Imagine a quaint little house with a garden up front and open spaces all around shaded with coconut and tall beetle nut trees. Imagine standing on the soft wet grass and feeling the soothing cold raindrops on your skin. Imagine sitting on the rooftop and staring up at the full moon dreaming greater dreams. That's what Rimi does most of the time. She daydreams about what it would be like to have all that. It's been ten years of her marriage and she is disappointed because her husband, Ratan, has not been able to make her dream house materialise. Reality bites hard as Ratan knows that owning a house in our over populated city is a distant dream. At times it seems so far out of reach as to be almost impossible. He keeps telling her that something will happen but with little faith in his heart.
Choked in the city
People have been flocking to the city at an alarming rate as job prospects in the outlying districts have been drying up. Farming and other traditional trades have seen a decline in profits as a result of which people look to Dhaka for hope. This rate of influx has gone up by 50-90 percent in the last twenty years. While a few years ago the population of Dhaka was about 80 lakh it now stands at over one crore people. This gives rise to an overcrowded situation despite the fact that the city has expanded on every side. Uttara, Tongi, Gazipur, Savar, Demra etc can be considered major parts of the city now even though some years ago they seemed like sparsely populated suburbs. Land seems to have shrunk with prices going way over the purchasing power of the middle class. Property within the city can cost as much as 20-50 lakh taka per katha. The suburbs may be cheaper but they still cost a whopping 5-10 lakhs. Added to this woe is the spiraling price of raw materials. In these difficult times, holding a budget of 25 lakhs will hardly be adequate to build a decent house on 2 kathas of land.
A gift wrapped home
In all this gloom there is a faint glimmer of hope. Development firms like Eastern Housing, Bashundhara, Amin Mohammad Foundation and so on have built up areas within the city that were considered uninhabitable. These places include Mirpur's Pallabi, Banasri in Rampura, Aftabnagar, Niketan in Tejgaon, Nikunjo beside Airport Road and of course the idyllic Bashundhara and Green Model town in Sabujbaagh. Such firms have allowed people to acquire property at 4-5 lakhs per katha in a secure, hassle free manner.
Land development firms have been sprouting up like mushrooms over the last decade. As building a dream house became less of a reality for the middle class, developers provided the benefit of relatively affordable apartments. Eastern Housing was one of the pioneers in this field although initially the flats were built for the affluent. The land constraints made it more feasible to build small apartments that the middle class could afford. This was a dream come true for many as it enabled them to have a home with very little effort. The red tape legality required for drawing up blueprints, getting permits, buying raw materials etc is a major hassle. What developers did was supply a ready made home for anyone to purchase albeit for a large amount of money.
Taking the first step
Purchasing a flat basically where the amount is charged per square feet of area. The range of homes varies between 900-2600 square metres. There can be different sized flats on the same floor that are priced accordingly. A 1400 square metre apartment in the posh areas like Gulshan and Dhanmondi could cost in excess of 40-70 lakhs. In other places such as Old Dhaka, such flats could cost between 25-40lakhs.There are about 10-12 development firms that build decent apartment complexes. It obviously costs less if it is possible to make a full down payment. A 3-5 year installment plan can raise the amount by 2-4 lakhs. Generally the firms collect money every two months at the rate of 2-3 lakhs. Booking costs can be about 5 lakhs that have to be paid in the beginning. When the payments are completed the deeds are handed over to the new owners and it has to be registered accordingly.
Living on borrowed money
Just as many development companies have sprouted up to build living spaces, loan- providing firms have also come into existence to meet demands. Not everyone can pay a full down payment and own an apartment. For them many loan providing organisations give 50-70 percent of the amount. The loans are provided upon agreement of certain terms. These include leaving the main documents with the firm until completion of the loan repayment as well as having an income of 80-100,000 taka. Of course, service holders have to have a minimum of 30 000 taka income every month. The loan recipient generally has to be less than 50 years of age as well as having another family member as a loan partner. When all these requirements have been met, the recipient is granted a loan with 13-14 percent monthly interest with repayment terms extending from 5 to15 years. Processing fees can cost 7000-12000 taka. Apart from these organizations, commercial banks also offer loan facilities.
All that glitters
While developers may dazzle you with flashy billboards and brochures, the reality can often be quite different. For instance the materials they use to furnish a finished flat are usually of the lowest quality to save on cost. As a result tiles, paint and other furnishings can end up looking quite bedraggled in a couple of years time. Consequently, many people opt to buy flats where they can complete all the furnishings themselves. Apart from that, one may have to end up paying a much higher labour charge to the development companies work crew. They charge you even more when one supplies his/her own materials saying that it is extra work. As a result the home owner is better off keeping aside about 10 lakh taka for such activities. While the marketing hacks will sweet talk a prospective client throughout the whole buying process, the construction workers can often behave in a way that can leave you speechless. Inexperienced workers are often put to tasks which when complained about can often result in brusque behaviour. One hapless person from Shantinagar complained about the lower quality workmanship and was rudely told that he is not a resident of Gulshan or Banani and that he should expect quality work and material. The problem lies in the lack of any regulatory body that can measure the quality of the workmanship of all these mushrooming development companies. At times buyers have even faced trouble right after they have been handed the documents as the lifts, water pumps and other appliances start to fail due to using sub-standard material. Such hassles continue with the loan providing organisations that ask for so many documents that keeping track can be quite erratic. Although they tell you that loans can be availed in about 15 days it can take up to 2-3 months to collect all the necessary documents. Despite the risks and hassles the sense of contentment is incomparable when all debts are paid and you sit under the comfort of your own roof.
By Sultana Yasmin
Ehsanur Raza Ronny
Photo: Munem Wasif
Note: Prices mentioned are subject to change
7 steps to building your own house
1. Acquire land. For a house to be built, the first necessity is of course a place for it to be built on.
2. Hire an architect. Explain to her/him the spaces you want, show pictures of spaces or other things that inspire you so that they get a clear picture of your tastes and your lifestyle. From henceforth, give the architect full reign of the project but also continue to actively oversee the proceedings.
3. Sign a contract with the designer. If you are giving the architect full reign, have her/him sign a contract that says that in case something goes wrong at any step in the construction, they will be the ones to take responsibility for it.
4. After the designing is completed, the architect gives you an estimate of how much the project may cost and you look through the design and suggest any changes you might want made.
5. Once this is done, the drawings must be approved by a structural engineer and then sent out to RAJUK for approval. If the architect himself or the firm does not design the plumbing, another set of experts needs to be hired to go through the design.
6. The architect or a hired contractor does the construction work for the project. Most architects have connections and acquaintances in the field so this is usually done by them. If the project is on a larger scale, you can advertise in the newspapers for a contractor.
7. The contractor hires labourers and the architect constantly oversees the processes. If you don't or can't be present at every step, make it clear to the architect at the very beginning exactly what you are looking for.