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L.Srikumar Pai
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What does `Quality Construction` really mean?

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By Kishor Pate: Most builders today claim that their projects are of `quality construction`, without actually providing enough details to justify such claims. This article outlines some key guidelines that property buyers can and shold follow while evalauting their options.

Today, one of the factors one looks for while buying a home is quality construction. A home buyer wants to ensure that the home will:

- Be safe and sound for its inhabitants
- Remain inhabitable for a maximum possible amount of years
- Not develop problems over time
- Not entail huge repair and maintenance costs
- Have good resale value if one decides to sell it

These are aspects which are next to impossible to judge when a residential project is new or only a couple of years old. Naturally, most property developers will ensure that everything looks ship-shape on the surface even if they do not necessarily follow quality construction norms. Even on the resale market, we will find that the current owners of a resale flat will undertake cosmetic touch-ups to make their home look as new and unflawed as possible.
Banks do only a cursory check on a project`s overall construction quality while evaluating a home loan proposal. It has become a common marketing practice for developers to claim that their projects are of high-grade construction. Those who do so without justification are aware that most home buyers are not equipped to make a value judgement on such claims.
Home buyers often select properties on the basis of location advantages such as availability of public transport, shopping and hospitals. In larger cities like Mumbai and Delhi NCR, plots in such locations are quickly snapped up by developers because they know that the location itself will sell their projects. Because of this, they will often develop these projects at the lowest possible cost because their greatest expense lies in the purchase of the plot.
The situation is not as severe in smaller cities like Pune. Commuting distances are smaller, which means that home owners manage to reach workplaces, shopping outlets, healthcare facilities and places for family entertainment faster. This is one of the primary reasons why land costs - and therefore finished property costs - in smaller cities are more rational. However, many developers try to cut costs wherever possible, so there is still a high incidence of inferior construction going on in cities like Pune.
How To Judge Construction Quality
To begin with, a developer's brand is a fairly good indicator. Brand value has different meanings in different cities. For instance, the most reputed developer brands in a city like Mumbai also have the biggest price tags. Quality construction in their projects is assured, but so are ruinous property costs. In Pune, a developer`s brand evolves more on a reputation for consistently high quality in offered amenities and construction. Such a reputation spreads quickly by word of mouth and becomes a benchmark for overall value and quality.
Because their reputation for quality construction is their primary ambassador in a very competitive market, branded builders employ only trusted contractors and ensure proper quality control throughout the construction process.
In other words, a builder`s brand status in a city like Pune is a reasonably good guideline to follow. This holds true in new constructions by such a builder as well as resale properties in his projects. The most important hallmark of quality construction is that it endures.
There are various ways in which a home buyer can check on the general quality of construction:
Patched cracks in a building's exterior can be an indicator that the project has a faulty foundation. Other signs to look for are small cracks in walls of a flat, creaking or sticking doors and windows and improperly aligned or uneven floor, bathroom and kitchen tiles.
A quality construction project is designed in such a way that the weight of the overall structure is evenly and scientifically distributed. Also, a developer focused on quality will not spare costs when it comes to providing detailed finishing and intricate detailing, both in the building’s common areas and within the residential units themselves.
Developers who pride themselves for quality construction do not allow their contractors to use cheap taps, window frames, door handles, electrical outlets and fittings. Likewise, common facilities such as lifts will be by established manufacturing brands and will be under a maintenance contract by a reputed facilities management agency. Any evidence of obscure, unfamiliar brands should be viewed with suspicion.
Cheap paint on walls and doors is easy to detect. Good paint on walls and wooden surfaces not only enhances their visual appeal but also prolongs the life of these surfaces. If one finds that cheap paint has been used, this is evidence that the developer does not feel that investing in good paint makes sense because the surfaces themselves are not made to last.
The quality of the concrete used in a building depends on what grade of concrete has been used, what the concrete/sand ratio is and whether the concrete was allowed to cure for a sufficient amount of time. One rule of thumb is that it should not be too easy to drive a nail into the walls.
Though it may not be immediately obvious, the presence of sufficient open areas and landscaping has a symbiotic significance with relation to construction quality. The availability of open areas implies that the builder has not made filling every available square foot with sellable construction, and that he intends to provide a wholesome and pleasing experience to his customers. Similarly, aesthetically done landscaping indicates that the buildings in a project are built to last and deliver value for the longest possible time.
The True Value Of Quality Construction
The average life-span of a project that has been built on quality construction parameters is around 80 years. After this period, a project will usually come up for reconstruction. It should be remembered that the true investment value of a residential unit such as a flat does not actually lie in the flat itself, but in the flat owner's share of the land that the building occupies.
In other words, it is the undivided land portion of the investment that one has made in a flat that amounts to the actual value of one's investment. However, in real estate market terms, the longevity of a building is very much linked to how much it will fetch on the resale market, or how long an investor can derive rental income from it. From the point of view of personal use of a flat for occupancy, quality construction ensures that the owner will incur much lower maintenance and repair costs and enjoy its security and comfort for much longer.


( About expert:  Kishor Pate, CMD, Amit Enterprises Housing Ltd

Kishor Pate is the chairman and managing director of Amit enterprises. He is one of the most reliable and respected names in the construction world. He has experience of twenty-five years in real estate in Pune.)



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