What Exactly is that makes a city smart

Smart City – What it means


Cohesive, Integrated, Resourceful- A smart city is all this and much more

What is a Smart City

‘Smart City’ – we have often heard many references to this term recently and the ensuing developments are being enthusiastically tracked by everyone. The announcement made by the government to create 100 smart cities across India by 2022 is being looked upon with anticipation and much curiosity.

It has led to the obvious interest and inquisitiveness as to how different a ‘smart city’ would be as compared to the one we are currently living in. After all, the present city we reside in does provide housing, employment opportunities, traffic management and energy resources; so how exactly would one benefit from a ‘smarter city’. Let’s attempt to find some answers to these facts.

Smart Answers

So what exactly comprises a smart city? Among many intelligent features, a smart city is one which uses digital technology solutions to enhance the quality of life of the citizens while simultaneously aiming to reduce the cost and consumption of resources.

The need for a city such as this has arisen out of the glaring need to handle the large scale urbanization and massive population boom. Experts predict the world’s urban population would double by 2050 and this obviously means an added pressure on resources and calls upon an organised, structured way of life for citizens.

Cities would need to get ‘smarter’ in order to find new ways of managing complexities while concurrently increasing efficiency. In fact, the basic premise of a smart city is to make urban living convenient and in tune with the needs of the Gen-Y. Imagine if our cities could give us live, real-time updates on traffic conditions, pollution, parking spaces and energy usage, we would be able to re-shape our economies and largely improve environmental health of the city for residents as well as visitors.

On the threshold

As India now steps towards the direction of creating smart cities, there are numerous examples of cities around the world which have invested considerably in this technology to reap the benefits of this digital transformation. Top smart cities around the world include Barcelona (environment and smart parking), New York (street lighting and traffic management), London (technology and open data metrics), Nice (cohesion between different agencies and environment) and Singapore (creative use of technology).

Characteristically, smart cities evolve towards a strong integration of all dimensions of human intelligence, collective intelligence and lmj9-ok partificial intelligence within the city. Technologies such as ultra-low power sensors, wireless networks and web and mobile based applications are the key drivers of this revolution.

Implemented across the world

Santander city in Spain has 20,000 sensors connecting buildings, infrastructure, transport, networks and utilities providing an opportunity to monitor the levels of pollution, noise, traffic and parking. This is a typical example of an ‘online collaborative sensor data management platform’ which is an on-line database services. This service allows sensor owners to register and connect their devices to feed data into an on-line database for storage and allows developers to connect to the database and build their own applications based on that data.

Amsterdam, for instance, began the initiative way-back in 2009 and it involved a collaborative effort of projects between local residents, governments and businesses. A similar interconnected platform was devised to enhance the city’s real-time tracking and decision making capabilities.

Mobypark, a resident developed application allows owners of parkingplaces to rent them out to fellow residents for a fee. This data in turn is fed into the central platform to determine parking demand and traffic demand in Amsterdam. Another project facilitated upgrades of street lamps to allow municipal councils to dim lights based on pedestrian usage.

India- Looking ahead

India and U.S. signed up three memoranda of understandings (MOU) to developing the three cities – Ajmer, Allahabad and Vishakhapatnam for its significant contribution to tourism and trade. On a national scale, the cabinet recently cleared the government’s flag-ship schemes – 100 smart cities and an urban rejuvenation program for 500 towns and cities. Under the smart cities scheme each city selected through a “city challenge” competition would get central assistance of Rs. 100 crore per year for five years.

According to reports, the evaluation criteria for stage-1 of the competition within the state/UT involves points system, such as existing service levels (25 points), institutional systems and capacities (15 points), self-financing (30 points) and past track record (30 points).

There will be special focus on adequate and clean water supply, sanitation and solid waste management, efficient transportation, affordable housing for the poor, power supply, robust IT connectivity, e-governance, safety and security of citizens, health and education.

Working towards the goal
Judicious investment in the right kind of technologies and priorities will help the country get on the fast track towards the objective of Smart Cities. The creation of cities that are not only smart, but also sustainable and efficient can only be achieved if the public and private bodies join hands and work towards it hand in hand.



Real Estate Trends to Watch Out

Real Estate Trends 2015


The years 2014-15 can be termed as epic milestones for the real estate industry in India. There have been some landmark decisions that aim to change the face of the realty industry and create a conducive and more just form of housing options catering to each and every section of the society.

