Homing in on Hills

Living in a city and owning a house in a hill station is no more a dream. However,a maze of local bylaws can turn it sour for a prospective buyer.

By Rakesh Rai | Print Edition: January 25, 2007

The hills are on top of every property buyer’s dream list. With the rise in real estate prices in cities and the increase in disposable income, people are increasingly looking at hillside properties either as a holiday home or an investment option.

But if you haven’t jumped on to this particular bandwagon yet, you better hurry—real estate prices in Shimla have gone up by more than 70% over the past five years. Prices in most hill stations across the country are in the Rs 1,500-2,000 sq ft range. Experts forecast a rise of 100% in the next few years.

Sadasivam, 55
Location: Coonoor
Profession: Working with HP
Originally from: Bangalore
Property: 1 acre plot for Rs.12 lakh
Why hills?
Was looking for a vacation home away from the city. Bought the plot together with his brother in Hyderabad. He has brothers in the US who often come down to India. The property can be a good vacation home for them to relax as a family.

Considering that for a middle class person buying a home in a city is near impossible now, investing in a property in the hills makes sense. However, unlike in the plains, buying property in the hills is not an easy task. There are a lot of factors to be considered and yet more state regulations to be kept in mind before you actually sign on the dotted line.

“Buying property in the hills is different from plains because of the number of no-objection certificates (NOCs) required. Apart from the local municipal authorities, you need to take NOCs from the Geological Survey of India and the forest department,” says Jamil Khan, chairman, Samiah International, which has three housing projects near Nainital.

There are just a few professional brokers for hill station properties, while there are innumerable anti-construction and anti-outsider laws that can turn your dreams of owning a great hill station getaway into a nightmare.

Some of these controls are justified. Most hill stations have laws to protect the fragile eco-system from indiscriminate construction. Together with government agencies are citizens’ groups, such as Palani Hills Conservation Council and  Bombay Environmental Action Group, who act as conservation advocacy centres.

Take the case of Himachal Pradesh. An outsider can buy a plot only up to the upper limit of 500 sq m. Industrial units are allowed to purchase land, which is mainly in Baddi and surrounding areas.

You can buy flats within municipal areas though. Places like Shimla, Kasauli and Manali are the hotspots for these. Although outsiders do buy property in a local’s name on the basis of a power of attorney but these are illegal and the property cannot be registered in your name.

The southern and western states are the most liberal in terms of investment in residential properties. While Ooty was popular about two years ago, now investors are zeroing in on areas around Ooty.

K. Radhakrishanan, 38
Location: Ooty
Profession: Consultant
Originally from: Chennai
Property: Farmhouse for Rs 30,000/acre
Why hills?
Bought the property both as an investment and also as a vacation home. Plans to sell off some part of his property in phases to cash in on the property boom in the hills.

Such is the craze for property in the hills that private hill stations are also being constructed to cater to that burgeoning demand. Hindustan Construction Company, for instance, is building one on 15,000 acres of land in Mose Valley, near Pune. The project, located 2,000-3,000 ft above the sea level, will house everything from apartments, 18-20 hotels, entertainment halls, convention centres, multiplexes to educational institutions, and training and research institutes. The first phase is scheduled to be completed by 2008.

Seeing the building demand state governments have started improving infrastructure facilities. Uttaranchal government plans to construct over 700 km “Himalayan Highways” at an approximate cost of Rs 1,845 crore. The proposed highway will start near Dehradun (cutting through Kumaon and Garhwal region) and will end at Lohaghat in Pithoragarh district. Such projects are likely to open up newer areas for investment.

Deepak Sharoof, 62 Businessman,Delhi
Location: Mashobra,Shimla
Property: 3-bedroom apartment for Rs 25 lakh
Why hills?
Had been coming to Shimla for vacations. Decided to buy an apartment as an investment and also as a vacation resort. He invested in a project where most of the owners are outsiders so together they have worked out an arrangement for the maintenance of the housing complex even when they are away.

In some hill states, outsiders are not allowed to buy land because of various political and historical reasons. Here is a quick look at some such states: Jammu & Kashmir: Property in the state can be acquired only by permanent residents. Permanent Resident Status (PRS) was accorded to those who had been living in the state for at least 10 years before 14 May 1954.

Sikkim: Article 371F of the Constitution prohibits sale and purchase of land or property involving outsiders. Only tribals can purchase land and property in the tribal areas of the state. The entire north district of Sikkim, for instance, is a tribal area.

Arunachal Pradesh: The state falls under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and in all such areas non-tribals cannot purchase land or property.

Similarly in Mizoram and Nagaland only resident tribals are permitted to own property.

 Where to Buy
Restrictions: Upper limit for plots is 500 sq m. Outsiders can buy flats of Himuda or registered builders.
Price (Rs/sq ft): Rs 1,500-2,500 near bigger towns. Rs 1,200 in Baddi, Solan,Palampur.
Restrictions: Upper limit for plots is 550 sq m. No new construction allowed in Mussoorie, Nainital
Price (Rs/sq ft): Rs 1,500-2,500 near Mussoorie, Nainital. Rs 1,000 in Almora, Ranikhet, Kausani
Restrictions: No restriction on outsiders buying property. Land available only in outskirts and Siliguri
Price (Rs/sq ft): Flats in town about Rs 1,200. In Siliguri at Rs 1,000.
Restrictions: Mahabaleshwar and Matheran declared eco-sensitive. State government permission required
Price (Rs/sq ft): Rs 1,000-2,500 depending on the approach road 
Restrictions: For construction on plots of more than 2,500 sq ft Collector’s permission required
Price (Rs/sq ft): Rs 1,500-2,000 in Ooty and Rs 2,200 in Munnar 


  • Print

A    A   A