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Get smart about sample flats


Get smart about sample flats

Last updated: June 30 2011
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  • Get smart about sample flats

    Sample flats have emerged as a powerful marketing tool in the real estate industry. A sample flat replicates the actual apartments in a project with exact floor areas and showcases all possible facilities. For a potential homebuyer sitting on the fence, sample flats, the industry feels, often help firm up a decision as a dream is converted to reality.

    Usually sample units/apartments are used for luxury and premium projects. The fact that they are furnished enables customers to understand how the available space could be optimally utilised. However, across cities, buyers have often encountered situations when, at the time of delivery, their dream home has turned into a poor shadow of the sample unit shown to them months ago. Caveat emptor (let the buyer be aware) or so the phrase goes. FC Build tells you how…

    There is no compulsion on the buyer to buy anything but a completely unfurnished flat. According to industry estimates, a well-embellished sample flat could cost 30 per cent more than the normal unit. “While we do see many instances where a luxury apartment buyer is impressed sufficiently to ask for an exact replica of a sample flat, such buyers have the requisite financial capacity to pay for the embellishments. There is little sense in being either carried away or prejudiced by the appearance of a sample flat. These flats are showcases, meant to incite interest and indicate the ‘lifestyle potential’ of the project,” said Mrunal Duggar, vice-president – residential services, Jones Lang LaSalle India

    Once a buyer gets a fair idea of how furnishings and colour schemes have been used, he or she should draw a mental picture of how it could be done differently. A prospective buyer has -- and should exercise -- the option of asking for some or all of the showcased features to be included in the flat he or she wishes to purchase, but these will come at an extra cost. Remember, that regardless of the sample flat’s appearance, the developer will quote for the unfurnished flat, which means that the price includes the flooring, balcony area (if any), ceilings and walls, and nothing more.

    Some feel the term ‘sample’ may be confusing. “I would any day go with the term ‘sample flats’ instead of ‘model flats’ because we, at Blue Chip Projects, are very particular about not confusing the potential homebuyer with something that we will not deliver. I think an ethical developer should only showcase exactly the product that he will offer -- and we do just that,” Ritwik Das, managing director, Blue Chip Projects, told FC Build. Das admitted that many developers invest heavily in developing and decorating these sample or model flats, because that helps them to lure customers. They engage high-end interior designers, use rich upholstery, upmarket furniture and bright colours to make the flats look much larger and wider in size and brighter than what it would actually be.

    Nilesh Biswas, director, Calcutta Skyline, a leading realty research and brokerage firm, said, “Showcasing a sample or model flat is not as important in case of affordable housing (LIG and MIG flats) as it is in the case of luxury or premium residences.”

    Others feel the term ‘sample’ happens to be more popular and hence its wide usage. Kruti Jain, director, Kumar Urban, says that there is not much difference between a sample flat and a model flat. Usually, a sample is known as the best potential of the flat, which is not a real fit for an average working person, while a model flat is a kind of design structure.

    “In other words, a sample or a model flat gives an idea to buyers about the utilisation of space and design. Sample is a more popular word which buyers know well and can relate to, so builders use this term on a regular basis,” said Jain.

    Builders also feel that if you ask a buyer after purchasing a unit whether the sample flat helped in making the decision, only 40 per cent say yes. They give more credit to the planning of the unit. But developers try to add everything possible in order to favourably influence a buyer’s decision.

    For example, if a project is made for a particular community, various ideas from home temples to home offices are incorporated in the sample. Other ways to light up a room would include latest wallpapers, multipurpose furniture, mouldings on walls, lighting and false ceiling, murals, among other embellishments.

    Harjith Bubber, CEO & managing director, CCI Projects, said that a user research study conducted by the Barratt Group has found that potential home buyers want to see what a finished room or apartment will look like with different possible furniture layouts, along with a floor plan. When asked about wide differences in the sample and actual unit sold, some developers claimed that there are no stark contrasts. “In terms of what finishes are being offered to the home buyer, the sample or model flat shows/has exactly those finishes. For example, if a specific flooring/tile has been promised/is being provided, that very same tile, in the same size, is used in the sample flat. Similarly, for any of the other finishes promised to the customer, exactly that finish is shown in the sample flat,” Bubber said.

    Ravindra Pai, managing director, Century Realestate, feels that customers are mature enough to understand the concept of sample flat. The difference between “sample” and “model” is only a play with words. “The intent is important. The developer should not misguide customers by showing something that they do not intend on providing. However, there is nothing wrong in depicting the lifestyle potential as a sales tool,” said Pai. A home is amongst the few products where a customer is making a purchase without seeing the product and this is a big decision. Typically, if a flat costs a customer Rs 40 lakh, around Rs 15 lakh is spent on the embellishments for a sample flat, he added.

    Neville Vaswani, managing director, Vaswani Group, is of the view that rather than go with a preconceived set of dos and don’ts, the potential buyer should ideally be aware of the internal specifications of the finished product prior to their visiting the model unit. “They could compare and ask clear-cut and informed questions on any variations that they notice. In certain cases, specific elements of the show flat such as modular kitchen, shower partitions, etc., are ‘optional extras’, which are provided by the builder at an additional cost, and would clearly be indicated/ signposted as such,” said Vaswani.

    Snehal Mantri, director-marketing, Mantri Developers, said sample flats are here to stay. “Just as a brochure and floor plan offer to buyers information about the apartment, a sample flat allows him to experience his home before he can purchase it. Today the Indian consumer is evolved, looking for maximum information before making even the smallest purchase. A sample flat appeals to this mature consumer and helps him understand the minute details of his dream converting to reality as it helps him visualise what all material will be given to create a luxury home,” he said.

    While flooring, paint and other aspects such as kitchen counter and toilet counters, CP fittings, etc., are mostly done in sync with the actual finished product, in most cases the model unit is also done up with exclusive furnishings, wardrobes, woodwork, modular kitchens and so on, which are not part of the finished product.
    -Financial Chronicle
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