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Luxury getaway villas for mini-breaks!
Nanditta Chibber in New Delhi
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April 15, 2006
Now that developers are beginning to build luxury getaway villas, your mini-break can be more relaxing than ever.

The chaos in cities seeps into your nerves, until someone pulls you aside and says, "You need a break, pal." And nothing soothes those strained nerves more than the thought that there is a place to lounge, entertain, cool your heels and essentially hide away in. We're talking about those getaway destinations, far enough from, yet close enough to, the noisy city.

This increasingly essential need to maintain sanity and tranquillity for city dwellers is being tapped by developers. Most people adore Goa.

Many find the tourist city perfect for recharging their batteries or settling down in their retirement along its beaches, hills and rivers. Having a personal holiday home in Goa sounds superb.

But Amar J Britto will tell you that a host of regulations by the state authorities - no construction within 500 meters of high tide, 100 meters from the banks of a river, atop hills, in forests and paddy fields and so on, to maintain Goa's charm - leaves an acute shortage of land on which to have that holiday home.

Britto, a developer and director of Acron Developers, who claim to be the largest developers in Goa, has been building luxurious holiday homes here for the past 18 years.

Opposed to restoring old Portuguese villas, which call for regular maintenance hassles, Acron builds luxury apartments and villas with resort-like facilities attached.

"The construction is low rise, low density and high ventilation," says Britto. Acron keeps sold holiday homes in shape while the owners are away, and even rents them out if the owner wants.

"The villas in these clusters are semi-detached," says Britto. Studio apartments start at Rs 14 lakh (345.74 sq ft) and two- to three-bedroom villas cost Rs 54 lakh (2,064 sq ft) to Rs 69.93 lakh (2,889 sq ft).

"We make it a point that these villas are located away from busy areas. This gives them a better resale value, investment appreciation as well as peace and privacy," adds Britto. Private sun decks on rooftops of apartments and villas also end up attracting hosts of sunbathers and barbecuers.

In India, it's mostly high net-worth individuals and NRIs who scout for plots and luxury villas in getaway destinations to retreat to on weekends and holidays.

With developers involved in developing the land and also increasingly building and then maintaining luxury villas, the dual benefits of having a ready-to-move-in holiday home with assurances of maintenance sounds appealing to many.

"Even if the getaway home is not in a getaway destination, people prefer to have a house as far as possible from the madding crowd," says Lalit Kumar Jain, chairman, Kumar Builders.

He adds, "Increasingly, such homes are now beginning to be the first homes of many people instead of just holiday or retirement dwellings."

Panchgani in the Western Ghats in Maharashtra, along with an area off the Pune-Hyderabad highway, has high-end luxury villas developed by Kumar Builders - Windsor Park and Kumar Meadows.

Plot sizes range from 5,000 sq ft for Rs 35 lakh to 20,000 sq ft for Rs 1.5 crore (and these are just land costs) in Kumar Meadows. Whether you build the house individually or through a developer, construction has to be done within two years of purchase of the land.

"Add another Rs 45 lakh (3,000 sq ft built-up area) to the Rs 75 lakh approximately (for the 20,000 sq ft plot) for the bungalow," says Jain.

Windsor Park has 100 bungalows ranging from Rs 51 lakh (two bedroom) to Rs 65 lakh (three bedroom) in picturesque Panchgani. Add on facilities like laundry, ticketing, repairs and maintenance ("like a service apartment", says Jain), and the leisurely and luxurious hideout leaves little time for anything but relaxation.

Developers will tell you that the buyer profile for such villas is increasingly getting younger. "Buyers are in their 30s and 40s, and the strong demand for such homes keeps increasing annually," says Britto.

The concept of having a holiday home was previously reserved for the privilege of the very rich but, says architect Mohit Gujral, "It has now filtered down to the next level for the most popular holiday destinations."

For instance, in hill station Kasauli, prices for such high-end villas range between Rs 75 lakh-2 crore (2,000-4,000 sq ft) estimates Gujral.

For some Mumbaikars, the pace of living slows down in one of its closest getaway spots of Alibagh, rich in virgin beaches, hills and coconut groves. "It's simplistic living that one seeks," says Abhay Rangnekar of south Mumbai, who has purchased two one-acre properties on the foot of a small hill in Alibagh from Samira Constructions.

Alibagh's proximity to Mumbai (especially south Mumbai) appealed to Rangnekar, who busies himself in tending to his coconut and mango trees and vegetable garden.

Having constructed a deck and an outhouse, Rangnekar is now building his house there, which could perhaps, 10 years down the line, serve as a retirement home.

"Infrastructure development in and around Alibagh has seen the demand for plots here pick up substantially," says Ajit Rajagopalan, CEO, Samira Constructions, which sells developed plots (agricultural as well as non-agricultural) and even constructs houses in and around Alibagh.

"Depending on the location of the plots, its proximity to beaches, hills and groves, prices vary, ranging from Rs 35-40 to Rs 200-250 per sq ft," says Rajagopalan.

In fact, good infrastructure, especially good roads, are a major incentive for people to invest in short distance getaway properties on the outskirts of a metro, suggests R K Modi of Sanjeevani Projects.

Their project Vedic Village, 12 kilometers from Kolkata, is a wellness and weekend destination but also has lakeview bungalows and farm houses (7.5 and 12.5 cottahs upwards; that is 0.124 and 0.21 acres) for sale in the range of Rs 35 lakh to Rs 1 crore.

Even temple cities like Puri, famous for the Jagannath Temple and its beaches, is seeing small apartments and now even some villas coming up in the proximity of the dhams and the beaches. These villas serve as holiday homes and then service apartments when not occupied by the owner.

Architect Venkat Pallai, involved with such projects in Puri and Kundli (Haryana), sees the trend of having such homes filtering to a host of cities and destinations.

With getaway destinations attracting a host of land-acquiring regulations to insure against crowding, the prospect of a developer scouting for land available for retreat homes becomes a help for those looking for such purchases.

Also, fully developed plots in terms of infrastructure by developers and their added maintenance facilities has made many people a happy lot of holiday home buyers.

"Squatting, fencing, legal and title ownership along with construction by an organised developer gives peace of mind, even if it comes at a price," says Rangnekar, adding, "and you do have like-minded people in your hideout's vicinity."

With the burden of finding a retreat and developing it to suit a luxurious holiday destination shifting to developers, all one has to do now is soak in the calmness of one's own personal retreat. You just have to pack a bag and go into hiding. "Aha! That's what I need," you'll hear your nerves signal.

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