Buying a flat? Don’t get carried away by the sample

The walls were beautifully done up, the fittings were exquisite and the rooms were very spacious. Vijayalaxmi Nayak and her family were so pleased with the look and feel of the sample flat that they immediately booked an apartment in the project by a reputed developer in Bangalore.

The excitement died down when the Nayaks got possession of the house three years later. It was nowhere close to what they had been shown. The flooring used ordinary tiles, the fixtures were not classy and the wall finish was quite plain. “In the sample flat, the rooms looked so big and perfectly done up, but actually the size was much smaller, and the ceiling too was not of the same height as showcased,” says Nayak.

There’s very little that the Nayaks can do now because the sample flat has long been demolished and they have no photographs or documentary evidence of what it looked like. Even if they did, it would not have helped. Chances are the developer had slipped in a clause in the agreement saying that it reserved the right to alter the specifications of the property.

The Nayaks are among the legions of buyers who are routinely taken for a ride by builders, who show them exquisitely designed sample flats. There’s nothing wrong in this exercise since showcasing sample flats is a standard marketing practice. “It is an actively used marketing tool for attracting potential buyers and is more effective than brochures and websites,” says Shveta Jain, director, residential, Cushman & Wakefield India.

The problem is that, as in case of the Nayaks, the real flat turns out to be very different from the sample offering. What you get isn’t what you see. The fixtures used could be very different from the designer sanitaryware you see in the sample. Atul Modak, vice-president of Kohinoor City Project, admits that some developers use fixtures and furnishings worth almost 2-3 times the price of the flat itself. This lends a premium look to the flat, which could deceive the customer.

You cannot blame potential buyers for getting carried away by the looks of the sample flat. Builders have many tricks up their sleeves that give false impressions to the buyer. For instance, there are no doors between rooms in a sample, which makes the flat appear more spacious than it really is.

Even the toilets and bathrooms are doorless. Some of the walls are merely glass partitions. Builders say this is done to allow buyers a better view, but the fact is that it makes the house look more commodious. The ceiling itself is much higher than that of the real flat.

The interior designers hired by the builders to do up the sample flats are experts at creating optical illusions. They know how to use lighting and place furniture in such a way that the house appears bigger. Even the furniture is an accomplice in this charade.

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