I recently went through the rather stressful experience of trying to find somewhere to live in Mumbai. The options are overwhelming and also very varied in their quality and price.  Coming from a country where you look up some places on the internet, view them and sign up… I discovered its all a very different market here in Mumbai.

Brokers are commonly used here to seek out rentals and their costs can be exorbitant (stretching into a few months rent, not to mention the added “extra costs” that they forgot to mention when they pimped you the apartment).  I heard a few horror stories along the way, so chose to avoid renting via a broker.

Other options that exist here are either Serviced Apartments, which I found to be rather expensive (upwards of Rs3000 or $60 a night) for something that was livable but not really a long-term option.  Paying Guest Houses are also used frequently here.  Essentially you live in someone else’s house and are a paying guest.  This can be quite a cheap option (from Rs10000 or $200 a month), but you are actually living in someone’s house and subject to their rules.  This could mean you have to be home by 9pm, no visitors allowed, no access to the kitchen, constant questions about your life… absolutely anything.  Aside from the price, it didn’t sound too appealing.

Since I had nothing but the pack on my back, I chose to look at furnished share houses first.  At least then I wouldn’t have to go through the expense of buying furniture etc just yet, and hopefully it would also mean I could meet some new people.

One of the things that makes India an easy place to look for share places is the way Indians have embraced technology and social media.  There are no less than 5 Mumbai Expat Facebook Groups that I joined, along with putting messages on Twitter seeking out a flatmate.  As a result I received numerous emails and messages from people I would never have met otherwise offering rooms in their house or letting me know of share apartments that they had heard of.  Some were a bit creepy, usually men, who I steered clear of, but in the most part they were all genuine and so very helpful.  I am actually quite overwhelmed just how willing to help people were, it was really lovely.

I viewed a few places of varying budgets and found that they all varied considerably in terms of expectations and quality.

One place I saw in a great location in Bandra was a share house with 2 other women.  The room was a reasonable size and had its own small but adequate ensuite bathroom.  As I inspected it I was told that the air conditioner would not be staying, neither would the bed, the bathroom needed retiling and the whole place needed to be re-painted.  When I asked if these would all be rectified by the landlord before I moved in, my potential new flatmate laughed and told me that I would be expected to pay for all of those costs myself!  Clearly landlords hold all the power here, and tenants are at their mercy and whim.

The next place I looked at was in the up and coming beachside suburb of Versova. What was advertised a two bedroom apartment with a sea view, was actually a tiny one bedroom with a little alcove that was being dressed up as a bedroom.  The living area fitted a small two seater couch and not much else. The kitchen was big enough for one person to stand sideways in, but I couldn’t see where a fridge or any appliances would fit.  Then I went to look at the bedroom.  Walking into a small alcove, there was a single bed on the floor… I was advised that this would be my room.  Off that alcove was a door leading to the master bedroom and ensuite.  The Ensuite would be shared by both of us.  So essentially, anytime my potential flatmate went to her bedroom she had to walk through my room, and anytime I wanted to use the bathroom I had to traipse through her bedroom.  When I pointed that out, she smiled at me and told me:

“Oh don’t worry, we can just both sleep in my bed together”

Ummm, she was very cute, but really not my type!

Another I found was actually quite nice and spacious and reasonably priced, but what was advertised as a bed was actually a small single sofa that you could sleep on perhaps ocasionally.  This whole flat hunting thing was proving to be very challenging indeed.

The next place I went to check out was also in a great location in Bandra, and I arranged to meet the owner at 8pm.  At 8.15pm I rang her to see where she was… she was still at work at the other end of town and had forgotten all about me.  No worries, I had only travelled an hour out of my way to get there at night! We arranged to meet again in the morning at 7.30am, so it was an early morning trek for me, and thankfully she was actually home this time when I arrived.

The place was large, airy, newly renovated and homely.  It was expensive but manageable and thankfully I was not expected to sleep with my flatmate.

The only other issue that arose, that I still find ridiculous here is the issue of a deposit.  I am used to a deposit being required for a rental, and in Australia the standard is one month’s rent that is deposited with a reputable authority.  Here in Mumbai it doesn’t bear any relation to the rent and is at a minimum 2 lakhs (Rs200,000 or $4,000) or more.  It is expected to be given in cash (yes cash) to the landlord and you just have to hope that you may see it again.  I have heard many horror stories from people who have seen a landlord pick at non-existent damage to a property and never seen their deposit again. Its a leap of faith, but you’re at the mercy of the landlord so there isn’t too much you can do about it.

So I kissed goodbye to a large chunk of cash and moved my meagre belongings into my new apartment.  Its comfortable and my flatmate has been welcoming.  I have taken over the kitchen and been relishing spending time on the couch, eating home cooked food and watching trashy TV.  After 9 months travelling on a shoestring, it is nice to finally have somewhere to call home.

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24 thoughts on “Finding Home

  • June 9, 2012 at 10:43 am
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    @Iyengen thanks for the reply. So 25K should be really safe if there’s no rent to pay like in my case. That’s great to know. Ill check the site out as well. Ty again

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  • May 26, 2012 at 7:14 pm
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    Way to go Rakhee! I admire your adventurous spirit! Enjoy your new place.

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  • May 23, 2012 at 1:45 pm
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    It’s the same in Turkey. Landlords do nothing, tenants do everthing!

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  • May 23, 2012 at 12:56 am
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    Congratulations Rakhee!

