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Home away from home

Chennai has the third-largest expatriate population in India, estimated at over 100,000 in 2016. In recent years especially, Chennai has witnessed a gradual increase in the number of expatriates residing in the city that has led to a subsequent increase in housing demand. Chennai’s diversified economy and growing investments from other countries are main reasons behind this growth, says A. Shankar, National Director, JLL India.

Popular areas in the city preferred by expats include Old Mahabalipuram Road, Sriperumbudur, and Oragadam, for their proximity to industrial areas, East Coast Road for the availability of large bungalows close to the sea, Adyar, Besant Nagar for commercial zones, city-centric areas such as Mylapore, Alwarpet, Nungambakkam, and posh centres such as Anna Nagar, Boat Club Road, Raja Annamalai Puram.

seek expats include manufacturing, automobile, pharmaceutical, IT, transportation, telecom, and banking. They are also hired for their expertise in urban infrastructure (railroads, urban connectivity – metros, motorways, express highways and roads), specialty chemicals, technology, pharma, polymers, medical devices, clinical trials, and e-commerce. Kanchana Krishnan, Director – Chennai, Knight Frank (India), says, “The hiring of international experts had declined after the Lehman crisis in 2008. But after the revival of the Indian economy, we are witnessing a gradual increase in this space.” Japan, Taiwan, Finland, Korea, France, and Germany have made sizeable investments in the Tamil Nadu, which is home to global brands such as BMW, Dell, Ford, Hyundai, Nokia, Renault-Nissan, and Samsung. There is a noticeable percentage of expats from USA, Mauritius, UK, Australia, Singapore, Belgium, and Netherland as well.

Explaining their preferred housing options, G. Seshasayee, Chief- Business Development, Navin’s, says a majority prefer renting and leasing homes as it is a more flexible option. “Given the regulations for investment in India for a foreign national, most expats opt for renting rather than buying a home. Also, most have jobs that require them to travel frequently, so the lease option works out better.” It is illegal for foreign nationals to own property in India unless they satisfy the residency requirement of 183 days in a financial year (a tourist visa lasts for 180 days). It is also illegal to buy property on a tourist visa. Moreover, a non-resident Indian (NRI) or foreign national of Indian origin (PIO) cannot buy a property jointly with a foreigner.

Newer models have been adopted by companies to accommodate their expat employees. They generally tie up with developers on a short or long term lease agreement basis. An array of housing options available to expats include apartments, duplexes, independent houses, farm houses, guest houses, studio units, penthouses, and dormitories. Depending on their location and availability of social infrastructure, unit sizes vary from 500 sq.ft. studio units to large 5,000 sq.ft. bungalows. “A major portion of the expat community prefers living in upmarket localities and low-density developments. Independent furnished housing options with gardens and open spaces that give them privacy, and space for outdoor activities are in demand,” adds Seshasayee.

T. Chitty Babu, Chairman & Managing Director, Akshaya Homes, says while families prefer 2-3BHK units, bachelors prefer a 1 or 2 BHK. “They are usually fully furnished and designed keeping in mind their living culture back home. Certain housing requirements are fulfilled by the company, and the management takes extra care when choosing their residential accommodations. Several companies have adopted a hands-on approach to develop cluster homes, by developing ready homes for their employees.”

So how do these spaces differ from apartments and homes designed for Indians? Experts say certain requirements of expats are different. For instance, they require a dry kitchen with built-in facilities, garbage chutes, laundry services, and power back-up generators. Wardrobes, modular kitchens, swimming pools, gardens, barbecue pits, gymnasiums, and terrace areas are a must. “Apartments are often built in the Western style with a complete range of equipment such as a fridge, minibar, built-in oven, water filters, storage closets, internet/wifi, and home automation systems,” says Shankar. They are particular about the interiors, and prefer well furnished homes. Additionally, they expect homes to be pet-friendly, says Chitty Babu. “The presence of security personnel is important to them and they expect homes to be well-equipped with invertors in areas that have frequent power cuts,” he adds.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 4:08:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/homes-and-gardens/Home-away-from-home/article16667479.ece

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