The idea of owning a holiday retreat in the hills is slowly catching among buyers. Asha Sridhar reports

Planning a holiday to a hill station isn’t easy, especially if you’ve zeroed in on the choc-a-bloc ‘holiday season.’ Owning a home, then, in the hills makes good sense. With the idea of a holiday home in the hills of Tamil Nadu slowly changing to include not just sprawling estates but also smaller properties, a second address in the hills has become an option being considered by many.

“The market for second homes in hill stations dates back to India’s colonial days and will certainly grow, but not on the scale seen in the West where buyers tend to spend their entire summers at their vacation homes and buy them accordingly in terms of scale and numbers,” says Badal Yagnik, Managing Director, Chennai, Jones Lang LaSalle India, a global real estate services firm.

With the entry of developers who now buy and sell smaller portions of land, the entry level has now come down to as low as Rs. 10 lakh, says Anjan Rangaraj, Managing Director, Catalyst Properties. A property lead management company, they are now exclusively marketing Kodai Jacaranda, a project developed by EcoEarth.

However, even among those who decide to invest in a second home the idea of buying a holiday home is still catching up. “The concept is an emerging one in India, and the driving motives and scale are different,” says Badal Yagnik. “Since hill stations fall in the Tier II / III category of real estate markets, properties are — with some exceptions — not as expensive there as they are in the primary cities. They are definitely accessible to the middle-income group with a second home investment objective. “

With Tamil Nadu having well-known hill stations like Ooty and Kodaikanal, and upcoming ones like Yercaud, Yelagiri and Kotagiri, deciding on a destination to invest usually stems from where the buyer is based, and whether they are looking at it as an investment or as a holiday home. “The buyers are generally from the big cities like Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, the rest being from the tier-II cities. Most often those from the Madurai belt invest in Kodaikanal, those from Salem in Yercaud and those from in and around Coimbatore in the Nilgiris, where Coonoor, Kotagiri and Ketti are becoming very popular,” adds Anjan Rangaraj.

With the entry of gated communities, where promoters identify and develop the land, offer 24-hour security, marked boundaries, and maintenance after a collection of a corpus fund and basic infrastructure fee, the processes which an individual buyer earlier had to go through have now been simplified. “I recently invested in a plot in a hill station, and it was possible largely because our developer took us through the entire process. The project had full compounding and the titles were clear. There was a sense of security because I was dealing with an organisation rather than an individual,” says Ms Sivarajni from Chennai.

Badal Yagnik suggests a basic checklist before investing in a hill station, especially while buying an individual house. “Ensure that the property exists in an area with sufficient security since it will be known in the locality that the owners visit only rarely, creating criminal interest. Invest in a location and project that allows for sufficient resale value should maintenance of the property prove untenable, or if fast liquidity is required. Do a due check on the property’s antecedents and ensure that all necessary permissions and clearances are available. Also, since this property would be in an unfamiliar area, enquire about local property rates or have it valued professionally if in doubt about the builder’s asking price.”

Siva Kumar, Director, of the Salem based Greenfield Shelters, who has a gated community project called Wild Orchid in Yercaud is optimistic about Yercaud’s prospects for becoming a preferred destination calling it unexploited and an ideal option for retirees.

“Yercaud is one of the closest hill stations to a city and its climate being pleasant through the year, makes it a good weekend getaway. For retirees, though there is a doctor on call at Wild Orchid, besides which Salem is less than an hour’s drive from Yercaud in case of an emergency.”

Since land is limited and the demand is increasing there will definitely be good appreciation of the property, they say. However to make it sustainable in the long run, the projects being developed need to be made hill-friendly, not disturbing the neighborhood’s ecology and environment.

Keywords: hill resorts