Sunday, September 25, 2016

UrbanTree Journey -hunting for dream homes in Chennai

Few selected bloggers in Chennai had day well spent yesterday discussing with senior management of Urban Tree infrastructures and exploring their properties in Chennai- under construction and upcoming ones. This post shares my notes from the discussion with UrbanTree management and key details from their upcoming projects. If you are evaluating purchasing a home, then this post is sure to add some value and help you make right decisions.
How UrbanTree stands unique?

We were told Urban Tree is unique in multiple aspects, compared to its rivals:
1) Price quoted is final and all inclusive: Many builders advertise only the base price and then in small letters indicate half a dozen extra charges, taking total to 25% more than what was advertised. As a customer this is an irritating factor- doesn't matter what the charge is called, what counts is total amount I have to spend to own the house. Understanding this, UrbanTree always communicates the final price customer will have to pay- inclusive of all taxes,registration fee and so on. This means no surprises later.
2) Price guarantee: Amount quoted at the time of booking is the amount customer pays. Many rivals include a hidden clause that they can increase the price if cost of construction goes up, delay the project by an year or two and towards the end, demand extra payment invoking this fine print. Customer who has already paid 75-80% won't have any option but to take extra loan to make this payment. UrbanTree never does that. Many times construction is upgraded with better materials, technology etc but the upgrade cost is never transferred to one who has already booked and paid. Similarly even if there is rise in cost of construction, it is not transferred to existing customers.

3) Minimum delays- UrbanTree claims minimum delay in the industry- 5 months at the max, while for many builders 2 year delay is the norm.

4) Customer meets: Urban Tree conducts once in a 3 month customer meets with its customers at the property site. Those who have bought comes can see the progress, question the MDs if they have any concern or need clarifications and get it sorted out then and there. No other builder dares to do this kind of event where a customer can directly question the MD and get things clarified. Surely this is a confidence boost and adds to their credibility

5) Green Homes: Green homes are the new trend and even a necessity. Building a green home implies adopting various process and techniques to reduce impact to environment-such as harvesting rain water, using lead free non toxic paints, thermal roofing, eco friendly materials to be used for construction, heat reducing glass panes, use of low power consumption devices such as CFL and LED and so on. Usually adopting green technology and practices adds to cost, hence green homes are offered only in premium segment. UrbanTree is offering green homes at affordable rates in budget and medium ranges. Also a conscious decision has been taken to ensure all future projects will be only green homes.  Buying a green home results in monthly savings to customers as power, water bills will be lower.

6) In house EPC and backward integration to cut cost: Most builders usually do only marketing and outsource the actual construction to 3rd party companies. Urban Tree does EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) in house and also has its own production facilities for concrete blocks, solar panels etc, so as to reduce cost. This cost advantage is passed on to customers

Myself and other bloggers asked the co-founder and MD Abhishek Mehta a few questions- excerpts below
Me: What is the average life span modern apartments are built for or expected to last?
Abhishek Mehta: Typically 40 years, if maintained well. While core structure will last longer, buildings may need an overhaul/re-development after that time to main good quality of living.

Me: Those who buy for pure investment purposes, typically after how many years they sell off?
Lot depends on location and the objectives of investors. Investors typically get 3 benefits- tax savings which is upfront, rental income and property appreciation. Typically those who sell after 10 years manage to get 30% more returns than had they invested same amount in bank deposits.

Me: What are the CSR initiatives of UrbanTree
Abhishek Mehta: We have adopted a school, we are planting close to 1 lakh trees in area near Oxygen campus and more

Me: Some builders offer rental assurance. How does it work?
Abhishek Mehta: There are no free lunches. It is all clever marketing of giving one what he/she wants. Even when it comes to redevelopment, one can either offer higher value or less value+ some freebies like rental.

Urban Tree Journey!
After the brief session with management, we headed out, exploring several Urban Tree projects, but not before a great lunch at Bombay Halwa House in T Nagar.

