for paying for damage it would be a cold day in hell before I paid off someone else for something that was their fault. Though this did lead me to almost getting attacked by a mob in Dhaka Ultimately what can they do? And just to be on the safe side I make a point of finding out where senior police offices go club/bar wise so i get to meet a few where ever I go
#13 Jan 21st, 2009, 22:06
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisHayes View Post Yes... if you plan properly. We went for an ad hoc approach, moved into a company guesthouse then figured everything out in situ! What has surprised me is a lot of electricals and electronics seem more expensive here than in London, so might pick some up when I go back for a couple of weeks in Febuary.
As for paying for damage it would be a cold day in hell before I paid off someone else for something that was their fault. Though this did lead me to almost getting attacked by a mob in Dhaka Ultimately what can they do? And just to be on the safe side I make a point of finding out where senior police offices go club/bar wise so i get to meet a few where ever I go

Oh I like the bar/club idea and you get to do some drinking, all in the name of research of course Like you I would never, ever want to pay anyone for there own stupidity? So a little something(someone) to fall back on is helpful.
I will have to look at the cost of electricals, TV,DVD player being a priority then? Will it still be cheaper by the time you have got it there and customs etc etc? Please let me know how you get on with the comparisons?
#14 Apr 15th, 2009, 15:25
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Well my further adventures. No car yet as I was in London for a while and my wife wants me to sort it out. On the plus side teh emergence of the Nano seems to have brought prices down.

Electricals are indeed cheaper, and as I'm a PIO I got to import them duty free with my stuff as I'm moving here to live. Still it meant I had to change all the plugs.

DVD wise I just got a cheap one, in part because Richer Sounds hadn't get any regionless players in and in part because my last nice one got zapped one too many times in dhaka and became somewhat unreliable. I didn't have to get a TV the house already had one. But printer/MFD, electronic picture frames, bread maker (Yeast seems only to be available to me in New Market), george foreman grill and other such exotics I got at home.

We had a wonderful time at customs. The company was shipping our stuff over (mostly consisting of 3 crates of Barbies) and the London agent contracted some people here. So the stuff arrives, we are informed that despite the whole agent thing we still have to go to the airport. So we do. For 3 1/2 hours we are led like sheep past endless forms and the crates are inspeced, stuff is stamped etc etc. Then two of the three idiots helping dissappear and the remaining young guy insists we call the local agent.
He informs us that customs wishes to charge us 58,000 rupees import tax, but we could get away with paying half the money as a bribe. Succinct words are spoken and he gets rather angry at our response, not pehaps realising we weren't making up the information that in a fit of boredom I had read the regulations surrounding moving to India and we didn't have to pay anything as nothing was new (well some of it was but after I'd played with it in London it wasn't pristine). Further sheep we may be but literate ones with the ability to scan forms for pertainent detals like 'not dutable goods' and similar tick boxes used by the customs staff.
He hung up, we went to complain to the customs officiers. They denied all knowledge saying the agent was trying to con us. So we called hi back, said we would pay, and when his chap came back for the cash the customs guys grabbed him and had a go, giving him 15 minutes to get the crates out of the warehouse or get arrested.
They were suppose to reach our house that night but no show. Next morning agent rang again demanding 12,000 and this time was informed we were calling the police. 2 minutes later he rang back saying there was a communication problem with London but they had just paid him (at 2:30 Sunday morning, the big fibber) and our things would arrive in an hour.
Sadly when they arrived on te back of a high lorry the first two were offloaded by being thrown high in the air to smash on the concrete before they could be stopped breaking some of the contents. So near and yet so far.
Really he would have had more of a chance if he hadn't been so greedy.
#15 Apr 15th, 2009, 19:26
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#15

Talking Interesting!!!

Hi Chris, thanks so much for updating your trials and tribulations of your move to Kolkata and subsequent problems at the airport with regards to shipping tax free items.

I myself am thinking of settling in Kolkata, maybe we could meetup as I am due to fly to Kolkata between July 18th-22nd August this year.

Your story so far has been an inspiration to me, the only difference between ourselves is that I intend to try to setup a business there, or my wife will.

We already have a home off AJC Bose Road, close to Ripon Street.

Later, once I have posted the prerequisite number of posts, maybe we can PM each other.

Many thanks again on your wonderful posts, maybe we will meet in Kolkata soon.

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