Saturday, October 31, 2009

Who's thy neighbour?

Ideally, a face that smiles in passing, a pleasant enough garden or small patch of green outside the building, a grocer, a small supermarket, a place that sells trinkets and other browse-worthy items, a shop selling eggs and salami, a stationer’s and a photocopy place should form part of your neighbourhood.

Not everyone can have all of these, while some may have more. When you shortlist a particular property, prepare the following general checklist for the neighbourhood:

- How must one reach the house from the railway station?
- How will this property change your commuting patterns? If for worse, how much worse?
- Is there a share-auto/ share-cab service from station to home?
- How far are the shops that matter? I would be more interested in shops selling general stuff like toothpaste and pest cleaners, than a jeweller’s and gift centre.
- What are the nearest landmarks? Is it necessary to include them in the new postal address?
- What options will you have for eating? Are there any restaurants close to home? What about home delivery services if you want a take-away?
- Also, is there a home delivery service for groceries?
- Make a trip to the area at night. Does the place creep you out or do you actually like how it appears in the dark? Is the darkness safe or scary?
- Is transportation available in the night hours in case you have a medical emergency?
- Is there a hospital close by? Also, is there a general practitioner in the vicinity?
- How far is your bank? Also check for the nearest ATM.
- Is there a Skypak facility to pay your bills?
- Is there a local fruits and vegetables market?
- How many families reside in the neighbourhood? What is their general profile?

You can add any other questions that occur to you. Once you’ve checked out about one kilometer or more around the chosen property, you need to check the building itself for other parameters such as:

- Who are the people living on the same floor? How willingly do they part with information?
- How well-lit is the building at night?
- Is there enough water and uninterrupted piped gas supply whenever you visit?
- Does the building look like it needs general repairs? Find out when the last repairs were done.
- What are the maintenance charges?
- What is the car/bike parking schedule like?
- Are there any incidental expenses you might be charged in lieu of repairs/ installing security?
- Does the building have a watchman or any form of protection from intruders? If not, is the house equipped with enough security?
- Are there any health/ recreational facilities in the society? What are the charges?
- Is there a baby-sitting service run by anybody in the building itself?
- Is it okay for you to run a small business, like say, take tuitions or computer classes in your home, of course with adequate permissions from the society?
- Is the managing committee okay with you carrying out certain modifications, such as widening a window or adding a wall? Find out what permissions are required for the same.
- Is there a strict anti-non-vegetarian/people of opposite sex coming to stay and visit/ partying with music and guests code?
- Does the building celebrate festivals and such? How much are you expected to contribute to the same?
- Does the building have its own handyman to carry out plumbing/electrical/carpentry repairs?
- What is the building’s policy on allowing courier boys/repair men enter the premises?

These are just general pointers; every place comes with its own challenges so you’ll have to add or deduct a few questions. But be sure to survey the place inside and out in detail – you don’t want any upsets later, trust me. Good luck!

Next: Minimum intervention and how to restore a house