WoW at Medavakkam by UrbanTree
Wow was the first property we visited during #UrbanTreeJourney

Wow is a cluster of 169 homes of 2, 3 BHK and a 2BHK+study configuration being built in 2 acre facility at Medavakkam. It offers a roof top swimming pool and all amenities expected in modern apartments. Construction has just started. Some photos from the model apartment that we visited given below:

Above decoration at Wow campus site immediately reminded me of Kinetic Rain in Changi Airport T1

Above: We were explained about various silent features not obvious at the first look- the windows will get tinted glasses which prevent heat from entering property. Tiles are carefully selected to reflect light- this way light coming from windows is propagated as deep as possible. If customers ask for minor modifications it can be evaluated but major structural changes are not permitted. We were also told that pillars won't be obvious in model apartments.

Below are some more photos of bedroom, living room, toilet and kids room at WoW. (interiors are not part of standard offering). You can check Urban Tree WoW official site for full details

Oxygen by UrbanTree at Perumbakkam
First phase of Oxygen is expected to be handed over to owners by end of November. Oxygen ofers 636 green homes in 1, 2 and 3BHK types, ranging from 421 to 1548 sq feet. Because of its green design, Oxygen homes are expected to be 12% cooler than neighborhood homes, result in 18-25% energy savings , offer better ventilation, waste management and heat reducing thermal roofing.

At Oxygen we didn't have any model apartment but could visit the near complete actual ones instead. Below are some photos

Above: view from rooftop of Oxygen P block. Check Oxygen official site for more details

Fantastic by Urban Tree at Vanagaram
Fantastic is the latest property launch by Urban Tree. Located in Vanagaram off Poonamallee high road.

Fantastic offers 300 homes in 1, 2 and 3 BHK configurations, being built in a 4.67 acres campus with space ranging from 588 to 1414 sq ft. Fantastic is priced at Rs 4099 per sq feet onward (that is for fourth floor apartments, first floor is bit more expensive)- this means a total price tag ranging from 25 to 60 lakhs approx at current launch price. Fantastic first phase is expected to be handed over by June 2018.

Fantastic is located close to several key establishments in Poonamallee high road

Below are some photos from the model home-note that interiors are not part of the standard home

You may check Fantastic offical site for more details

Urban Tree is aware that most customers do not make a purchase decision in one visit. Prospects are given a chart which will have option to compare a UrbanTre property with any other competition. You can do the comparison and go back to Urban Tree once fully satisfied that theirs is the best option for you. That is lots of confidence Urban Tree has in itself and is good for customers too.

Overall it was a day well spent and helped me get up to date with real estate developments in Chennai.

Related: Urban Tree bloggers meet and best blogger award


Rashmi Rao said...

Informative write up!

Rajesh K said...

I loved the demo house at Fantastic, Vanagaram. I wish company provides such fully furnished and interior-done homes too, as an option.

Katie said...

As usual to the point post. Well done.

The wild said...

Any business is there to make money ,at the end of the day that is what they are here to do .

But this statement "Many times construction is upgraded with better materials, technology etc " is for marketing purposes only - why would anybody spend and deliver more than what is actually stipulated especially in real estate -even deliverying what is quoted is not being delivered by many.

A typical lifetime of a building /apartment should be typically 55-60 years minimum even with reasonable wear and tear which is the case with any housing.Why would anybody buy an aparment built to last only 40 years of which 25-30 years you end up paying the premium itself.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Rashmi- Thanks

@Rajesh: I liked it too, but when you move in, you will have hundreds of stuffs to keep - so you can't really maintain it like the well designed empty modern apartment. Unless you have lots of space and very little stuff, it is hard to maintain.

@Katie- Thanks

@The Wild:
Yes, they will make money, but claim to make it more honestly than others. Over the time if a better quality material/technology is available at same/slightly more price, which is deemed good for long term interests, management may decide to go for it. Those who already paid won't be affected by this, but new customers will be paying increased price- this is the statement made by UrbanTree

Typically in 40 years lots of things will change- may be you have earned lot more and feel like buying a new house itself- or may be your son/daughter has purchased new house, lots of things change in the locality- positive or negative. The core structure will be intact for much longer and with good maintenance, repair apartment may last a few decade more. It is not like 41st year building will collapse, but typically after 40 years owners need to start planning what next