An overview of the real estate industry in India

If you think about the real estate industry on a macro level, you’ll appreciate how important this industry really is. To illustrate, let’s understand that housing is considered to be the second largest industry generating a lot of employment opportunities employing an estimated 35 million people. There are more than three hundred interlinked industries such as steel, cement, brick and transport among others that are supported on the backing of a robust real estate industry. What’s more, the real estate industry is a significant contributor to India’s GDP and does feature as an attractive foreign direct investment (FDI) opportunity.

The Planning Commission estimates that by 2030, about 600 million people will be living in cities, which means that reasonably priced housing will be the need of the hour. The real estate industry does indeed have a large gap to achieve if you consider these proportions.

Why invest in real estate?

The good thing about investing in real estate is that it holds the promise of huge earning potentials- It can be rented or leased out, can be resold or kept as a nest egg for a rainy day. Whichever way you look at it, real estate seems to be one of the most lucrative investment options. There are many tax benefits that make it even more appealing, especially in the case of working couples, applying for a joint home loan means eligibility for a higher loan amount and tax savings as well.

What’s new?

The GOI has allocated US$ 1.3 billion for Rural Housing Fund in the Union Budget 2014-15. It has also allocated US$ 0.7 billion for National Housing Bank (NHB) to increase the flow of cheaper credit for affordable housing for urban poor. Besides which some of the other key features that have taken place in the recent past can be listed as under

  • Lowering of interest rates by banks
  • RBI offering incentives for infrastructure financing
  • Creation of real estate investment trusts (Reits).

There have also been a slew of good governance policies such as relaxation of FDI norms in the construction sector and reduction of excise on cement and steel among other factors; all of which have succeeded in giving an impetus to the real estate sector. It is estimated that India’s collective real estate worth is nearly $12 billion. Moreover, it is growing at a 30 percent annual growth rate  and it is expected that there will be many more good tidings for this sector in future.

Here are some a few points that are being considered as monumental milestones in the realty industry this year

The Southern Winds of Change

There is a need for affordable housing projects in India and it does seem like the urban cities are facing a sort of saturation. Peripheral areas and fringe towns in South India are being developed and are being considered as the new avenues for filling the gap of affordable residential housing. In fact, there are many large land parcels that are available for the taking in South India.

In Karnataka one can find likely areas such as Devanahalli, Mysore, Hoskote and in Chennai OMR, GST road, Shollinganallur, Perungalathur and Sembakkam among other areas which have been in the limelight with massive projects comprising of over a thousand units.

This growth mode is not limited to the south only, however one can say that the prospects in South India are definitely bigger, better and brighter. Similar projects in Faridabad and some other areas can be found in North India too.

Impetus to Industrial corridors

The proposed industrial corridors and the ones that are already in the development phases hold the golden promise of creating a goldmine of a million economic and investment opportunities. It is already a well-known fact that not only do industrial corridors boost infrastructure growth in areas that are away from main city centres but they also provide a conducive environment for developing new industrial cities as ‘Smart Cities’ with proper dedicated allocation for planned urbanisation.

Such projects help in expanding the city’s manufacturing and services sectors, besides positively boosting associated infrastructure such as new company set-ups, joint ventures, foreign direct investment (FDI) opportunities, assurance of dedicated water supply and high capacity transportation and logistics facilities. The industrial corridors have been a boon for the local employment opportunities created as an outcome.

Cities that have been marked for development under the industrial corridors are expected to see a massive transformation from being mere bystanders to epicenters for industrial activity.

Coupled along with the GOI’s (Government of India) ambitious budgetary allocations for affordable housing and a revised tax incentive and loan structure there is an air of optimism and anticipation for the resurgence of the real estate sector in India.

