Home Buyers Speak: Priyanka Joseph On Owning A Home In India And New York
Priyanka Joseph is an actuary with Gen Re, a Berkshire Hathaway company. Her husband, Nithin George Eapen, is a freelancer who was earlier a trader with UBS Investment Bank. After moving its North American headquarters from Manhattan nearly two decades ago, UBS built the world's largest trading floor in Stamford. After moving to a suburb, the Swiss investment bank found it difficult to attract the best bankers and traders. But, this couple prefers to live in Stamford, where they enjoy all the amenities that city-dwellers do while staying away from the bustling streets.
Priyanka spent many months redesigning her Mediterranean style home that was built in 1990. She now lives with her husband and four children in this beautiful suburban home. The 12,980 sq ft house with six bedrooms is nearly 32 miles away from Manhattan.
Priyanka liked the home as it was, architecturally, very interesting. "My neighbourhood has many colonial style homes. This Mediterranean style home was very different from the other buildings. The exteriors are made of brick, but the interiors were not properly maintained,'' she recalled.
The ceilings are high, and doors and windows are large. "I love high ceilings because the room appears larger. The costs of heating and air-conditioning are high when the rooms have high ceilings, but we felt that it is a price worth paying," Priyanka said.
Back then, building her house near New York was not even an option. "Land in New York is very expensive. I work nearby in Stamford. Our home is close to the downtown. Except in peak hours, Manhattan is at best a 40-45 minute drive away," she explained.
The couple negotiated with the seller and was able to buy the house at a lower price. "It is an expensive home, but for the amenities it offers, the price was reasonable. Doors, windows and tables made of glass are not efficient from an energy conservation point of view. But, it is always good to have more sunlight inside rooms," Priyanka said.
Buying or building a house in India is a different story, though. When she built a 3,000 sq ft home in Kerala's Kottayam a few years ago, her experience building a home in India was different. "My home in Kottayam was built by a contractor who owns large tracts of land in the town. In India, such transactions are often based on personal relationship and trust,'' she said.
In the United States, the process is more web-based, though. "If you buy your home online, you need not roam around, struggling to find the best possible deal. There is greater transparency when you buy from a real estate portal like Realtor or Zillow. On the web, it is much easier to find out how close the market rate is to the listed price,'' she said.
Back home in India, online real estate portals were not very popular until very recently, like they are today, she adds. In the US, Nithin and Priyanka sold their previous home overnight on Craiglist.
When asked to elaborate on the difference between buying a home in the US and India, Nithin joined the conversation. "Real estate in the US is far more affordable. If you leave out New York and other major cities, homes are far more affordable than in India. In many cases, you can buy a home at a much lower price than it was built. The leverage is much lower when you buy a home in India. Stamp duty is much higher in India. So, many transactions happen in black money. In many cases, it is difficult to know the selling price of a home. But, with online property portals, I believe this is changing," Nithin said.
Nithin pointed out that rental yield is also higher in the US than in India. "In Cochin or Trivandrum, the rental yield is rarely above one per cent. But in the New York City, it could be closer to 10 per cent. Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) who buy property in India should ensure that others do not encroach on their property. I know of cases in which NRIs had to pay 10-15 lakh to evict tenants because courtroom procedures last years. In the US, you can evict tenants in a few weeks or at most, a few months. NRIs who buy property in India should also pay attention to fluctuations in currency exchange rates, and norms on currency convertibility and repatriation of assets," Nithin said.