By-invite properties: Wealth may not suffice to open these doors for you

There is real estate, then there is luxury real estate, and then comes ultra-luxury real estate. But over and above these are 'by-invitation-only' properties. To be eligible to buy a property in this uber-exclusive segment, not only should you possess wealth but also enjoy a certain social cachet on account of which a developer should feel impelled to invite you to buy a property in his development.

Access limited to the privileged few

'By-invite only' properties, by definition, are not accessible to everyone. To be invited to buy a high-priced property in such a project, merely having the necessary capital may not be sufficient. The developers of such projects also look for buyers who belong to the elite social bracket. Such projects are mostly open only to a certain set of high-networth individuals (HNIs) and ultra-HNIs, whose lifestyles are in sync with the amenities offered within these projects. Developers also look for influential families, bureaucrats, high-ranking corporate executives, and business tycoons.

If you wish to buy a property in such a project but have not received an invite, you may try on your own as well. "The buyer may reach out to the developer through his real estate advisor. The developer will verify the profile and background of the potential buyer. If he is satisfied, he may extend an invite to the buyer," says Amit Goyal, chief executive officer, India, Sotheby’s International Realty.

Laden with features and services

These properties offer a variety of exclusive features to their owners. They come mostly as villas or duplexes, and in some cases are ensconced within high-rises also. They are often the creations of globally renowned architects and interior designers. Most of them offer facilities such as private elevators, private landscapes, indoor swimming pools, spas, private office spaces, walk-in closets, sundeck, master bedroom with lounge, and five-fixture master bathroom. They also come replete with a variety of services, such as the availability of trained specialists, access to special previews, tickets to exclusive events and live performances, and so on.

The Leela Sky Villas in Delhi comes with a helipad restaurant. The World Towers in Mumbai by the Lodha group comes with its own organic farm, art gallery and an amphitheatre. Further, Trump Tower India provides services like private jet, private pool, entry to Trump’s White-Glove service and Trump Card, an exclusive privilege programme.

Exorbitantly priced

Most of these properties are priced so high that only ultra-HNIs can afford them. Prices usually soar above the Rs 100-million mark. The exact price depends on the city and the micro-location. Most such properties are situated in prime locations within cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Pune. Prices at The World Tower in Mumbai range from Rs 90-200 million. In the Trump Towers in Gurgaon, prices start at Rs 60 million and go above Rs 220 million for the penthouse. "In some cases, prices of by-invite properties even exceed Rs 400-500 million. Price tags are rising rapidly owing to the constant evolution of the luxury home market. The range also varies depending on the neighbourhood and the level of exclusive offerings within the property," says Arvind Subramanian, regional CEO, Lodha Group. Prices also depend on the developer’s brand reputation.

Caution is the byword

As with all other segments of Indian real estate, buyers cannot afford to drop their guard even when venturing out to purchase a by-invite-only property. Sometimes, developers stick a by-invite-only tag on their projects merely to create an aura of exclusivity. The features, services and benefits offered might not live up to the tag. "Just because a project is priced higher than the market, it doesn't become exclusive. Study in detail the value being offered by the property before opting for one," says Goyal.

According to Puri, "in the genuine by-invitation-only projects seen prior to the market slowdown, there were other qualifying factors at play. The developer aimed to create a certain type of micro-neighbourhood based on profession, social status, and in some unfortunate cases, even religion and religious sub-sects." If a buyer is only invited based on his purchasing power and other parameters of exclusivity are not met, it is not a genuine by-invitation-only property.

At present, the entire real estate market is going through sluggish times. The luxury segment has been hit especially hard by the downturn. "In the prevailing market, it has become hard for developers to support such a concept, and they cannot afford to be too selective about their buyers," says Puri. If you have the capital, this may be just the time for you to get your foot inside the door and gain access to a world that may not open up to you in better times.

Points to remember when buying by-invite properties
  • Don't get carried away just by the lavish amenities and specifications offered
  • Give highest priority to the location of the project. It should not be situated in a remote locality on the outskirts of the city
  • A luxury home should be at least of 3,000-3,500 sq ft in area
  • The number of units should be few and there should be plenty of green spaces
  • The developer's track record is of utmost importance as the quality of the project depends entirely on him
  • Lastly, see to it that the amenities, specifications and privileges offered are top-notch