10 pertinent questions to ask before purchasing a house

Prepare for buying a home
Purchasing a home is generally thought of as a stressful journey, fraught with many hurdles and fraudulent wrongdoings by builders, brokers and sellers. But it need not always be so, not when you are armed with preliminary knowledge about the legal and financial pre-requisites and are guided with complete information and understanding about the house you’re going to buy. Of course, if you’re a first-time homebuyer you must chalk out your personal expenses and incomes beforehand and then decide how much you actually want to spend on your home.
What’s more, once you are absolutely certain that you want to purchase a house, make sure that you have some surplus amount remaining to make way for the ancillary expenses pertaining to the home purchase as well as contingency requirements that may arise later on.
Here we have compiled a checklist on the things you need to ask yourself before you sign the dotted line
What’s the reason for selling the house?
This should be one of the first questions to ask your broker whenyou’re discussing the prospects of the house. Before you can arrive at an offer price or commence negotiation, you must know the ‘real’ reason for the house sale.
Remember, every seller/ listed advertiser will promote their house as being in perfect condition and it is your job to know where the problem is. It’s possible that it may not be a problem at all, but you’ve exercised caution and done due diligence on your part.
Is the sale a distress one? Ask and you will know
Ask the seller or broker directly if there’s a problem with the house. Remember, if a professional home inspection is being done, you will probably come to know about any underlying issues anyway. Nonetheless, asking direct questions will give you a fair idea about the prior resident’s records, distress issues and/or bad history of the house.
Is the neighbourhood suitable?
Enquire about the nearby schools and if they are suitable for you. What about the nearest hospital or the bus depot? What about any history with regard to the crime rates. It is better to ask your broker about these things beforehand.
If it’s a resale, what exactly is included in the sale price?
While buying a house, assumption is your worst enemy. It’s best toask about the inclusions at first. If the new tiling is going to cost you additionally, you should know about it, isn’t it?
Has the house recently been listed for sale or has it been long?
This is an extremely vital question that will determine the price and make room for negotiation, if any. A house which has not sold for a long time may probably have some underlying problem that you are not aware of. If you’re still convinced you want to buy it, make sure you negotiate the price with the seller; chances are they will probably accept it.
Get the original blueprint and compare. Has there been some significant change?
Small and minor cosmetic changes are natural and expected. Even some renovations of rooms and kitchens are normal. However, you need to be alert if there has been considerable change from the original design or layout. It’s possible that there are hidden leaks and cracks that are being covered.
To buy or not to buy?
Yes, buying a house is a significant milestone in a person’s lifetime but it should not come at the expense of being foolhardy. Find out if it makes more financial sense to live on rent rather than making an outright purchase. Many working couples, even single on-the-go people prefer renting a house as compared to purchasing it.
Secured the home loan but have you considered the property price rise?
The real estate industry is facing a bit of a slowdown and property prices are not appreciating as fast as they were previously thought of. You’ll need to consider the interest of the home loan versus the property price rise. Looking at charts of price trends and speaking to the broker about the said locality should throw a little light on  this aspect.
Is it Vastu or Feng Shui compliant?
Vaastu Shastra, Kan Yu and Feng Shui are sciences that have brought wealth, prosperity and happiness to many and if you’re a believer in this science, it helps to find out the details in advance. Which rooms will face what, will there be any modifications required?
How old is the house?
Find out the age of the property and enquire about how long the present occupants have resided in it. If the property has repeatedly been sold and resold, you need to exercise caution. Lots of it.

A comparison of old vs. new ways of doing business in real estate

Changes in the ways of doing business in Real estate


Sure, some of the things stay the same; in fact they’ll probably continue to remain unchanged for as long as there are transactions between two human beings, be it a seller or buyer or any other dealing in general. Pertaining to the real estate industry, there are many conflicting sides which consider that virtues such as a personal touch and honesty and transparency are done away qualities- its all about the numbers and the profits.

However, things can change as they may, one thing is certain, a home is a precious asset for the seller buyer (and the broker/ agent too) and there are certain tacit guidelines that govern it. It helps to remember that merits such as promptness and redressal of genuine concerns are held in good stead no matter which century we are living in.

Circle this one…and this one too

From potential jobs to prospective bride grooms, the traditional way of looking for something always began with the scouring of the local newspapers. Searching for a prospective home was no different and listing advertisements in the real estate section was usually the first and most important step for anyone who was looking to buy or sell.

Once preferences were duly encircled and the said parties contacted, the buyer would trek down to the location, trusty newspaper in hand. Often times, the effort would be in vain and the search would begin fresh anew. Say, a deal was garnered, there would be a joint discussion and negotiation between the seller and buyer (probably a broker or none at all) and the deal was finalised. Simple.

All this has changed and much to the relief of old timers, technology has made it easy for a buyer to hunt and for a seller to post his property details online. Of course, the property pictures, videos and location details gleaned from Google maps have made the job of house hunting so much easier and quicker. This doesn’t however substitute an actual visit and thorough inspection.

Advertising and promotion

Today, it is not uncommon to get daily updates from real estate agents and builders delivered in the inbox. Agreed, it is annoying when you don’t really need that information, but to a genuine home buyer the daily update means a world of information. Easily sent and received.

