Shimla: Buyers' ignorance about local land laws is helping realtors build up flourishing businesses in Himachal Pradesh.
The local land laws do not forbid buyers from other states from owning a "dream" house or cottage amidst the hills.
But cashing in on their ignorance, many builders project themselves as exclusive right holders, jacking up in the process the prices of their properties, say real estate experts.
The state has 60-odd builders and developers selling flats and cottages mainly in Shimla and Solan districts.
They include DLF, Janta Land Promoter Ltd, Omax Construction Pvt Ltd, Optima Construction Pvt Ltd, Amar Nath Aggarwal Builders Pvt Ltd, Surya Builders and Imperial Realty and Developments.
Owning a home or a property in this state is on the wish list of the country's Who's Who, and local ownership rights have been projected as a major hurdle for most of the buyers from other states, a real estate expert said.
This has often led to misleading claims by developers claiming to sell the property with special privileges of owning a freehold luxury home and this is projected as one of the key unique selling propositions of that project, he said.
In the midst of such claims of non-Himachalis also being able invest in property, the buyer is often led to believe that it is some special status that the builder or the project has.
"But it is not so and the buyers should not fall for this trap and see the viability of the project, permissions procured from the government as well as the past track record of the builder before deciding to park their money there," a Shimla-based realtor told IANS.
Under Himachal's land laws, outsiders who want to purchase a house or a cottage from a builder whose project lies within the municipal limits do not have to seek individual permission under section 118 of the tenancy and land reforms law from the government.
It's the builder who will procure all the permissions.
But if a housing project is outside the municipal limits, each buyer of a house or a flat or a cottage has to seek normal permission from the Deputy Commissioner concerned, said a revenue official.
"If you are buying the land in chunk, then only permission from the state cabinet is required under Section 118. In most cases, it is granted to the colonisers only," the official said.
A non-Himachali could buy a maximum of up to 450 metres for residential purposes and 275 metres for commercial purposes by following normal procedures, he said.
The Himachal Pradesh Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Act 2013 enables the builders to construct and sell flats under various categories.
A two BHK flat in Shimla, Kasauli and Solan towns is selling for approximately Rs 25-45 lakh. A three BHK is for over Rs.55 lakh and a cottage for over Rs.1 crore, he said.
But those in the realty sector say the market has taken a downturn across the state since the demonetisation last November.
"Sales of flats have tumbled with prices falling up to 35 per cent. There is no buyer in the market. Nobody is interested in investing in luxury cottages even at prime destinations," said a builder setting up cottages in the Kasauli hills.
There is a slump even in Shimla, Dharamsala and Palampur towns, once the preferred destinations for investors.
But a futuristic realtor, Manav Singh of Imperial Reality and Developments, said: "We are opening up the second phase of Rs 480 crore luxury project near Shimla with 100 homes comprising two bedrooms, four bedroom duplexes and villas."
The starting price of a three BHK of 1,600 sq ft is Rs 1.1 crore and a villa of 5,000 sq ft is at Rs 5.6 crore, he said.
The previous BJP government had constituted a one-man commission of Justice (retd) D.P. Sood, a former judge of the state high court, to probe benami (illegal) land transactions in the state and look into violations of statutory provisions and administrative procedures.
It observed that most of the builders were catering to the needs of the rich from Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and non-resident Indians.