    I would like to add a few things.

    First even though some people might have had problems with brokers I can only report positive experiences. Our problem were more the owners of the flats: being an interracial and interreligious couple (him: Indian & Hindu; me: German & Christian) some felt uncomfortable with renting out to us. Akward conversations were the consequence. Sometimes they asked for salaray slips, bank statements and tax documents…

    Also renting a furnished place can become a hassle since the owner (at least the ones we met) left some of their belongings in our apartment and came over whenever they wished to get or store things.

    It also makes sense to find out about the food-rules in some apartment buildings: in some eating meat (even in YOUR apartment) isn´t allowed.

    And priceless was the board at the apartment-complex in which my fiancée´s aunt has her flat: “Students, singles and foreigners not allowed!” – I felt somewhat akward living there.

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  • May 22, 2012 at 10:17 pm
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    Hey,

    Approximately how much does it cost to live in Mumbai a month if you live modestly (not eating out much, not a whole lot of buying stuff, etc) ? And, do you have any ideas h ow much it would cost in a smaller city? When I ask some people they say 15000RS is enough (without rent )whereas others say 15000 RS is nothing.

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    • May 23, 2012 at 12:25 am
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      Mumbai can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be (excluding rent). I find transport here cheap relative to other cities. Fresh food can also be reasonable if you shop in the markets like Dadar or Crawford, but expensive if you go to the smaller ones (like Pali Hill). It really depends on you.

      Reply
      • May 23, 2012 at 9:51 am
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        Hi Rakhee

        Thanks for the reply! By the way,I was curious what sort of businesses are you looking at? I read about this in your tweets where you mentioned there are many opportunities there.

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        • May 23, 2012 at 6:01 pm
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          I am currently doing freelance business consulting and writing, whilst also looking at several entrepreneurial ideas in the export and hospitality industries.

          Reply
    • May 23, 2012 at 12:42 am
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      Hello IS,

      fact is that most Mumbaikars live on way less than 15.000 a month (and that is rent included!).

      As Rakhee wrote: food and transportation is cheap. What will cost you is going out, alcohol, social outings, etc. and rent. The people who can tell you how to live cheaply are usually not the ones who make good money or who are expats but the “normal” ones who are making 10.000/month when they are lucky, living somewhere outside of Mumbai and travelling every day 1 1/2 hrs by train to work…

      By the way, in case you are a foreigner and are looking to live and work in India look out for the $25.000 salary/year rule the Indian government published 2 years ago….

      Greetings

      Reply
      • May 23, 2012 at 8:43 am
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        Thanks for your insights. I would like to also add that just because you are an ‘expat’ does not mean you earn an expat salary and have foreign income.

        I know several ‘expats’ who earn and live solely in local wages.

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        • May 23, 2012 at 5:58 pm
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          Hmmm, that is interesting. Are the ones you know on Employment Visas? (Should have clarified that I am referring to this Visa Type in my comment.)

          Due to Indian Law only ethnic cooks, translators, non-English language teachers, and members of Foreign High Commissions and Embassies are eligible for an E-Visa.

          Without this rule I´d be working and living in India for the last 3 years.

          Would be really interested to get your feedback!

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            • May 23, 2012 at 7:53 pm
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              No problem, Rakhee.

              @IS,

              to be at the safe side I´d say that INR 25.000/month is an ok to comfortable amount to live on in Mumbai, with rent being covered. That is electricity, water, internet, etc. included…

              Maybe you want to also look at a forum called “indiamike”. It is quiete informative and your question has been discussed there a few times.

              Wish you luck!

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      • May 23, 2012 at 9:47 am
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        Hi iyengan

        Thanks for the reply. Actually I was told about the 15000 figure by some of the people I know. But none from Mumbai which might be costlier to live in. Because we own a house in Índia I always wanted to know what it would cost if u didnt have rent to pay and whats a fairly “safe” amount to live on if u made 15000 from interest.

        Reply
    • June 8, 2012 at 10:29 am
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      Our electricity bill was 8,000 rupees for April, with just one air conditioner! (It’s normally around 2,000 rupees). Some things are outrageously expensive while others are cheap. I would budget on more than 15,000 rupees a month. 25,000 rupees a month is more realistic, as someone else commented.

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      • June 9, 2012 at 10:36 am
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        Thanks Sharell. Yes 25000 should be a better target.

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      • June 9, 2012 at 10:43 am
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        I feel lucky in that case, we have three air conditioners and our electricity bill has gone from Rs1,000 to Rs3,000 in Summer. I certainly won’t be complaining about my electricity bill now :-)

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  • May 22, 2012 at 7:27 pm
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    Congrats on the new home, That’s one terrific truth about half our cities. You wont believe the deals they make you!

    I hope you get back the money you gave as deposit make sure you know the house and especially what you broke and what you did not!

    By the way I forgot! enjoy your new home, Hope you love and it love you back!

    Reply
  • May 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm
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    There are a few websites like sulekha.com, 99acres.com and magicbricks which have online postings for rental houses. You can choose only owner posted ads to avoid brokers. I a surprised the deposit taken from you was a fixed amount. usually it is 2 month rents in Delhi . Maharashtra, Hyderabad. i am renter as well as a landlord in different cities :)

    Reply
    • May 23, 2012 at 12:22 am
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      If only I found a landlord like you, I found the deposit size was standard in the ones I looked at

      Reply

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