In fact, the methodology of reaching out to the buyer/ seller is getting more and more ingenious and innovative day by day. So finding an advertisement of a newly launched property in an unexpected place such as a shopping mall, an airport check in tag or in the parking lot is really not that uncommon anymore.

It definitely beats the conventional way of marketing properties through telephonic cold calls and going door to door, which were considered as effective but intrusive ways of attaining new customers.

Communication with the buyer/ seller

Suppose you had employed the services of a broker, you would typically be barraged by a flurry of calls, personal visits and letters. Some considered it as important communication for establishing a good rapport with the broker, with the end result being a good customer; most others would not have appreciated the constant intrusion in their lives.

Thankfully, this communication now has some semblance of propriety. The agent/ broker will probably communicate with the client via emails or text messages, thereby leaving room for the customer to respond when it is convenient to do so. Besides, there is a clearer message in a written format that would otherwise have been subject to hearsay in a personal meeting.

The flipside to this cutting edge use of communication is that you may perhaps not remember the face of the persons you’re dealing with, as you end up seeing a lot less of each other. The buyer, seller and the broker function as three separate entities that’ve only come together for the sole purpose of closing a transaction. Yet, the efficacy and the benefits of personal freedom that modern technology affords with cannot be ignored and it applies to transacting real estate business just as much as with anything else.

3 Fundamental mistakes a seller should avoid while selling the house.


While selling your Flat

Giving up and putting up on sale the home you’ve lived in is already a tough enough decision, selling it for a blunder that you may perhaps make in hastiness is well, a cardinal sin. Let us say that you are the cautious kind and you’ve gone over the sale details with a fine tooth comb, there may still be some miniscule details that you’ve ended up ignoring.

Keep the house in ship shape

Do remember that when you are selling the house you really must put yourself in the buyer’s shoes too. Think objectively and imagine how the house hunter would view your house. Improvise on the tiny repair jobs if it is possible to do so; think of mending the tiny cracks that will perhaps be in open view or employ a professional landscape gardener to spruce up the front lawn. Of course, do remember that big repairs require big funds, in which case you may need to plan things in advance. However, don’t let anyone stop you from making minor improvements to the house.

It also goes without saying that messy homes create an immediate disgust factor and so does furniture in a state of disarray. Remember that if it doesn’t visually please you, it’s even less likely to appeal to the buyer.

Appoint yourself a good broker

Speak to friends, acquaintances and colleagues- anyone, who has recently sold their home and has had a good experience with an agent/ broker. Meet the broker directly in his office and ask him questions about how he goes about his business. Clarify his terms, brokerage charges and when it would be payable. You’ll get a good idea about his working methodology when you’ve seen him in action with other clients.

Now, let’s take a broad, from the top view of how you can avoid some slip-up’s and still go about selling the house and saving yourself some sweat

1. Dropping the price

The first step is determining the price for your house. It would do a world of good if you are prepared with some idea about the ongoing rates. Scour listing websites and real estate portals; speak with neighbours who are in the know and consider running an eye over the recent price trends in your locality. A good broker should know the history of the area and should be able to give an unbiased figure.

Having said that, once you have determined the price, don’t go about reducing it time and again (worse still, out of anger or desperation). This will make prospective buyers wait for the next price drop. Remember that the trick here is to set it right and then sit tight. Don’t undersell and don’t over quote either– the buyer is just as well prepared as you.

2. Rejecting an offer because it’s come in too soon

Chances are the house is going to have more than its fair share of curious onlookers in the first few weeks, some of which may actually be genuine buyers. Of those who come to you with their first offer, it is best advised to consider it seriously.Usually, the first few offers are looked upon with some trepidation, for wont of a better offer that will come in later. It may not always be like that and it would be a good idea to remember the adage ‘A bird in hand is worth two in the bush’.

3. Pricing the house too high

This is one of the most obvious blunders that sellers make, perhaps thinking that real estate should indeed be a profit making venture or none at all. Of course, if you’re on the other end of the spectrum and have priced it too low you’ll end up worrying that you’re probably giving away the profits. It need not be either scenario.

To say that this is the trickiest part of home selling would be an understatement. You’ll need to consider the advantages of your house versus other similar homes down the street, think about the overall demand and the economical sentiment in general, deliberate over the home’s location and consider the condition of the house.

The right price tag for the right value and at the right time should just about do the trick.