I tried to rent a 2 BHK in Bengaluru

When you go through hell, the least you can do is warn the ones coming your way. Hello, please walk this way, it will burn a little less.

I have learnt the hard way that it’s not a good thing to challenge the universe, in general; or be too sure of anything. Armed with the house-hunting experience in Gurgaon and Mumbai (that sometimes led me to chawls), I said to myself — how much worse could it be anywhere else? 

Those are the kind of statements I would advise against.

I had a 14 day accommodation in a hotel in Bangalore, which I thought would suffice (even though it went to day 15 in Mumbai once). Before arriving in the city, the only homework we (my wife and I) had done was to browse Google maps, to get a rough idea of the areas we would target. I called exactly two brokers to tell them we were looking, because life’s just that easy, right?

The areas were HSR, Koramangala, Bellandur at the time.

We took the morning flight so that we can go see at least a couple of houses on Day 1 — as the 14 day countdown began the same day. Neither of us were working in the first week. 

We started calling brokers soon after we checked in. The ones that answered, didn’t have anything to show. Then one of them said nothing is available in gated societies currently. We felt the first pang of fear, but brushed it off. Surely one broker’s words cannot be taken to heart.

But then I heard another one. And another. It was not their words that startled me, it was their tone. They sounded utterly helpless. Their rationale was that offices had started calling employees back in the last couple of months, so they had taken up all the houses. And the reason this was more prevalent in Bangalore was because of the large percentage of migratory crowd in the city.

Being sleep deprived, and having dealt with movers and packers a day ago, this revelation was harder to digest. We promptly made an account on NoBroker and started to scroll. But none of them inspired any sort of confidence. We saw zero houses, went to meet my family who were there momentarily, dropped them off to the station, and came back. Somewhere in the chaos of cabs, I lost my Sony wireless Buds worth 20k that I had bought a month ago. Day 1 was hard.

The following days were a blur. We woke up and ate like kings at the breakfast buffet everyday, with absolutely no idea what to do once we were done. I ended up paying for a RM on NoBroker — falling for the age old belief that expensive is always better. The plan was called Relax plan, as if we could lounge around all day and swipe right and left on houses to make it happen.

Relax Plan? If anything, this RM made me more agitated and frustrated than ever. NoBroker says she (RM) will talk to owners and we’ll just have to visit — this wasn’t true. The worst brokers I have ever met have twice the sense she had. To this day I am not sure whether it was a bot or a real person. What else do you call someone who does the same thing regardless of your repeated feedback? We were just forwarded leads matching maybe half of our filters, and then she would insist we talk to the owner or security guard or tenant. I wanted to burst out several times what are we paying for!, but it felt too rude to say. She would call twenty times even if you cut nineteen times in the middle of something important; and was completely lost every time we called her to follow up on something. Who? Vaneeta? Can you send me the link sir?

Unfortunately, we had no choice but to stick to this godforsaken RM. Despite calling ten or fifteen brokers, not a single one called us to show a place. It really was (and probably is) that bad. On Day 3 I think one told us to meet in HSR. We were like okay so hopefully next 2–3 hours this guy will give us a good start. After booking an Uber Rental and finding him (which took a good hour), I opened the door for him to join, but he said he only has independent houses and no gated societies. Which we told him beforehand of course. Our expectations were rising and falling like a cheap cryptocurrency.

We both circulated literal cries for help on social media. The first of two weeks was running out, our luggage was en route to the city with no destination, and the second week we both had to work.

When we heard of a vacancy in a nearby gated society, we belted for it. The security guard stopped us and told it was already sold. There was a playground behind, and a vacant pool. I was thirsting for a peek at the homes beyond our sight, just a peek, like a vagrant in the desert spotting an oasis, only to realise it is a mirage. 

The security guard told us about a house in the same society that started at 27k, but after forty people visiting in the same day, ultimately sold it for 35k. The owners were basically forcing visitors to come on the same day, and then made it into a bidding game. And here we were, unable to even see a house, miles away from this bidding.

Every time we saw a gated society, we asked the security guard for help. I begged several of them for leads, saying how only they are the real brokers now. I spent an afternoon doing just this to no avail.

You know how people say something is better than nothing? It’s not always true, and that’s how we felt about the first couple of houses we finally visited. It was a dirty, unsafe locality. Hogwarts could have been housed there and we’d have still rejected it. When we did finally get to see a half-decent house, it was part of a standalone building, barely 800 Sq Ft and still worth 30k.

This became a pattern. We continued to see below average homes in shady localities with stunningly high rentals. And believe it or not, they were still getting sold within hours of us visiting. I remember a standalone building where we took forever to reach. One expects more after putting more effort, even while knowing that isn’t the way of life. The higher your expectations, the harder you fall. When we finally reached the street, I realised if I lie down across the road, I could touch both ends. I felt utterly spent at that moment.

One day we somehow saw a good apartment. Our RM doing the lord’s work. Easily the best of the lot we had seen. As we both stepped out and started to discuss it as a possibility, we got a call that it was already sold. The blows just kept on coming. We broke our distance filter and went all the way to Kudlu. The rent quoted was 45k, and the tenant was kind to tell us the same owner told a different couple 40k two days ago. Bidding games. The tenant and his wife, in utter shock, sat us down and made some calls to their friends. People are amazing.

We also happened to visit a premium society in Bommanahalli, thanks to a lead from a friend. The asking rate was 55k + maintenance for an empty 3 BHK; while my friend was paying 41k in the same society. We didn’t even bother to negotiate. It was way beyond our budget. I felt poor. Later that evening I was sharing my grievances with a stranger in our hotel. And he ends up telling me he has finalised a 4 BHK for 3 lacs rent. I felt poorer. The stark contrast between us, between the 5-star hotel and houses on streets five feet wide, it all reminded me of Mumbai. A microcosm of India itself.

As if all this wasn’t enough, cabs in Bangalore are now impossible to findNot difficult; impossible. No Uber, no Ola. The pandemic made it hard for drivers to pay their instalments, so either they sold the cars or they were taken by the bank. The rising fuel prices, well, just add fuel to the fire.

In the end, our search ended thanks to a lead from a friend. We were ready for the bidding war because three other people were willing on the same day. But we got lucky. 

With my very limited experience, below are some tips if you are about to shift to Bangalore:

  1. Don’t expect much from brokers. We called at least 50, and precisely two people showed us a house.
  2. Get ready to pay one month of brokerage, if that’s how you get it.
  3. Hail autos the old fashioned way. Don’t waste time booking Uber/Ola.
  4. Ask all your friends, colleagues well in advance to scout the WhatsApp Groups of their societies — this is the most reliable and likely way you will find a place. God bless our friends.
  5. Don’t look for immediate occupancy. The demand is far too high at the moment. You have a better chance at a better home for houses getting available a month later.
  6. Early bird gets the home. It’s all about timing, just like in job applications. Your chances are far more if you are the first to see the place. Otherwise, expect bidding wars.

Lastly: it’s not as if we were looking for heaven, you know. We didn’t really need a pool or gym or jacuzzi. We just wanted a clean apartment in a safe gated locality.

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